Portland, Oregon's EYELIDS existed long before the actual band came to be. Friends for over two decades, principal songwriters John Moen and Chris Slusarenko had long desired to get together to write songs, “sweet melodies” paired with “bummer vibes,” which would fuse Big Star’s jangle to XTC’s melodicism, connecting the dots between the dream pop sounds of the ‘80s Paisley Underground to the homespun post-punk of the legendary Flying Nun label.
For years, Moen and Slusarenko played and wrote in the company of some of the most legendary songwriters of indie rock including Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices), Stephen Malkmus (Pavement/Jicks), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) and Elliott Smith. In 2014 they decided that it was time to finally start writing and recording together, adding the talents of guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Drews (Sunset Valley, Damien Jurado). The end result was their thirteen song debut album, 854, which gained positive notes from A/V Club, Brooklyn Vegan, BBC6 Radio and MOJO magazine. NPR called them “Portland’s best kept secret”.
That secret was short lived. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, the band has issued recordings at a prolific clip: They’ve released five 7”s and a 12” EP (which was labeled “EP/single of the year” by legendary East Coast freeform radio station WFMU ). They toured in the States and overseas, as headliners and as openers for Drive-By Truckers & The Charlatans UK (after hearing 854 Charlatans leader Tim Burgess asked to release the album overseas via his O Genesis label).
“With the first album we quickly realized that we were not just a studio project but a band, that wanted to play these songs live,” Slusarenko says. Eyelids wasted no time enlisting Paul Pulvirenti (No. 2, Elliott Smith) and Jim Talstra (The Minus 5, Dharma Bums) as their rhythm section. The band’s live action led directly to the band’s new album, or. “We wanted to make the second album with all five of us from the beginning and it was pretty exciting to see that come to full bloom,” Slusarenko says.
With or, the band’s second full-length LP, Eyelids has created their most emotional record yet. Produced by Peter Buck of R.E.M. and mixed by Thom Monahan (Peter, Bjorn and John, Devandra Banhart, Fruit Bats), or is liberally sprinkled with the hooks, melodies, and charming wordplay that make a certain kind of rock & roll fan fall madly in love with an LP. It’s all evident in the opening song, “Slow It Goes” — is that a play on Vonnegut or Nick Lowe? Somehow both feel appropriate — the kind of classic easily slotted between Superchunk and the Raspberries on a mixtape, locked and loaded with a perfectly winsome expression of angst: “She says, ‘If I can keep from sighing, why can’t you?’” From there, the sequence dives deeper and deeper into Slusarenko and Moen’s love of underground pop: listen to those sparkling “Starry Eyes”-worthy guitars on “Falling Eyes,” the psychedelic swirl of “My Caved In Mind,” and the Dream Syndicate mysticism of “Tell Me You Know.”
or is the sound of a band realizing its potential, of old friends connecting creatively and sonically, creating exuberant, nuanced, pop music.