Eyelids perform at Black Cat on Nov. 19, 2017. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
The last time Parklife DC talked to Chris Slusarenko of Eyelids was back in February 2019. At the time, Eyelids had started a musical project with Larry Beckett, famed poet and lyricist for singer songwriter Tim Buckley, slated to become “The Accidental Falls” (Jealous Butcher Records). Released at the beginning of 2020, the band was on the verge of mounting an extensive tour in support of the new album when the world shut down. We all know what happened next: tours were canceled, music venues shut down, and audiences went into isolation.
Now as music venues open and audiences return, Eyelids is once again heading out on the road, this time with a new bandmember and a renewed sense of gratitude, awareness, and optimism. After the stress and chaos we’re experienced since March of 2020, most of us have come to appreciate just how precious is the gift of music, and the joy of live performance — a feeling not lost on Eyelids’ members. In addition to Chris, we also had the pleasure of speaking with guitarist John Moen and new bass player Victor Krummenacher (Monks of Doom, Camper Van Beethoven).
Mark Caicedo of Parklife DC caught up with Chris Slusarenko, John Moen, and Victor Krummenacher of Portland-based power pop band Eyelids, prior to the group’s performance at Comet Ping Pong on Saturday, March 26!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Parklife DC: Everybody’s here, great. Well, thank you for taking the time, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Let’s talk about The Accidental Falls, the recording and the release back in the before times. Tell me a little bit more about working with Larry Beckett.
John Moen: Chris would pick up his kid at school and he met Larry who was also picking up his kid. And both our kids and Larry’s kid were friends. At one point, I was picking up my daughter from his house and had no idea he was Larry Beckett. And I’m like, oh, what’d you do? And he says, “oh, I wrote lyrics for Tim Buckley.”
Parklife DC: Small world.
Chris Slusarenko: You know, the circles get tighter as you get older.
John: He listened to the band and really got what we were trying to do. And we reminded him of the Byrds, his favorite American band. Off the cuff he said that if you ever want to collaborate, we should do it. Then he sent us a word document with all of his lyrics, basically all his songs that he’d ever written, in one place. Some of them were already spoken for, with other musicians and some weren’t. And he said, you can use anything you want.
Chris: I looked for the same, trying to find ones that we would want to write music for. We tried to not have too much overlap with other artists. I think a couple of songs had been formally recorded here or there by other artists. “Monterey” was recorded by Tim Buckley but our version is so very different. It was really fun for Larry to be into our interpretations. He was hands off and never came in and tried to be like, “this song is more this head space.” We tried to honor [the songs]. He was really happy and so it was an easy experience that we weren’t sure could be easy.
Parklife DC: It seems helpful that he was kind of hands off on the melodies and how the words were set to the music.
John: Right. It made sense when I thought about. Tim Buckley was a pretty intense presence and they grew up together. He developed that relationship of providing material for someone and I think he understands how that role works. We were really respectful, I think. All three of us, including Victor, are lyricists and it’s really hard to let go like that.
Victor Krummenacher: Well, I think it’s a really interesting thing. When you have kind of a vision of how the music goes with the lyrics, there’s an emotional nuance that the music provides and when it’s not you, when you’re letting that go, that is a fairly intense thing to let go. I hadn’t actually really thought about in those terms. I mean, for me, that would be a big deal.
Parklife DC: Yeah. I’ve heard composers, singer-songwriters talk about their songs as children. And so to be in a working partnership with Larry must have been both thrilling and hard.
Chris: It wasn’t hard except for the fear of not doing well. At the beginning when we were looking through the material, we were trying to find things that resonated.
John: Yeah. But also trying to stay true to yourself. We’re just different than anyone he’s worked with, but we got more confident as it went along. I remember at one of the first meetings when he showed us Found at the Scene of a Rendezvous That Failed, a 1966 Larry Beckett composition that never got properly recorded. Larry slid the sheet music over to us saying something like no one’s ever seen this kind of vibe. It was intimidating. And we, at that point in the process, felt like we are not the band that’s going to ever, ever touch this. We are not gonna’ be the band that’s known for messing up Tim Buckley’s legacy.
Chris: I think we were assuming it would go wrong at some point. We were thinking that maybe we’ll do a couple songs or an EP or a single. And then I just started rolling and he sent me back lyrics from the first song I sent him, and I just was suddenly kind of emboldened.
Stream The Accidental Falls by Eyelids on Spotify:
Parklife DC: Yeah, I got the album a couple years ago and I’ve been going back through and rediscovering it. I was struck by the first song on the album called Dream and that there’s a kind of a dreamlike quality to the whole album.
Chris: Thank you. A big part of the record was sequencing and my feeling was, I think we need to start out kind of dreamy. I don’t think this is a record that needs to start with the big single, you know. If somebody doesn’t like this within 15 seconds, they’re not gonna’ like the record anyway. So let’s do it the way we want. It’s a bit of a journey, but I don’t think we knew that till we were putting it together. It does really feel like it has peaks and valleys.
