The Blind Eyes are a St. Louis-based indie/power pop band featuring guitarist/vocalist Seth Porter, drummer Matt Picker, and bassist Kevin Schneider. Since their formation in 2007, they have garnered consistent praise for their catchy songs, varied (and sometimes unconventional) songwriting style, and strong live performances. They have released two critically-acclaimed albums (2009's "Modernity" and, more recently, 2011's "With A Bang").
Since its June 11th release, "With A Bang" has already met with glowing reviews in local press and is currently #1 on the KDHX CMJ Top 30 chart.
They have toured regionally, and have held the opening slot for national acts such as Ted Leo, the Greenhornes, Blake Schwarzenbach, French Kicks, Black Lips, Times New Viking, and more.
The band holds the distinction of being one of very few local bands to have been featured on the cover of the St. Louis alt-weekly Riverfront Times (March 4, 2009). They have been nominated for, and won, many area music and best-of awards, including:
*Best New Artist, 2008 Riverfront Times Music Awards
*Best New Band, 2008 Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis Awards
*Nominated for Best Pop Band, 2009 Riverfront Times Music Awards
*Best Pop Band, 2009 “Best of St. Louis” Awards
*Best Male Vocalist- Seth Porter, 2009 “Best of St. Louis” Awards
*Top Ten Album of the Year 2009 (Modernity), Riverfront Times
*Best Pop Band, 2010 Riverfront Times Music Awards
*Best Pop Band, 2010 “Best of St. Louis” Awards
*Nominated for Best Rock Band, 2011 Riverfront Times Music Awards
Seth Porter - Guitar & Vocals
Matt Picker - Drums
Kevin Schneider - Bass
Modernity (album) - Self-released, March 2009
With A Bang (album) - Self-released, June 2011
A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Volume 7 (compilation) - "Christmas A.M. Gold"
KDHX Space Parlour Live in St. Louis Series 2010 (compilation) - "With A Bang (live)", "January(live)"
"Modernity" Album Review
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At first, whenever anyone talked about the Blind Eyes, myself included, it seemed inevitable that so...At first, whenever anyone talked about the Blind Eyes, myself included, it seemed inevitable that someone would group the St. Louisans alongside the neatly-tailored English pop of the Jam and Elvis Costello, or occasionally next to the slightly more rambunctious Thin Lizzy of Ireland. But for all the mod aspirations implied by the title of their debut album, Modernity, there’s not a hint of dandyism or faux-Union Jack banner waving insincerity.* Instead, we get an even dozen of crisp, catchy-as-all-hell pop songs that may nod their cap at the legends of the past, but keep moving forward in a brisk strut.
I was at the album release party for Modernity this past Friday at the Firebird, and it was great to see such a wide turnout for a local band of their size. It was a mixed crowd of bar scene regulars, reporters, and casual music fans who made the commute to downtown for the evening. A few people mentioned to me that it was exactly what this city needs more of: a full bar on a Friday night filled with curious listeners and fantastic bands. (Note to self: bring more cash in hand next time the ACBs from Kansas City are in town.) But I think the turnout really speaks to the Blind Eyes’ crossover potential: they’re familiar without being reductive, fun without being sappy, edgy without being difficult.
On record, I was struck by how much the Blind Eyes sound like the early Strokes; the main difference being that, unlike Julian Casablancas, lead singer/guitarist Seth Porter actually has a decent set of pipes on him. On the playful and punchy album opener “January,” he sings as nonchalantly as a Vegas crooner who’s found his sweet spot: “The end of the world may be coming soon, but it’s hard to care on a sunny afternoon when you’ve got tailpipes spewin’, doom and gloomin’, you hear a rap-tap-tat-tat-a-tat on your door!” Porter’s songs are melodic and full of character details, like short stories that come to life with the cynical big city noir of “High Life” or the coy interior monologue of “Pages.”
But if Porter gleams on the polish, Kevin Schneider’s turns on the microphone are scruffier and more urgent. On “Find the Time,” one of the album’s highlights, Schneider inhabits the spirit of kindred bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott, too reckless and brash to let the good times slip through his fingers. The constant back-and-forth between the spiky-smooth contrast of Schneider and Porter keeps things interesting throughout. (Although, to be even-handed, I should point out that Schneider’s punkish “Forget About Everything” does seem to drag on for one jazzy interlude and chorus refrain too long.)
Between the prominent bass leads, bright rhythm guitar glint, and Matt Picker’s effortlessly bouncy drumming, it’s hard to believe the Blind Eyes are only a trio. There are so many smart hooks and clever quips that the packaging almost seems too modest. If they returned on their sophomore album with a keyboard, a second guitar, and a brass section I wouldn’t even bat an eye.
