Time waits for no man, and neither does Knoxville rock act Ebony Eyes. The trio, while fun-loving, is designed for efficiency and does not waste time, neither its own or that of its listeners. With condensed three-minute songs, sheared down from spacey, post-rock anthems, the group puts a lot of work into its offerings, and does so in a crunch. While playing under the name Ebony Eyes for almost exactly a year, it wasn’t until January that the trio reached its current lineup and began anew, but has much to show for the past five months.
Seeking a new drummer in January, Ebony Eyes’ Russell Garner (guitar, vocals) and Nick Teague (bass) looked to mutual friend Derek Lynch. Availability and commitment were as crucial to the selection as chemistry, and the formula has since been proven in the rate the outfit has fleshed out an almost completely new catalog. Discarding much of its earlier work, which included revamped tracks from Garner’s previous Mother Mange duo, the band insists on pressing forward, leaving the current lineup determined from a sense of ownership by all current members.
“We’ve been writing so fast since Derek came in that we haven’t needed to dip into the old material much,” explains Teague. “We don’t have the patience to be good teachers either, so that’s part of it.”
“The first time we played together, we wrote a song that day,” Lynch elaborates. “It started pretty quickly, but then we started working on one song every two weeks for a while. We want to keep moving forward and not look back.”
Teague, while not new to the band, is new to Knoxville. Previously commuting from Nashville for practice, his immediate presence has enabled the band’s more frequent practices, which the group says is essential for presenting music to its satisfaction. Using a community practice space, the band often rehearses to an inquisitive, homeless peanut gallery at The Groundswell, and with up to 45 minutes of its practice time devoted to setting up and taking down equipment, Ebony Eyes can little afford distractions or indecision.
“The music we play is pretty demanding,” admits Lynch. “It has to be tight. I mean, we could probably take a week off and then play a pretty sloppy set that some people may not pick up on, but when we listen to it later, we can tell it sucked as far as what we were trying to pull off.”
“It sounds cliche,” adds Garner, “but the age we’re getting to — our mid to late 20s — I only want to do stuff that’s going to be worth my time. I don’t want to get up and play and look (stupid). I need to be behind what I’m doing. When something’s not working, you can’t dilly dally and debate whether it can work or not. You’ve got to keep going. Every week that we don’t practice, it takes us a whole week just to catch back up.”
Even as the group has begun playing regional shows, it has no immediate plans to release an album. However, Ebony Eyes does record incessantly, pointing out that at the rate they churn out new songs, anything not recorded will be lost. Although Teague recently graduated from a sound engineering program in Nashville, the band, for the moment given its recording space situation, prefers iPhone recordings to the other options it has explored while recording at a friend’s house under familiar time and space constraints. Ebony Eyes expects to fashion homemade, three-track CDs to dispense at future shows as it books more out-of-town gigs for late summer.
“So much of our stuff is on a whim, that if we don’t have it recorded and come back a week later and try to record it, it’s forgotten,” says Garner. “We might make our own CDs and sell them for a dollar or tips just to have something to give out.”
Saturday The Well hosts Ebony Eyes with Villains and Throw Rocks. The show will mark the departure of Villains’ longtime front man Ben Miller. Music is slated for 10 p.m., and admission is $5.
Bone zone: Charismatic blues act Voodoo Bone performs a free show at Baker Peters Jazz Club Saturday night at 8 p.m.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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