Death Eyes are a relatively new face on San Diego's noisy hardcore scene. Since forming out of the ashes of Rat Eyes and Death Crisis in 2014, the quartet has terrorized sensibilities and eardrums with their melange of AmRep-like churning, 80s Venice Beach punk and brief forays into grind/fastcore all topped off with vocalist Alberto Jurado's Spanish/English lyrical delivery. The band has a new EP entitled Si La Revancha Fuera Una Opcion which is streaming below (and now available via Three One G, the label headed up by Justin Pearson of Retox and the Locust), and it continues the ferocious din and bilingual attack set by its self-titled predecessor.
This collision of languages may not seem like such a big deal at first, but take a look at the extreme music scene: aside from folk-and-heritage-obsessed black metal outfits, speed/power metal bands from Eastern European countries (and bands like Terminal mimicking metal from behind the Iron Curtain) and handfuls of garage bands from non-English speaking nations that haven't yet attempted to break the language barrier because they haven't yet attempted to break out of their local scene, the vast majority of extreme music presentation is in the English language, even when English isn't obviously the performer's first language. When you think about the success of Kvelertak, it's actually quite astounding.
Personally, being a proud Canadian, you'd think I'd be concerning myself with French-speaking bands like Grimskunk and Peste Noire or trying to decipher old Sortilege albums, but I've always been fascinated with the Spanish language. My father-in-law lived in Mexico for a long spell and over the years my family has hosted exchange students from remote parts of Spain where English is hardly a consideration. Because of the on-again-off-again role Spanish has played throughout my life, I've tried time and again to learn the language and failed miserably each time. Ok, maybe not miserably as I'm confident of my ability to navigate my way to the appropriate location to drop a deuce were I lost in downtown Barcelona, but you can strike the idea of engaging anyone in conversation or deciphering the lyrics to Excalibur's smoking new album, Humo Negro from the record of achievement without the help of the internet.
In light of that, I devised the idea of posing the usual round of introductory interview questions to Death Eyes' Jurado and guitarist Jason Blackmore, having them answer in both languages then plugging their Spanish answers into Google Translate to see how close SkyNet is to enslaving the Spanish speaking part of humanity. GT does do a halfway decent job, though the best bit has to be its translation of "he yells, grunts and groans and talks about Tom Petty's corpse and black licorice butt plugs in his sleep" into "When he slept, he screamed, growled, moaned, and talked about Tom Petty's corpse and I do not know what other freaks" with the translation of "It was a given for sure" into new t-shirt slogan, "Why vinyl is the only way." And if all those fun and games aren't enough, we've included a stream of Si La Revancha Fuera Una Opcion, the promo video for new song "NPI," upcoming tour dates and all the links for more info and ordering below. Disfrutar, amigos!
Noisey: Can you impart upon us a brief history of the band? As I understand it, Death Eyes features ex-members of Rat Eyes and Death Crisis (hence the name) to which I'd say it'd be remiss to not mention the possibility that there's a little bit of a L.A. Guns/Guns 'N' Roses thing going on?
Jason Blackmore [guitar]: Guns 'N' Roses? What's that? Well, let's see. Jimmy Armbrust, John Cota and myself were in Rats Eyes which featured Gabe Serbian, the drummer of The Locust/Head Wound City on vocals. Jimmy approached me in 2008 with the idea of starting an old style '80s hardcore band. We hit up our friend John, who is a guitar player, to see if he wanted to give the drums a go. The three of us wrote a handful of songs and made a few demo tapes to pass around to friends in hopes that we could find a singer. I contacted Gabe thinking that he might have a couple people in mind that we should hit up and he said that he wanted to do it. He came to our practice space a few days later and killed it right out of the gate. After releasing two seven-inchess, playing a handful of shows around Southern California and a west coast tour, Gabe moved to L.A., then to Austin. So, we hit up long time amigo, Alberto who had been singing in the band Death Crisis and asked him if he would want to get together sometime and jam. Death Crisis had broken up just a couple months before we contacted him I do believe, if even that long? He was into it. It was a match made in heaven. A no-brainer. We wrote a bunch of new songs together and Death Eyes was born.