The Blind Eyes at the Cactus Club
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Following in the footsteps of Motion City Soundtrack’s high-energy power pop, the St. Louis’ trio Th...Following in the footsteps of Motion City Soundtrack’s high-energy power pop, the St. Louis’ trio The Blind Eyes has been carving out a place for themselves both in and outside of their native Missouri. They recently took home the honor of “Best New Artist” of 2008 from the city’s RFT Magazine, and their bright, peppy, up-strummed guitar riffs and bouncing rhythm section has fared well on the road. They headline a 10 p.m. show at the Cactus Club tonight.
The Blind Eyes- Undercover Weekend Review
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I think covers have an unfair reputation in much of the DIY, indie music world. Playing a few choice...I think covers have an unfair reputation in much of the DIY, indie music world. Playing a few choice covers to show the audience where you’re coming from doesn’t put you on the same level as the dueling piano bar that plays nothing but Billy Joel requests from drunken bachelorettes all night in the guido district of town.
Case in point: The Blind Eyes' original material is the sort of smart, taut guitar pop perfected decades ago by the likes of Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello & The Attractions, so it was no surprise that they decided to devote themselves to the very best of the spectacled one’s 1970s output, from a spot on cover of “Welcome to the Working Week” to a heavily modified adaptation of “Watching the Detectives.” I was listening to a lot of early Costello in anticipation of this night, and they didn’t disappoint.
Their set-closing Costello cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, which is itself a cover of a Lowe song (which probably wasn’t meant to be so meta), was one of the definite highlights of the evening.
The Blind Eyes at Off Broadway
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The front row of the audience turned over as the onstage setup followed suit. The Blind Eyes plugged...The front row of the audience turned over as the onstage setup followed suit. The Blind Eyes plugged in, switched on and jumped into a set of throwback guitar tone and rolling bass lines with stair-step turns -- the kind of American Bandstand melodies that seemed to want so badly to be accompanied by some "That Thing You Do" handclaps. In fact, if there was ever a band in town that had a reason to wear matching suits, it's Blind Eyes. (Sorry Jon Hardy & The Public, but you guys look good, too.)
All retro ends there, however, with the band's vocals serving as how the trio carves out its unique identity. While bassist Kevin Schneider's vocals still have the sassy punch of attitude that recalls the UK of the 80's -- and the band borrows a bit of the mod/garage leanings of its former incarnation, the Gentleman Callers -- guitarist Seth Porter's vocals are the true difference-maker. Projecting the occasional soulful grit that brings to mind Catfish Haven's George Hunter, but never losing melodic nimbleness, Porter's voice stands out. With some charismatic facial expressions bearing a resemblance to the always-charming Glen Hansard (of The Frames/Swell Season/Once fame), he delivered the evening's most earnest lyric: "Thanks to all of you who stuck around. Thanks to everyone who stayed and held the fort down."
"The Modern World" Blind Eyes Feature Story
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The Blind Eyes' debut CD is called Modernity. As its snappy name implies, the album is sleek and to-...The Blind Eyes' debut CD is called Modernity. As its snappy name implies, the album is sleek and to-the-point, and full of the trio's shuffling rock tunes — which combine power-pop melodies, punk tenacity and mod-rock precision. "I don't think we really have any exact peers [in town], people who do exactly what we do," says guitarist/vocalist Seth Porter. "But it's also not like we're reinventing the wheel. It's pop songs."
On a recent Tuesday night at Porter's south-side home, the easygoing trio — which also contains drummer Matt Picker and bassist/vocalist Kevin Schneider — sipped on Schlafly beer and traced the tracks of its years.
Kevin Schneider can thank Catholicism for his start in music. He received a guitar and lessons for his first communion. "I don't remember completing the six-week lesson [course]," he says. "I never really learned to play, because it was like, 'Here's an A note. Bing!' It didn't sound like anything to me. It wasn't until I was fifteen, [and] I picked up a guitar magazine that had tablature in it. And it all came together — you don't have to learn all those notes, you just have to learn this chord." Schneider was also a proud member of Youth Catholic Musicians. "Every year we did a summer tour and a winter tour," he says. "Usually the winter tour was to some podunk town in Kentucky or whatever, but the summer tour would be like, for a week — we'd go to Disneyland or New York City or Washington, D.C. I perform on their Christmas album Star of Wonder, which as far as I know is still available."
Schneider's childhood pal Matt Picker did not invoke religion in his musical beginnings. "[Kevin] had an electric guitar, it was a red Yamaha electric guitar, and I was obsessed with it, because he could play 'Iron Man' and stuff like that," he recalls. "And my neighbor up the street, Chad, had an electric guitar that he never used. I traded him two Penthouse magazines for his shitty, three-quarter-sized electric guitar. It had this little five-watt amp. It was like a plastic amp."
