Chicago’s very own All Eyes West recently released their 2nd full-length record, Doomer, this past January on Jump Start Records. ReadJunk got a chance to chat with bassist/vocalist Justin Miller to ask a few questions about the new record, working with J. Robbins, and how Jeff Dean manages to be in a million bands. The interview and upcoming tour dates are below.
The new record kicked off with a Kickstarter campaign to have J. Robbins record the album. What prompted you to want to work with J. versus recording on your own again?
With the first record, we just went into Million Yen (studio that guitarist Jeff Dean works out of) trying to make some demos of the songs we were coming up with at practices. We got good feedback on them and then Jump Start had interest in releasing it. It all happened relatively fast. When it came time to record the follow up, we knew we wanted to have someone else do it. We had been writing in such a whirlwind of circumstances that we wanted an outside voice to help us bring it all together. We played a show with J’s band Office of Future Plans and afterward he expressed that he was interested in working with us on our next record. Jeff and I are both huge fans of all the bands J. has been in over the years. And he’s recorded a majority of my favorite albums! So, it was a “no-brainer” that we should definitely go in with him. We knew we could trust his input and his talent behind the board. It ended up being such an amazing time.
How was the process of working with J. and recording at the Magpie Cage? What sort of things did you glean from his approach to producing?
In trying to describe the process of working with J. at Magpie Cage, “comfortable” is a word that keeps popping up in my brain. Not only is the studio comfy and full of cool gear, J. really had us feeling comfortable about what we were making. He had a great attitude and approach. Lots of positive vibes. We had such a great time. The studio has a lounge area complete with a kitchen and full bathroom. J. let us stay there for the whole 10 or so days. After a day of working; Tucker, Jeff and I would stay up way too late drinking Natty Boh’s and laughing till it hurt! We had such a great experience there. I’ll never forget it.
What was your approach to writing on this record compared to the debut?
Well, the first record wasn’t really planned or thought out. Like I said before, it was initially just demos we did of the first 8 songs we wrote. At the time it was Jeff and I, as well as our first drummer Rick. We basically just recorded songs that were sculpted by jamming together in the practice space. By the time the first record came out, we were already touring with a new drummer. That drummer (Jon Drew) was with us for a good 2 years or so. He was living in Toronto while Jeff and I were here in Chicago. We were writing new material with Jon whenever he was here to start a tour, but it was slow going due to the situation. Jeff would come in with a riff or two, we’d flesh it out into a song, and then Jon would go home and we’d kind of sit on it until the next tour. Jeff and I once made a weekend trip to Toronto just to work with Jon on new stuff. There’s a handful of songs from that trip that ended up on the record. In early 2013, Jon wasn’t able to continue with us due to distance/international border issues/etc. We were pretty devastated. But we kept at it. We had a couple different drummers touring with us for a while. We would still work on the ideas with whomever we had behind the kit. Eventually, when we got Tucker Rule behind the drums to help us record, we worked through all the kinks and everything just kind of fell into the right places. He helped us bring everything together. We had some rad chemistry going on between the three of us. We even wrote a few new songs with him that ended up on Doomer. So, yeah, it was a little different going into this album with all the ups and downs. But we’re really happy with how it came out.
How did you meet Tucker?
Tucker was playing in a band called I HATE OUR FREEDOM that we’re buds with. We’ve played a bunch of shows with them. We just all got on really well. Not only are they all great dudes, the band just DESTROYS! They are so good! Everyone should check them out for sure.
How did he get involved and eventually end up behind the kit on the record?
After Jon was forced to exit, we played with a few different drummers and tried to just keep active. We would still try to write, but we just weren’t clicking with the drummers like we wanted to be. We knew we had some solid songs kicking around and we had already booked time with J. to record the new album. We had to find the right guy to do these songs justice. The first person that came to mind was Tucker. Jeff and I would always love watching Tucker play. He’s got insane chops and hella style. So, we asked if he’d be interested and to our luck he was into it!
In listening to the new album, the melody really shines through the new material. During the songwriting process, does that element come first or do you adapt to the general mood of the music?