(Spanish) Jason Blackmore [guitarra]: ¿Guns 'N' Roses? ¿Qué es eso? Bueno, pues Jimmy Armbrust, John Cota y yo, estábamos en la banda Rats Eyes, con Gabe Serbian, baterista de los Locust & Head Wound City, como vocalista. Jimmy me presentó la idea en el 2008 de hacer una banda de hardcore en estilo de los 80. Le preguntamos a John Cota, que es guitarrista, si quisiera tocar la batería. Los tres nos juntamos y escribimos unas canciones, hicimos un demo, se lo pasamos a nuestros amigos, con la esperanza de encontrar un vocalista. Contacté a Gabe, pensando que él tendría idea de quién recomendar y dijo que él quería hacerlo. Él vino a ensayar unos días después y pegó. Después hicimos dos EP's, tocando pocos shows en el sur de California, e hicimos una gira corta en el oeste, y Gabe se mudó a Los Ángeles y después a Austin. Ahí fue que le preguntamos Alberto, quien era vocalista de Death Crisis —puesto que la banda ya se había disuelto—, le preguntamos si quería participar con nosotros y respondió que sí. El experimento funcionó, sin pensarlo. Escribimos nuevas canciones juntos y de ahí nació Death Eyes.
(Google Translate): Jason Blackmore [guitar]: Guns 'N' Roses? What is that? Well, Jimmy Armbrust, John Cota and me, we were in the band of Rats Eyes, with Gabe Serbian Locust & Head Wound City drummer, as vocalist. Jimmy introduced me the idea in 2008 of making a hardcore band in the style of the '80s. We asked John Cota that he is a guitarist, if he wanted to play the drums. The three of us got together and wrote some songs, we did a demo, we passed them to our friends, hoping to find a vocalist. I contacted Gabe, thinking that he had an idea to recommend and said that he wanted to do it. He came to rehearse a few days later and hit. Then we did two EPs, playing a few shows in Southern California. We did a short tour of the West, and Gabe moved to Los Angeles and then to Austin. It was that we asked Alberto, who was a vocalist for Death Crisis since the band had already dissolved, we asked him if he wanted to participate with us and he said yes, the experiment worked, without thinking. We wrote new songs together and from there was born Death Eyes.
What would you say have been the most significant accomplishments or goals attained in the course of the band's short existence?
Blackmore: Doing an interview for the July 2015 issue of Thrasher Magazine. Page 182. Larbage. That's our most significant accomplishment. Seriously. Have you ever been in Thrasher? That's what I thought.
(Spanish) Blackmore: Hicimos una entrevista en la revista Thrasher, en Julio del 2015, página 182, sección Larbage. Ese es uno de los logros más significantes, en serio. ¿Te ha entrevistado alguna vez Thrasher? Eso es lo que pensaba.
(Google Translate) Blackmore: We did an interview in Thrasher magazine, July 2015, page 182, section Larbage, that's one of the most significant achievements, seriously, has Thrasher ever interviewed you? That's what I was thinking.
What can you tell us about the writing and recording process of the new EP? Did you in any way step outside of doing what you're used to during the creative and/or creation process?
Blackmore: For the new EP, we wrote some songs. And then we went into the studio and we recorded them. Ha! Well, we have a formula down that seems to work pretty well. I come up with a majority of the riffs and sometimes fully structured songs. Just the music. When I bring in an idea for a song me, Jimmy and John will jam on it for a bit and everybody does their thing. Sometimes, the three of us will just start fuckin' around at band practice and the next thing ya know, we have a new tune. We always construct the music first. Then, Alberto writes the lyrics. Ta-Da! Oh, and usually there is beer involved. It might be time for us to get into our acid phase?
(Spanish) Blackmore: Para el nuevo EP, escribimos unas canciones y las grabamos, ¡¡¡Ja!!! Bueno, tenemos una fórmula que nos sirve: yo escribo la mayoría de las pisadas y algunas veces toda una canción, nomás la música sin la letra. Les presento la idea a Jimmy y John y la tocamos y cada uno hace su aportación musical. En veces estamos ensayando y bromeando y de repente nos brota una nueva rola, y siempre hacemos la música primero y Alberto le pone la letra. ¡¡¡Ta-Da!!! Y a veces hay cheve de por medio. A lo mejor es hora de entrar a nuestra fase psicodélica.
(Google Translate) Blackmore: For the New EP, we wrote some songs and recorded them, Ha !!! Well, we have a formula that serves us; I write most of the footsteps and sometimes a whole song, just the music without the lyrics, I presented the idea to Jimmy and John and we play it and everyone makes their musical contribution. Sometimes we are rehearsing and joking and suddenly a new song comes out, and we always do the music first and Alberto puts the lyrics to it. Ta-Da!!! And sometimes there are cheve in between. Maybe it's time to get into our psychedelic phase.
What does the title Si La Revancha Fuera Una Opcion translate to, and what is the story and significance behind naming your EP such?
