Wild Eyes AKA Wild Eyes S.F. interview with Carson Binks and Janiece Gonzalez
Someone call Marty McFly because I found a time machine, a surefire way to hit eighty-eight miles per hour in thirty seconds or less… San Francisco’s Wild Eyes are dishing out seriously fuzzed out riffage a la Deep Purple and Black Sabbath like hits of acid at a Dead show! Lead singer Janiece Gonzlez’s voice is a smoky, powerful and intense experience easily shredding through the din of distortion and thunderous bottom end. She reminds me a lot of the strong female leads of the late 60’s and early 70’s, Joplin or Melanie meets Mia Zapata, a twisted chanteuse-esque blast of power and emotion. The guitars carry a twinge of tasty southern rock as they jump between meating out gnarly riffage and melting the fret board off with mind bending hard psych rock solos that build up like frenzied sky scrapers of sound, before imploding and tumbling back into the melody of the song, like a tsunami wave carrying the listener off into the ocean of fuzz and distortion! Usually I struggle with what to call a band, what to tell people they sound like when they might have never even heard of them before. That’s not the case with Wild Eyes. They’re hard rock, period. End of sentence. Straight up, no nonsense, no bullshit, real deal rock ‘n’ rollers; and god damn is it refreshing to hear a band like that. They’re not striving for some retro sound, they’re not hung up on notions of what they should sound like, they’re just out there kicking ass and taking names. With one self-titled album under their belts, rumblings on the street of another release and recently interviewing their label mates Hot Lunch (Interview here), it was time to stare down these Wild Eyes long enough to get them to answer some questions about the band! Just trust me and stream the debut album at the Bandcamp; you can thank me later.
What’s Wild Eyes’ lineup these days? Is this your original lineup or have there been any changes since the band started?
Janiece: Wild Eyes started super randomly! I was singing karaoke in The Mission and Justin Caucutt, our original guitar player, saw me and was like “Dude! Wanna jam!?!” I had no idea what that meant, so I asked my ex Jesse and his bud Carson if they wanted to come; I was nervous and didn’t know shit… They showed up with me and it kicked ass!!! Since then Justin has gotten married and Jesse and I broke up. Chris was a good bud and a killer guitar player and he agreed to link up with our train. Carson found Ben after touring with Saviours on the east coast… I couldn’t be happier with the lineup now.
Carson: This is Carson Binx, bassist in Wild Eyes speaking. Our original lineup was myself, Janiece Gonzales on vox, Justin Caucutt on guitar and Jesse Thompson on drums. Justin quit before we played our first show and was replaced by Chris Corona. After we recorded the first album, Jesse was replaced by the mighty Ben Richardson.
I love playing musical connect the dots, there’s nothing more fun than trying to figure out everything that someone’s been up to, expect for maybe cheating… Are any of you in any other active bands at this point? Have you released any music with anyone in the past? If so, can you tell us about that
Carson: This is Janiece’s first band, but the rest of us have been in plenty of bands. Currently, I also play in a band called Saviours. In the past, I’ve released music with Parchman Farm and Dzjenghis Khan. Chris is in Floating Goat and Hazzard’s Cure.
Where are you all originally from?
Janiece: I’m from Long Beach California. A true rock n roll hood rat who survived and got the fuck out!
Carson: Ben is from Washington D.C., Chris is from Southern California and I’m from Toronto.
What was the music scene like there when you were younger? Did you see a lot of shows? Do you feel like the scene there playing a large, important role in shaping the way that you play today or in forming your musical tastes?
Carson: I’ve been to hundreds of shows over the years, but can’t say I’ve ever been influenced by any scene in particular. I moved to San Francisco thinking I’d find lots of other people who wanted to play super heavy rock in the vein of Blue Cheer, but it ended up taking ten years to get the band that existed in my head to come to fruition.
Janiece: I grew up sneaking out of my super Christian home to go see bands like The Angry Samoans and The Mormons. The music scene in Long beach was shitty, but we had to make what we could outta it I guess. I’m just glad I didn’t end up a square like all those other dudes.
