May 9th, 2011
Music fills up space in my life, an enormous space. It’s mostly the playing of it (even now I pause to pluck a few notes of a song called “I Might Be Wrong”), but there’s recording too, listening, and yes, writing about it. It is a force, a connection to the spirit world. I visited a friend of mine in L.A. last fall, and we discussed the things we fear about getting older. She’s a screenwriter but also has MS, thus the possibility of blindness is quite real, and for someone who loves movies that is indeed something to fear. For me of course, the great fear is going deaf, not being able to hear a D chord cranked to eleven, having to imagine it, wondering if I was getting it right or forgetting it altogether. It would create a great empty space in my life, the loss of music. Perhaps that’s why I see so many bands now. I’m stocking up, preparing for the possible emergency, the empty space.
I found myself then at the Comet last Friday for Eighteen Individual Eyes. They are the third all female band I’ve seen this year. And they win hands down. The band takes its name from a modified line from the Sylvia Plath novel The Bell Jar, and I must say it’s an interesting name. Before I learned the origin of it, I wondered about such a name and the possible euphemism it might be, the sexual connotations it might have. I wanted to see a band with such a name so I found their Facebook page and looked at the song titles. “Treefarm in Darkness” caught my eye so I listened. I liked the song. I decided to email them and write about them, and of course just as Ólöf Arnalds did with her song “Surrender” (my absolute favorite of hers), they did not play “Treefarm in Darkness” at the Comet.
I was a little worried before the show when speaking with the drummer, Jamie Hellgate, because she said she’d been a guitar player before and that she switched to drums because she wanted to play in a band with EIE members and guitarists Irene Barber and Chrysti Harrison. It’s an interesting choice for a guitar player to choose drums rather than bass for such a switch so I feared what the quality might be because I’d experienced it recently, a band that switched instruments nearly every song and lacked any energy for it. I must admit that I worried the night might go in a similar direction.
EIE started their show with a song called “Mares” from their EP. It began with some sparse notes, some noise that sought all parts of the room. A drum groove came in with a simple bass line over it, something a little reminiscent of a Radiohead kind of groove. And I smiled. I love Radiohead, and Ms. Hellgate didn’t hold back on the drums. There was no hesitation in what she played or the force with which she played it. She’d made the change. The song built thus. It was a little trippy and filled the gut as Barber sang, “It’s terrible such a pretty love turned hideous.” And then everything dropped to only guitar notes, some of them delayed, some toms in and out. Spacey. Nice. “No never us, this is not us.” Someone in the audience was blowing bubbles, the guitars built, “No never us, this is not us.” And then there was that groove again with a kind of solo that wasn’t a solo, just big chords and notes. It was noise, but in the good sense of the term.
I was sold then. I liked them after one song. The best though was the closer, “Luck of the Elephants”. It was a little beefier but still had the atmospheric sound of “Mares”. There were guitars that doubled the vocal melody, “So who must die? You or I? Feed me that line again”, chordy notey soloey bits that wound themselves up and spread about the room. They weren’t a band for the blistering solo, and I was glad for it. They rather went for textures and subtleties and endings with driving builds and sustained guitars.
As for winning the all female thing, they do so for those textures and those subtleties and those endings. They play well together, have a musical connection with one another, and though it might seem an obvious necessity, not every band has such. And they don’t draw attention to the fact that they’re an all female group. They’re just a band. They play music, and they do it much better than bands I wrote about here and here. They play music. They create space … and they fill space too.
Upcoming shows for Eighteen Individual Eyes:
Thursday May 12 at Seattle University. Doors at 7:00
Saturday May 14 at the Sky Church in the EMP. Doors at 2:00