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Xray Eyeballs Reveal What Every One of Their Songs Mean

Someone shat on their new album, and they're sad about it.
Nick Gazin
Κείμενο Nick Gazin
07 Μάρτιος 2012, 2:25pm

If you read the record reviews in last month's issue, you may have been surprised to find some jackanape shitting all over the new Xray Eyeballs album, Splendor/Squalor. Or maybe you weren't surprised, who knows what you're in to. I was surprised though, because I love those guys and think their new stuff is great. And those guys (the band) were surprised too, because they assumed I'd hook them up and pump up their new album (because I love those guys).

In spite of providing a case example of the diverse opinions VICE is pleased to publish for all the conspiracy theorists out there who think a giant ENIAC machine at Viacom writes all our articles by algorithm, we thought some healthy balance is in order. Or I thought some balance was in order. The VICE editors' thoughts were something to the effect of "Um, it's a three-sentence music review of an album the reviewer didn't like from a month ago. If you want to stick up for your pals go nuts, but this ain't exactly the Pentagon Papers. Just make it interesting please. For once." [This is true. --Ed]

SO, in the spirit of balance and THE TRUTH, here is an in-depth talk with Xray Eyeballs guitarist and singer OJ San Felipe about why their album Splendor/Squalor is the best thing to come out of Brooklyn since that smell, and why music reviewer Jonathan Yost should be publicly exposed and pelted with week-old produce. Sorry I meant pubicly exposed.

Also here are two brand-new remixes of "Summer Daze" to hammer home my point. One is a heavy metal version by Will Berman from Bosco Delrey and MGMT.

And this other one is by Star Eyes and Mike Dextro.

VICE: So OJ what was your reaction when you saw the review in VICE?

OJ San Felipe: I  was a little surprised because VICE has been big supporters since the beginning, but everyone's entitled to their opinion. I heard the guy who reviewed us is not from around here, and loves Sublime in Rome—different strokes for different folks, I guess. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

What's up with your band's lineup? There were a bunch of guys in there and now it's OJ and ladies.

Well Allison wanted to concentrate on her jewelry line, so she had to quit as our drummer. We wanted to have a second guitar so we asked Liz to join, and it was just a bonus that she played synths. Every now and then we have Tom from Foodstamps fill in on synths, or drums because he can play everything. He pretty much can do it all.

I just saw the video for "X." The part at the end reminds me of the end of Pink Flamingos. What were you guys thinking about when you made it?

We're big fans of the Cinema of Transgression scene in New York in the late 70's and 80's, specifically Richard Kern's work. In fact, his video "X is  Y" inspired the lyrics and video concept for our song "X". We just wanted dolled up girls with guns, sex and violence, all the things I like to see in a movie, and we knew Micki would be good at conjuring up this vision.

**How does "X" reference the Kern movie? I cannot understand the lyrics. It sounds like the chorus is "I don't control you, you don't control me." **

Well if you watch Kern's "X is Y" - most of the lyrics are just things in his video- girls with guns, spinning rifles, phone off the hook, fur - It's literally a song about Richard Kern's "X is Y" video. Me and Carly  weren't trying to do anything special with the lyrics. The chorus is actually "I control you - you control me". That part has nothing to do with anything actually. I just like the word "control"- a lot of my favorite songs have the word control in it- Janet Jackson "Control", Joy Division "She's lost Control", Catatonic Youth, "Out of Control" etc...and it seemed like a simple lyric that could be repetitive and catchy. I  like repetitive lyics in songs-  I feel like repetition makes things more catchy and anthemic especially if it's a nice  vocal melody, or sung over a nice synth or bass line. Repetition drills it more into people's brains.

What's "Die Little Love" about?

I was walking to Home Sweet Home to go to the Wierd records party and I had David Bowie's "Modern Love" on my iPod, and I really wanted to have a song with that type of propulsive beat - so I wrote that song in my head dancing around at Wierd that night. Contrary to what some people think, it's not an anti-smoking song. You can smoke all you want.

What's "Syrup" about? And "Lean"?

"Syrup" is about a few things. We have a friend, Jeff Chiplis, who lives in Cleveland. He's an old punk rocker dude who makes neon signs and collects 45's and has an awesome denim jacket with thousands of punk badges he's been collecting for decades. He has thousands and thousands of 7"s and has an old jukebox that he regularly circulates with records. But he also collects carrot related things. He has a carrot shrine in his house filled with every carrot related thing you can think of. He's a carrot hoarder. In fact every time I find a carrot thing , I send it to him. There's a photo of his carrot shrine in VICE from last we year that Carly shot when we passed through Cleveland. The first verse is about him. Then me and Carly got on this tangent about collecting things and memories and old pictures, and obsessions with things. And then there's a verse about our friend Laura Leigh and her wig obsession, and then something about gold coins. Old pictures and coins and furniture are really creepy to me, I feel like there's ghosts  living in them. I think there's a phobia for antique furniture? I own some old furniture so I don't think I have it.

What's "Gator" about?