John: You know, there’s things that are like, you know, just exploding and falling apart then there’s things that are really mannered and passionate. I think it did influence how we’ve gone into our new music, to tell the truth.
Parklife DC: There’s a little bit of orchestration at the end of “Found at the Scene of a Rendezvous That Failed.” I thought, that’s different for Eyelids, where’d that come from? But it’s a really lovely way to close out the song too.
John: Thanks, that was fun. Peter [Buck, who also produced the album] played bass on that one. He said it was one of two times he’s ever had an out of body experience. He was kind of floating above because it was really emotional for him. Larry played piano on that song and Peter was, like, “I’m playing the song that Tim Buckley wrote with the guy who is playing piano on this now.” Peter’s such a music fan (Buckley’s a personal hero) and I think it just hit him. It was very touching.
Watch the official music video for “Found at the Scene of a Rendezvous That Failed” by Eyelids on YouTube:
Parklife DC: The other thing I noticed was you can kind of pick out the influences on some of the songs, but it’s not like, “that song sounds like REM, or that song sounds like, blah, blah, blah.” But there are Beach Boys type harmonies on several of the songs, and another (River) that’s kind of Pink Floydish, but without the cynicism and anger.
Chris: A naive Pink Floyd, that’s good! [laughter] Can we quote you on that?
Parklife DC: Yes!
John: I don’t think our hearts are completely blackened yet.
Parklife DC: I was wondering about the new album in the works. How’s that going?
Victor: For me, it was, it was a really a fun experience. And the music’s very different. Uh, I guess the way I would say is there’s a lot more kind of a major dominant [chords] rather than minor pentatonic, which is kinda’ what I’m more used to. It was a fun challenge as a bass player to find a voice. I certainly listen to a lot of pop, major key music. I’m definitely a fan and feel I’m literate in it, but it’s not something that I’ve done a lot. So for me, it was pretty fun experience.
John: It’s also kind of amazing to think that Victor’s been in the band less than a year. We have a new LP that’ll be out in October. We’ve already toured the west coast and we’re heading east, to the Midwest and Canada. It’s kind of crazy to be like, oh, Victor’s only been in it like 11 months and already it’s just too fun.
Chris: Victor’s kind of also given us a kick in the ass too. He really showed up for our collaboration. The bass playing is kind of amazing on this record.
Victor: You guys are too kind. I’ve known you guys for a while now and had a lot of respect for what you were doing.
John: When things were at their worst [during the pandemic] we were sending demos back and forth. Chris would do a version of a song he was thinking of, and then he’d send it to Victor and before, you know it, you got a text back with a bass part on it. And then that gave you something the second guitar player or third would work with, and we kind of assembled things in that manner.
Chris: In the meantime, we have a single that just came out called “Everything That I See You See Better.” It has three songs on it, one of mine, one of John’s, and a cover (Fantastic Life) by the UK band, The Fall. We got their original drummer from 1981, Paul Hanley, to play on the track. That was a fun one. Paul recorded his drums on his phone. It was like really cool and really seat of pants.
John: Let’s try it and see what happens. And then you get the finished product and you go, oh wow, that’s not bad!
Stream “Everything That I See You See Better” by Eyelids on Bandcamp:
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2216892100 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]
Parklife DC: You’re coming out to the east coast for a long-delayed tour.
John: Yeah! We’ve just missed it. We’ll be out there in March. It’s been like three years since we’ve been out.
Chris: Except for the one show we did in December with Dream Syndicate in New York before things got bad again. I never take it for granted, every show’s kind of weird and different. I remember our show in Raleigh on that last tour. At one point I looked down and John’s all fours and he’s, like, get on me! And I rode him around for the last song. We like to make each other laugh and surprise each other. You know, our records are fun but they can also seem kind of serious. I think audiences are surprised that we’re kind of a loud, goofy band and I’m really glad that we have that side that we can express live.
Parklife DC: That’s the beauty of live music, of course. I was trying to get into live streams during the pandemic, but it it’s just not the same.
John: Yeah, I think it did work for a lot of people, but yeah, it was not for us. I’m a live musician. I mean, that’s what I do.
Chris: People were super respectful when we were on the road about being vaccinated and wearing a mask and doing stuff so that we could do our, our silly dumb thing for them. It was really emotional because we didn’t know what we would see when we went out. Is anyone gonna even care or come out?
Parklife DC: Is there anything else you guys wanna’ say about the east coast tour?
John: I’m just happy to be going out at this point. I don’t take it for granted anymore.
Chris: Good point. I plan on relishing my time. Yes. I’m with you on that, John, entirely!
Parklife DC: I’m really glad you guys are back out and that live music is opening up again throughout the country. Fingers crossed we’re heading in the right direction.
Chris: I really appreciate your thoughtful questions and time. It was nice.
John: Yeah, lovely. Thanks again.
Parklife DC: Yeah, thank you! Much appreciated.
EYELIDS perform at Comet Ping Pong on Saturday, March 26.
w/ Jay Gonzalez & The Guilty Pleasures, Frass Green
Comet Ping Pong
Saturday, March 26
Show @ 10pm