An Interview With Toronto's DOUBLE EYELID
21/06/2019, William ZIMMERMAN
Double Eyelid was formed in Toronto in 2009, as a vehicle for the songs and vision of lead singer and central band member Ian Revell. Now joined by guitarist Sky Shaver, Double Eyelid is currently gigging regularly and working on the long-awaited follow-up to Seven Years, which is tentatively titled “Skeleton Key.” Meanwhile, Double Eyelid has just released the single "A Means To An End" featuring a remix by legendary ebm/industrial pioneer Claus Larsen of Leaether Strip. We'd like to thank Ian Revell-Double Eyelid's mastermind for his time.
For the readers who perhaps might be unfamiliar, could you give us a background on the Double Eyelid name and a brief history?
In the early 2000s I sort of burned what had been my life to the ground and went to South Korea to teach English with someone I’d fallen in love with - I stayed for somewhere between 3 and 4 years. ‘Double Eyelid’ is a phrase the Koreans use to describe eyelids that have a crease; most Asians don’t have that naturally but most Westerners do, and plastic surgery to give your eyelids a crease was fairly popular there at the time. So that was just an odd expression that stuck with me because it was used to describe a way that I looked different there, as the stranger in a strange land. It got added to the list of possible band names for future use and eventually its number came up.
The project just started as a way to get my songs out there. I recruited a couple of old friends to help me (Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip and Karl Mohr) - we’d previously been together in another band - and then later grabbed another old friend (Sky Shaver) when Karl wanted to shift away from playing guitar live. Actually, in one very early incarnation of the project Sky had been the drummer, but then he insisted on taking a holiday from the band to make a solo album when this gig I really wanted to play was coming up … so I got a drum machine and the rest is history …
It's been three years since your remix album and five since your last full-length LP. What's been going on since then?
Lots, my life is very full.
When we made ’Seven Years’ it was a complete statement. It was a weird document of a life in crisis at the time and even the whole recording process - it sort of felt like it was being made against the odds, there were just all of these disparate elements and things that didn’t quite fit together but somehow Karl and I managed to drag it over the finish line. And then we were exhausted, we were done. But I knew it was good and I thought ‘well at least I’ve done a good record now, I can go to my deathbed knowing I did that.’ We did the remix album next because we knew the songs on the record were mostly too weird to get played in clubs, so we were trying to get different takes on the songs and hopefully appeal to the DJs. That was a real outreach exercise and it was really cool, I’m glad we did it. But when we started that, I had this idea that it would buy us some time to let me write the next record … I was so naive - it really just became this all-consuming project that tied me up for more than a year. It’s the disadvantage of being independent, I guess - but the flip side to that is we got a record that I love out of it, I’m proud of the way it all hangs together.
So since then … we’ve been playing gigs when people ask us to, and working on new material. We just released a single but there’s a bunch of other stuff still in progress. And we’ve done some interesting shows - Karl and I did a live, improvised soundtrack of all new music for ’The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ and I’m proud of what we did there, I’d gladly do it again if someone wanted us to remount it. Sky and I have done a bunch of gigs together including one with David J. The train keeps a rollin’ …
Your new single features a remix by the legendary Claus Larsen of Leaether Strip. How did that come about?
I’m sort of allergic to releasing a song all by itself - I grew up buying vinyl so every single has to have a flip side, you know? There were a few other options for how we could have released this but in the end I thought a remix was the way to go - and I went to Claus because if you know anything about him, you know he’s a huge Depeche Mode fan and this song had that influence and sensibility, which I felt like maybe he could bring out in a way we couldn’t. He did a remix for us before so I had his number so to speak … I just reached out and fortunately he had the time. I’m so absolutely thrilled with what he did - he put a ton of love into it and I enjoy listening to his take on it.
You have an interesting fusion of sounds, especially evident on your debut. There's almost a combo including some noire and even modern classical influences. Can you talk about the inspiration that might find its way into your songwriting? Your "Black Box" video has a bit of a noire feel as well. Is this genre of inspiration to you?
When we started we didn’t really know what genre of music we were doing - the effort was just to get my songs out there. So then people told us we were goth and we believed them. Everything I write is coming from a dark place usually because that’s what’s interesting to me. So it works. And my voice just sounds a certain way, so for better and for worse that defines what we do. But with regard to how it sounds as a whole, I have to credit that mostly to the brilliant musicians I work with. Karl Mohr listens to things in a level of detail that is beyond the comprehension of most, including myself. Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip is brilliant - he’s a completely intuitive and wonderful pianist. And Sky Shaver is great at synthesizing all of it and making it work in the live context - with one guitar he can build atmospheres that are equal to things we spent weeks multi-tracking.
