‘Heart’ by Tombstones In Their Eyes | New Album, ‘Sea of Sorrow’ | Interview
Exclusive video premiere of ‘Heart’ by fuzzed out shoegazers Tombstones In Their Eyes, taken from their upcoming album, ‘Sea of Sorrow,’ out via Kitten Robot Records.
The band is back after their recently released fuzzed out, melodic EP ‘A Higher Place’. The latest single ‘Heart’ is a nice preview of what will be heard on their upcoming album, ‘Sea of Sorrow,’ out via Kitten Robot Records (exact date will follow). Be prepared for another slice of shoegaze-desert rock.
When and where did the band originally form?
John Treanor: It involves some crazy luck/chance. I had a friend named James Cooper when I was a kid, we probably met around 13. We met because both our mothers are from Finland and knew each other from the San Diego Finnish “scene.” Anyway, James and I became fast friends and, as punk rock was finally reaching our town, started to write some songs together. His big sister, Jessica, gave us our first punk haircuts. We wrote a couple of songs, at least one of which was used in a later band that James was in. Then, as kids do, we kinda drifted apart with different crowds in the punk scene. I kept in touch with his sister, and sometime around 2013, was having coffee with her and asked about James. You’re not always sure you want to meet up with old friends, but what she told me gave me the feeling we could talk again. It was crazy when we finally talked. It was like no time had passed (actually 30 years had passed, haha). We had both lived the punk rock / rock and roll lifestyle and eventually both hit bottom and cleaned up our lives. So, by the time we met, we were both healthy and good guys. And we still loved music. Neither of us had bands at the time. I had quit my last band about 5 years previously and taken a break from the grind. But we decided to try writing some songs together, even though he lived in NYC and I in Los Angeles. We traded projects in Dropbox, using Garageband to record, and came up with some fun stuff. Finally, we had enough songs to where I thought it would be cool to get some local friends to help me record them in a real studio. I had a friend, Sam Sherwood, who played drums, and another friend, Josh Drew, who played bass. We went into a local studio and recorded about 10 songs. Then, when it came time to mix, I asked around and heard about this guy, Paul Roessler, who I had met briefly before. I went over to his studio and it seemed like a perfect fit. We spent some time mixing and re-recording parts of the songs (I think I even did an acoustic song there). The first record, ‘Sleep Forever,’ was uneven, I think now, as if we had not found our sound, but there was some cool stuff there. So, that’s the origin story, and James, Paul and I are still working together. Amazing that a meeting after 30 years would result in such a cool and long-lasting project.
Very cool. Other than those guys, has the line-up changed much over the years/what is the current line-up?
Our original drummer, Sam, quit after our first show. So, for the 2nd recording, the EP ‘Bad Clouds,’ I hired a drummer named Stephen Striegel. He, Josh and I recorded and mixed that record at Paul’s studio, Kitten Robot Studios. It came out much better than the first album, as if we were finding our feet. And we further developed our relationship with Paul. Since then, we’ve tried one drummer, who didn’t last long, on our 2nd EP, ‘FEAR,’ so we brought Stephen Striegel back in to finish the EP. By then, we also had picked up a bass player named Mike Mason, and Josh Drew had switched to guitar. After the ‘FEAR’ EP, Stephen said he wanted to officially join the band, so that was great. We did another two EPs and a record with that lineup, the ‘Shutting Down’ EP, the ‘Nothing Here’ EP and finally, our second album, ‘Maybe Someday’. After that album, Mike Mason, our bass player, moved out of town and Josh switched back to bass for a while. During the time after that we released ‘Collection’ (a compilation of all the early stuff) and recorded the ‘Looking For a Light’ album.
There was some shuffling around after that. Josh left to be with his new family and do his own music and we brought in Paul Boutin on guitar, Nic Nifoussi on bass, Phil Cobb on guitar and Courtney Davies on backing/harmony vocals. This is mostly to fill out the live show so that we can have that 3-guitar-attack along with the 3 vocalists (Nic also does backing vocals). We did the EP ‘A Higher Place’ after that, but not everyone got on the record.
The current lineup is:
John Treanor – songs, guitar, vocals, keys
Phil Cobb – lead guitar
Stephen Striegel – drums
Nic Nifoussi – bass/backing vox
Courtney Davies – backing vox
Paul Boutin – guitar
James Cooper – midi/drum programming, synths, musical guidance
When you write music, is it a collaborative process with the other band members or is it more your vision of the band that comes through?
