There are few things more rewarding for me as a music fan than watching musicians evolve, grow into themselves, and continually reach forward in their work. It’s a sort of continual process of self-revision that usually happens in private, but becomes public to a degree through years of sharing songs and performances.
The sort of intimacy that comes from watching personal and artistic growth happen in tandem is something I treasure, and it’s been incredibly fulfilling in the case of Early Eyes. I’ve followed this band from seeing them in the first weeks of my freshman year of college when they were playing pop-ups on the University of Minnesota campus, through shifting lineups, a handful of EPs, signing to Epitaph Records, and now announcing their first full length album, Look Alive! out Feb. 25, 2022.
Alongside the release of the third single from the upcoming record, “Chemicals,” Early Eyes shared a crunchy VHS-style music video, featuring distorted shots of the band and offbeat dance sequences from Scott Goodwin: an actor and the father of a friend of the band.
“The process of making the album was a very DIY approach, and we wanted the rest of the rollout to be in that spirit,” guitar player Joe Villano said. “Let’s just do it all ourselves with close friends.”
Villano shot the video themself with editing assistance from Charlie Berg, who directed earlier music video for the band, like last year’s inaugural single for Epitaph, “I’m Enough. ”
“Me and Charlie are childhood friends,” said Villano, “and we have a long history of making videos together for fun as kids, so it was really cool to get to learn some of the computer programs and editing stuff from him.”
From the beginning, Early Eyes have found their way into crafting catchy pop hooks paired with intricate guitar melodies, but with their recent singles they’ve expanded into new sounds. “Chemicals” features unconventional percussion, distorted vocals, and horns that feel like they’ve been pulled from some implacable memory and played at full volume on computer speakers. It experiments without departing from the elements of the band’s sound that have been carefully honed over the years.
“I think we are slowly but surely coalescing into the band we have always wanted to be,” Villano explained. “We’ve sort of shifted from a more traditional ‘band’ sound into something less defined, and I’m really excited about it.”
When Early Eyes began in 2016, the group found themselves thriving in a young music scene, playing to crowds overflowing from sweaty basement shows and centering their energetic live show in their work as a band. As they’ve evolved, they’ve taken to refining their songs in a studio environment, taking nearly a year off from the stage in 2019 to develop their sound and record. This perspective became especially present during the recording of Look Alive!.
“We weren’t rehearsing as a full band over the course of the pandemic, but me and Jake [Berglove] wrote the album on the computer,” said Villano. “A new sound came out of that writing approach. The basis of the sound of this record was pretty much using destructive resampling on real instruments to create interesting new otherworldly sounds.”
The idea of creating from destruction is evident in the music video as well, pieces of fragmented video come together to build new shapes and experiences. Finding comfort in creating freely comes as a reward from the personal and musical maturity that Early Eyes have settled into.
“Being in this band has been the most special thing in the world to me,” Villano said. “A lot of how we sound now can be attributed to the people in the band growing together and realizing what we actually want to do.”
As they continue to reach new listeners as a band, they’ve found people who came to their music early on have stuck around and continued to provide eager support at every stage of their journey. There’s a sort of community built around the way they’ve generously shared the various chapters of their evolution over their five-year tenure as a band.
“I’ve heard it said that if you’re not embarrassed by yourself a year ago, then you’re not growing,” Villano said. “It’s not that I’m embarrassed by anything we’ve put out, but when I look back at some of our older music, it feels like some choices were made to try to impress people, it’s less us, and I don’t think I’ll ever look at this album like that.”
Early Eyes are joining Hellogoodbye on tour and will be playing in Minneapolis on Sept. 24 at 7th St Entry.