Alberto Jurado [vocals]: Si La Revancha Fuera Opcion translates to, "If Revenge was an Option." The whole idea was born one night I was out drinking in Tijuana with my brother. I had bought some asthma inhalers earlier in the day and I was carrying them with me the whole time we were walking around going bar to bar. I ended up leaving them behind at a hooker bar. When I went back to get them, the waiter and the rest of the 'staff' said that they hadn't seen anything. I was pretty pissed off, so I told them off and told them that I wished nothing for them and walked out. After that, I thought to myself 'what if I could get revenge on all the piece of shit people who fuck over the poor and working class people.' If revenge was an option I would wish nothing for these people. A life with no high points or low points, no happiness but no sadness, a very mediocre emotionless life.
(Spanish) Alberto Jurado [voz]: "Si la revancha fuera una opción." La idea nació una noche que estaba pisteando con mi hermano en Tijuana. Había comprado unos atomizadores para el asma durante el día y los traía conmigo de bar en bar, y finalmente acabamos en un congal (bar) y dejé mis atomizadores. Cuando regresé por ellos, el mesero y las 'trabajadoras' se comportaron como si no los hubiera dejado; me molesté y los mandé a la chingada, y los maldije, que les deseaba nada en sus vidas por lacras, y después pensé en si pudiera tomar venganza contra la gente que le hace daño a la gente pobre y trabajadora. Si la revancha fuera una opción, les desearía nada a esas personas, una vida sin altas y bajas, una vida sin felicidad o tristeza, mediocre y sin emociones.
(Google Translate) Alberto Jurado [vocals]: "If the rematch was an option." The idea was born one night that I was pisteando with my brother in Tijuana, had bought some atomizers for the asthma, during the day and brought them with me from bar to bar, and finally we ended up in a congal (bar) and left my atomizers. When I came back for them, the waiter and the 'workers' behaved as if I had not left them, I bothered them and sent them to hell, and I cursed them, I wished them nothing in their lives, for hurts and then I thought that if I could take revenge on people who hurt poor and hard-working people. If revenge was an option, I would wish nothing to those people, a life without ups and downs, a life without happiness or sadness, mediocre and without emotions.
At what point did Justin and Three One G come into the picture to release the record? Was the original plan to go with Route 44 Skateboards & Records?
Blackmore: I had mentioned to the band months ago that we should hit up Three One G perhaps in regards to releasing the new EP. But nothing was locked down. We played a show with Justin's band Retox back in February. I hit him up about maybe releasing the EP like a week or two before that show. He said, let's talk at the gig. After we played and as we were loading our gear out of the club he came up to me and said, 'Yeah man, let's do it!' Route 44 was a very well know and much respected local skate shop/skate company down here in San Diego. And they released a few records. The Widows' San Diego Calling Collect, Shark Blood's Party Wave and the debut, self-titled Death Eyes twelve-inch. The owner, Matt Ohlin played bass in the classic San Diego bands Fishwife and Tanner. Rad dude! I have heard rumors that the shop may be re-opening at a new location sometime soon. One can only hope!
(Spanish) Blackmore: Le mencioné a la banda hace unos meses qué les parecía si le preguntaba a Three One G, si consideraban realizar el nuevo EP [con él]. Pero nada estaba seguro. En febrero tocamos un show con la banda de Justin Retox; le había preguntado la semana anterior si tenía interés de realizar el EP, una semana antes del toquín. Él dijo hablamos después del show, mientras subíamos el equipo a la panel, aceptó y dijo: ¡Simón, hay que hacerlo! Route 44 es una compañía de patinetas muy respetada en San Diego, ellos realizaron algunas grabaciones como: The Widows San Diego Calling Collect, Shark Blood Party Wave y el debut de Death Eyes, titulado: Death Eyes LP. El dueño, Matt Ohlin, tocó el bajo en bandas clásicas de San Diego, como Fishwife & Tanner, ¡es un vato curado! Por ahí escuché que van a volver abrir su tienda en el futuro. Ojalá que sí.
(Google Translate) Blackmore: I mentioned to the band a few months ago, that it seemed to me if I asked Three One G if they were considering performing the new EP. But nothing was certain. In February We played a show with the band of Justin Retox, had asked him a week before if he had interest to realize the EP, a week before the toquín. He said we talked after the show, as we pushed the team to the panel, accepted and said: 'Simon must do it!', Route 44 is a very respected skateboard company in San Diego, they made some recordings how: The Widows San Diego Calling Collect, Shark Blood Party Wave and the debut of: Death Eyes, titled: D_eath Eyes_ LP. Owner Matt Ohlin played the bass in classic San Diego bands, such as: Fishwife & Tanner, it's a healed vato! Over there I heard that they will return to open their store in the future. I hope so.
Has Death Eyes always employed bilingual Spanish/English lyrics or is this EP the first time you've done so? What's the reasoning behind your going down this path?
Jurado: Yeah, I have always employed Spanish/English lyrics. Sometimes I'll write lyrics in both English and Spanish. In fact, on our last album our song, "Wasted Prayers" is in both languages. It all depends on how the idea of the song was born and how I want to get my message across. The reason why we've taken this path is because we can.