Years ago, there used to be a bar on Avenue B  -  that we would all go to late night every week after shows or after going to the Hole at about 4am. I don't know what it is now, but it was bad news. We'd just be locked up in this bar with the shades down and just stay there from 4am til 4pm just blasting music and salsa dancing all night , every now and then send someone out for supplies- and it was just dark in there so we would never know what time it was. It would be packed though with a nice mix of neighborhood people, old punks, random actresses and models - I saw Rosario Dawson there a few times and the shadiest characters would be in there creepin around. You'd have to use the bathroom outside because there was this one dude who always nodded off in the one toilet. There's was one big dude who was a bouncer for the regular  clubs and he would just show up and be the unofficial bouncer at this place- He was always hyped up on speed and would beat the crap out of unruly people and confiscated their narcotics - we'd always ask him though, "What did you do with the all the dope or yay" , and he'd just say he threw it away in the dumpster or flushed it down the toilet. Some mornings we'd see  tweekers digging around the dumpster! We don't really think he threw that stuff away though- he was a little shady himself.

What's "Pill Riders" about? What do you like pill wise?

Taking pills and going on a joyride. I like the Urinals a lot. This was me trying to write a Urinals kind of song. I don't eat pills. Well last night I had an adderall for my occasional narcolepsy. I also eat some Chinese herbs occasionally to combat my stage fright. I get nervous before every single show- doesn't matter if there's 10 or 100 people in attendance- I'm a nervous wreck.

What's "Cold Bones" about? Boning people who you don't have a strong affinity for?

Carly wrote much of the lyrics and it's  just abstract and doesn't mean anything. I think some of my  lyrics may involve that book The Road by Cormac McCarthy because I was reading that book around the time I made this song.

What's "Scorpio" about? Reference to the Kenneth Anger movie?

Naw it's not about Kenneth Anger - I just like the word "Scorpio" for a song. There's used to be this hill in California called Gravity Hill. It was close to the park where the Zodiac killer used to dump his bodies. We used to go there just to hang out and drink and get creeped out. Well Gravity Hill was this hill where if you put the car in neutral, your car would roll up the hill, supposedly getting pulled by ghosts.

What's "Gothan Low Lifes" about?

Allison wrote most of the lyrics to this. It's a love song about a boy.  This song reminded me a little of All Tomorrow's parties, so I inserted the lyrics about costumes.

What's "Summer Daze" about?

That is an unfinished song now the more  I think about it--- I can hear a lot more places this song can go. I think that monotone chanting thing was... I wanted to make a cold synthy electro type song for the clubs , we couldn't think of a nice melody so we chanted these silly lyrics almost on the fly at the studio, and we were all feeling really silly that day for some reason- a lot of it is inside jokes for people who live in New York. It's just a song we did, no deep meaning to it- just wanted to make a fun dance song to blast on rooftops or stoops with your boombox in the muggy heat, or something to jump rope to in the summertime.. I  just wanted to do a sort of dance song that people can remix  or play alongside The Normal "Warm Leatherette" or Das Kabinette "Fudge It" in their  DJ sets - Vivian AKA Star Eyes and Mike Dextro made a remix - also Will Berman from MGMT made a thrash remix for all the metalheads. We probably should have mixed the vocals more robotic and cold  and made it even more synthy- maybe use a real drum machine- we used drum triggers and a snare to get that electro sound- I kind of wanna work on that song more- It might emerge on the next album as a new song with more parts, more synths, some proper singing melodies.

**Are you looking forward to spending the next week in a van with me? **

Yes. In fact Tom wants you to sit on his lap the whole time.

**You ever have weird shit happen on tour? Weird things don't happen on tour, right? **

Nawwwww.

Here are the Xray Eyeballs upcoming tour dates. I'll be at them. If you see me say hi and I'll sign your computer screen.

Xray Eyeballs tour W/ Magnetix 2012

03/06/2012 Comet Pizza and Ping Pong Washington DC

_ 03/07/2012 529 Atlanta GA_

_ 03/08/2012 Savannah Stopover @Dosha Savannah GA_

_ 03/09/2012 The End Nashville TN  w/Terrible Twos_

_ 03/10/2012 Collective Shreveport Shreveport LA  w/Terrible Twos_

_ 03/11/2012 35 Denton Festival @Andy’s Bar Denton TX_

_ 03/12/2012 Day off for Salt Licks??_

_ 03/13/2012 Panache Party @Scoot Inn Austin  TX_

_ 03/13/2012 Warby Parker Party @French Legation Austin  TX_

_ 03/14/2012 Hardly Art Party @Hotel Vegas Austin TX_

_ 03/15/2012 CastleFace Party Austin  TX_

_ 03/16/2012 Aye Aye Party  @ Court Slam a Lot ,Austin TX_

_ 03/16/2012 And So Party @Spider House Austin TX_

_ 03/17/2012 Secret Party stay tuned_

_ 03/17/2012 WFMU Party @ Beerland Austin TX_

_ 03/18/2012  Panache Hangover Party @Beerland Austin TX_

_ 03/19/2012 Walter’s on Washington Houston TX  w/Magnetix_

_ 03/20/2012 Siberia New Orleans LA  w/Magnetix_

_ 03/21/2012 Hang out in New Orleans! Get some po boys and crawfish_

_ 03/22/2012 Hi Tone Memphis TN w/Magnetix_

_ 03/23/2012 Empty Bottle Chicago IL  w/Magnetix_

_ 03/24/2012 Lager House Detroit MI w/Magnetix_

_ 03/25/2012 Now That’s Class Cleveland OH  w/Magnetix_

_ 03/29/2012 Cake Shop New York NY w/Bare Wires +Magnetix_