Their music combines 70s punk, underground power pop, and a touch of shoegaze into a manic concoction unique to The Eyebrows.
The three-piece “garage rawk” band hails from Charlotte, North Carolina, and were conceived just a short while back in 2018, though the trio has been making music on their own accord since 2000. This year, The Eyebrows have gradually released exciting video singles from their upcoming album, FIGHT/FLIGHT, which was recorded and mixed by Mitch Easter at Fidelitorium, and mastered by Bill Skibbe at Third Man Pressing.
The Eyebrows are known back in Charlotte for their eccentric off-stage personalities and their maddening and entrancing live shows, and their high energy-feeling certainly carries through to the listener in their single “Demon In My Head”.
The new track presents a reflective and personal view into the mad minds of The Eyebrows. The song displays messages of coexisting with the negative thoughts that reside within our minds. The bone-chilling guitar solo layers over the steady drum beat to create a feeling of delightful fear that one would have in the presence of said “demons”. The vocals carry a menacing edge reminding you that they are delivering you to a dark but exciting place.
We got the chance to talk to the guys about the new single and much, much more.
You guys have known each other for quite some time, and two of you have been playing since the Y2K era. Can you talk about the evolution of The Eyebrows and how you came together?
Just the other day a musician friend was talking with me about feeling very upset because he can’t keep a band together. I reflected on his frustration and thought… I’m really lucky to have a friend and drummer like Shawn Lynch with me on most of my musical journeys over the past 21 years …and, we’re also very fortunate to have ended up with our long-time pal Darrin Gray on bass.
Shawn and I have been friends with Darrin before we started playing together, so it’s nice to have a cohesive group rooted in both close friendships and complimentary musical tastes. We’re so close that often people can’t tell if we are arguing or having a passionate discussion about music. We see it as something we have to work through… and sometimes it’s hard to move our “art” to a better place than it was before. That’s what good friends do for each other, right?
The Eyebrows were born out of several things. At its core, it’s about the songs I write, and the visions I have. It’s also about the collaboration only a tight, 3-piece band can have when it comes to recording those songs, and expressing those songs live. It’s why Shawn says he continues to play with me, and I’m very grateful to know that.
Before The Eyebrows, all of us had been in some fairly tumultuous bands, and had no desire to repeat any of those dramas. In January of 2000, Shawn and I formed Poprocket, a straight-ahead, 3-piece indie rock band with a retro vibe. But honestly, we didn’t know what we were. We were just ourselves first, which is how I like to describe The Eyebrows too.
I’m proud of what Poprocket accomplished, and that being a band who could tour successfully and regionally when most bands couldn’t or wouldn’t. We were known as “road dogs”. I don’t think any of us would trade those experiences for anything though… but I did make a promise to myself that I would never put myself or my band mates through that kind of poverty again. Starving takes its toll.
I’m going to fast forward through a few things. The multiple Poprocket line ups, Shawn moving out of town to play with another band and back again, the failed band I won’t mention (it’s one of those songwriter-held-hostage record deal scenarios), and then my botched Lasik surgery which left me seeing impaired, and in a lot of pain for the rest of my life.
When I wasn’t sure if I could see again, and also had a convicted stalker for a next-door neighbor (yes, when it rains… it pours) – I became unmusical and uncreative due to all the pain and mental noise. It was Shawn Lynch and our good pal Bruce Hazel who invited me to play bass guitar in Bruce’s 6-piece band Temperance League. In this band, Shawn played guitar, and after playing bass on their 2nd album, I moved over to keys for the next three records. This was an amazing band… we opened for the likes of Bob Seger and Alabama Shakes. And… Darrin Gray was a 7th member of the band, filling in on drums occasionally, and hanging out with us when we rehearsed just because we are all friends. We always had a lot of beer to drink, and often ended the night by watching live videos of rock legends… followed by more beer!
But like all good things… they did change, and Shawn and I started The Eyebrows as our main band. The Eyebrows began as a means to get back into writing and playing my own songs with a rock band near 2014. We had quite a few lineup changes. Initially, I thought Shawn and I should try playing with people who were different from us. And that was the result of our first album, VOLUME – recorded and mixed by Mitch Easter and mastered by Greg Calbi.
