Music Editor Emma Gardner sat down with Glenn Smyth of Solar Eyes to discuss their appearance at Moseley Folk Festival, lockdown creativity and dinner party plans with Bob Dylan
Solar Eyes formed in 2020 and have just signed to Fierce Panda records. They played Moseley Folk Festival on the 2nd September.
E: Tell me about your personal role in the band.
G: So, I’m the frontman and singer-songwriter. At the end of 2019 myself and Tom Ford (guitarist) started exchanging files and tracks, and we did a song called ‘Acid Test’, which is a quite cool psychedelic Chemical Brothers type track. We got that going then obviously the pandemic hit. We thought: hang on, we could turn this into a bit of a positive. We’re never going to get a better opportunity to record 10-20 songs. We went from there and it kept on going. We have a record deal, an agent and we’ve only played two live gigs! It’s wicked.
How did you feel the pandemic informed your creative process? Was it helpful? Or did you find it very difficult to write songs?
From a creative point of view, it was really positive. There was no way I would’ve been able to record twenty songs, mixed and mastered in normal time. The world stopped and I already had the songs written so it seemed like the perfect time. It was nothing but positive. I’d go up to my loft, sing, shout and play anything going to be as creative as possible and get the record sorted.
You guys have been gaining popularity recently, having been played on the radio by people like Steve Lamacq. You’ve just been signed to Fierce Panda Records. If you were to describe your band and music to a new listener, in a nutshell, what would you say?
We have quite a few different reference points, people have said we are like Radiohead and Primal Scream, which is amazing! Someone else said Richard Ashcroft. There are obviously some cinematic influences that are Tarantino-esque, or like Clint Eastwood. There are all these different influences. Some Birmingham bands that influenced me have been ELO and Black Sabbath. If we threw those together, you’d get some of our stuff.
When you’re formulating your music, do you feel it’s important to have echoes of certain types of music? Or are you more focused on individual creations and just seeing what flows?
When we write a song we don’t have any reference points or influences at all. When we get to the recording part we literally just put the track down, we don’t think we want it to sound like a specific band or artist. The subconscious just comes into play with those influences. Sometimes what happens with younger bands is they say ‘oh, let’s take Arctic Monkeys and copy that.’ That’s no good. At the end, ultimately, you don’t want to sound like that. You want to expand your influences and ideas. I used to go to the library and listen to classical music, to take as many influences in as possible. I’m at a point where I’ve got a very good knowledge of music to be able to make this stuff, so that’s why I think people like it.
How does it feel being signed to the record label that launched Coldplay? Also, what are you hoping to get out of the record deal? Is it a springboard to something bigger or is it more something fun and creative to do on a personal level?
Coldplay recently did a gig and Chris Martin gave a shoutout to Fierce Panda and Simon Williams, who was in attendance. That blew my mind! Those first two Coldplay albums are amazing. Being at the heart of something like that is a bit surreal at times. Simon has all these stories about these artists. It’s interesting to see what he thinks about them and then what he thinks about us. It’s really fantastic. I really do love being part of it, the ethos of it, no red tape or bureaucracy. Simon and Chris at Fierce Panda have put out some fantastic records over the years.
With regards to our ambitions: I suppose touring, we want to be appreciated by as many people as possible, that’s just the nature of the beast. If I sit here in a year and we’re having another chat and I can say we’ve played a few festivals this year, done a new record, then I’d be happy with that. Just putting out good music and being creative. I want people to come on this journey with us. I would love to headline Glastonbury, but at the same time I’m happy with putting out good records and nothing else.
You guys will be playing Moseley Folk Festival at the weekend. I’m sure as a local band, this is a massive opportunity for you. What exactly are you hoping to get out of it? Are local fans important to you?
My Nan lived in Moseley, round the back of where the festival is held. It really does mean something to me, it’s very surreal. I’ve never been but I’ve always wanted to go. I remember saying to someone, I don’t want to go until I’m playing there. It really does genuinely mean a lot to me. I’m ecstatic and really excited! I want people to really enjoy Solar Eyes and what we’re creating. I love being creative so I want it to be mutual and include as many people as possible. I want people to enjoy themselves and get lost in the music. I think today there can be a lack of that. There is something different about us and I think that resonates with people.
The visuals of your videos are very striking and psychedelic. Is the visual element of the band important? Do you think music videos still carry the same importance that they did ten years ago, in the age of TikTok and streaming? Do you think you will have to come up with more creative ways to engage people?
The visuals are done by a guy called Matt Watkins. He did a lot of the visuals for Gorillaz. It is hugely important for us, it’s not just about sound, every aspect has to look good. It’s having the trust of Matt to know that he’ll do a good job. I always think you will find your audience that’s suited to you, but all that TikTok stuff is nonsense to me, it’s kids’ stuff. It’s 30 second videos. Has anything good come out of TikTok? Has anyone with integrity come out of it? That’s again what it comes down to, it’s about integrity. If you just want that quick 15 minutes of fame then it’s quite easy. If you make music for years and have knockbacks, well that’s been character building for us. You can be a little bit mysterious but technology is important these days. I do think TikTok is a bad format for music.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the music world, who would it be?
There are so many, but I would love to collaborate with Jimmy Page, I could learn a lot from him.
If you could have any musician, dead or alive, to dinner, who would it be?
I would have to say John Lennon or Bob Dylan. That would be cool!
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