Eaters will release their second album this Friday (May 12) via Dull Tools. Bob Jones and Jonathan Schenke have expanded the sonic palette of their 2014 debut considerably this time around, with some songs firmly in “rock” territory (like the awesome, Eno-esque opening cut “Embrace the Strange”) and other further exploring dance music. There are still atmospheric, soundtrack-y cuts as well but this is a much more confident, engaging album. It’s pretty terrific and you can listen to the whole thing right now — an album stream premieres below.
Eaters, which these days are a trio live (Chris Duffy provides a visual element, operating kinetic light sculptures), will celebrate the new album at Brooklyn’s Union Pool on Saturday, May 13 with Greg Fox and Operator Music Band. Tickets are on sale.
I talked with Bob and Jonathan, via email, about the new album, embracing the strange and singing this time around, how playing live changed what they do in the studio, and more. Read that, while listening to the new LP, below.
There was some singing on Eaters first album, but this one seems much more vocally-oriented. Was that a conscious decision?
Bob Jones: Definitely. For me it was a combination of things. After playing a bunch of shows and some touring with Eaters I wanted to create some music that would be able to connect with audiences more directly. I still very much love challenging “strange” music but I’m interested in connecting with other human beings in general these days so the music reflects that. My ideal reaction for a person seeing or hearing us the first time is “What IS this?!…. I like it!” Also, and probably more importantly, I had things going on in my life I wanted to specifically write about.
Jonathan Schenke: The first record was initially a studio creation between Bob and me, with no thought of ever playing it live. But once we got on stage, we realized that it didn’t completely translate in a live setting. So we started writing proper “songs”, if you will – material to play live. This new LP is the result of that new approach.
The album opens with “Embrace the Strange,” which is your poppiest, rockiest song to date with an almost Eno feel to it. There are much dancier and harder electronic songs as well. Is Eaters anything you want it to be?
JS: Haha yeah, it absolutely is for me! Bob and I started Eaters with a shared musical vocabulary/vision in mind, but I really enjoy the freedom to experiment and explore with this project… it gives me an opportunity that I don’t have day-to-day in music production.
B: It certainly is! I find “gentrification” of contemporary music to be a massive bore! There’s what we both want to do, and what we can do, and in the middle somewhere, what we actually do. Those things change, because we’re human beings and that’s what human beings do. I’ve never understood doing it any other way.
It’s been three years since your first album. How much of that time was spent on the album, and how do you know when a record is done?
JS: Working out of [Jonathan’s studio] Doctor Wu’s gives us the luxury of time. “Embrace the Strange” was written while we were touring the first record as something people could really grab onto live, and we added from there, working in fits and spurts. I’d like to work differently with the next album, but working like this did give us time to tour, work on various compilation tracks, and compose for our sound sculptures (‘Moment of Inertia’ EP and the ‘Prisms’ soundtrack). In general, I’ve found that a record’s done when you run out of time, money, or interest. But with Eaters, I know the record’s done when I see a rabbit hole and realizing I’ve been there before… means it’s time to write something new.
B: Tough to say how long we spent as it was broken up over the three years, but it felt like a long time! I know it’s done when Jonny says it sounds good haha. Seriously this time I learned more about why the call it a “release” y’know. There comes a time when you have to accept it is what it is. I love the making part so it’s easy to want to stretch that out and endlessly fiddle, but when we finally got the bass sound right on “Embrace the Strange” I was ready to send it to the plant!
JS: I think we tried literally every synth we owned or had at Wu’s for that one bass sound…
Eaters are now a trio live. How has that changed what you do and what you’re able to do? Has it changed what you do in the studio?
B: Christopher Duffy’s visuals have been in the mix live pretty much from the get go. It’s tied back to your other question, and really just an expansion of what Eaters is. We are interested in art and visual elements of performance and felt like there was plenty to play with there. A video projector is pretty boring and usually looks crappy imo. Chris’s work is punk as fuck, it’s incredibly DIY, he controls it dynamically, and it consistently creates an “Eaters space” wherever it gets set up. It catches people off guard and pulls them in, all things we want.
JS: Chris is an old friend, and a gifted glass sculptor and installation artist. He’s created this incredible collection of “kinetic light sculptures” and has performed nearly every the show with us, but only recently have we convinced him to get onstage. I love threes and Chris is great company, so having him as an integral member feels right. His ideas for the sound sculptures and installations have certainly broadened the scope of what and how Bob and I write for the project.
Speaking of, your studio is named Dr. Wu. Is he crazy or is he high? Or just an ordinary guy?
JS: Doctor Wu was far from an ordinary guy! He was the father of our studio owner Yale, a painter and sculptor, a poetic translator of the I Ching, and one of the first people to popularize Chinese medicine in Western Culture. One of his more notable accomplishments was helping people kick heroin thorough acupuncture and his other healing practices – he treated Steely Dan back in the ’70s (though it’s unclear if it was for heroin, pain, or both), which led to the song. We have a bunch of his books and art around the studio, so even though I never met the man, I regularly feel his positive presence.
Any surprises in store for the Union Pool record release show?
B: You’re going to have to come and see for yourself!
JS: Sorry Bill, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we told you.