Portland, OR, indie rockers Eyelids have a sound that harks back to the art form’s heyday of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s their own spin on classic, melodic, jangly alternative rock played on college radio before it eventually became part of the mainstream.
Their latest installment of this musical approach is their album A Colossal Waste Of Light, which actually comes out today on Jealous Butcher Records. As part of their tour in support of the release, the band will be performing on Sunday at Café Nine in New Haven. It’s a Sunday matinee with Boston rock act Hallelujah The Hills kicking things off at 4 p.m.
I talked with co-guitarist and co-vocalist Chris Slusarenko from the band about working with an alt-rock icon on the new album, how prior collaborative experiences have affected Eyelids’ sound, having a vast collection of sweaters and being excited to get some new songs out to folks.
RD: A Colossal Waste Of Light had Peter Buck from R.E.M. involved in the recording process as a co-producer, so how did you guys get initially connected with Peter?
CS: There’s two times I met Peter in my life. One is that in 1983 I wrote a letter to Athens Limited, which was R.E.M.’s PO Box at the time before [their debut album] Murmur came out and Peter wrote me back. I just wrote a fan letter and he said that the band had never been to the Pacific Northwest and they hoped to get up there someday. He then gave me a bunch of bands to check out like Mission Of Burma and Hüsker Dü, I wrote back and then they wrote back. They’d send me stuff and then I met them when they came through on tour in 1984 in support of their second album Reckoning that came out that year.
They got myself and my family into the soundcheck, they were really nice and I was just this kid from the middle of nowhere. Then as an adult, when I was in Guided by Voices I met Peter again at one of our shows. I introduced myself and I told him I was this kid who wrote to him and the band for three years, how he was really kind and we became friends as adults through music. He really likes what we do, obviously we’re very influenced by R.E.M. and the bands & musicians that influenced them as well. He just offered his services to kind of be the sixth member of Eyelids and help us get the sounds we want.
RD: That’s really cool. From listening to the album, it seems like he did a great job with you guys. With this being the band’s fourth full-length album, it also marks the first time Eyelids wrote the songs for it remotely. What was the experience like taking on this different process? Was there a lot of emailing and Zoom chatting going on?
CS: It was interesting, we did some stuff remotely while some of the songs were done outside with each of us at a safe distance from each other on my patio. It would be like “I have this song” and everyone else would just play along. Some of it was done just through sending out a little phone demo and people adding to it while the other third was done in the rehearsal studio with a couple songs actually being learned in the studio as well, which we hadn’t really done before. We didn’t want to overthink two of the songs and we just wanted to see what would happen.
For us, that was different but in the end it didn’t feel like it was any different because when you’re making an album you kind of forget how it’s made. When you have the end result, you forget all the practicing or the lack of it, what you think it’s going to do and how it ends up. Also, I think working with Victor Krummenacher, who used to be in Camper Van Beethoven, for the first time since having him join our band was a really fun way to see what a new player was going to put on our music and kind of react to that. Sometimes he would lead the charge and sometimes John [Moen] would or sometimes Paulie [Pulvirenti] would, it all depended on who got their idea onto it first and it really affected the way the song got changed.
RD: You mentioned earlier that you used to play with Guided by Voices and that Victor used to be in Camper Van Beethoven. Other members of Eyelids have also played with Stephen Malkmus from Pavement, Elliott Smith. The Decemberists and Jason Lytle of Grandaddy to name a few, so when it comes to collaborating with these types of musicians, how much have these experiences contributed to the sound of the band?
CS: I think all the bands we’ve played in have had similar interests and loves, even though Pavement doesn’t sound like Guided By Voices and both of those bands don’t sound like Elliott Smith. They all loved similar types of music and bands, they each devoured them and spit them out differently. I think that what each Jonathan [Drews], John and myself learned when we were doing records after Guided by Voices first broke up, we were in the studio with Robert Pollard under the name Boston Spaceships. Since we were the sole players on it, we learned really amazing shorthand on how to work so quickly for Robert who is incredibly prolific. As soon as you’re done with the double album, there’s the next one.
I think that kind of predated what we were going to sound like. We were just like “This is fun. We know how to look across the room and stop to do something weird and change on a dime.” I just was interested in collaborating with John, who has some solo records and he’s a different type of songwriter than I am. That was really appealing to us, I come from a more aggressive background and John comes from a more pretty background. Then for the first time I started writing pretty songs while John for the first time was writing ugly songs and it was cool to see us kind of push & pull each other.
RD: It’s great when you have that dynamic. I’ve heard that you have an extensive collection of over 60 sweaters, is this true?
CS: Yeah, I have a lot of sweaters. Most of them have actually been purchased by my wife, she’s from Scotland and she’s a visual artist. She just has a good eye for what I like in a way that I just get blindness, if I go into a thrift store I just get overwhelmed. I can’t look through everything so I just kind of give up. I’m just cold all the time so it also fits a need, I even recently saw some old photos of bands I used to be in and I was wearing a sweater back then. I didn’t really think about it, but now it’s become a bit of a thing and people bring sweaters to shows.
I had someone just the other day go to a party where everyone is dressed as an album cover and they live in Seattle so they asked if they could borrow one of my sweaters to wear at this part to hold the album cover around. I said “Sure, that’s fine.”
RD: That’s a pretty funny story. I own a bunch of hoodies, so that’s kind of my thing. Whatever makes you comfortable.
CS: You know, legal pajamas. I don’t know, I just like them. I like collars and sweaters.
RD: Nothing wrong with that. For people who are most likely going to check out A Colossal Waste Of Light before the upcoming show at Café Nine, what can they expect from it and how do you plan on including the music from the album in your live performance?
CS: We’ve essentially made three different setlists. One where Peter Buck is joining us, he’ll be playing with us on a bunch of tour dates. We have one where he isn’t with us but I think for the most part it’s going to be a mix. Obviously we’re excited to play these songs for the first time live, it’s so weird after the pandemic to have a record and it being a new thing. Our last album in February of 2020 and we only got to play the songs off of it twice before things got shut down for a while.
It’s kind of strange to have that thing in the rear view and this album in the forefront so quickly when we really didn’t get to honor the other with our past record. We’ll do a little of both but I think people are as excited as we are from the singles and the reviews we’ve been getting. It’s going to be fun to finally get this stuff out sonically in a live setting. I think when people come to see us, they get really surprised at how rambunctious we are and how funny, weird and off-kilter we can be. Some of our songs are quite beautiful, so it’ll be fun to see what the new songs are going to sound like live.
with Hallelujah The Hills
250 State St., New Haven
March 19 @ 4 p.m.