Birmingham band WIDE EYED may only have a handful of gigs under their collective belt, but that hasn’t stopped the interest from far and wide coming thick and fast. Amy Sumner caught up with the band ahead of their hotly-anticipated hometown headline show at The Sunflower Lounge this weekend.
The rise of ‘B-Town’ seems unstoppable. In the last few months you’ll have been hard pressed to pick up a single music publication without that label ringing out at some point or other within its pages. All eyes are on the Birmingham music scene for the first time in what feels like years — and that’s good. B-Town is a scene, a collection of friends and the sound of Malibu — somewhere as far away from the Second City as it’s possible to imagine. What it does mean though is that, within its walls, Birmingham has a platform, and for the first time in what feels like years, Birmingham bands are standing on it and shouting ‘look at us, we can play!’ And people are actually looking and listening. Wide Eyed are one of those bands.
Formed from the cinders of credible hopefuls Corelli amongst others, Midlands boys Wide Eyed grew up together and now head straight out into that open space of opportunity within Birmingham at the moment. With just one song up online, their progress isn’t dissimilar to that of Peace in the Bblood days. Wide Eyed have the look and they have the curiosity factor which has people turning up to watch them play — and have a bloody good time while they’re about it. Yeah, this band is exciting, but best of all? They’re good.
“Our music sounds like it’s got a cheese grater running through it,” says bassist Max Fisher, by way of explanation. “We all like noisy bands and we wanted to bring that influ- ence into our own music.” Which doesn’t clear things up massively, but there’s some sense behind it. Debut track Bleak has a feel of The Horrors, but the vocals are altogether more pronounced — they’re more melodic and the overall sound has a rockier edge. You can tell that Sonic Youth and newcomers Toy have also played a part. And if you listen really hard, you can just about hear that cheese grater… don’t try it though.
“We like experimental bands like Radiohead, but we also like pop music, so I guess our music is a mixture of the two,” Max continues. “In terms of what we listen to, everyone has their own thing,” lead singer Jake Bellwood explains. “Collectively, we like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth but we’re also big into electronic music and more experimental stuff,” guitarist Tommy Greaves concludes. “There isn’t a songwriting process as such though,” offers Max, “it kind of comes out of nowhere. Ideas start with different members of the band and then come together, but there is always a starting point from where the song gets going. For instance, we’ll have a guitar hook or a vocal or a drum section and we’ll really just build off that and see where it takes us.”
“We’ve got seven songs at the moment which we’re happy about playing,” says Tommy, “and they’ve all happened like that.
“I think in recent years there’s been a bit of pretentiousness surrounding bands from Birmingham and they’ve possessed an identity which has been hard to find. After the 60s and bands from that era, there hasn’t really been anything to define bands from around here.
“But now there seems to be something in the air — and we definitely draw from that…” “Yeah, that and the fact that we’re poor as fuck,” Max concludes pointedly.
Wide Eyed are a very new band. They’ve only a handful of live dates to their name and things are happening fast. “That’s because we’re interesting,” justifies Tommy. “We do owe a lot to our friends and bands like Peace and Swim Deep because the attention which they’re getting means that people are more willing to look towards Birmingham for new music.”
“But we’re actually pretty good,” rationalises Max. “People can tell when things are bullshit.”
Throughout the interview, what really becomes apparent about Wide Eyed is…well, their Wide Eyedness. They are definitely a band to watch but they’re well aware that now is their time, and they’re excited. “We’ve only played five gigs to date, and we always get the best reception in Birmingham,” Tommy enthuses, “but right now people are really making the effort to come out and see us, and that’s great. It’s always nice to go to other places though because we all know now that people in Birmingham and our friends think we’re good — playing somewhere like London gives us an unbiased opinion and a different crowd.”
A Midlands band through and through, Wide Eyed have just been snapped up by The Twang and head out on a UK tour with the Brummie/Black Country band this month. “Being asked to go on tour with those boys is great because at one point they were the band in Birmingham. We’re all really into each other’s music because we’re all yam-yams” Tommy says of the tour. “Basically I think that at those gigs, people are gonna get covered in piss,” Max concludes.
Until now, drummer Aaron Singh has been taciturnly quiet. When asked how Wide Eyed have fun though… “he’s always heading off on adventures,” describes Tommy, “we ended up late night shopping in George the other day.”
“And Max really likes chicken wraps,” says Jake. “I don’t know that I know how to have fun actually…though I do like Lapland.”
They’re joking obviously. “A real answer would be that we like to go out—to TheRainbow and The Adam & Eve in Digbeth…but by Christmas we’ll have a 24 track album recorded covering topics from Pimms to the present day, and there’ll be jingle bells on every song.” Things tend to transcend into the abstract around these guys. They will have a new single out in the new year though.
Basically, what you need to know about Wide Eyed is that they’re exciting. Their gig at The Sunflower Lounge this November is almost at capacity and with gigs which you can count off on one hand, the national music press are already falling in love with them. Well, listen to them yourselves and look at them — isn’t hard to see why.
Wide Eyed are live at The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham, on November 10, with support from Heavy Waves. They are also on tour with The Twang throughout the month.
Debut track Bleak is on the band’s SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/ydyed.