Universal Eyes is a collaborative trip/metal/psycho/jazz/beyond project birthed by Wolf Eyes and Universal Indian, consisting of members Nate Young, John Olson, Gretchen Gonzales-Davidson and Aaron Dilloway.
With their powers combined, Universal Eyes will be releasing their upcoming record, “Four Variations on Artificial Society,” alongside ADULT., who will also be releasing their latest project entitled “This Behavior,” for a special double record release show at the Coleman A. Young Airport on September 8th brought to you by El Club and UFO Factory. Tickets available here.
Broccoli: First off, tell us about how this group came to be.
Inzane Johnny aka John Olson (Wolf Eyes): Well, we were all playing together in the past in various formats, and we were hustling up some stuff for this year’s Trip Metal Fest when Gretchen came up with the idea to reissue some old Universal Indians recordings (which was a band that Nate, Aaron, Gretchen, and I were all in). With me not being a fan of reissuing stuff, I said ‘hey, why don’t we just record and do a one-sided LP.’
So we all got together (it was the first time that we’d all hung out, much less recorded with all of us). We had such a good time and the recording was good, it ended up being a double LP that came out in Guinness Book of World Records time -all hand done- the speeds were to be designated by the listener, each cover was unique, each insert was unique, so it was a completely homemade project, back to how we use to do it back in the 90’s. So we had that available at Trip Metal…
Gretchen Gonzales -Davidson (Universal Indian):…Two weeks later…
Inzane Johnny: Yeah, two weeks and we sold it all at the gig, and it was so good and so much fun that we just kept it rolling. We recently did two days in North Hampton and had a good time, so it’s just going back to the roots.
Gretchen: John and I started in ‘93, and I guess we really hadn’t recorded since 2001 or so, but I think John said it perfectly. One other thing, John and Nate have been playing together, so this is like their 20th anniversary.
Broccoli: So going back a little further, what were things like before those initial collaborations? How did that all come to be?
Gretchen: John and I started playing in college, and then along the way Aaron joined the band, and then we started playing with Nate, that was, I think Aaron was back in ‘97.
Inzane Johnny: This was back in the day before the internet and stuff like that, the difference between Lansing where we were from, compared to Ann Arbor and Detroit was like a whole different world. There was only a small collection of freakers, so to connect with someone in Ann Arbor and Detroit was a really big deal, it was like a breakthrough.
G: We needed new basements to play in, so we found some new basements in Ann Arbor.
IJ: When we met Aaron and Nate it just clicked, and you know we’ve always been- even in this day, we’re always about including everything- not necessarily being communal, but getting everybody to jam together, and getting a new thing together because with the improvisational nature of the music, it does well with getting new people and playing and just being free with it. If someone understands your jokes, chances are you’re going to be a good jammer with them. We throw out some pretty arcane, stupid jokes, so if someone is going to laugh at them, we’re going to jam with them.
B: That makes sense. It’s interesting to think about how different the scene must have been back then, and how it was more of a feat to have collaborated across cities within a somewhat niche style of music, compared to what that might’ve been like if it happened now with the internet.
IJ: Obviously conformity runs rampant, so to find something totally idiosyncratic or cultural of a different place, I think that’s time well worth spending. That’s why I think us getting back together is still representative of a Michigan sound. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an era because it’s always changing, but we definitely hope to have a Michigan sound, as I’m sure does ADULT. or Violent Ramp or anyone else that’s playing. So it’s definitely a Michigan affair. I once heard that the worst thing that a band can do is sound like they’re from anywhere, but we work hard to sound like we’re from Michigan.
B: Yeah, that’s an interesting quote.
IJ: With Soundcloud and all this sh*t, I’ve got friends who are in bands with people that they’ll never meet, and I’m like what the f*ck is that.
B: Yeah, kind of makes me think of Superorganism.
