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Review + Q&A: Dead Man’s Eyes- III (2022, Tonzonen Records)

There are few records I have been looking forward to more this year than Cologne’s Dead Man’s Eyes and their third album, simply called III. For one thing they seem to grow with every output, and their previous album 2018’s Word Of Prey already showed an uncanny skill to bend all kinds of (psychedelic) rock out of shape and into something completely new and yet strangely familiar.

III kickstarts the record like a moped on a bumpy country road. It’s an easy going earworm that somehow reminds me of a Coen Brother’s movie, with its jailmen’s choir and jangly harmonica. I’ll Stay Around gives off a completely different vibe, feeling more like taking a walk outside on a warm and breezy day, the jazzy trumpet and beautiful Rhodes passages battling for attention in the background. A couple of spins will reveal a painter’s palette of layers that shows you the skill and song-craftsmanship these guys have developed over the years. It is this use of layers and little quirks that makes this record so extremely playable, a trait it does need with its meagre 30 minutes.

My favorite song has to be In My Fishbowl, a weird little thing, reminding of Blur at their blurriest. The lyrics in particular shine a strange light within singer Simon Mead’s brain; they are strange and yet you feel exactly what he is singing about.

With Time And Space Dead Man’s Eyes then show they don’t even need lyrics or vocals to draw and keep your attention with this smooth instrumental nu-jazzy intermezzo. Then Take Off Soon fuses Balthazar‘s Belgian pop rock with Arctic Monkey‘s British bravoure. On The Wire has the band driving the ol’ country on a moped again, with a joyful swagger that is extremely infectious and will be the shaker of hips on many barn dances in the German countryside. Into The Madness will do well at those dances too, boogying the night away with its flaming harmonica solos and great sped up barnburner finale at the end.

Two songs remain; the catchy uptempo pop rocker Never Grow Up displaying the band’s love of 60s rock like The Kinks or The Beatles, and Nobody At All, which feels like Dead Man’s Eyes version of a stadium rocker, complete with anthemic shouting and pumping rock drumming. It is a proper bang to end this great collection of songs.

Once again this band has grown, and proven themselves to be proper songsmiths. It can only be a matter of time until the world outside their hometown will recognize this prowess as well and throngs of people will be spinning III over and over again complaining about the shortness of this album while probably playing it more than any other record this year…

I tried to contact the band through email but had no luck, so I had to write my questions on a piece of of paper which I put into a bottle and threw upstream in the river Rhine. Well over a month later this is what returned to me on the neck of a skillfully navigating pigeon…all things considered it did not even take the band that much time to respond!

Hi guys, how have you been these days?
We’re feeling pretty excited about how people will react to this record. This time we tried something new: Three different vibes were what we aimed for. We spoke of ‘bundles’. One that feels you’re in a barn, one with songs you can nod your head to in an old smelly car and one that feels a bit dirty and not too overproduced. It was a bit of a challenge to write and eventually choose the right songs to fit those specific terms, or most importantly to overall make it feel like one record.

How has the pandemic been like for DME? Did it bring any upsides
next to the obvious downsides?
what are you going to do as a band if you can’t meet to make music anymore? it was and is a shitty situation but we are lucky that it didn’t hit us as hard as others. we tried to make the best out of it, found a way to still be productive and write new songs. One upside is the artistic freedom this band allows to each member in bringing songs to the table. Usually we end up working on ideas together. Sometimes one guy knows best what the song needs in terms of instrumentation. There are two songs on this record that were recorded almost entirely by one person. We were happy with the outcome and didn’t hear the need to rerecord any instruments over it. Other than that the record has been done with most of us exchanging ideas and shaping the songs.

Can you introduce the band to us? How long have you been a band?
We‘ve been making music since 2010. Nima joined in 2012 when we were still uncertain how to mix Meet me in the Desert. Nima got it done in his bedroom and joined the band exactly then. Phil got in touch with us in January 2018 when we played in Cologne Music Week at the wonderful „Stadtgarten“. That was Geir Johansen’s last show with us which left Phil’s jaw dropped because of Geir’s obvious insane drumming abilities. Phil has been a profound backbone of Dead Man’s Eyes ever since, constantly chasing the best way to improve our drumsound. He is now an amazing Mixing & recording engineer on his own at Fattoria Musica Studio in Osnabrück. Check out his work!

Can you walk me through the writing/recording process? You did a
lot yourselves, right?

That’s right, basically we do the whole production ourselves, except for mastering. The basic idea for a song usually comes from Peter. If we like it, we start working on it. This could mean many things: Sometimes the song is already perfect, sometimes it needs some extra love and care. Sometimes we change the entire arrangement, change the rhythm, change key, don’t end up using an acoustic drum kit and flip on some crazy samples. Sometimes it’s just vocals and handclaps. Nothing stands in the way of making the songs shine. Not even the pandemic.

As I told you before, I freakin’ love the new album III, the only
gripe I have with it is its length! Can you explain why there is not more
of it?

Of course we had more ideas that didn’t make it onto the album. The songs that you can hear on III were the ones that fit the ‘three-ish’ concept of the record. if the album appears too short, listen to it again – you might find some hidden sounds that you didn’t notice right away. The good thing about a record that ends too soon is that it might give you the urge to replay it. The good news is, we do have more songs that can be released in the future. They just did not feel right to be put on this album.

Can you tell me about your best experiences with the band so far?
We had so many. Even after thinking about it for a while, it wouldn’t be fair to pick out one in particular. Having a song on Spotify that has reached half a million streams is pretty unusual. Other than that we have had some crazy days on the road that we would not want to trade for anything.

What are you looking forward to most in 2022? And in 2023?
New songs and the rest we will see. This year we will be releasing a few videos so we are happy to get those out in the open.

Where do your lyrics come from mostly? I really like them, they’re
quite original :))

All lyrics are written by Simon Mead. He’s got that talent to make lyrics almost visible, giving the reader & listener a lot of room to imagine what’s going on on top of what the instruments are doing.

Who did the artwork? And what is the story behind it?
The artists name is Azura Daze. Definitely check out her work!

You have just released a really cool video, tell me more about it!
The video to our latest single „Take Off Soon“ was done in collaboration with Azura Daze, Paula Paez & Lenia Friedrich. They put an incredible amount of work into this. Finally we have an animated video of our own, which represents our song in the light in which we wrote it. We could not be happier!

Azura Daze had this to add: „Even though many things collided as we were finishing the video and it was not an easy time for us, we found the necessary energy and passion to deliver on time. But for while we started believing the project was a cursed artifact, passed on to us the by some angry god (…)“

Who are your biggest musical influences these days? What music
would you play in the band bus?

Viagra Boys, Gorillaz, Atahualpa Yupanqui, ODB & Warren Ellis.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this
interview?

Listen to Dead Man’s Eyes – III on repeat, put your favourite song in your playlist & go buy some records. Also wash your hands.

DME, 2022
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