What was your home like when you were growing up? Was there a lot of music in the house? Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely, involved or interested in music?
Carson: Growing up, I would listen to my Dad’s records all the time, which included the rock standards, The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, Grand Funk and the oldies station. We didn’t have cable, but I remember seeing some videos at friends’ houses and liking Michael Jackson. The video for “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock scared the shit outta me. I especially liked watching Solid Gold and Soul Train at my friend Gregory’s house; he was black.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music? When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about?
Carson: I was lucky enough to see some really good shows when I was still a child. I saw the Stampeders, who wrote the song “Wild Eyes” which we’re named after, when I was ten and saw The Stones the following year. But one show that really changed my outlook was a Toronto band called The Leather Uppers. They played fast loud rock ‘n’ roll and weren’t afraid to look like they were having fun doing it, pretty refreshing in 1995 when you weren’t cool unless you just stood there staring at your feet. So yeah, from then onwards it was all about creating excitement through rock ‘n’ roll.
Janiece: My best friend Shayla’s dad Chris, was the first metal head I had ever met. It was funny as shit, he would call me “smoker” cause I’ve had a scratchy voice since I was a kid. He introduced me to Judas Priest, Deep Purple and Sabbath first!!! Dude totally still rules.
If you were to pick a single moment, a moment that changed everything and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music, what would it be?
Carson: For me that would be finding the Blue Cheer single “Just A Little Bit” b/w “Gypsy Ball” as a teenager. I hadn’t heard the second LP yet, and I remember taking it home to listen to with a couple friends. We had a smoke, dropped the needle and were completely blown away! The other side did not disappoint in the least either. At that point, I knew what kind of music I wanted to make. Oh yeah, after that we smoked some more and played it at 33 rpm. I remember all of us having the sensation of melting into a puddle on the floor and lying there immobilized. Doesn’t get much heavier than that my friend!
Can you tell us what your first instrument was? When did you get that and how did you get it?
Carson: I suppose my first instrument was a harmonica my aunt gave me, but I was like five and never really learned how to play it. I took piano lessons later, but hated it. Once I figured out what a bass was I wanted one. So, when I was fifteen my dad bought me a Japanese United for fifteen dollars at a garage sale and I knew right away it was the instrument for me.
When and how did you all originally meet? What exactly led to the formation of Wild Eyes and when was that?
Carson: We all met through playing in bands and going to shows here in San Francisco. Janiece toured with my other band Saviours running the merch stand, always a bonding experience, and after we got back she mentioned wanting to start a band. I’d been wanting to start a female fronted rock band, a la Shocking Blue for years, so I offered to play bass immediately. I’d been in Dzjenghis Khan with Jesse so he was in, and Janiece found Justin, so we had a band. Then after Justin left, Janiece recruited Chris who fit in perfectly. Later, we were out a drummer and after hanging with Ben I knew he was the man for the job.
What does the name Wild Eyes mean or refer to in the context of your band name? Who came up with it? How did you go about choosing it?
Janiece: We all agreed to name the band Wild Eyes after the Stampeders song “Wild Eyes”. Those dudes killed that song… So fucking rad!
Carson: “Wild Eyes” is a song by the Canadian rock band Stampeders. We just like the song and the way the name conjures up the spirit of us real rock ‘n’ roller, outta controllers.
Is there any shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band lives by?
Carson: Life is a barbeque and shirts are optional! Also have a good time, all the time.
Where is Wild Eyes located at these day? How would you describe the local music scene where you all are at right now? Do you feel like the local music scene has played a large or important role in shaping the sound of Wild Eyes or the sound of the bound or do you feel like Wild Eyes could be doing what you are and sound like you do regardless of your location or surroundings?
