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New Project Eye Flys Talks Noisy-as-Fuck “Context” EP

Eye Flys

There’s more than meets the Eye Flys. That’s not just an attempt at clever wordplay; it’s a fact of life since the band is an underground supergroup of sorts.

Eye Flys formed when Patrick Forrest, former drummer from Backslider (“pain rock” purveyors with a decade-long discography including two albums and a slew of EPs), saw that Spencer Hazard announced he was temporarily relocating to Philadelphia.

“I knew Spencer from when Backslider played with [Full of Hell] a bunch of times. He posted [online] that he was looking to start up something when he was in town,” recalled the drummer over drinks in the back room of Gojjo, an Ethiopian restaurant not far from his West Philly residence. “I was like, ‘Hey, we should jam sometime, but I don’t really want to do a fast band because we already did fast music.’ He was like, ‘Neither do I. I’m thinking Melvins.’”

That would be prophetic given the project would eventually take on the name of the Melvins song. It was especially prescient since Forrest had already been working on material by himself long before he and Hazard jammed for the first time. “We kind of were real serious off the bat. We knew what we wanted to do, and it just kind of gelled.”

They recruited bassist Jake Smith from Backslider. “I said no first,” he laughed as he squeezed lime into his drink. “Too much going on; I was like this will be a bad idea from the start.”

Forrest made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “I was like, the catch is you’ve got to sing, because neither of us is going to sing, and we really want to keep it a trio,” he laughed. “It took a little convincing, but he was down.”

Eventually the band decided not to keep it a trio when Smith got the itch to ditch his bass. “I really wanted to play guitar,” he said. “I consider myself a guitar player first. I hadn’t played guitar in a band seriously in a handful of years and I feel like that’s the shit I want to do.”

They brought in Kevin Bernsten of Philly noisemakers Triac to handle the bass duties, feeling he would fit right in. “I feel like Triac was the perfect mix of Unsane and grind,” said Forrest, “and I just kind of went off with that.”

Eye Flys takes more than just their name from a seminal 1990s noise-rock band. The band’s debut Context EP, released just today via Thrill Jockey Records, is one explosive overture after another of abrasive, menacing, mid-tempo homages to the days when cranky indie rockers recorded for Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go.

The drummer nodded, “Even at the end of Backslider, you can feel on Motherfucker, the influences there; I was definitely getting more and more into Unsane, Cherubs, The Jesus Lizard, all of that. After a while, playing in punk and hardcore and grind bands, just playing so fast all the time… it was just kind of relaxing for me.”

Despite outward appearances, noise rock was not a homogenous movement, even during that specific era. On the Context EP, Eye Flys tempers impulses for the chaotic with controlled song structures. “Stems” is dirgy Melvins worship, “Crushing the Human Spirit” is raw rock aggression akin to the lost and lamented Surgery, whereas “Weaponize” — the first song the band reworked from Forrest’s demos he worked on before ever forming the band — reminds of the poppiest band from that scene, Helmet. The final tally resides in a sweet spot drawing from both extremes.

“That’s pretty much what we’re going for,” Forrest enthused. “You don’t want it to be a total fucked up thing. We want there to be songs.”

Smith elaborated, “We’re a great contrast for each other because I think we push each other a little bit in the opposite directions. In my adult life I’ve played in punk rock bands so there’s a space there for me where I’m like, I want it to be catchy, I want a verse-chorus situation. But you don’t know how many times I’ve heard Pat say, ‘I want things to be real fucked up.’ I’m into that, but sometimes he’s got to push me into that space.’

With three-quarters of the band in concurrent projects, and Full of Hell in particular having many touring and recording commitments, when will Eye Flys be able to tour and add to the dozen regional shows they have done to date?

“We don’t exactly know,” conceded Smith. “We hugely rely on Spencer, and we have a lot of other shit going on. Matt’s got a briefing of all of our schedules for the year. But we are eager to get out and tour as much as we can.

“We’re doing something really cool next spring that folks will hear about soon — we’re going to track a [full-length] record that’s going to come out next spring; we’re going to do a tour that’s going to be really fun after that. We’re working through Heavy Talent so they’re trying to help us get some stuff that fits with our schedule. You’ll see us out on the road for sure.”

The Context EP released today via Thrill Jockey.

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