In 2018, Darrin Gray joined our band, which solidified our unit as we worked to create our 2nd record, FIGHT/FLIGHT. So in a way, Shawn and I started off the same way we are currently – in a three-piece rock band. I think musically speaking, The Eyebrows have more depth and detail on the recordings, but I like our 3-piece band stripped down live – it’s very raw and in your face this way. It’s the best way to be.
What is the rock n’ roll and indie music scene like in Charlotte, and what makes it unique from other cities?
I think Charlotte, NC is a unique place. It’s a hotbed of talent and creativity, but could give much more opportunity in and of itself to champion its own edgy bands. From my perspective, there’s a lot of “lame-stream” culture that’s hard to cut through, and it’s growing with the gentrification of this city. I think this gives Charlotte bands more teeth, because we have to work harder.
Because there’s no real “music business” focus here, it’s a town where most musicians don’t care about those things. It’s just not important to most bands from what I’ve observed. This ultimately opens up our music scene to a tremendous amount of musical diversity, collaboration, and just good times.
With the COVID-19 lock down, the sense of musical community is difficult to experience and know. Most bands are “waiting for things to change back” – but I don’t believe that’s ever going to happen. So maybe we also have to redefine what a music community is.
Your new single, “Demon In My Head” presents a close and personal view of the demons and mental strife that inhabit one another. What was the songwriting process like for the song, and would you say it’s a bit autobiographical?
Well, you are not going to get a glimpse of someone like Daniel Johnson here, but there are some similarities. I don’t think the song, Demon In My Head, was meant to be literally about me. Your question gives me pause. Aren’t songs ultimately fictionalized versions of real life anyway?
A song like this is about a lot of things, all coming together at once in a confusing way, and then somehow being focused and expressed, but never perfectly or in a manner that makes sense.
From what I understand, I write songs differently than most people. I don’t start off a song with a lyrical idea or concept. I usually hear something in my head first. Or sometimes I strum a few chords while not really thinking about what I’m doing or doing something else entirely removed from music, and suddenly out of nowhere, I feel something deeply.
This is when I run to a guitar or piano to figure out what I’m hearing in my head. Then I record a demo of it, figure out the parts around the song, rearrange it, and may do that several times before I show it to the band. Sometimes what I record is nothing like what I initially heard, but that’s OK too. This isn’t how all songs come about, but this seems to happen more often. I’ve recorded four demos of the song before we went into the studio. You can hear the original demo of this song if you sign up for our album release on our website. 😉
This music has a particular type of darkness in it, and I thought the song lyrically should match that sort of thing. Kind of a… I sold my soul to the devil at the crossroads type of vibe now that I think about it.
As far as writing lyrics go, my usual process is to have vocal and lyrical sounds first. Then I try to write words that sound as good as those vocal sounds. Then I take a final few passes (I try to put my M.A. in English to good use here…) and there you have it! I’ve taken new songs to the live stage without solid lyrics many times in hopes that the right words would be discovered, including with this song.
Lyrically speaking and at the time, I was really into Vampires. From Anne Rice’s novels, to a TV series like True Blood – to me, this song is more of a Vampire’s perspective on the world.
The 2nd verse comes from a recurring nightmare that I have where I’m being chased by… something. It’s that feeling that you can never rest, never outrun them, because they are just outside and WILL get you.
It’s a theme on the album FIGHT/FLIGHT. Before the panic sets in, there’s a great amount of anxiety that often puts me into a fight or flight response. So maybe the answer here is – the demon I’m talking about is anxiety. For me, it’s so real that it’s physical. The anxiety is more of a problem than what I think may be causing it.
What was it like shooting the music video, and what was the creative process behind it like?
For the last album, VOLUME, we used local subversive filmmaker and animator Tyler Baum to create our video for Avocado, and thought we would use him again on our current record… and Demon In My Head seemed to be the perfect song for him. The man is possessed… fun, funny, and he WILL play a trick on you! He’s a trickster with a passionate & artistic side. I don’t think we’ve ever known someone quite like him. Or ever will! That’s a compliment.
