There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Crash Course, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a group or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision. Our latest subject is Eye Flys, a nasty, gnarled noise-rock crew that tellingly takes its name from a Melvins song. The band — which features Full of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard, Backslider bassist Jake Smith on guitar and vocals, Triac's Kevin Bernsten on bass, and ex-Backslider drummer Patrick Forrest — recently dropped their excellent debut full-length, Tub of Lard, the follow-up to 2019's Context EP. We caught up with Smith to find what exactly Eye Flys stand for and get some insight into what makes them tick.
WHO IS EYE FLYS? CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON HOW YOU GUYS CAME TOGETHER?
JAKE SMITH Eye Flys is a heavy noise-rock band from the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast. Patrick on drums, Spencer on guitar, Kevin on bass, and Jake on guitar and vocals.
For a number of years, Pat and I played in Backslider together and often played shows with Full of Hell so we had been buds with Spencer and the fellas for awhile. A few years ago, Patrick parted ways with Backslider and took a little time away from being in bands to figure out his next move, though he'd been sitting on a handful of tracks intended to be a personal recording project. At a point, Spencer moved to Philadelphia for awhile and had expressed interest in starting a new band, and him and Patrick linked up, joined together by a desire to do something different and the backlog of music Patrick had been working on became the jump-off point for the project. After they had put some skeletons together for a few songs, they were looking for a bassist and Pat had asked me about it at one point. I had a lot going on at the time — Backslider was readying for a tour and my other projects were also busy at the time — so I declined, though I was certainly interested. I think it was about a month or so later, Backslider had canceled a tour for some personal issues and timing was just right when Pat circled back and kinda gave me the "you sure you don't wanna do it?" and this time I agreed to jam. The catch was "but you also have to do the vocals," which I begrudgingly accepted. We continued to work on the songs Patrick had brought to the table, and I contributed a song and some arrangement help for our first batch of six songs, and then we booked time with our close friend, guitarist of Triac and preferred recording engineer, Kevin Bernsten, [of] Developing Nations Studios. I had written a couple of little guitar licks to give parts of the EP some color and really wanted to play guitar in the band as a result. We figured once the songs were tracked we would get a gage for how Kevin was vibing with the songs and ask him to play bass. That's what we did, and after little arm twisting, he agreed ... followed by shaking his head and saying, "Life is pain."
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Honestly, I think our mission statement is just to make fulfilling music with each other that sounds organic to the vision we started. That vision is basically to pay homage to some of our favorite influences while leaving the imprint of our personal musical DNAs on our interpretations of those styles. Also, not playing at blinding speeds at all times. [Laughs]
HOW DID YOU GET INTO HEAVY MUSIC?
For me personally, the journey was a bit convoluted. I grew up in a musical family, spending my summers traveling to Bluegrass festivals where my mom and grandma's band would play, and music permeated through my small family in many ways. I fell in love with Green Day when I was, like, nine years old and held that tight for many years. My mom was a big Ozzy fan and always talked about how she saw him with Metallica in '86 while she was pregnant with me. Fast forward to when I was about 11 and we had just moved from Vermont to Florida: My mom started dating a co-worker who who moved in with us and had a giant music collection. He let me borrow some tapes and among them was Master of Puppets. I listened to it every day for months — this fucked me up. I was so fascinated by the darkness and aggression, I craved more of this kind of thing but didn't know where to find it. When the nu-metal thing started to happen, I was definitely into it for a bit and really loved Sevendust's Home record. They played Orlando all the time and I saw them a bunch and really loved it. But when my close friend and I decided to start playing music together, we quickly grew tired of the boring stylings and corny aesthetic of most of the heavy music we'd been exposed to and turned to street punk — not at all [a] corny aesthetic. [Laughs] So about this time people were starting to get into file sharing/music downloading. ... My one friend I played music with had recently gotten internet at his house so instead of spanging for change at school to go buy the CDs of the bands in the liner notes of the last ones we got, we could just download them — and viruses — onto their family computer. The actual turning point that reignited my desire for more extreme music was when we were looking for songs from a band I won't directly name — because fuck them — and stumbled upon the song "My Dad Kills for the USA" by Capitalist Casualties. I didn't know what had hit me. It was everything we wanted to hear but didn't know how to find it. This quickly led to us getting into a bunch of crust, powerviolence, grind and, of course, Florida death metal. The rest is love.