Carson: We’re all in San Francisco. The scene is pretty happening these days with lots of good bands which we always enjoy going to see. Unfortunately, a lot of the artistic community is getting squeezed out due to the city being taken over by IT firms, but I won’t bore you with San Francisco politics. I’d like to think that we’d sound like us regardless of where we’re located. We are in the scene, but not of the scene.
Janiece: San Francisco has so few rock bands left… The fucking tech nerds are kicking all the musicians out. But the bands here are all our super good buds. I hope we keep it alive as long as we can man, it’s becoming a bummer.
Whenever I do these interviews I inevitably have to describe how a band sounds but every time that I do it I end up feeling like I’ve put way too much of my own perceptions of the music into the descriptions and I’m somehow selling the band short, especially when I have a forum like this where I can offer them an opportunity to do so for themselves. How would you describe Wild Eyes’ sound to our readers who might not have heard you before? And while we’re talking so much about the basic DNA of the band I’m curious who you would cite as your major musical influences? You all have a nice throw-back sound but I can hear some more contemporary stuff kicking around in there if I’m not mistaken as well. What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
Carson: I always just tell people we’re a heavy rock ‘n’ roll band, nothing too fancy; we just try to keep it simple and do it right. As far as influences go I don’t think the bands we all like will surprise anyone, Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Sabbath, Shocking Blue, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Pentagram… I could fill a page.
Can you describe Wild Eyes’ songwriting process? Is there someone who comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more complete idea to work out and compose with the rest of the band or do you all get together and kick ideas back and forth refining them into a song over a process of exchanging ideas?
Carson: Songwriting is very much a group effort. Although we all contribute little bits to every aspect of a song, Chris usually comes up with riffs, Janiece writes the lyrics and I do most of the arranging.
Do you all enjoy recording? As a musician myself I think that most of us can appreciate holding an album in your hands. There’s an undeniable awesomeness about holding your own album in your hands knowing that it’s yours and that no one can ever take that away from you. Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and sounding the way that you want it, well that’s a horse of another color ha-ha! It can be a little bit stressful, to say the very least. What’s it like recording for Wild Eyes? Is there a lot of preparation that goes into a Wild Eyes recording session? Do you spend a lot of time working stuff out and getting things to sound just the way that you want them or do you head in and just kind of let the songs have some breathing room and leave a little bit of room for change and evolution in the recording process?
Carson: Recording can be frustrating, but now that we’re more solid as a band I hope the new record goes smoother. We’re going into a studio, so we’re going to try and have as much worked out as possible just so we don’t waste time and money.
You released your debut Self-Titled Wild Eyes 12” on Who Can You Trust? Records who also released the Hot Lunch LP which is how I heard you all to begin with, and is limited to only 500 copies, which I can only guess won’t be around for long! Can you share some of your memories of recording that first album with us? What was the recording of the material for Wild Eyes like? Was it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all? When and where was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Carson: The first record was actually recorded a year and a half ago at Lucky Cat Recording by Phil Manley, who did a great job of making it; a pleasant experience for all.
Janiece: We smoked a lot of weed and ate a lot of pizza, ha-ha! It was super rad.
With the release of the self-titled album not too long about ago on Who Can You Trust? Records last year (2013), are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Wild Eyes? Where’s the best place for our readers to pick up your stuff? And where’s the best place for our readers, and your fans new and old, to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from Wild Eyes at?
Carson: The next record should be out in October. You can buy our music from our Bandcamp site or, while we don’t have our website up yet you can always find us on Facebook as well.
Are there any major goals or big plans that 2014 has in store for 2014? What, if anything, does Wild Eyes have planned as far as touring goes for 2014 so far? You all have played with some great bands! Who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve had a chance to play with so far? Do you have any funny and or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Janiece: We got to get out to Europe! DUH!! Stoked to finally rip it out there!
Carson: The new record should be out by October in time for our first European tour, which we’re excited about. Hopefully we’ll also do some touring in the states before then. We like playing with our label mates Hot Lunch (Interview here) and Lecherous Gaze, but my personal favorite would have to be the King Khan and BBQ Show, because they’re really old friends of mine and they’re hilarious. My favorite band to be on tour with and watch every night is Danava, since I think they’re the best band in the U.S. We don’t have any really good stories yet, but we haven’t actually done any touring. We’ve been kicked off stage for being too loud, but that’s about it.