Picker and Schneider have been in bands together since high school (Parkway Central High School, more specifically). The name of their first band — Satan's Wastebasket — still elicits riotous laughter from each member of the Blind Eyes. "We tried to play metal, but we weren't very good," Schneider recalls. "So it came out a little more, you know, simple and more chord-based." Hearing the first Ramones album made him realize how much easier it was to write "simpler songs, instead of trying to write songs that Metallica or Iron Maiden wrote." The pair were also part of now-defunct local act El Gordo's Revenge, which opened for national acts such as the Promise Ring and Groovie Ghoulies.
Seth Porter is a secret band geek. Although he received a bass guitar in eighth grade and started playing in bands, Porter's background is in the orchestra. "I played piano up through junior high, and I started viola in the fourth grade, studied it in college," he says. "As for the guitar, that's a relatively new endeavor. But I have many years and dollars worth of formal training." When Picker and Schneider mention El Gordo's Revenge's high-profile opening slots, Porter laughs: "I was probably in orchestra at that point when they were playing with the Donnas."
The band formed soon after the Gentleman Callers went on extended hiatus. Porter, who moved to St. Louis on a whim several years ago, met the Gentleman Callers via a friend of Picker's brother. He joined the garage-soul rockers — who also counted Schneider and Picker as members — as a keyboardist/organist. But after the 'Callers went on hiatus — "It just kind of fizzled out," Porter says of the band — he was tapped to join the childhood pals' new project.
The Blind Eyes strives for simplicity. "When I first was formulating the idea of doing this band, I just wanted to play songs that were fun songs — fun to play, fun to listen to," Schneider says. "I wanted [a] driving, just power-poppy, thing to happen." Accordingly, Modernity was recorded at Firebrand Studios over two weekends; overdubs were minimal, save for some doubled guitar tracks and added harmonies. The Blind Eyes' relatively straightforward music, as well as the trio configuration, keeps things basic. "I'm the sort of guy that if you said that I could have a horn section and a gospel choir and the London Symphony and all that, I'd be like, 'Yes,'" Porter says. "This is about as stripped-down as you can get. The songs have to be good, or else there's nothing to save them. It's not like, 'Well that song's a drag, but he totally shredded.'"
When it comes to the Blind Eyes, four albums are an influence on Picker. Give 'Em Enough Rope by the Clash, Shake the Sheets by Ted Leo, Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy and This Year's Model by Elvis Costello. When the Blind Eyes began, Picker was listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy, and he also feels that Rope is the "most consistent" Clash album. But he saves his rapturous praise for Costello. "This Year's Model is the greatest pop record ever recorded, in my opinion," he says. "Here's this album that's dripping with really great, catchy poppy songs. Every song is fucking phenomenal, and they're totally on point. You can almost feel the energy coming off that album, it's just so good."
The band deftly combines ragged sonics and polished structures. Modernity has the right amount of fuzz and grit on vocals and riffs to make its tunes sound like dusty 45-RPM gems; solid songwriting adds to the timeless mood. "I like it when other people are rough-sounding, but I don't know — that music training kicks in," Porter says. "Plenty of singers I like sing a little off-key. I'm like, 'Wow, that's really cool,' but I can't do it. I have to sing a melody. When we need shouting, I call upon Kevin." In fact, Porter cites Orange Juice's skiffling Scot-pop classic "Falling and Laughing" as an influence. "It's more sophisticated than early punk, but it's still kind of rough around the edges," he says. "It's melodic, but [OJ vocalist Edwyn Collins is] not really a great singer. It has that punk ethos, but the music doesn't sound like the Sex Pistols."
There are no upcoming dates at this time.
|Oct 17, 2009 Saturday||9:00 PM||Off Broadway||St. Louis, MO, US|
|Oct 16, 2009 Friday||TBA||TBA||Champaign-Urbana, IL, US|
|Oct 3, 2009 Saturday||9:00 PM||Cal's||Chicago, IL, US|
|Oct 2, 2009 Friday||9:00 PM||The Wisco||Madison, WI, US|
|Oct 1, 2009 Thursday||9:00 PM||The Borg Ward||Milwaukee, WI, US|
|Sep 12, 2009 Saturday||10:00 PM||Mangia||St. Louis, MO, US|
|Aug 29, 2009 Saturday||TBA||The LOT Music Festival||St. Louis, MO, US|
|Aug 15, 2009 Saturday||9:00 PM||Deluxe||St. Louis, MO, US|
|Aug 9, 2009 Sunday||3:00 PM||Streetside Records||Kansas City, MO, US|
|Aug 8, 2009 Saturday||9:00 PM||Jackpot Music Hall||Lawrence, KS, US|
|Aug 7, 2009 Friday||9:00 PM||Mojo's||Columbia, MO, US|
|Aug 6, 2009 Thursday||9:00 PM||Firebird||St. Louis, MO, US|