Local group XVIII Eyes have a couple of records under their belt with the latest and greatest being “I’ll Keep You”. Rumor has it that the band first titled the album “I’ll Keep You Loving This Record Until Time Stands Still Because It’s So Effing Good”, but it was just too long and a bit over the top. Ok, that’s not true at all. At least the part about the album title. The record, however, is indeed so. effing. good.
I had the chance to chat with guitarist/vocalist Irene Barber about the name of the band, radio vs. social media, naming songs and fun gay bar times involving a bartender named Shannon who is “the tallest, toughest and coolest dyke around.”.
the mixtape: When I hear the words 18 Individual Eyes I think of a massive man eating spider or some disturbing creature I would not want to meet at any time in my life. Where did you get the name 18 Individual Eyes or XVIII Eyes as it is sometimes stylized and what kind of thoughts does it evoke in you?
XVIII: Ha! The name does sound pretty Sci-Fi, which I think would be just as fitting for us. It’s from The Bell Jar which I was reading at the time we were trying to find a name. The exact sentence is actually, “Eighteen separate eyes.” The character is describing a trip to see a new doctor, and how she walks into the room to find that nine students (eighteen eyes) will be sitting in for the visit. We’ve made a formal decision to change our name to simply “XVIII Eyes.” Most folks, including ourselves, leave out “Individual” when referring to us. So we thought we might as well cut it out, make the name shorter and hopefully sweeter as well.
tm: As I was researching you folks I stumbled upon a photo-blog with posts from 2010 when the band was comprised of all women. Nowadays I see that you’ve got a dude in the group. Was it important to be an all female group at the time or was it sheer coincidence?
XVIII: Coincidence. XVIII Eyes embodies both the feminine and masculine spectrums regardless of lineup. Our presence is mixed and I love that.
tm: I heard your new song “We Only Talk in San Francisco” on KEXP recently (which inspired this chat, btw) and loved the darn thing. Radio is still very present and important but these days we also have TONS of social media and ways to promote ourselves on-line. Do you put more weight into one medium than the other or are radio and internet both very important for what you’re doing?
XVIII: Aw, well thank you very much! We are incredibly appreciative of KEXP and the support they give to local and independent artists around the world. I’m so horrible with social media. You’ll catch me listening to KEXP far more often than you’ll find me on the social webs. This isn’t to say that social media isn’t wonderful — our band definitely benefits from it whether it be someone following a tweet to this interview, or someone getting the details for our next show. I find myself discovering new music via radio, music blogs, and other music media on the internet that are not necessarily socially-driven. That said, I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, and so I’m not sure we should put weight in one medium over the other. I do know this though: The other night I was driving home and we came on KEXP, one minute later I got an email from Bandcamp saying we sold another download. I’ve gotta think that the person was inspired to go out and find us online after hearing us on the airwaves.
tm: Why do some of you look familiar to me? I know I’ve seen you around town. What do you do for your day jobs?
XVIII: I’m guessing you’ve most likely seen Andy out and about as he bartends/backs and works security at a couple different spots. Our practice space is on 11th and Pike, so we spend a lot of time at Pettirosso. Samantha just opened Studio 915, her massage therapy studio in the Rainier Building. Jamie is taking a bit of a sabbatical and is working on her home recording studio. I do interaction design for a tech company in Fremont.
tm: What other talents do you have besides playing music and singing and junk?
XVIII: Both Sam and I live in the world of art and design. Jamie is a carpenter extraordinaire! And Andy can identify and name any aircraft you throw at him. We can all polish off a bottle of Fireball in one night. Disgusting or sexy, yes this is a talent.
tm: Tell me a story, either crazy or sane, about your time on the road.
XVIII: Out on the road we stay pretty even-keel – let’s say somewhere in between crazy and sane, haha. A good story came out of our time on tour with Minus the Bear last winter. After our show in Des Moines, IA we all hit up the local gay bar across the street where we met the now revered, Shannon the Bartender. The tallest, toughest and coolest dyke around. She poured the stiffest drinks and told us the craziest stories. The bar also had those business cards where you can rate the attractiveness of people you meet 1 through 10. I don’t know – are these used for booty calls later? Anyway, we asked Shannon to rate us – Jamie, Sam, me and our sound lady Robin. She gave us a 7 saying, “you’re pretty good, but there is room for improvement.” Damn! She put us in our place that night with tough love and booze. Shannon ended up coming to our show the next night in Madison, WI. She brought some pot cookies, and Andy and I ate one each without question or hesitation. Oh my word, they were way too strong. I sunk into a paranoia so strong I was convinced she had poisoned us. Andy was across the room flying through a Star Wars battle scene. Shannon, respect. You kicked the shit out of us two nights in a row.
tm: Your new record is called I’ll Keep You. Who came up with that name? Also, as a band, how do you come up with album names/song titles? Are they super important?
XVIII: This album is a bit lighter in mood, much more open, exposed and publicly affectionate. We thought the title I’ll Keep You effectively captures those qualities. “I’ll Keep You” is also the first track on the record, which is the same first-song-equals-record-title equation we went with on our last record Unnovae Nights. A few of our song titles, and lyrics for that matter, are phrases spoken in conversations among ourselves. When it happens we all kind of stop and are like, hey that’d make a sweet song title. Being the lyricist, I’m usually in the best position to find or pull the appropriate title. But at the same time, I think the best titles are ones that just pop and intrigue. They don’t have to have incredible meaning.
tm: Do you remember making/receiving a mixtape as a kid or even as an adult for that matter? If so, what was on it?
XVIII: I made a mixtape for myself when I discovered how to use a dual cassette player in 2nd grade. I made a mix from a couple of my mom’s tapes – Dionne Warwick and Sade. It was my bath time mix.
tm: New record. Check. Upcoming show at Chop Suey. Check. What does the future look like for 18 Individual Eyes?
XVIII: Next month we are playing a show with My Goodness at the Croc. And we are already writing new tunes. We’re excited to see what direction the writing goes. We’d love to go on tour in early spring. Announcements around both to come!