By Sarah Klassen
October 31st, 2023

Sarah: Hi, guys! Thanks for meeting with me today!

Chris: Thank you for having us!

S: We're here talking today about your upcoming album Bending Towards the Sun. It's your debut album. You guys previously released a smaller EP, but this is your first full-length album. So for those who don't know, can you just talk to me about Summer Eyes? When did you guys start making music together? How did the project come to fruition?

Jeremy: So I mean Chris and I have been friends for a long time, but never actually played music together. We did all kinds of other things: had kids of similar ages, brewed beer together for a long time, and actually, I think it was during our beer brewing that occasionally I would just play him stuff that I had been working on. We had both done musical projects in other places and years with other people, but we had never actually played together. So I started playing him just some stuff here and there, just to kind of test the waters, and just see if maybe something was there. And you know, it was good! We actually started jamming a bit, and it was, I think, very good, like, really, really good chemistry. We started playing a little bit in a cover band together around the same time, which was fun but this felt like a different thing. Chris, do you have anything to add to that?

C: Yeah, I mean, we were playing in this cover band, which was a lot of fun. We covered bands like Tears for Fears and The Cure and Radiohead, so it wasn't a classic cover band. It was like a cover band of music that we love, not like typical cover band type songs. We were headed into another year of it, and I thought, what if we took this thing a step further and started to make original music, and Jer was right on board. Like he said, Jer played me a few things and I did some scatting over top, and it just felt right. We connected on a whole other level and turned into this new thing.

J: Our beer brewing sessions turned into jam sessions! [laughs] That was in about 2019–2020.

S: That's so awesome. So, since you guys have both been in your own musical projects in the past, what sort of lessons or knowledge have you taken from those, and what is brand new? What are you learning for the first time with this new project Summer Eyes?

C: I was in an alternative country band before Summer Eyes, called Old Mare and I basically said, let's just try something completely different. Let's step out of our comfort zone. So before this, I didn't play this style of electronic synthesizer, really big, lush sounding style. I played all country tunes, storytelling and acoustic guitars. So these big synth patches and that kind of stuff was all brand new to me, when we started Summer Eyes.

J: Yeah, I think we kind of agreed to just let it happen and flow, and be open to whatever style or genre that kind of came out. And I wasn't exactly doing this either. So we're coming from these

two totally different worlds, just trying to figure out what that's gonna sound like.

And the other thing too, is like you said we've been in different projects over the years, and we're different people than we were a decade or even 2 decades ago. We've had projects spanning that time, and we're now at different life stages and have a certain amount of tolerance for some things and also less tolerance for bullshit, so I think it was good. I think we came to a good agreement on what we want this to be.

S: Yeah, you can definitely hear that storytelling element of Chris's more acoustic past come through the lyrics. But it's completely different and new, and gives it new life. It's really cool to hear. So, on that note of changing, and becoming different people—especially considering your first EP was released during the pandemic—how do you think you guys have grown and evolved as a band, and as people, even just since the release of the EP?

C: I think the EP was one of those things where we were just testing the waters, but it’s work that I still stand behind. I think it's really good, and we hope to at some point put it back out into the world, because it sort of died on the vine in some ways because of Covid. But we were able to use that as direct building blocks for this project.

In the process of recording Bending Towards the Sun, we had time on our side. We were actually pretty honest and brutal with each other in terms of like: how does this part go, let's cut that, let's cut those lyrics, etc. Everything was on the table in terms of honesty and we had a willingness to make each song the best song that it could be.

J: I agree, and I think—to use the analogy of beer again, [laughs] if I can—when we first started making beer together, what happens at first is you go: Oh, my God! I made beer! It might not be the best beer ever made, but it's beer, and you're excited. It's just like the EP, we were like: Wow! We made music together! We're happy with it, and it sounds great. And then this next time around, it's like: Okay, well, how can we make this the best beer, and how can we improve on this? How can we push a little harder and develop our process a little bit more? It's fun! It definitely felt different than the last one.

S: Yeah, that's a good way of putting it. So in that sense, maybe the first time you were thinking: “We’ve made all this music now, and it comes together into an EP”. But when did you think with this project: “Okay, we're making an album”. Was that at the end of creating all this music? Or did you set that intention from the start?

J: For me, when we were recording About to Happen, it was one of the first things we really did and it came from a kind of stream of consciousness recording session. It came together in this magical way, and I think we just knew in that moment that this was the beginning of the record. We started building from there and pulling from there. It was a pretty magical moment.

C: Yeah, I think it had those marks too. I don't think we necessarily set out to make a full record right off the bat, but as the creativity was happening it was just like: Oh, there's another song,

and here's another one. Each song is different from the other, and has its strengths, and because we were editing and cutting it up so much each one has a dynamic feel. We were kind of like, well, we've now created 10 songs that we think are worthy.

J: Along the way we would ask: we have 5 songs, are we done? No. At 6 songs, are we done? No, I don't think so. So it just kept going.

