A special sort of congress takes places in the music of Brooklyn’s Eaters, one between machine and flesh, synthetic and organic…and the result is an A.I. being trying to feel something human, and succeeding. Their second single, “No Secret,” off the forthcoming S/T LP (out May 12 on Dull Tools), is a hypertensive pulsation whose first introduction is cold and perhaps superficial, and not necessarily inviting, but this changes over the course of a quick conversation. Throbbing percussion starts the track, so intense and abrupt it feels as though a physical imprint is being left on your eardrums. It can’t be ignored, won’t be turned away, seeping in through the head and making its way to the lower regions of the body (the dancing ones, you perv…hips, legs, and feet).
The accompaniment of harsh staccato synths feel like a foreign body entering your own, like a scene from Alien. Your heart is about to explode out of your chest with it and scare the shit out of everyone. There’s not even a hint of a friendly, biological being until a duo of rhythmic guitar strumming and sweeping synths emit a liquid cool light hue under which we can hear, and be charmed by, the absolute humanness of the vocals. It’s comfortable, suddenly. It makes you want to stay and learn about your new acquaintance, continuing on through head-shaking, beautifully alternating guitar interludes, and a bridge that makes you question if you’re listening to the same song. Give us the future.
Eaters play their record release show at Union Pool on May 13 with Greg Fox and Operator Music Band.
Eaters were kind enough to talk to us about their album, creative process, and the DIY scene… Check it below!
Would you say your songwriting founded in electronics? Guitars? Percussion? How does it all meet?
JS: We seem to approach each composition differently, whether it’s a beat upon which we build, a live jam between Bob and me, or a synth sound or guitar part that inspires the rest. In my mind, this project is all about experimentation and the exploration of ideas, with open-ended songwriting/world-making at its core.
BJ: For me the ideas come from all over, a lot of times it’s just plugging stuff in and seeing what sounds manifest. Other times I’ll start something with a specific idea or tone I want to pursue. The first step is usually a crap demo that generally disintegrates after a section or two that gets made in a flurry. Then I’ll step away for a week or so and start other things. When I have a handful that I’ve revisited and still like, I’ll share them with Jonny and then we’ll talk about what we could do with them. From there it’s kind of by whatever means necessary to get where we want, if we want real drums we ask a friend and record them, if we want a specific sound we figure out how to make it or fail and use that instead.
How do you approach a new record? Or did it, or Dull Tools, or anything else external approach you?
JS: Eaters began as a studio-project between Bob and myself, which morphed into a performance-based project as we were preparing to release our first LP. Once we started playing shows, we quickly realized we needed more immediate “songs” to balance out the more esoteric electronics of that first record, for the sake of both our audience’s and our own enjoyment each night. This album is a direct reflection of that – each song was made with performing it in mind.
BJ: We made this record after some touring and many live shows. We were conscious of making something that would hopefully have an immediate impact in a live setting, but would also have layers and depth that would reward deeper investigation.
Is Eaters a full time endeavor? If not, what else do you do, either to eat or stay sane?
BJ: Ha! No Eaters is definitely a labor of LOVE. I’m a music teacher which is also a labor of love but actually pays the bills too. It’s super rewarding beyond the paycheck though, the kids keep me grounded and remind me of why I love music in the first place.
JS: Eaters is more like a self-sustaining art project. We each have our own respective careers – Bob is the director of School of Rock in NYC, Chris is the studio manager for the conceptual glass artist Josiah McElheny, and I am a producer and sound engineer (you may know my work with Parquet Courts, The Drums, or PC Worship). The beauty of a project like Eaters is that it allows us to produce works which we couldn’t or wouldn’t do in our normal day-to-day scenarios, to scratch that latent creative itch.
Could you talk a little bit about your light installation at Knock! Knock! Down! Down!…? It called to mind the light show I saw on stage at Silent Barn a couple of years ago. Where does something so visual come into your music? Or, how does it come into the picture on its own?
BJ: The supremely talented Chris Duffy is the visual wing of the band, and essentially a full fledged member. He’s a bit of a mad scientist inventor. I think of the sculptures as essentially existing alongside the music. I don’t know that they directly influence or affect each other, but they certainly combine to make a unique experience. (Which seems pretty rare to me in the world of live music.)
JS: When we decided to start performing live, we reached out to my old friend Christopher Duffy, a talented glass sculptor and installation artist who I had also toured with professionally (me doing sound, him doing stage visuals). He conceived a series of what he calls “kinetic light sculptures” for the stage, which he controls through a magic box of knobs and switches. As that collaboration deepened, we began talking about sound sculptures (a long-time fascination of mine) – the prepared-turntable sculpture ‘Moment of Inertia’ was the first conceived as such, and the installation ‘Eyes Have Brightened’ was the result of a couple years of pursuing those ideas. Chris is always working on new things for the live show, and we’re brainstorming the next sound sculpture now…
With this in mind, where are some of your favorite places to perform? Around Brooklyn/NYC or in general?
JS: We just played a sold-out show with Trans Am at St Vitus, which was a real treat – that place has a killer sound system and a very nice stage, which are kinda crucial for a proper Eaters live experience. Our next show is our record release show on May 13 at Union Pool, which should be great to play as well. I miss playing at Death By Audio – Edan would always blast the music so loud that it took on a whole other dimension (thanks bud).
BJ: We just played at St. Vitus which was really nice. I also enjoy playing and spending time at Alphaville, Silent Barn, and the venue portion of Union Pool.
And what are your thoughts on the changeover rate of performance spaces, around NYC or in general? Is there a sustainability to be striven for?
JS: It is wild to watch things turnover so quickly right now, but I feel like that’s the unfortunate nature of both DIY venues and gentrification in general. I’m really looking forward to Popgun’s new venue Elsewhere opening later this year – Rami and Jake have an incredible vision for that space as an intersection of art and music, and I wish them many long leases in their future.
BJ: I think it’s the nature of the beast. I certainly miss Zebulon and Glasslands, but I see places like The Silent Barn that are able to exist and provide dynamic events even after a change in location. New York has a steady influx of young folks with mysterious capital that seem to get places off the ground, but nothing is forever, even the Whitney moved!