But I sidetracked a bit there. Yes - I go for tragedy over comedy every time. That’s where we’re at.
You have a unique, very personal-sounding list of tracks on yr. debut release. Could you talk about the track "John”?
Wow. No one’s asked me about ‘John’ for awhile. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but ‘John’ is actually a cover. But it’s a cover of a song that I’m one of maybe less than 10, 20 people who actually remembers the original, I think. So … in the mid-90s, I lived in Kingston and played in a band that sounded like a mix of Stone Temple Pilots and Tom Waits. And I was not the songwriter in this project - I played the bass. But I was committed to it and put a lot of myself into it, and was seriously disappointed when it didn’t go anywhere, because the guy who was driving it I thought was a brilliant writer. But we were all young and volatile, there were too many bad drugs and conflicting personalities and we couldn’t make it work. So … here’s the thing. People have asked me about this song before and I’ve said things like how I felt like this band I was in before never got its due, so it was my responsibility to put ‘John’ out there. And that’s true - but it’s only half the story. The truth is that when I started Double Eyelid, I didn’t believe in my own writing, so ‘John’ was like a suit of armour that I put on right at the very beginning of all of this. Because I knew it was good; my own stuff, I wasn’t so sure about. It served its purpose at the time but we don’t really play it live these days. Maybe we’ll play it live again if we do a set where we play the whole album or something like that.
Have you ever written a track that came from such a place emotionally that you felt it unsuitable for public release?
Yes, and in some cases even unsuitable to share with close friends. You have to remember … once you release something, there’s this chain of things that happens where you promote it and then people listen to it and write about it and interpret it for themselves and want to tell you and everyone else what they think about it … you have to be psychologically ready for that. And sometimes I’m just not, so it doesn’t come out. Those can still be worth writing though.
You have a gig coming up in Seattle at Mechanismus as well as a short, west coast tour. Do you want to talk about that a bit?
We’re thrilled that we were offered this gig. Ali has been nothing but awesome. I thought at first we’d be an odd fit for it, but the night that we’re playing I like how he’s planned it - it’s a good mix of goth and industrial. Should be great!
So other than the tour, what's next for Double Eyelid in 2019 and 2020 that you envision?
The tour’s a big one so I think after that we’ll need to go to ground for a bit. More recording, hopefully a full-length release early 2020. Maybe another video if the right collaboration comes up.
Many years in the distant future, a family member locates a box in the attic of an old home. In that box they find a Double Eyelid CD and something to play it on. What do you want this person to know of your legacy simply from listening to your music?
The legacy is the music itself, and it’s also a snapshot of where I was at when I did it. They’ll know a bit about my state of mind, and that I had some talented friends who could help me pull it off ;)
You've been commissioned to do the soundtrack for a remake of a classic or underground horror film. What do you choose and why?
I think we’re getting too many remakes these days … most of my favourite films I wouldn’t want to have remade anyways. We’d be more interested in working with new writers. But doing a live soundtrack for a silent film would be different - we’ve done that before and I’d love to do it again. Maybe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - that’s one that’s kind of relatable.
TED PARSONS • 'I got back into doing my artwork. And that makes me happy!'
DANIELLE DE PICCIOTTO • 'I feel connected to other people because they understand the result of my thoughts.'
KENNEY JONES • 'There's always an element of doubt in anything you do'
TREHA SEKTORI • ‘I Have A Feeling Of Constant Dissatisfaction, So I'll Get Back To Work To Make It Better’
JAKE BURNS (STIFF LITTLE FINGERS) • 'We were writing a songs about our own rights'
JAZ COLEMAN (KILLING JOKE) • 'The best way to write music is to forget about music.'
STACY COCHRAN • 'I didn’t want to write something cruel; I wanted to find the daily fears and even some transcendent pragmatism inside a complicated set of characters...'
APSURDE • No Matter What We Do, We Will Always Sound Like Depeche Mode
VANGUARD • We Had The Concept Of Doing Something That Ties Man And Machine Together
ANDY GILL (GANG OF FOUR) • 'You never expect Gang of Four to be very optimistic.Do you ?'
Other reviews from DOUBLE EYELID
DOUBLE EYELID • As a listener I’ve always been drawn to ‘difficult’ stuff, that’s the space where I’m at home.