Blackledge Music artists These Green Eyes are preparing to release their debut CD Relapse To Recovery on March 24th, 2009. The band’s music can best be described as a post punk sound full of great big choruses. Lead singer Colin Cunningham was kind enough to answer a few questions about the band their music and the story behind Relapse To Recovery.
The name of the band is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Colin: Well, back when we started we had a different name that did not really make all that much sense if you think about the great band names in the history of Rock & Roll. “Does No Harm” did not exactly inspire confidence. Kind of like if you named a Metal Band “Peaceful Meadow Filled With Flowers” or something. “These Green Eyes” came out of a brainstorming session for a new band name. At first, we really did not know what it meant, but then again we were still trying to figure out what our sound was going to be and who we were as musicians. As a result, over time, I think it has come to have a slightly different meaning for each one of us.
I like to say that it describes the look in someone’s eyes when the little devil on their shoulder is whispering in their ear. Like the quick look you give to someone who has something that you want and have no way of getting. Sometimes you look away and sometimes you can’t. A lot of our songs express regret over things in our pasts that we cannot change and I like to think that “These Green Eyes” is our way of acknowledging that we aren’t perfect and that there are always things we can change for the better.
You worked with Brian McTernan (Thrice, Circa Survive, Senses Fail, The Explosion, Hot Water Music) a very well known, well-respected producer. How did you get in touch with him and what was it like working with him?
Colin: When we started talking about producers with our label, Blackledge Music, Brian was on the short list of people that we wanted to work with. You mentioned a few bands whose records we really liked, both in terms of how good the songs were and also how good the records actually sounded, so when we got on a conference call with Brian and he said that he wanted to work with us because he liked our songs, it was an easy decision.
Working with Brian was really exciting and new for us. Every other time we recorded before then we had only been able to afford to book small amounts of time, sometimes just a couple of days, to record as many songs as possible. In addition, at Salad Days we were actually living in the studio instead of driving back and forth from our houses to the studio every day. I feel like Brian really understood the message we were trying to get across with the new record. It was as if he was a part of the band for a month!
Give us some insight into the record Relapse To Recovery and the meaning behind its title?
Colin: Before we signed with Blackledge, it really felt like the band was on the verge of breaking up. We had been through many ups and downs with DIY tours, we were all broke and it just did not feel like we wanted to do this anymore. Then a fan and very close friend of ours took his own life. It’s one thing when you lose someone to old age, or to things you can’t change, but when something like that happens there really is no way to make sense of it.
“Relapse to Recovery” holds many layers of meaning. In one sense, it is our story… the story of our Relapse as friends and the road to our Recovery as a band and as a family. In the real sense, it is the story of anyone who has ever lost their way, questioned their faith or considered suicide as the answer to life’s problems. With this record, we hope to pay tribute to a fallen friend and maybe offer a shoulder to lean or cry on for anyone out there who may have a story similar to ours, or who may be thinking of writing themselves out of their own.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Colin: For me, personally, I spent a lot of my childhood listening to my parent’s record collection. Bands like Madness, The Police, The Who, and more eclectic artists like The Chieftains and Steeleye Span. One of the first records I listened to was a Bill Cosby comedy record! The great thing about our band is that for every shared musical interest between members there is at least one other that is unique to the individual. As a result, long drives can be either an enjoyable experience or a total nightmare. On one hand, we share interests in punk and Ska bands like NoFx, Less Than Jake, ALL/Descendants, and Goldfinger. On the other hand, we all listened to bands like Deftones, Glassjaw, or the Foo Fighters. I think that each one of us looks at the music we write through a slightly different color lens and I really feel like that is the most important part of our sound.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Colin: Honestly, it can go either way. I spend a lot of my time working on new songs alone with just my acoustic guitar. I will show what I am working on to Zach and then we will tweak the arrangement. The entire time, we try to story board the idea as if it is a part, or movement, of a larger work so that it fits with the rest of the songs that we’re working on without being about exactly the same thing. That is how we ended up with songs like “Kick The Crutch,” “Blood Sweat and Beers,” and “Words.” Other times, the band will get together and jam on a riff or idea that someone comes up with on the spot. We will come up with a basic structure and then play with the arrangement until it feels right. “Drunk Driver” and “Last Call at the Dolly” are examples of this method. Everyone in the band adds their own personality to every song we work on. It is a lot of fun!
The band keeps things interesting thematically. Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on this record?
