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Sounds Like Wet Hair To Me

by Pablo Tsolo / Images by Hanro Havenga / 04.04.2012

Part III of Violence, Lust, Life – A journey into Post Rock.

In the third and final installment of our series on Post Rock, Pablo Tsolo got hold of Shannon Lawlor, the bassist for Eyes Like Mirrors, one of Joburg’s most promising underground bands, he shared his thoughts on silent films, dating other bands, and how good post-rock should sound like wet hair.

Mahala: Not counting the short-lived dark ambience days, Eyes Like Mirrors have been together for almost 4 years. You guys were relatively young then, were you childhood friends?

Shannon Lawlor: Jason (Sutherland) and Matthew (Watson) knew each other before me. They used to skate together, and I met them just as the Monte Park opened. Fast forward a few years, we all picked up instruments, and decided that we wanted to make music together. We all had the same vision which was a bonus!

Where did the name Eyes Like Mirrors come from, and tell me about your EP?

I frantically came up with our name in a few hours. We were juggling around with a couple other names, but the guys decided that Eyes Like Mirrors fit best. It was weeks before our first show at The Bohemian with Tale Of The Son, back in August 2008, I think. Last year we released our 5 track EP Crusades.

Eyes Like Mirrors went heavy on ‘A Forked Tongue Cuts Like A Knife’. I think I speak for all of your fans when I say it’s one of your most popular songs from the EP. Where’d you guys sample the long vocal lines from?

The lines are from a film called Network released in 1976. That ‘mad as hell’ speech is said by the character Howard Beale.

Eyes Like Mirrors’ influences include post-rock bands such as Mono, and Explosions in the Sky, but many places label you guys predominantly as experimental/ambient. Would you describe yourselves as a post-rock band?

Definitely. When we first heard post-rock music, we all knew exactly what kind of music we wanted to be involved in. We didn’t care much for vocals; they seemed to distract the listener from what was really going on. So with post-rock we found a genre completely devoted to [instrumental textures]. We knew we were at home.

The music scene has developed an obsession, it seems, with labeling bands these days – all just for the sake of creating hype. While that can be useful, do you think it’s getting out of hand?

I think to some extent it is getting out of hand. Personally, I think it’s good to put a “feeling” to a band rather than a label, like, listening to ambient, contemporary or classical music gives me a cold distanced feeling, listening to a dance song or something a little bit more lively, is more of a warm, full feeling. But I think it is good sometimes because you can’t generalize everything. Like take a rock band with airplay on the radio, and take an experimental underground rock band, sure they’re both rock bands, but are they really the same?

Eyes Like Mirrors

The city’s live circuit has been home to you guys for a few years now and you’ve played with a number of good acts. Which local bands do you look up to?

We’re influenced by so many local acts. I think we’ll all agree that Us Kids Know were number one. We miss them. Dearly. But we also love the sounds of The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me, they’re an amazing band, and such nice people. Also, we’re “dating” Bateleur, they’re our boyfriend/girlfriend band!

That sounds like a frisky yet long-distance relationship.

It is quite. They’re just the sweetest dudes around, so chilled and so down to earth. We played with them when they came down to JHB, the Halloween event at The Lister Building. Then we were meant to play with them at one of the Rebel Alliances’, but Matthew (drummer) fell ill, and we had to cancel. It was still an amazing night, they played a great set. Ever since then we’ve just been asking each other out and sending each other flowers. It’s quite special.

Do you still play in socks?

We sometimes still play in socks, not always though.

Eyes Like Mirrors

Eyes Like Mirrors and KIDOFDOOM both have Ben Rausch creating their visuals. What does cinematic music mean to you? Also, how important is having a visual element to your sound?

Cinematic music to me means that you have both the driving qualities of a live performance, as well as a visual escape to the conventional leanings of a live alternative rock performance. [This is] both visually and audibly rewarding. I think having visual elements to our live performance definitely keeps it interesting. It feels like we’re putting on more of a “show” rather than a “gig”.

What is the band’s creative process for the two – songs for visuals or vice versa?

We normally stick to writing music as we always have without drifting away from our comfort zones. When we have a portion of a song done, or a whole song, we all usually sit around and discuss what atmosphere, or “feel”, a certain song gives us. From there, we just feed off of each others’ ideas until we’re all satisfied with the results.

The ability of post-rock to facilitate powerful imagery or feeling is definitely one of its significant characteristics…

Generally, Post-rock sounds cold. Post-rock sounds like wet hair to me, or even damp, rather.

Then some bands like Mogwai, in my opinion, are colder than others, than say ‘Explosions’.

I’d say EITS are colder than Mogwai…

I imagine something alienating and dark when I think cold; and when I think Mogwai. Does it get more eerie than I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead? EITS, so many of their songs are triumphant and warm. Take The Birth And Death Of The Day, and Time Stops as examples. What do you think of when you think ‘cold’?

Y’know when your knees are shaking because the weather is so miserable and nothing you do will help? Even if you rub them in every direction, you know they won’t get warm unless you sit on a heater… When I think of songs like Like Herod by Mogwai, and Six Days… by EITS, they pretty much give me the same feeling. Or even a song like Rano Pano by Mogwai, and Welcome, Ghosts by EITS, are pretty on par with each other.

Eyes Like Mirrors

Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean sends your point home definitely. But, focusing back to you guys, I hear hints of Eyes Like Mirrors’ sound in EITS’s Yasmin The Light. Is there anything to that?

Well, that’s very flattering because that song has probably influenced us more than anything.

It’s early into 2012, you must have some experiments or an album coming up to blow us away?

We wrote a new song, our first song experimenting with electronics. So we wanted to record it and release it as a single, but we figured that we should probably at least contain a new song, a remix and possibly a live song. It’s nothing special, and wouldn’t interfere with our full length (album), but right now, writing our full length is the most important thing for all of us. I won’t say too much about that as it’s still very early.

C’mon say a little…

It’s just an idea for now, I think I can speak for all of us, when I say that our full length is our goal for this year, to record it ourselves, have total control.

By yourselves do you mean independently from the label So Many Animal Calls Music?

No, I mean we may release it through the SMACM label, but Matthew, Jason and I are looking to rent some equipment and record it ourselves, Matthew and Jason have a lot of equipment together already, but we might just have to rent out a couple of mics and stuff.

That’s very DIY-core of you guys. There’s obviously a strong group ethic and attention to detail going on in Eyes Like Mirrors. Do any of you have interests or influences outside of music that you pursue?

Well, we’ve all dabbled in and out of art. I’ve always sketched, and more recently, I have started writing, mainly short stories and psychedelic poetry. But Ben (vi-tarist) is an illustrator, he’s been doing it for years and it’s now his career. Jason also dabbles in a bit of art and animation etc. Matthew was the first one to play an instrument out of all of us -so it’s pretty clear that his direct influence is music. There isn’t really a specific “movement” that’s been a major influence in our music, but I would have to say that the silent film era was definitely an influence in our stream of visuals, like Metropolis for example.

*Download the Eyes Like Mirrors EP Crusades here.

**Images © Hanro Havenga.

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