Do you give a lot of thought to the visuals aspects that represent the band like artwork for fliers, posters and covers? Do you have any artists that you usually turn to in those times of need? If you do, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?
Carson: Our friend Tim Lehi is a great tattoo artist and was nice enough to do our album cover art. He’s done art for my other band Saviours as well.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums of release that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music? If you do have a preference can you talk a little bit about why? I’m a junky when it comes to physical music product. I grew up around my dad’s massive collection of vintage blues and psychedelia and I was encouraged from a very young age to listen to and enjoy it. I remember I would go up to these shelves of music that never seemed to end, pick something out, stick it in the player, kick back in the beanie bag, read the liner notes, stare at the cover artwork and let the music transport me off to another place. Having something physical to hold in my hands, something to experience physically along with the musical always made for a more complete listening experience and offered for a rare but brief glimpse into the minds of the artist that created it; at least for me. That connection with physical music is something that I don’t think I’ll ever fully shake. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Carson: We obviously prefer vinyl, as that’s the only medium our music is available in besides digital. I prefer buying records that include digital download cards, but I’ve got no problem with CDs, or even cassettes. Obviously it’s nice to have an LP with nice artwork and some liner notes to read, but for me playing records is work. Not that it’s a bad thing, but literally, a good chunk of my meager income comes from DJing, so that’s when I interact with my records the most. I’m only going to play things I want to hear, but at the same time you’re trying to tell a story or make people dance. I only use 45s so generally no pictures unless they’re European pressings, but I really get much more enjoyment out of records when I’m cranking them over a club P.A. for other people. If I’m at home I’ll most likely put my iPod on shuffle and go about my business. No decisions required!
As much as I love my music collection digital music definitely has some major advantages to it and when you team it with the internet you have a real game changer on your hands. Together they’ve exposed people to an entire universe of music that they otherwise would know nothing about and it seems to have levelled the playing field somewhat for independent musicians willing to work hard and promote an online presence. On the other hand though, illegal downloading is running rampant and it’s harder and harder to get noticed in the completely chocked digital jungle out there; nothing is ever black and white. As a musician during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Carson: I’m all for the digital leveling of the playing field. If more people get to hear it, great, if they want the genuine article, be it an actual record or us ourselves playing a show, people can, and will, pay for it. People who are interested in our kind of music generally want a record and they also want to see you live. Another thing that I see as positive is, it’s putting pressure on bands to put on a more memorable live show. I know we deliver!
Janiece: All I’ve got to say is buy fucking records and quit being pussies! Too many nerds… Way to many.
I try to keep up with as much good music and I possibly can by any means necessary but there’s just not enough hours in the day to keep up with even one-percent of the amazing stuff that’s going on out there right now! Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before? What about nationally and internationally?
Carson: Locally there’s a great new band called Older Sun that just opened for us, and OVVL are great. Nationally Danava is always the first band that springs to mind, and Joy are great too. Internationally there’s the Motorwolf label out of The Hague, specifically a newer band called Santa Cruz on that label who are better than 99.9% of the bands out there but nobody knows it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, it’s been awesome learning so much about your band and while I know it can’t have been super easy I hope it was at least a little fun to look back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish in the last few years! Before we call it a day and ride off into the sunset, is there anything that I might have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this time to talk to me or my readers about?
Janiece: Life’s a barbeque and shirts are optional.
Carson: Not much else to say, just come see Wild Eyes when we play your town, you won’t be disappointed; and if you like this record just wait ‘til you hear the next one! Oh yeah, remember that rock ‘n’ roll is where god and the devil shake hands.
– Roman Rathert
(2013) Wild Eyes – Wild Eyes – digital, 12” – Who Can You Trust? Records (Limited to 500 copies)