Colin: The most important subject we wanted to try and tackle on the new record is Suicide. Each song (or story) is told from a slightly different perspective and as the record progresses, the story evolves. All sorts of little issues are tackled or alluded to depression and addiction; doubt and hope; nostalgia for the past; regret or acceptance for the things we cannot change. It’s a story that anyone can find comfort in because I think if we’re all honest with ourselves then we’ve all had our moments of solitary weakness and also our own moments of personal strength. This record is a lesson learned, a chip on our shoulders, and a message of positivity for the future.
How do you maintain that level of energy and exuberance? You sound like you are ready to go full bore every time you play.
Colin: First of all… Thank you! From day one, we have all tried to put as much of ourselves into both our music and live performance as possible and we all have scars to prove it. Sometimes it is not easy to get up on stage and put on the show people expect from you. I think that if we did not love the message that we want to share, the music that we play, and the people we play it for then we would not be able to do it. Really, most of that energy comes back to us from our friends, fans and family. It might sound (or read) corny, but it is true. I get up on stage because I love to sing… because I love to do this.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Colin: The toughest lesson I learned in the studio was that sometimes you cannot get everything you want. In music, as in life, sometimes you have to make compromises. In addition, I played a lot of electric guitar on the new record and I was used to playing on an acoustic, so I was playing too hard on the electric’s strings. I had to work on my picking so I was not hitting the strings too hard. The toughest lesson I had to learn on stage was how to talk to the crowd! It can be intimidating up there! It may sound weird, but sometimes I feel like a deer caught in headlights onstage because of how bright the lights can be, because of how loud everything is, and because of how hot it can be! Another hard thing to do was figuring out how to balance my performance so I could move around onstage without always being so out of breath that I could not sing properly. Not too long ago, I hurt my knee on stage so badly that I needed surgery, so that was a different kind of “tough” lesson to learn.
What song from that album is still exciting for you to sing?
Colin: There is no song off of this record that ISN’T exciting to sing. We’ve held off on playing a few of them for when the CD comes out, so I guess that songs like “Blood, Sweat, and Beers” and “Kick The Crutch” are songs that I’m really looking forward to playing. I get to play guitar on a few songs too, so that might be the most exciting thing for me because I love playing guitar.
You guys have toured extensively and shared the stage with the likes of Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory and Less Than Jake. What was it like sharing the stage with such well-known artists? Were you intimidated at all?
Colin: I remember the first date we played with Less Than Jake was a little intimidating. They were a band I had seen a few times over the years and I honestly never thought we would end up playing with them! I have always believed in the songs that we play though, so while it can be intense to go up onstage before a band like Fallout Boy, I try my best to keep my mind on the task at hand: putting on the best show we can! It can actually be surprisingly easy to play with bands like this though, if you can believe it. Just about everyone in every bigger band we’ve played with still remembers what it was like when they were working their way up. Being aware of that shared background really takes a lot of the pressure off! Just go out there, be yourself, and do the best you can!
Life out on the road can be very difficult. What keeps you going on those long drawn out tours? Do you have any inspirational stories that have taken place on the road that you would care to share?
Colin: The first tour we ever booked was the hardest! We booked the entire tour by ourselves and we had no idea what we were doing. We just decided that we were going to go on tour so we did it! Anyway, most of the shows were… pretty terrible! We ended up down in Pompano Beach, FL, at Pompano Indoor Skate park and we were the last band scheduled to play. When you are an out of state band that nobody has ever heard of and you are playing a local show, you are lucky if anyone sticks around to see you play. Well, we got really lucky and a couple of dozen kids stuck around to watch us play and we ended up having a really good time!
Our show the next day fell through, so we called up PIS and we ended up being able to hop on the show they were doing that night. We called a couple of the kids we had been hanging with the night before and they told all of their friends to come out to the show! I think 100 kids ended up coming out for us! It really blew us all away that something like that could happen in less then 48 hours. To this day, even though PIS is closed, the four or five shows we were able to play there stand out as some of the most fun shows we ever played on tour.
There is also our friend Dayne out in Utah who might be the most genuinely nice guy we have ever met on tour. He does not have a large home, but he has always opened his door for us, come out to see us play and provided us with all sorts of help and support. It is thanks to people like Dayne all over our country that we can still have the spark we need to go out onstage every night when we are on tour away from our friends and loved ones. Not to mention the fact that we probably would have starved to death! Thanks Dayne!
What is next for These Green Eyes?
Colin: Right now, we are getting ready to release our new full-length record, Relapse to Recovery. The date is March 24, 2009, Blackledge Music is releasing it and you will be able to find it in stores everywhere. After that, watch out because we are coming to a town near you! See you on tour! [ END ]