ABOVE: EVIL EYES. PHOTO BY KAYLA MONETTA
San Francisco’s Greg Mabry and Joe Frabotta are the collective force behind the indie-rock (yet pop-inclined) sound of Evil Eyes, a band that creates as a duo but oftentimes performs live as a four-piece. With the release of their album Borderlines and the ’50s-inspired video (directed by Tylor Bohlman) for the eerily energized “Shake the Dust,” Evil Eyes have been proving themselves as an act to keep an eye out for musically and visually. The captivating lyric video for “In the Summer,” which finds footage of young hip things hanging out and snapping pics, interspersed with psychedelic shots of clouds, waves, and colorful flowers, will no doubt boost their profile. Interview spoke to Mabry, one half of the duo, about their visual choices, how they got together, and what the future holds.
ALEX CHAPMAN: How did you guys start out as a group?
GREG MABRY: Evil Eyes officially started just over two years ago when I moved to San Francisco. Joe and I had been best friends in Nashville, and we’d been sort of planning the band for several years. We always had a pretty clear idea of the direction the music would takeâ??there’s a synergy between us when we play guitar. But backing up further, seven years or so ago, we took a hellish trip to Florida. We found ourselves in the middle of an MTV-style spring break week. We’d try to go to a bar and it would be packed with bros in pink shirts and trashy girls in bikinis covered in foam. Seriously nightmarish. So we stayed holed up in the hotel room drinking heavily and listening to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. One night, we decided to write a song in that style, and the rest is history.
CHAPMAN: How did Borderlines come together?
MABRY: Borderlines was our first full-length record. We literally have a hundred songs written between us, so when we started talking about recording the album, there was a lot of discussion about the vibe we were going for, and which songs fit that aesthetic. It’s not a concept record by any means, but there are some consistent themes running throughout lyrically. The idea was being in between opposing thingsâ??living in the gray areas of life.
CHAPMAN: Can you talk a bit about the strategy for the album when it comes to the sound?
MABRY: Sonically, we wanted to record a pretty album. There’s not much distortion or harshness on it. Not that we don’t like grit, but we were striving for a lush, full sound. We produced, recorded, and mixed the album ourselves here in San Francisco over six months, starting at the beginning of this year. After we finished mixing, we flew out to New York for a mastering session with Josh Bonati. He’s worked on a bunch of our favorite albums over the last couple of years and put the final touches on the record.
CHAPMAN: Can you talk about the process behind the “Shake the Dust” video?
MABRY: We put a lot of thought into music videos, and how they convey the feeling or mood of a song. For “Shake the Dust” we had the idea of a ’50s swing danceâ??even though it doesn’t necessarily sound like anything from that era musically, it made sense. And the ’50s greaser look is visually striking. We worked with director Tylor Bohlman, who did a bang-up job executing the concept. And we actually had a choreographer, Ashleigh Kenny, create the dances for the main actors. Then we tracked down some talented swing dancers, invited all of our friends, drank beer, and pretended like we were at a partyâ??a half a century ago.
CHAPMAN: And now you’re releasing a lyric video for “In the Summer.”
MABRY: The song “In the Summer” deals in nostalgia. We wanted the imagery to reflect the spirit of summer, with the overlapping themes of being young and having fun, and also some those moments of self-doubt and reflection. It’s about getting older, and how the things you think are a big deal actually happen all the time. It just takes time to realize it. For the video, we stumbled upon Patrick Han, a young artist doing some really cool stuff. He had recently worked with Washed Outâ??we liked his style and thought he would be a perfect fit for the video, so we gave him a shout. He ended up digging the track, so we hashed out a few ideas and he ran with it.
CHAPMAN: What’s next?
MABRY: We have two to three more videos that we’re going to release this year, so that’s keeping us busy. One of the videos is for the song “Borderlines,” which appears on the album. We actually recorded a version of the song live in the studio this summer for a session with Converse Rubber Tracks, and that’s the version that’ll be in the video. Besides playing shows here in SF, we’re working on getting the band on tourâ??we’re excited to hit the road and get out of town.Â