You got the “Quarantine Blues?” Well, you’re not the only one… Tombstones In Their Eyes just released their latest album Looking For a Light last week, via Kitten Robot Records. Featuring the single “Quarantine Blues,” the album is classic TITE, but also embraces a somewhat new approach, evidenced by its thick fuzz that emphasizes the greatness of its melodies.
Thematically, the band has also slightly shifted its focus away from the dark themes of previous releases, towards a somewhat more hopeful, optimistic approach. It’s certainly TITE’s most mature album yet, with the band once again working with Paul Roessler (T.S.O.L., Josie Cotton, Richie Ramone), who has produced all of the group’s other albums. Fans of psych, desert rock, shoegaze, and goth will find a lot to like here, with TITE creating an album less reliant on numerous layers of fuzzed-out guitars, and more in line with clearer vocals and better lyrics.
The quintet is led by the unmistakable John Treanor who really helps provide the band with a lot of their character. We recently caught up with the singer and guitarist to talk more about Looking For a Light, the song “Quarantine Blues,” and the themes that are strung through the album’s songs.
It’s a joyous time for Tombstones In Their Eyes, with your new album Looking For a Light now arriving. If you had to sum up this album in a few sentences, how would you describe or characterize it?
John Treanor: “The album is a short (eight songs), concise collection of the best of the batch of songs I had written during the last year. It covers a lot of ground, sonically (for us, at least), yet I think it all fits together well. It still all sounds like Tombstones In Their Eyes. The album is focused, lyrically, on depression, anxiety and fear, it even includes a love song (a first for us, ‘Ship On The Sea’).”
Looking For a Light is a little bit of a different sound for the band in comparison to your previous albums. What makes this release unique for you as a musician and songwriter?
“I relied a lot less on layers of fuzz and delay, although I still love that! There are some songs that are much more naked (particularly ‘Hey,’ ‘Wrong,’ and ‘Looking For a Light’). Songwriting is weird, if you get down there (to my basement studio where I create the demos) and create songs regularly, you really never know what’s going to come out.”
The album certainly features a greater variety in sound and style than your previous work. Was this a conscious decision to evolve the band’s sound a bit, or did it just kind of happen organically?
“Totally organic. As I mentioned in the last question, you never know what’s going to come out. I am not a talented enough musician or songwriter to pinpoint a specific type of song that I want to make, I just let it come out from wherever songs emanate. I can make choices like ‘fuzz, or not?,’ what type of amp to use, if I want to try a cleaner, more reverby sound, etc.”
The song “Quarantine Blues” gets straight to the point with what it’s referring to, but if you open it up more to interpretation, the meaning is a little less specific. Tell us more about writing this song. What is the point you’re ultimately trying to convey here?
“Yes, this song is meant to be a little broader than the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also about personal isolation, fear. Being in a box that you can’t escape from. And ‘quarantine’ is meant to go further back in time than current events. People have been quarantined for many reasons over the history of mankind, so I tried to make the lyrics less COVID specific.”
You characterized Looking For a Light as being perhaps more hopeful and less cynical than your previous albums. Would you say this is as a result of a natural progression in you all as songwriters and as individuals?
“Definitely. When the band started, I was going through some major depression and anxiety issues. Songwriting became a valuable outlet for those feelings. And, in general, I’m drawn to darker themed music, so it was an easy fit. But, as I’ve become ‘happier’ and more centered, I’m much less likely to write songs based on the former themes. And, the way I write lyrics is to sing in a stream of consciousness fashion over the first tracks, the rhythm guitar, and a drumbeat. So, often, I use a lot of that. I write it down, take the parts I like and refine from there. I’ve gotten good at that method, and it’s cool to me because the songs are coming from inside, unfiltered.”
When did you begin work on Looking For a Light? Does it predate the start of the pandemic, or did you start on it after this global lockdown began last year?
“We started working on Looking For A Light after the lockdown. Our last show, in support of our Maybe Someday vinyl release, was March 7th, 2020, right before the lockdown really went into effect. About a month later, I wrote the first song, ‘Quarantine Blues,’ and was off to the races.”
With the lockdown in effect, did you have to approach the writing and recording process differently from previous albums?
“The writing process was no different, I usually write the song or demo in a couple of hours. Then, James Cooper (in New York City), will take the files from Dropbox and add some better sounding drums and maybe make some tweaks, either major or minor.
The recording, however, took a lot longer due to the lockdown. The next step after the demo is done is to into Kitten Robot Studio with the files and have Stephen Striegel come in to put down the live drum tracks. This took a long time and was split into a few sessions, separated by months.”
The title Looking For a Light hints at an overarching theme. Would you say there’s a thematic undertone that’s strung through the album, or is this just more of a collection of songs?
“For the album, I’d say it’s mainly a collection of songs, but Looking For A Light is a theme for almost all of our material. From the early days until now, it’s still generally about finding the light, or hope, from within what can be a harsh world, both internally and externally.”
You again worked with Paul Roessler, who has produced all of your albums. What is it about Paul that makes you comfortable working with him? What does he bring to the table that you really value?
“From the first time I met Paul, we just clicked. He gets the band, the theme, the sound. And because he gets it, he is able to provide valuable input and ideas. We’ve worked together so long that I don’t have to explain everything to him, (laughs). And he’s also great at harmonies, which I love, and also a very good keyboard player, so we utilize those talents, as well. We work together well for all those reasons, and it so easy because he’s a very kind and patient person.”
Was there any thought to delaying the release of the album with the current situation in mind? Also, what made now the right time to release this record?
“This album has been ready for quite some time. I originally thought it would come out in 2020! But there were some delays with the artwork, and once that was ready, we needed time to get the vinyl pressed, so the release kept getting pushed off a little at a time. For me, I’m glad it’s finally coming out and excited to see what kind of reaction it gets. I wouldn’t want to push it off any further, even with the current situation in the world.”
It’s obviously hard to ask about future plans right now so I’ll ask, what do you hope to have planned for the rest of 2021?
“Well, one thing is that we’re just waiting for things to open up so that we can play some live shows. The other thing we’re doing is recording a new album. We already have enough material for almost two records. We’re getting back into the studio in early May to put down drums and vocals for some of the new songs. Once again, we’ll have more songs than can fit on a record, but that’s cool because you can really pick the cream of the crop. We’ll probably be able to finish this one in time for a late 2021 release.”