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Interview: Eye

Interview: Eye

Friday 20th June, 2014 11:27AM

The Winterwork album from Dunedin trio Eye has been a long time coming. The Dunedin trio, who create improvised tracks that stretch and pull through the manipulation of an assembly of sounds emanating from guitar, drums, melodica, Tibetan singing bowl and tape loops. Eye formed in 2003, the band released full-length album Black Ice in 2005, which was given a nod by Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Byron Coley as one of their favourite releases of that year. The group then recorded Winterwork around 2008, but due to factors beyond the band's control it was shelved - until now. This weekend sees the three-piece celebrate the album's release through Scottish label Nyali Recordings, with a gig on Saturday supported by Pure, Gate and Little Deaths at Chicks Hotel in Dunedin (see the bottom for gig details). We caught up with founding member Peter Porteous for Seven Quick Questions to see what the hold up was....

Hi Eye! Firstly, can you tell us who are the members and what you each do in the band?

For the last couple of years the band has been Peter Stapleton (drums, and tape loops), Peter Porteous (guitar, Tibetan singing bowl, melodica) and Jon Chapman (analog synth, electronics). Nathan Thompson used to play guitar with us but now lives in Australia. The Eye sound oscillates from gentle soundscapes (this is usually made up of discrete electronics, cymbal wash and low level guitar drones, etc), to very loud dense propulsive noise (guitar, pounding drums and loud electronic splatter!). Peter Stapleton's marching drum is an important part of the energy of our peaks!

I understand much of the music Eye creates is improvised, is that the case on the new album?

Yes, all our music is improvised. We record our practices, and then it is a process of listening back to the recordings, selecting certain portions that we think sound good, and mixing them. The record has a range of moods on it, from minimalist drones through to dynamic noise!

How did you get involved with Scottish label Nyali Recordings?

We were put in touch with Nyali by mutual friends David Keenan and Heather Leigh of Volcanic Tongue, a great Glasgow record shop and online distributor. Nyali said they would love to put out the record, so we said yes. For events leading up to that, see below. We are planning to release our next record on Wellington label PseudoArcana (Antony Milton's label).

You have been playing together since 2003, and put out Black Ice in 2005, why has it taken so long to follow up with a second full-length?

We did release a small-run CD and 7" on Richard Francis' CMR label in 2007, and have put out a couple of CDRs to coincide with Lines of Flight festivals (the Dunedin experimental festival Peter and I co-organise every two years). We also did a split LP with ex-Wellington band Nova Scotia on US label Tipped Bowler in 2011, but it is true that all those things have had a low profile. The Winterwork record has a long and tortuous story to it - we actually recorded it in 2008 (or thereabouts) and Last Visible Dog (a US label who had put out a record of one of Peter Stapleton's other bands, the Terminals) were going to put it out - first on CD, then it changed to vinyl as the market shifted. Due to a combination of the decline of the record industry and eventual burnout, they had our record for over two years. We eventually got a very apologetic email saying that they were closing operations - our record was the next one they had been going to do! So, we were back to square one. This is when Nyali came along - at the time they said it may take them a while to get it out, but we didn't realise that meant three years!!! Nor did they, to be fair. I think that the fact we had been waiting for this record to come out has subconsciously stopped us from releasing more. But now it is out, we have no excuses!

Eye often plays along with film, why is this visual element important to your music?

We have generally played along with film projected over us (predominantly Kim Pieters or Nathan Thompson films), and we think it suits the type of music we play. Improvised instrumental music doesn't have the visual focus of say a vocalist, and a moving image helps with creating an immersive environment. Abstract film has certain similarities to the sounds we make. We played in Wellington recently at the opening of Kim Pieters' wonderful exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery, with a film projected over us.

Despite all the time you have been together, you have a pretty limited online presence, is that a conscious decision??

It is not a conscious decision, but I guess it is not so important to us. We love playing music, and that in itself is the reward, rather than becoming "famous" or well-known. The fact that none of us are in our 20's any more is maybe a factor. We do talk about getting up a Bandcamp page, but time moves very slowly in the Eye world! We are all very busy with lives outside of music, which is another reason why we haven't done more.

What local acts are you enjoying these days, and why?

There are so many great musical acts in Dunedin, both established and new, and the musical community is very supportive. Recently I have been enjoying seeing The Ladder is part of the Pit (a quiet improvised collective), Nick Graham (electronics) and the renaissance of Peter Gutteridge! I am lucky enough to live in Port Chalmers just up the road from Chicks Hotel, and that is a great place to see bands.

Eye are playing with Pure, Gate and Little Death this Saturday at Chick's Hotel in Dunedin. Click here for more information.


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