We were first enamored by Eyes Like 20 earlier this year and we featured them as our IBOTW (Indie Band of the Week). We’ve followed the band over the months and watched them grow and here we are, like proud parents, as the band has just released their first full length album entitled Magicada, an album 20 years in the making. Have you ever heard a rock album that not only sounded good, but you felt it deep inside of you? Well, let us take you on a metal journey and tell you about a band who has crafted a very special form of heavy groove that just might change the way you listen to music.
Eyes Like 20 formed while in college and as the saying goes, “shit happens”, and they went their separate ways. Then, 17 years later, an older and wiser version of the band was brought back together to complete some unfinished business. Today, the band is comprised of Jonathan Lucas on vocals, Brent Martin and Richey Boyd on guitars, Justin Naramore on bass and John Kennedy on drums. They were brought together by the gods of metal to continue writing their musical story and it’s one that kicks some serious ass. I got the chance to talk to most of the bandmates as they prepared for the release of their epic album Magicada.
Eyes Like 20 almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. Is there a story behind it?
Richey: This band, in its original incarnation, was formed when we were all in college. At the time, we had gone through a couple of stupid names but, we were still kind of searching. I was writing down name ideas on a sheet of paper as they came to mind. I was reading some poetry by Jim Morrison and came across the line “eyes like twenty” in Morrison’s poem LAmerica. I wrote it down, along with the rest. The next time we rehearsed, I brought out the list and that was the one we settled on. I think “Well Babies” came in second (laughs).
You just released your first full length album entitled Magicada. Where did you guys get that name from?
Richey: Magicicada is the scientific name for the cicada. The cicada stays underground for 17 years before it emerges in the form that we are all familiar with. It was exactly 17 years between the time that we went our separate ways in the 90s and the time we reformed in 2011.
Wow, what a symbolic name for your new album; I love that. By the way, this album seriously rocks! The riffs are heavy, sick and infectious. There are two tracks, “Journey to the Virgin” and “Birth to Earth” that really stood out to me that I was hoping you could tell me a little more about.
Richey: I wrote the music for both of those songs and to be honest with you, I don’t know where my inspiration comes from. I’m usually in the shower or driving or painting or whatever, and just get a tune stuck in my head. I go to my guitar and start trying to make it something real; sometimes it turns out the same and sometimes it turns into something completely different. I usually write an entire song before I show it to the guys. I will say that recently, I have narrowed my most inspiring times to be those when I have recently listened to music that I don’t usually listen to. My wife listens to music that is completely different than what I listen to and to be honest, I only like about 10% of it but for some reason, when I hear her listen to it, I get inspired; I don’t know what the deal is. The title for “Journey to the Virgin” is pretty arbitrary. My wife came up with it; she said the lyrics reminded her of the journey of the wise men to Mary.
Jonathan Lucas: “Journey’s” lyrics are inspired by a fight between lovers. Not exactly what was said mind you, but an inspiration nonetheless.
John Kennedy: “Birth to Earth” is about how many chances you can give someone before you walk away. No matter how much you want them to be the right fit for you, sometimes they just aren’t and I don’t want to spend my life…birth to earth…to death waiting on someone to change.
One thing that stood out to me is that the majority of the band seems to be involved in the song writing process. Is there a method to the madness? Do you get in a room with the intention of writing a song? How does it usually come together?
Richey: You’re right about that. Everyone in this band is involved in writing the music. Like I said before, I usually have the music to a song already written before I present it to everyone, but we all make changes and suggestions. John is the same way; he usually writes something on guitar at home and then brings it to rehearsal where we change and alter it.
Jonathan: For me, the mood of the song sets the tone of the vocals and lyrics many times. We all end up putting our influence on the song one way or another. Recently, it has worked out where someone presents an idea (riff or two) and we jam on it until I have an idea vocally. Then, they allow me to arrange the music (different parts) to tell the story. At least that is how a few of the new songs have gone and are going.
Brent Martin: As far as my role in the band, I think of myself as the icing on the cake or the sugar in the coffee. I try to make my guitar parts compliment the ones that Richey writes without being so different as to distract the listener. Of course, sometimes the song needs us to play the same part to make it thicker and richer, but for the most part, especially lately, the more different our parts are the more interesting the song becomes. As far as the solos that I do, most of them are improvised on the spot with a few key melodies that usually occur at the beginning or other key spots, with the exception being the part on the “Drive” solo that came to me in a dream.
