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Many nascent local artists spend their time gigging, but All Eyes have been working out their material in seclusion — exactly how lead singer/songwriter Alicia Wiley likes it.
I'm at Caffetto Café off Lyndale with three-quarters of the band on a sweltering hot July day, but Wiley's skin is a Casper-white usually reserved for the depths of a Minnesota winter. When some artists tell you they "love the process of recording," it reeks of exhibitionist guilt. In Wiley's case, it's easy to believe she's been happily holed up for months, meticulously assembling each song.
"We have to convince her to care about playing shows, honestly," drummer/programmer Luke Anderson says.
Impressively, the group's debut album, Shelf Life, is already in the can. For Wiley, who wrote all the songs, "It was always going to happen that way no matter what." Wiley was already well-acquainted with recording prior to All Eyes, having put out five solo albums in the space of eight years. Though she and Anderson both have backgrounds in jazz , Wiley recently found herself gravitating to new sounds and felt the urge to collaborate with others on a different kind of project.
Asked to describe All Eyes' music, Wiley throws out the catch-all term "dark electronic," and Shelf Life offers a thoroughly comprehensive survey, stretching from the gossamer trip-hop of Massive Attack's Blue Lines and Tricky's Maxinquaye to bolder gloom-pop descendents like recent local breakout Poliça. But true to the band's jazz roots, bandcamp-posted tracks like "On the Sidelines" and "All I Want" restlessly push at the margins, shifting and morphing, defying even Wiley's admittedly broad categorization.
The entire album was recorded over a year, split between the now-defunct Fuzzy Slippers studio in St. Paul and Marino Jones, where bassist Joe Christenson currently works as an in-house producer. Wiley insists the sessions were "pretty spaced out," but Shelf Life certainly sounds like a record that benefitted from plenty of recording time and top-flight production, not to mention experience. All four members have recorded previously, either as part of a different band, in a production role, or both.
Interestingly, the group's intense focus and discipline in the studio don't appear to extend as readily to other areas. Questions about labels, a proper album release, and future gigs are met with quizzical stares. Finally, Christenson admits, "I think it's more fun to let things happen, put [the album] online and just let people hear it." Anderson sheepishly adds a noncommittal, "Maybe we'll do a release [show] at 7th St."
For now they seem content to simply bask in the completion of the record (method and date of release to be determined) and leave the rest to chance. Predictably, Wiley is already looking for excuses to get back to recording. She estimates she has eight new songs ready to go. For All Eyes, winter can't come soon enough.