Hailing from the westernmost region of Los Angeles County — Agoura Hills, to be exact — American Eyes’ members Henry, Richardson and Gold actually shared sandboxes together, having known each other since pre-school. The three didn’t really materialize into a musical act until their years at Agoura High, where they met locals Anthony and Johnson — it’s also the same institution of which members of Linkin Park, Hoobastank and Incubus had attended (but, of course, ended up in an entirely different musical genre). Originally formed under a different name, the pre-American Eyes act gave the members ample opportunity at which to cut their teeth. Since high school wasn’t the act’s forte, Henry, Richardson and Gold opted to swap their chance at higher education for a shot at bigger venues and more recordings. With a renewed spirit, a more focused concept and a few years of steady experience already underneath their collective belts, the set launched American Eyes in 2002.
But the launch wasn’t exactly the propulsive lift-off that the act had been anticipating. “When we first started, no one would book us because we had a really bad reputation around L.A.,” says Henry. “We played an all-ages show and kids were going nuts — it was a typical hardcore show. Next thing I know, I see a chair getting thrown through a window. The cops came and it made the front page of the local magazine.
A week later, we played at USC and I put my foot through the grand piano on accident. No venue would book us. Troubadour? No. Knitting Factory, Roxy, Whisky? No way.” The only place that gave the band a shot was a gay club in West Hollywood — and American Eyes was the first band to ever play there.
Packing in their audience amidst the cage dancers, American Eyes soon grabbed the attention of local radio stations and other promoters. Next thing they knew, they were welcomed back into L.A.’s club scene — selling out nearly every local show they’ve played since. That doesn’t mean that American Eyes have toned down their act. Actually, Henry mentions that the group was recently asked to leave another local venue — the reason given was that Henry had endangered the crowd by climbing up the side pillars and hanging upside down while singing — in short, just going nuts. “We’re just always looking for trouble,” Henry admits.
“I believe it’s fun, it’s music.” An American Eyes show isn’t just a band slamming through a handful of songs and making a quick exit — it’s a total production that goes well beyond the scope of five guys playing music on stage. For example, the band’s Valentine’s Day gig in 2005 featured a kissing booth and a snow machine. “We throw events, we don’t throw concerts,” Henry adds. The chatter of their famed shows and a well-connected Henry caught the attention of the SideOneDummy record label execs, who inked a deal with the band after catching a seemingly rousing practice session in 2004. Enter Never Trust Anything That Bleeds, American Eyes’ six-song label debut.
Produced by Michael Patterson (Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G., Beck) and Gavin MacKillop (Sugarcult, MXPX), the concept EP was devised around a relationship in Henry’s life, and all the ensuing emotional twists and turns. “It was a turning point in my life. I’d got out of high school, I was out in the world, I had a girlfriend for five years and we had broken up. You didn’t know anything, you didn’t trust anybody, not even yourself.
You just had to keep your eyes open.” Never Trust Anything That Bleeds leads off with the electro-charged “Knife Fight With A Girl (True Story),” a song about confusion, incomprehension and the emotions of having to sever ties with a former love. Next comes the propulsive “Telephone Wires,” followed by the anthemic “Carry On For Keepsake,” which grapples painfully with a sense of loss in the wake of a tumultuous relationship. “The Girl With The Broken Heart (By The Way)” is a straightforward rocker, which then leads into the sweeping, orchestral ballad, “The Day We Died,” of which Henry addresses internalizing his frustration. The song is a collaboration featuring vocals by Curt Smith of Tears For Fears fame.
“Recording with Curt was surreal,” Henry exclaims. “I had to kick myself!” The disc’s massive send off is the upbeat, sing-along track “Radio.” “With that song it’s like, it doesn’t matter, I can do whatever I want to do,” Henry notes. “I’m doing what I love to do. And hopefully one day, she’ll hear this song on the radio and be like, ‘Wait, I fucking blew it.’” And it’s that intriguing dichotomy of tormented, frustrated lyrics and danceable, stimulating rock (“We make happy music to cry to,” says Henry) that’s made American Eyes such a favorite — especially online, through their MySpace profile.
“We put ‘The Day We Died’ on MySpace and tons of people were hitting us up, saying ‘Oh my God, that song is reading what I’m thinking.’ The lyrics can totally bum you out but the music is happy. It’s all right to be sad. It’s all right to grieve.” American Eyes receive and continue to respond to personal e-mails seeking advice on many of their fans’ issues. “It’s like therapy,” he says.
“That’s how we’ve gotten to where we are, because we’ve made personal connections with everyone. We’re going through the same thing they are.” It’s no surprise American Eyes have caused kids to uncross their arms and take notice. And Los Angeles is just the starting point. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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