It’s no secret to anyone how crazy the music industry is right now and you guys are doing all of this yourselves as an indie band. What’s the toughest part of your musical journey so far?
Richey: We have the typical issues of lack of money and getting people to come out to the shows, buy the merch, etc. We’re reasonably successful at all that but, it’s a lot of work. Finding time to do all of that while working and raising a family, for some of us, requires a delicate balancing act and getting this album ready was a huge, time consuming undertaking. It took us eleven months from beginning to end, we were there for every mix, we designed and adjusted the artwork; we did it all, all of that while working and preparing dinner (laughs). You don’t know how much work it is until you do it.
The band has a distinct guitar sound on the album and it’s pretty sick. What or who inspired you guys to pick up a guitar?
Richey: I wanted to learn to play when I was a kid, but my parents didn’t want to spend the cash on something that I suppose they viewed as something I may not have stuck with. When I was 17, my uncle (also a guitar player) gave me a Telecaster as an early graduation present. I picked up a Mel Bay book and learned some basic songs and became obsessed with it. I was practicing like 10 or 12 hours a day. In just a year, I was pounding out Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, stuff like that, perfectly and was ready to start a band. I had spent all the money people had given me for graduation on gear instead of going to the beach. I was just obsessed with the way it sounded.
Brent: My two uncles, Uncle John and Uncle “Hawk”, they were always in bands together when I was growing up. John was a bass player and singer and did a killer Johnny Cash. ‘Hawk’ was the lead guitar player and a real quiet guy until he picked up the guitar. I saw them play at a family reunion one time when I was about 10 or so at Spring Valley Beach and I was hooked. I distinctly remember them playing “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll”; I hate that song now, by the way. So, by the time I was about 14 or 15, I convinced my mom to buy me a Harmony acoustic, even though I quit every other activity I ever started (school band, football, baseball). As soon as my Uncle John saw that I was serious and learning the basics, he got one of his buddies to sell me a Fender Mustang for $75, I got me an amp, learned “Sunshine of Your Love”. Not long after that, both of my uncles were playing at Mr. Willies BBQ on 79 Highway and they asked me to bring my guitar and jam with them onstage!! I got up there, plugged in and faked my way through some country and classic rock songs!! Just about my whole family were there, mom, dad, sister, and loads of cousins. I will never forget how honored I was to be up there with grown men and of course my uncles that I looked up to so much. I know I sounded awful and I was turned way down as to not mess up the songs, but just being up there is a feeling I will never forget.
As you climb that ladder of success, how do you find that fine balance between integrity and fame? Some artists sacrifice one, maybe not totally but at least partially, to get or keep the other.
Richey: It’s tough, man; I don’t know how to explain it. I listen to a new song, for instance, and try to be objective about it. If it sounds boring, even if it’s a cool riff, I either spiff it up to make it less boring or I toss it. I can play music that only I want to hear in my bedroom. If I play things that I expect others to want to hear, I need to make it something they will want to hear. Also, experience gives you a leg up to know what a single should sound like. We try to stay away from clichés, while at the same time try to let our influences shine through.
You’re about to film the first video for the new album and the producer wants Miley Cyrus to be in it. She doesn’t necessarily have to be either twerking or naked and on a demolition ball (as in her “Wrecking Ball” video). It’s a free appearance by her if you are game because she’s a fan of the band. Do you do it?
Richey: Um…yes. She has a fantastic voice and she is very talented. I think she’s just caught up in all the bullshit that seems to be the rule for all the Disney kids. I don’t know what they are doing to them down there (laughs).
By Johnny Price, Senior Journalist
The band’s full length album Magicada was just released and it’s one of those albums that you not only hear, but you feel. The guys in the band call it “heavy groove” and it is just that. Lucas’ vocals are full of grit and emotion, while the riffs being laid down by Martin and Boyd burrow their way inside of you as you listen. Now, let’s not forget the rhythm section of Naramore and Kennedy who are as tight as they come to laying down the foundation that the songs are built on and expand. It’s an album worthy of being heard by the masses and it highly recommended.