Short answer: my vision, but I’m trying to change that with some of the new members and encourage collaboration. Our songwriting process generally goes like this: I’ll sit down and open Logic. Choose a drum beat to play along to. Write a rhythm guitar part. Sing along to that part in a stream of consciousness fashion and see what comes out. If it’s a good song and the lyrics are good, sometimes I’ll keep them as is, or with minor tweaks. Then I’ll add melodies, solos, bass, sometimes keys. I’ll let James in NYC know it’s there and often I’ll wake up to the song with a great drumbeat and some synths added. Other times I’ll wake up to a stripped and chopped version that’s cooler than what I initially wrote. You never know.
So, the songwriting process is really more my vision, with James helping me decide which songs are worth following.
I like that “stream of consciousness” approach. Like James Joyce or Jack Kerouac. You have put out an impressive discography so far and you have two more albums coming up soon. What can you tell us about these new ones?
We’ve got so many songs to work with that it got confusing and stressful for a bit. That’s why we released the ‘A Higher Place’ EP, it acted as sort of a pressure release valve. At least we got some songs out there and could go back to working on the album. For this album, ‘Sea of Sorrow,’ which is now mastered, has the art done and is in the pressing plant and CD factory, that will be more relief. I had so many songs to choose from that I just went with my heart, putting on the songs that made me feel good at that moment. It covers a lot of ground, from the opener ‘Trapped,’ a fuzzed out mantra, to ‘Hope,’ a dreamy but gritty tale of darkness and light. It’ll be 10 songs on the vinyl, 12 on the CD. One of the CD-only songs, ‘Bride,’ was written primarily by James and is different from anything else we’ve done. So, now we’re back with 20 songs to work with, but a little less pressure. Paul and I will go in the studio and tweak them, make them better, fuzzier, noisier, prettier, whatever they need. And Courtney is coming in to sing some more harmonies, even though she’s already on about half of the songs already.
“Life is a storm and we’re just trying to stay afloat”
I love that you have this nautical theme going on in all your album artwork. What is the story behind this? Do you touch on this in lyrics as well?
The “ships in storm” theme started with our first album. I was going through a pretty rough depression during the early few years of the band that I felt like that imagery fit our vibe. Life is a storm and we’re just trying to stay afloat/alive. Simple. I try to keep it just that. Only the ships in the storm, without expanding into real nautical themes. No anchors or ropes all over the sleeve, et cetera. Just the cover carries the theme. And I have written a song called ‘Ship on the Sea,’ but that was really not related to the “theme” in the covers.
Tell me a little bit about “The Bitter Seas Radio Show” and how people can find it and give it a listen…
Bret Miller of Eardrum Buzz Radio asked me to co-host a show with him some time back and I was hooked. I love sharing what I consider to be great music with people. So I asked him if I could have a slot and that’s now every other Tuesday from 6pm to 9pm Pacific. The address is https://www.eardrumbuzz.net
We’re hoping to be able to move to another platform that will allow listeners to listen in different ways, on different devices, etc. I’d love to get it to where I could stream it over my Sonos system. And it would be nice to broaden the reach, as well. Bret started a Patreon page where folks can contribute towards that goal.
I play all kinds of stuff, at least in the rock genre, from Love to Unsane. Plenty of psych, some doom and metal, punk, straight dirty rock and roll, shoegaze, et cetera.
Any bands that we might not be aware of that you would like to recommend?
The Kundalini Genie, Rev Rev Rev, Magic Castles, Jesus On Heroine (no longer around, but a brilliant first record), The Underground Youth, We Are Wood, Chatham Rise (really underrated), Dead Ghosts, The Cult Of Dom Keller, 9 volt-velvet (great guys), Black Market Karma. And I have to throw in Songs: Ohia ‘The Magnolia Electric Co.,’ even though Jason passed away a few years back. Beautiful stuff. There’s tons of great stuff out there now and obviously in the past, which makes the radio show so fun.
I see that you have been playing more live gigs lately now that the world is returning to “normal.” How has that been for you guys? Any upcoming shows?
Yes, we played a few shows and then pulled back to finish the record. But we are starting rehearsals shortly and plan on taking it nice and slow. I want to get really good and powerful before we venture out on stage again, as our last shows were pretty stressful and chaotic. We’ll probably get out there in late January or early February. With three guitars, it’s going to be a blast in more ways than one!
Aside from the upcoming releases, any future plans/ideas for TiTE?
I will keep doing this as long as the songs keep coming. I’m one of those who sees the songs as a gift from the universe and I’ve been really fortunate for the past 7-8 years.
Thanks again, John. Last words to readers of Psychedelic Baby are yours!
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Headline photo: Karin Johansson