Eyelids are one of the Pacific Northwest’s most consistent bands, indie rock or otherwise. They’re also incredibly prolific. Since forming in 2013, the group has released a handful of EPs and singles and three stellar full-lengths. For many musicians, that’s a career’s worth of material.
But the members of Eyelids are no ordinary musicians. Chris Slusarenko and John Moen — Eyelids’ core creative nuclei — are doyens of Portland’s storied indie scene. Slusarenko was a founding member of seminal Portland alt-rock band Sprinkler and has played with everyone from Quasi singer Sam Coomes to Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard. Moen served stints with The Jicks and Elliott Smith and currently plays drums in The Decemberists.
Somewhat surprisingly, Eyelids is not merely a composite of its members’ impressive resumes. The group instead draw from styles of music that never really had a “moment” in the Pacific Northwest — namely, classic Byrds-indebted power-pop and the sparkling, lite-psychedelia of L.A.’s Paisley Underground movement.
With the music video for Eyelids’ new single, “It’s About To Go Down,” which features pop-up, hand-drawn lyrics superimposed on classic pop music video clips, the band proudly wear those influences on their sleeves. We spoke with Chris Slusarenko ahead of the “It’s About To Go Down” 7-inch release show at Mississippi Studios next month.
Morgan Troper: I’ve always thought that a lot of musicians in the Pacific Northwest feel this pressure to “mellow out” once they reach a certain age. Eyelids comprises some serious Portland scene vets, but you’ve all managed to retain your youthful vigor with this project. How do you do it? Is it a myth that people “age out” of rock ’n roll?
Chris Slusarenko: I think the energy comes from the complete surprise of not knowing what each person will be bringing with them when we start working on new songs. This song could have easily been a slower, sadder type of affair. But the energy that everyone brings to it creates that lovely counterpoint to the melancholy that can be in our music. It’s kind of what makes Eyelids what we are—that combination of hope and hopelessness in our music. Plus we still like to make each other laugh.
MT: It seems like a ton of work went into making this music video. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
CS: I had just closed down my video store of 22 years, Clinton Street Video, and so I thought I’d do a strange little hodgepodge of some of my favorite obscure moments from all these weird German and regional music TV shows from the ‘60s. We hadn’t done a lyric video yet but usually, I thought those were always kind of a cop-out. So I thought, “What if I combine my love for this obscure footage with the lyrics to the song, but they were individually hand-drawn?” It turned out to be a ton of work and I had to lean on others to help with all the different designs and fonts for the various words, some which last for just a brief flash. Lots of scissors, tape and rewind buttons were used. The first pressing of the 7-inch [for this song] included those fonts randomly sent out with them.
MT: Some people might be tempted to call Eyelids “psychedelic rock,” which is either a badge of honor or a term of derision. How do you feel about that label being applied to your music?
CS: We were children of the college radio underground which included everything from Foetus to Camper Van Beethoven to Rain Parade to Butthole Surfers. It was all up for grabs influence-wise. But I think that the Venn diagram of the band is our love of psychedelic music of all eras. But we’ve always been that with a lower case p; we have psych elements but we never dressed up [like that] or had [those elements] overtake the songs.
MT: Portland consists of all these small micro-scenes, but Eyelids seems like one of those bands that exist entirely in a vacuum. Are there any local artists you feel a kinship with?
CS: Every member of this band has been a part of many “micro-scenes” since the mid-‘80s. So every era has had them and the members of Eyelids were all part of different ones over the decades. I think the fact that we don’t [get locked down with the same band] over and over again is actually pretty fun. Deathlist, And And And, Woolen Men, Zebra Hunt, Wimps, Summer Cannibals, Federale, Jackson Boone — we’ve played shows with all of them, and I think the goal is not to get caught up in genres or repeat the same bill over and over again.
MT: This single is being released ahead of the next Eyelids LP, which is due out this year and is a collaboration with Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Larry Beckett. Those are both massive names. How did that come about?
CS: The single is actually a standalone single that was recorded for our upcoming tour. The [upcoming record], “The Accidental Falls: The Lyrics of Larry Beckett,” was produced by Peter Buck and will be out later this year. Larry is an amazing poet and was Tim Buckley’s lyricist for most of his well-known albums. I met Larry and he was so supportive and into what Eyelids was doing — we reminded him of one of his favorite bands ever, The Byrds. What was cool was that the album did not turn into a side project-type release. It ended up sounding very Eyelids, [with both parties being inspired] as we wrote the album.
Upcoming Eyelids Tour Dates
Eyelids celebrate the “It’s About To Go Down” 7-inch release on Feb. 1 at Mississippi Studios in Portland with Federale.
Feb. 2 in Seattle at Sunset Tavern with Federale and Zebra Hunt
Feb. 8 in Jersey City, New Jersey, at WFMU’s Monty Hall
Feb. 9 in New York at Union Pool
Feb. 10 in Philadelphia at Boot & Saddle with Hurry and Honey Radar
Feb. 11 in Washington DC at Comet Ping Pong
Feb. 12 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at Cat’s Cradle
Feb. 13 in Atlanta at 529 Club with Dave Barbe
Feb. 14 in Nashville at The Basement with The Inscape & The Lylas
Feb. 15 in Athens, Georgia, at 40 Watt Club with Drive-By Truckers Homecoming Show