C: And I think that this energy, this musical energy, is still palpable. I think that it’s still flowing in me, but we’ll save that for the next album. [laughs]

S: So that's interesting to hear you say that About to Happen actually started that process. It's very different from the other songs on the album. You can hear those connecting pieces, but it is distinct from the others. I was wondering, what is the fantasy for this song? What place does it take you in your mind? Or rather, where does it fit within the universe of Bending Towards the Sun?

C: I think as we were recording, we were in the throes of covid, and we were caught in this place where the unknown was in front of us. I think that in the spirit of trying to figure out what that internal feeling was, the chords came to me, and then the words kind of began to move around in my head. In the moment it was this sort of magic thing that was happening. So we were like, we gotta stick with that.

J: It was a total stream of consciousness. Everything you hear in that song came pretty much from one take. There was more that didn’t make it in, obviously, because it's stream consciousness, but it was Chris playing and singing at the same time and that's what we captured. It's one of those things where I don't know where it came from—it is obviously a lot of what we were feeling just like he said—but it worked. [laughs] Doesn't always happen like that, you know!

S: Cool! The song really does capture that magic and musical energy that you were talking about. So, like I said before, these songs are very different. The album spans across a pretty large number of genres and musical styles, and you’ve labeled yourself on streaming platforms as alternative. I was wondering, how true do you think that is? What would you guys define your style as? Or I guess, what are your thoughts on genre in general?

J: I mean it's hard because we chose alternative based on the fact that all the bands we like did the same thing. They're all very different from each other, so it is a bit of a catch all.

I hate genre. I feel like it's constricting. It's a label, and sometimes labels are very helpful, and sometimes they're really unhelpful. Especially when like we just said, we’re set out to be open to whatever happens. Take About to Happen for example: What style of song is that even compared to the next song on the album? They're completely different, so it's really hard. In some sense, we're going to ask the listener: What do you think this is? Because it's a lot of different things. What do you think, Chris?

C: I find it difficult, because on some levels I'm like: well, it's indie. Or other times I'm listening, and it has the earmark of being electronic. Or it’s introspective and it’s storytelling. I mean, we are all those genres and some other ones too. We live in a culture that wants to pigeon hole stuff and have a descriptor, and I get that. I don't think that we're creating a genre that hasn't existed before.

J: Not yet.

C: [laughs] But what I've been describing this music to people as is big. People say: “Well, what style are you?” And I say: “big”. And I like that description, because I think when you put this band into a nightclub or into a backyard, and we start playing, people are not expecting what Summer Eyes is. Summer Eyes is big music.

S: Yeah, I like that. So let's talk about some more songs! Bending Towards the Sun is the name of the album. It's your lead single. What's the story there? Where did that name come from?

C: The name came from a walk that I was on. It was around when Spring was coming, and for those who live in the Pacific Northwest you’ll know that we live in gray for a good portion of the year. We live with rain and darkness, but it was one of those days in the park where the sun broke out through the clouds. The cedar trees were wet and dripping like every drop of water was a crystal dripping off the branch. And I just thought, wow, I'm bending towards the sun. It's just like when a flower or a plant just kind of turns towards the light. What was the term Jer?

J: Heliotropism!

C: Heliotropism. We played around with the scientific word for a bit, but it was a bit too big for us. So that line came first for the song and we built the rest around it. I sent a voice memo to Jer and we got to practice a couple of nights later, and he's like “What do you think of this?”

J: I shared an old guitar riff that I had never really found a home for, and I could never really figure out why. And I loved it. It was perfect.

S: I mean that really speaks to your process. So maybe let's talk a little bit more about that. I noticed while I was listening to the album that all of the songs use these ‘I statements’ and have a perspective from a central narrator. So Chris, I was wondering if you could talk more about your songwriting style, and then Jeremy how you fit into that as a collaborator.

C: Yeah, you know what, this is an interesting question because I never have consciously thought about that. I would say, not all of the songs are about me. I think what I love about a lot of my favorite writers; people like Bruce Springsteen and U2, is they have this way of embedding themselves in the song. I think it’s important for me to feel embedded in the song. All these songs are not just about me, but they're about a perspective of life that I've watched unfold around me.

J: I really like that, Chris. It's not that you're intentionally saying, this is my songwriting perspective. It's just your vision, it's your lens.

C: I aim to be a storyteller, you know, songwriting is my canvas.

J: To answer your other part of the question, I was just grateful in the first place that Chris would even let me be involved at all lyrically. I don't know if you've heard him say this, but he hasn't let anyone else do that before. Is that right, Chris?

C: That's right. In all previous projects I have been the driving force of my project. So I've written the music, I've written the lyrics, and I've been the artistic visionary.

J: So that's a big deal. So coming at this as a partnership it's been interesting, right? I love Chris's lyrics, and his perspective, and everything that we just talked about, and I am grateful that you let me into that process.

I think a lot of what I bring to it is, I'm very opinionated about phrasing and how we organize the words. It’s very rhythmic. I'm a drummer, and I'm all about that rhythm and the poetry of it. Chris is very good at that too, but that's where I would be more opinionated and more passionate.