We asked Tyler to do whatever he wanted for this video. That’s when he creates his best work, and we were all very excited to see what Tyler would create. It definitely has an Adult Swim vibe.
We’ve been live streaming from, and making videos in our basement since the COVID lockdown, so we felt pretty comfortable there as a location. Our clothing and hair is all pretty last minute… we just kind of show up however we feel like. Shawn’s role in the band is also to be the light director, so he worked with Tyler on what the best light situation would be for the video. But Tyler did say… “look demonish!”
Can folks expect to see the song on an upcoming EP or LP?
We made a decision to try something new and release the album a different way. With the COVID-19 lockdown, we’re not able to hit the road, play shows – and this is also where we sold most of our records. But things have changed. I don’t believe things are ever going to go back to “normal” – so we have to think about how to be an active band differently.
Technically, our 2nd album FIGHT/FLIGHT (where this song appears) has been out since April and available only to our fans, or at any time one signs up for our mailing list. The album will be on streaming everywhere this October, and in regional stores soon thereafter.
The idea of having a “record release party” or “album release date” is an old way of thinking… and for that matter, so is wanting to be on a record label. While “doing it all” isn’t for everybody, it’s made all the difference for us.
We give away the digital files for free if you sign up for our online album release. I’d rather give you the songs along with a few personal messages and bonus tracks than have you listen to it on a streaming service. After people go through the virtual album release, most buy a CD or our Vinyl… and more! It’s quite an amazing thing that happens when you enable a community of fans to rally around your music. It blows my freaking mind in the best way.
You mentioned that you mixed your songs with Mitch Easter, who is known for producing with bands like R.E.M. What was that experience like and how did you get connected?
I think everyone deserves to have someone like Mitch in their life. He’s the coolest person we know, and you learn really interesting stuff just by being around him. Living where I do, it’s rare to have an intellectual and detailed conversation about music… the sounds and everything around them, including but not limited to the history, the shenanigans, the new trends… So a bonus of working with Mitch is that I don’t feel so alone… with this musical brain.
Personally speaking, I’ve done six records that were recorded and mixed by him, plus I’ve done some session work at his studio. My connection to Mitch goes back to the 90s. I think if you have gigged as often as we have in the Southeast US, you are bound to run into your musical heroes. With Mitch, I thought working with him was something very far out of my reach. How could I possibly work with someone who has produced some of my favorite records?
Also, Shawn plays bass in Mitch Easter’s live band. They are kindred spirits, and I think it’s very natural for Shawn to play Mitch’s songs too. So, I like to think that we’re all pals.
As far as how we got connected… in the 90s one of my bands opened for a band he was playing bass in. I sent him an email saying it was great to meet him and apologizing for my guitar playing. But he said the nicest thing back to me… that I was a great guitarist and performer. It was a pivotal thing for me to hear… giving me more confidence & belief that I can do this music thing.
What does a dream gig look like for The Eyebrows?
Our third gig with Darrin Gray on bass was opening for Matthew Sweet, so I think we already played our dream gig!
As far as true, far-out dreams, it would have been great to play with R.E.M. Shawn and I are such huge fans of the band, especially the early and mid works.
Another dream gig would be playing with Big Star. We’ve been told that we’re like Big Star (Mark I and II) by some people who knew them well.
Now that I think about it… opening for The Melvins would be a dream gig.
Opening for anyone is a dream gig, really.
What else might fans expect to see from the band as we inch towards fall and frankly, the end of the year?
FIGHT/FLIGHT will be on streaming everywhere in October.
We’ve played four live shows this year in the Southeast region once clubs started opening back up, and as long as the clubs have strict safety protocols, I’d like to keep the live shows going. We put it all out there when we play live… and now with shows with an audience being much fewer, they are extremely cathartic!
I’d like to do one highly-creative type of interactive live stream before the end of the year (I’m experimenting with mini cams that can be put on microphones, guitars, etc.).
We are very interested in doing a Christmas Album for our fans only… most bands do an “acoustic” guitar version of their songs… I want to up the game and play the songs on piano with the band. It’s not so much of a stretch… I write half of them on piano anyway. 🙂