With All Eyes West, it usually comes after we’re already jamming on a song. The melody might come to me the second I hear Jeff’s riff, or it could take a couple practices of us shaping the song… then the melody comes in. The way we tend to write tunes, the lyrical melody definitely draws from the mood the music sets.
Since recording you brought on Ronnie from the Arrivals on drums. What has his dynamic brought to the table in terms of the evolution of your sound?
Ronnie joining All Eyes West has been amazing. What started as him filling in for a show turned into him being the third musketeer! Ronnie is one of the most amazing musicians I’ve played with. He plays our old songs with a power and feel that they’ve never had before. We’ve been writing a bunch of new tunes together that we’re really stoked about! Having him in the band has really sped up the writing process. There’s definitely a chemistry going on musically. I feel like we are tighter and stronger than we have ever been before. I give Ronnie credit for bringing that all together. Plus, on a personal level, we just all get along great. Tours are fun, practice is fun… lots of laughs, lots of good times.
The band is made up of Chicago veterans, how much of the city shines through in both the material and how you operate as a band?
Well, I feel like a person’s surroundings are definitely going to seep into their art. Musically, we all cut our teeth listening and going to see Chicago punk bands. So there’s definitely some influence that bleeds through, I’m sure. At the same time, all three of us have different influences that we bring into the music. So yeah, it’s there… but I don’t think we sound “Chicago” or anything. We just kinda do what we do. If it rocks us… we play it. As for how the band operates, I’m not really sure. I feel like much of Chicago is a working-class city. I know that we’re a band that works our asses off to do what we love to do. So, yeah I guess that is the “Chicago” in us that’s shining through!
You just played a number of shows through Chicago, the Midwest, and to Austin for SXSW. Are you planning to do more extensive touring later in the year?
Yeah, we’ve got a couple hometown shows that are going to be super fun. Reggies on April 17th w/ Suicide Machines and Fizz on April 23rd w/ Pale Angels & The Slow Death! In May we are doing a tour that will hit a lot of the Western U.S. and includes a run of dates opening for Local H! In July/August we’ll be heading back out West again for a run with Great Apes. We also plan on getting back to the UK/Europe later in the Fall. We’re trying to be out on the road playing as much as our jobs and home lives will allow us.
Jeff seems to have a super busy schedule. Do all of the Chicago bands stage a Royal Rumble type event for who is going to get him next?
No, but maybe we should! That could be fun. I’d be down to play the “Mean Gene” role! I could interview, say, Typesetter and let them threaten to “Camel Clutch” Cheap Girls or somebody. A Bro-yal Rumble, if you will! But seriously, he’s done great work with a ton of great bands including the ones I just mentioned. Bands should definitely hit him up!
As you look farther down the road, what plans do you have for the band?
Well, we’ve been writing a ton. I think beyond touring to support DOOMER, we’re itching to start working on the next record. Like I touched on before, since teaming up with Ronnie the band is firing on all cylinders. The writing is going great, the shows are going great. We’re just going to keep doing what we do and having a blast doing it!
UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
04.17.15 Chicago, IL @ Reggies w/ Suicide Machines – Break Anchor – Derek Grant
04.18.15 Normal, IL @ Firehouse – Mates Fest Jr.
04.23.15 Chicago, IL @ Fizz w/ The Slow Death – Pale Angels
05.08.14 Milwaukee, WI @ Franks Power Plant
05.09.15 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
05.10.15 Bozeman, MT @ The Haufbrau
05.11.15 Missoula, MT @ Badlander
05.12.15 Seattle, WA @ The Kraken w/ Vic Bondi
05.13.15 Portland, OR @ The Know w/ Vic Bondi
05.15.15 San Francisco, CA @ The Golden Bull
05.16.15 Sacramento, CA @ The Cafe Colonial
05.17.15 Reno, NV @ TBA
05.18.15 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge w/ Local H
05.19.15 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge w/ Local H
05.20.15 Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room w/ Local H
05.21.15 Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar w/ Local H
05.22.15 Waterloo, IA @ Spicoli’s w/ Local H
05.23.15 Dekalb, IL @ House Cafe w/ Local H