S: And then thinking about it vice versa, what part of the music did Jeremy propose that maybe Chris edited, or were you both proposing musical parts? What was that like?

C: Yeah, it was a mix. The music is predominantly Jer, and the lyrics are predominantly mine. But as we said earlier, nothing was safe in terms of the editing process. Jer would bring a song and sometimes I'd be like: “We need to cut that part out or make that part shorter” or “what if we added a flam right there”. But it was that honesty that we were able to share back and forth that allowed us to not be precious.

J: We were definitely precious about the work but we weren't taking ourselves too seriously. We were taking the music extremely seriously so it really worked out. And there were times when it was hard for me to be open, and times when it was hard for Chris to be open about that stuff, but we found our way and I think it was worthwhile.

S: I love that. So what's it been like playing these songs live for the first time?

C: It is incredibly cathartic and so life-giving. It's all I want to be doing these days. I go to my day job and all I think about is playing live. I’m so in my comfort zone when I’m on stage.

J: Yeah, it's been so much fun. We really wanted to do some live shows after the EP, and of course we couldn't because of the pandemic. But now, other than songwriting it's my favorite part.

S: That's amazing. Okay, I have a few rapid fire questions for you. (They don't have to be rapid fire [laughs])

First, I was obviously wondering what your favorite track on the album is, for both of you. J: For me it’s These Lights.

C: Rewind for me. Although, I have a love-hate relationship with it [laughs]. There's some timing issues with that song that I just can't get live. But we're working on it.

J: It's just one of those things about recording an album in a studio from scratch, versus having a band come up with something live and then recording what you performed. In a lot of cases, you're learning the song that you wrote, and that goes for me too. How am I going to play these 5 keyboard parts at once, you know? It's been great to bring on a third party for performances. It's been hugely helpful and a lot of fun bringing in Jeff Harder on bass and keys and backup vocals (and probably more as we go along).

S: What was the most fun song for you guys to make?

C: I think Bending Towards the Sun was a lot of fun to make. Guarantees was also a lot of fun to record.

J: I think for me it was About to Happen, based on what we saw talked about earlier. It's just like the: “How did this happen?” “Where did this even come from?”. I would never have set out to create anything that sounded like that intentionally, so it was such a rare thing.

S: What song are you guys the most proud of?

J: For me it's Rewind, because we almost threw it out many times. So we really had to persist and push. Nothing, except for one guitar line, remains from the beginning of the writing process. It's the guitar line that Jeff performs live with us; it starts at the beginning, and it goes all the way through, and it doesn't end. That's all we knew was gonna stay. Everything else was cut, chopped, moved, discarded until it felt right. And I'm proud of it. I love it. I like, love it love it!

C: I’m really proud of Rewind too. I’m also proud of Wolves At the Door. It's so different from all the songs on the record, but I love that we’re tackling commercialism, we're tackling politics, and we're tackling issues we're passionate about. Not all the songs are issue driven, but that one song is. We had a song on our EP called Kids These Days that was also politically driven, so I don't wanna let go of the fact that music can be a tool for change.

J: Yeah, there was debate about whether we should put that on the album or not, because it is so different. But I think the answer was: well, there's lots of very different songs on this album, there's really something for everybody.

S: Yeah, I think what's great about Wolves At the Door is that it uses Chris's musical lens and style of songwriting to your advantage, since it is one of the only songs that breaks out of that first-person perspective. It's making demands and it's telling you what to do, right from the beginning of the song; which, in contrast with the rest that are coming straight from Chris, you know subconsciously exactly what Wolves at the Door is about, without even having to listen fully to the lyrics. It's really cool.

So, if a first-time listener was only going to listen to one song off the album, which would you recommend?

J: Bending Towards the Sun

C: If you've never listened to Summer Eyes before, listen to Bending Towards the Sun. It's a fun 2 minutes and some-odd seconds [laughs] and it’s a great taste to find out who Summer Eyes is.

S: What music inspires you and has influenced this work?

J: Everything I've ever consumed since I first started listening to music? [laughs]

Specifically, for me it's T.W. Walsh, Radiohead, Sylvan Esso, Arcade Fire, Foals, the Killers, Sharon Van Etten, M83, Mutemath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin. I mean, all of the things on my playlists and more, you know.

C: Yeah, I already mentioned Springsteen and U2, but also Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, Sigur Rós, Radiohead, Bon Iver, Manic Street Preachers, the National.

J: And you reference Nick Cave a lot when songwriting

C: Yeah, I’m inspired by writers.

J: So I mean, as much as we sought out to create something new with whatever came to us, I think the things that come to us go through all those filters of all those bands, and writers, and artists. It's fun to pick that out later, or hear people say: “Oh, this sounds a little bit like this” and you go “Huh! I guess you might be right about that!” [laughs]

S: [laughs] Totally! Well, is there anything else you want listeners to know about Bending Towards the Sun?

C: Go listen to it, download it, share it.
J: Yeah I mean, I think that's it! Just listen to it.

S: Great! Well thanks so much for sharing today. It was great to hear some more perspective on this impressive body of work.

C: Thank you.

J: Thanks, Sarah.