IJ: I’m also just like, why be in a band with people that have your exact same similar interests? It seems like the more dissonance you have the more unique the sound is. If everyone agrees on mint ice cream and you go to the MSU dairy store and get three mint ice creams, your crew is a little boring. I feel like you should always mix it up.
It’s like Tinder and all that stuff, why does everyone want to meet people that are into the same things? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think you should always meet in the middle about what you both have to offer, not just your mutual love of Stephen King, leaves falling on the ground, Pad Thai, and gentrification juice. I think there needs to be a little struggle in there, maybe that’s old school, but that’s just me.
G: And balance, for sure. You were also talking about going to different cities; I agree, when you do go to these different places you’re not playing with all the same bands, but everyone sort of comes together and it’s all different enough, it creates a cool vibe. Like this show at the hangar, there’s so many different things happening. Trip Metal is a great example, every single band is different, but there’s just something cool about everything.
B: So going into the upcoming show, after having played every basement in southeast Michigan, how is playing at Coleman A. Young different, or maybe even similar, to that?
IJ: It’s cool to play in unique places. I haven’t really been there, I wasn’t there much even when it was an airport but it’s cool to have a gig in a unique place.
G: It’s a pretty big empty space, so it’ll be a little challenging to get the sound right but it’ll also be cool to add different sort of elements and see what happens.
IJ: If everything goes to plan there will be a mini-ramp there, which will be awesome.
B: Yeah, it’s just cool to imagine your sound filling that type of space, and how you might bring the same approach to all of these different spaces while also having different inclinations at different types of venues.
IJ: You definitely have to play to the space, especially the acoustics and everything.
G: You just adapt, wherever you are you just adapt to what you’re doing.
B: Of course, those technical elements will always be a part of it. I guess I’m trying to get at more of the feeling; do you have a preference between a basement show and something like this? Or are they all just different points on a continuous spectrum?
G: I don’t know if I even think about it really, I think it’s the same for me. I just sort of read the things that are going on in the room at that moment. And that’s also what we do in the studio, that’s what we do at regular bar shows, it’s all in the moment.
IJ: You’ve got to, a lot of people don’t always think about what it’s like from an audience perspective, you gotta make sure it’s poppin off. You gotta put your mind into how people are viewing it, in terms of the how the band is presented, and the sound, and everything within that.
B: That actually transitions well into this next question: If you were to be in the audience at one of your shows, what do you hope that experience would be like?
IJ: That they do one of two things: either they get upset and leave, or when they do leave they go get an instrument. The middle ground should never exist, I hope they either leave angry or they leave inspired.
G: I like that.
Also, we’ve been called the worst band ever, and also the most magical, both at the same show, so I think that’s pretty awesome.
IJ: Usually it’s our friends or the person we’ve hooked up with smoke that calls us magical, so I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
B: I’m thinking about which one I’ll be, maybe I’ll try to bring an instrument from home just in case.
IJ: (laughs) If you leave hot that’s cool, I won’t be mad at ya.
B: If that happens, I will leave knowing that you would’ve wanted it that way. So how did you get linked up with this show in the first place?
G: We had a record release planned for UFO Factory but that wasn’t panning out. The idea for the hangar was originally Graeme’s (owner of El Club)?
IJ: Yeah, I think they’d been talking about this idea for a while, we’re just kind of going with the flow really. We don’t play in town that much at all, we didn’t have a massive vision for this, besides anti-social feedback, skateboarding, and weird instruments. So if that all happens, we’re good to go.
B: Yeah, good to be opportunistic for sure. So how does it feel to play on this bill with the rest of the lineup?
G: So John is part of Violent Ramp, and of course being in Detroit we know a lot of the people involved. It’s still a small town in a lot of ways.
IJ: Yeah, and we might have completely different visions about some things, but in the end we’re all just a bunch of freakers. Whoever has the most fun wins.
B: Right on. Is there anything else you’d like the people to know about Universal Eyes?
G: Come find out for yourself.
IJ: Come and expect to find your own sonic world, and be sure to take a lot of drugs.
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