(Spanish) Jurado: Sí, yo siempre he empleado mis letras en español/ ingles, en veces escribo en los dos idiomas, por ejemplo en nuestro último LP la canción "Wasted Prayers" está escrita en ingles y en español. Todo depende de cómo nació la idea para la canción y cómo quisiera expresar mi mensaje. La razón del porqué tomamos ese camino es: simplemente porque podemos.
(Google Translate) Jurado: Yes, I have always used my lyrics in Spanish/English, sometimes I write in both languages, for example in our last LP the song "Wasted Prayers" is written in English and Spanish. It all depends on how the idea for the song was born and how I wanted to express my message. The reason why we take this path is: simply because we can.
Is there an overriding theme or focus to Death Eyes lyrically and does approaching lyrics bilingually make it easier? Or do certain song topics work better in English than Spanish and vice versa?
Jurado: Like I was saying earlier, it all depends on how the idea came to me. Was I thinking about it in Spanish or English or can I sing it in both languages and in which language does it work better? Those are things I have in my mind while writing the lyrics.
(Spanish) Jurado: Como dije anteriormente, todo depende de cómo me surge la idea para la canción. Estaba pensando en inglés o en español o si la puedo cantar en los dos idiomas, o cómo se escucharía mejor. Eso es lo que tengo en la mente mientras escribo la letra.
(Google Translate) Jurado: As I said before, it all depends on how I get the idea for the song
I was thinking in English or Spanish or if I can sing it in both languages, or how it would be heard better. That's what I have in mind as I write the lyrics.
The video for "NPI" looks to be both pretty basic and simple in its presentation and execution, but also teeming with some amount of concept and meaning and probably wasn't as easy to film as it appears. What can you tell us about the video and the story surrounding its creation?
Blackmore: I wrote and directed that masterpiece. It took us many, many, many minutes to film. Like an hour total, if that. So yeah. It's pretty basic and simple. No deep hidden meaning. I just wanted it to look like a shitty VHS ransom video. I came up with the video idea after going on tour with Alberto for the first time last year. He yells, grunts and groans and talks about Tom Petty's corpse and black licorice butt plugs in his sleep. I wanted to slit his throat or smother him with a pillow on tour. But I didn't think that the pillow smothering would be as profound as the throat slitting for the video. So, we went with the knife to the throat.
(Spanish) Blackmore: Yo escribí y dirigí esta obra maestra, me tomó muchos, muchos minutos para filmar como una hora en total. Pue jí. Fue algo básico y sencillo. Nada de mensajes ocultos o subliminales. Yo nomás quería hacer un video de rescate de la calidad gacha al estilo VHS. Me salió la idea después de nuestra primera gira con Alberto. Cuando dormía él gritaba, gruñía, gemía y hablaba acerca del cádaver de Tom Petty y no sé que otras chingaderas, le quería cortar la garganta o ahogar con la almohada esas noches. Pero pensé que ahogarlo con la almohada, no le resultaría tan profundo como cortarle la garganta en video.
(Google Translate) Blackmore: I wrote and directed this masterpiece, it took me many, many minutes to film as an hour in total. Pue ji. It was basic and simple. No hidden or subliminal messages. I just wanted to make a quality rescue video of the VHS style. I came up with the idea after our first tour with Alberto. When he slept, he screamed, growled, moaned, and talked about Tom Petty's corpse and I do not know what other freaks he wanted to cut his throat or drown with his pillow those nights. But I thought that drowning him with the pillow would not be as deep as cutting his throat in video.
So far, I believe your discography has been released exclusively on vinyl. Is this something that as underground punk/hardcore dudes was a given, or just the way things have happened?
Jurado: It was a given for sure.
(Spanish) Jurado: Porque en vinilo es el único modo.
(Google Translate) Jurado: Why vinyl is the only way.
Aside from your upcoming West Coast mini-tour, what other plans are afoot for the band once the album is out and about?
Jurado: We hope to start playing in Mexico this year and later hopefully do the mid-west and the east coast, but first we'll most likely go back to the garage and write a whole new full length LP. We have lots of ideas already and we can't wait to show them to the people.
(Spanish) Jurado: Ojalá empezáramos a tocar en México este año, después una gira en el centro y el este de Estados Unidos, pero primero tendremos que regresar al estudio a producir el nuevo disco. Ya tenemos muchas ideas y estamos entusiasmados por mostrárselas a la raza.
(Google Translate) Jurado: Hopefully we will start playing in Mexico this year, then a tour in the center and east of the United States, but first we will have to return to the studio to produce the new album. We already have many ideas and we are excited to show them to the race.