The Stranger, May 15, 2003

PERCUSSION JUNCTION
Black Eyes' Drummy, Dubby Punk

By Julianne Shepherd

To concoct their surging clatter of noisy, scratchy, rhythmic hardcore, Black Eyes employ two drummers (Dan and Mike), two bass players (Hugh and Jacob), a guitarist (Daniel), and two vocalists: a pretty unique setup that shifts periodically throughout the course of their live performance--which, by the way, is compelling and unbelievably energetic. But this lineup leads to the one question on everyone's minds: Isn't it hard enough just finding one good drummer?

"That's what everyone keeps telling us," laughs Hugh, who switches between vocals, bass, keyboards, and percussion in the D.C. quintet. "I think we have 'em all."

They probably do. Black Eyes' first self-titled full-length, released last month by Dischord and produced by Ian MacKaye, is helmed with lots and lots of percussion--and nonpercussive instruments making percussive noises--tethered to a rubbed-down hunk of palpitating bass and desperate vocal squalls. Hugh and Daniel scream and bleat in shifting timbres above the crackly hunks of guitar--but still, the band is heavily based in rhythm. It's a clattering experiment, fusing no-wave/arty hardcore with dub, whose elegant, heartbeat-like delay pedals land the band's primal sound in the realm of Savage Republic, Swell Maps, and Fugazi.

"Dub is probably one of the hugest things in my life," effuses Hugh. "I think most of us are fairly enthusiastic about it, you know? It's not the only thing I listen to, but it's definitely taken up a great deal of my time lately."

The band's sound has taken a slight evolution over time. Black Eyes formed in 2001 from the remnants of other D.C. punk bands like the No-Gos and Trooper, and according to Hugh, "Our first practice or two [consisted of] some dismally boring rock music!" However, guitarist/vocalist Daniel was hoarding a small equipment graveyard in his basement, and their lineup was born partially out of luck. "By virtue of the fact that a huge number of different instruments--and drums, in particular--had accumulated in Daniel's basement from various bands having practiced there," explains Hugh, "[the evolving sound] was just immediately doable. We were just like, 'Well, two drum kits--we've got 'em... and many more.'"


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