BEING IN EYE FLYS, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR?
Well, I'd have to say our biggest challenge is facing us currently. We just released a new LP called Tub of Lard on March 20th and to support it we had a full European tour booked supporting Full of Hell and Primitive Man set to start just a week after release. Of course, now all of that is canceled like everyone else's spring tours. With Spencer's schedule in Full of Hell, Kevin's recording/guitar-building obligations, and everything else, it was going to be our only opportunity to do a proper tour — aside from some short regional U.S. runs — to promote our first full length. To overcome it, we're just trying to get people to listen as much as possible while we all can't enjoy live music, while also keeping sharp and working on new material.
WHEN YOU GUYS ARE ABLE TO PLAY LIVE, WHAT'S YOUR PRESHOW RITUAL?
Basic shit. Spencer plays guitar basically the whole time leading up to show time. Pat usually drinks a Pepsi and does a myriad of stretches and beats up a drum pad. Kevin tells everyone that life is pain and asks "why me?" while designing aluminum guitars on his laptop before a quick warm-up on the bass. I like to stretch, do vocal warm-ups, smoke a joint — sometimes a mushroom micro — warm my hands up on the guitar, and do some jumping jacks.
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED AT ONE OF YOUR SHOWS?
Hmmmm ... I gotta say, since Eye Flys is a relatively new band, not much in the way of crazy stuff has happened. But the coolest thing I can think of right now. ... While we were on tour with Torche last November, we jokingly challenged the homie Rick Smith — drummer, who blasts like a maniac in his bands Shitstorm and Caveman Cult — to sneak some blast beats into a Torche song. Not thinking he'd do it. We didn't think of it much past joking with him. At some point during the set, a few of us stepped outside for a smoke/shirt-change post-set. When we walked back in, they were having their guitar-change break before they do the block of brown-note songs. Rick saw us out of the corner of his eye and during a feedback swell and just started blasting like a mad man ... and then in the next few songs he threw some mini-blast sections into some riffs and it was super fun to see the band caught off guard but also smiling — of course, it happened flawlessly. So maybe not that crazy of a thing and not during a set of ours ... but seemed worthy of mentioning.
DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OR PETS? WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
Pat has some cats. One of them is fat as fuck and his name is Blast Beat. He also skateboards all the fucking time still — it's rad and I don't know how his ass still does it. Kevin builds guitars and records the best sounding heavy records. I guess those aren't hobbies, but I don't think he has time for hobbies. He also has two lovely dogs, one of which was found by a family member of his in a dumpster in Bosnia. Spencer eats and breathes fucked-up music — he digs through the ashes of weird shit and is always finding a new obsession I've never heard of or not thought of in a million years and often sees thing in it that others don't. He's got an off-kilter ear and I think that's a huge part of why the music he makes has its own feel, even when in familiar context and stylings. Me myself, no pets, and I have little in the way of aspirations or interests outside of making and performing music, which might be kinda sad, I don't know. I care about radical far-left politics and human rights and value psychedelic experiences.
WHAT BAND OR MUSICAL ARTIST ARE YOU A BIGGEST FAN OF? PROVE YOUR FANDOM.
There's a defunct band from Scranton, Pennsylvania, called Dead Radical that was active in the mid '00s. I remember meeting them in Orlando on their first tour to the south and my bands at the time, Republicorpse, played with them and they absolutely blew us away. We were fast friends and did a split 7-inch and a mostly failed tour following. To this day, I always say they are the best fast band that nobody knows about. I have a tattoo from their artwork on me and am still friends with a few of them. I listen to all of their releases regularly to this day — just purely maniacal fastcore made by true freaks. Still some of my favorite guitar playing in any band, and their bassist Jeff might be one of the world's best bassists and y'all have no idea. If you're reading this and you've never heard them, check out their splits with XbraniaX, Sidetracked, and Republicorpse and get your lid flipped.
IF YOU COULD ONLY PLAY ONE OF YOUR SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE?
I guess I'd have to say "Guillotine," the second song from our new LP. It's not my favorite necessarily, but represents us pretty well in all its elements. It's got the heavy head nod, noisy chaos, a groovin' chorus, and an indictment of billionaires.