In Warehouse Eyes, what started out as a duo of Jennie Lawless and Chris Williams has evolved into a full band that has developed it into an intensely poetic and luminous creation. Working with new band members and producer Lance Conrad, the group filtered their experience over the last couple of years into five new songs. Their new EP, Prisms, ebbs, flows, doubles back, and rebuilds; as a whole, it retains the heaviness drawn from its roots while striving for a delicacy and elegance all its own.
Band Members: Jennie Lawless, Christopher Williams, Kevin Scott, Matt Vannelli, Alex Young
How have things changed from being a duo to integrating a full band on this album? Do you feel the sound has changed with a full band?
Jennie Lawless: We actually integrated a full band to record our first EP, Carvings. We had a different guitar player and drummer at that point. We learned a lot about how we wanted our sound to evolve through that recording process. Since then, we feel that we’ve grown and changed substantially and found out more specifically what we wanted musically, and that aligned perfectly with adding Alex Young and Matt Vannelli to the band.
Christopher Williams: Jennie and I write very differently for the full band than we did when we were a duo. Having had a five-piece in some form for a couple years means that the approach is different from start to finish in the creation of a song. I’m already imagining Vannelli parts when I’m writing the first verse, but what he comes up with is always better than I could ever have imagined. Same thing with the whole band. As we’re working on new songs even beyond this EP, I think this band is writing more like a unit and ...
Lawless: ... less like a fleshed-out duo.
How do you feel your sound sound has evolved since the last EP?
Williams: We wrote our first EP without ever having played a show as a full band. Seeing how that material developed, we definitely become interested in more motion-centric music (i.e. dancey music) and have tried to incorporate that into our initial writing processes, too. It took a long time to find a way to make music that stirred a lot of the same feelings in us that also fulfilled this idea.
Lawless: One of the biggest differences to me is the energy of the new songs — they actually make me want to dance on stage, which wasn’t the case with our last EP, with the exception of the song, "Tokyo." By playing live shows and seeking to hone not just our musical performance but also our physicality on stage, we were naturally drawn to more danceable and energetic writing inclinations. Having Alex Young incorporate an SPD-S pad in our live shows has changed the way we arrange songs in the writing process, too. We’re thinking and writing differently because we want to make people move.
Williams: Jennie and I also started trying to dance every day in our living room and we were bummed we couldn’t dance to our own music because that seemed perfectly masturbatory and surreal.
Tell me about the song "I Think I Can Live With It." How did you come about writing it?
Williams: Initially, this tune was mostly my responsibility. It changed completely probably nine different times. I usually write more like a singer-songwriter: piano or guitar, it’s 3 a.m., I’m a little drunk and get a little sad kind of a thing. But this song was different. It started with two lines: "Run until you’re free / if you look back please don’t look at me," and a synth sound that eventually all but disappeared from the arrangement.
Those sat in a Pro Tools session on my computer for two years before I returned to them. The band made a whole new arrangement around that, and I wrote all these new lyrics. Then we got in the studio and completely changed it yet again based around these loops that Lance and Alex made in the basement at Humans Win! Studios. Usually I like when a song comes together simply, but despite its endless transformations, that’s my favorite song on the EP. Lyrically it hits hard for me too, because I don’t always like who I am and I think that song is about accepting that you haven’t always been who you want to be and that’s OK.
Lawless: I kinda miss the synth part, but I guess I’m glad I don’t have to babysit it anymore.
Any standout tracks off the album?
Lawless: If I were to somehow listen to this album objectively, I think the last song, "Smoke," would be the song to hook me. But of course I’m biased and maybe I like this song most because Chris and I wrote it while walking through the streets of New Orleans at night, and exploring the bayou by day. Louisiana has this funny way of making everyone believe in ghosts, and I thought a lot about that while I worked on the lyrics.
Williams: Yeah, "Smoke" and "Same Dream" would be my other two favorites. I think "Smoke" is the one where we sound the most like a band and everybody’s parts are so unique, I know that would be the one to hook me if I weren’t invested. But mostly because my main reaction to it is, "What is this!?," and that’s my favorite reaction to music besides laughter.
How did you meet Lance Conrad, and how did he come to producing the album? How do you think he changed things?
Lawless: Lance heard an early version of the "Same Dream" as part of the Humans Win! songwriting competition, and we figured we’ll meet with him, "Why not?" We were going to just do a single with him and then we really liked what came out, and we decided to do a whole EP.
Lance was not afraid to take our music and completely screw with it, and if we didn’t agree he’d make us stand up for what we believe is best for the songs. He challenged me a lot in the making of this EP, more than anyone has in the past, and I liked that. There isn’t a recording of me singing out there that has more thought and integrity than Prisms.
Williams: Lance is pretty vocal and we liked that. In a creative setting, I’m an arguer. If I have an idea, even if it’s a shitty one, I’m going to say it, and if you have a better idea, I want you to prove your point and Lance is like that. Brian Eno is also like that. But, I want to be clear, we didn’t use Oblique Strategies in the making of this EP.
What are you excited to share at the album release show?
Williams: Our completely revamped live set plus all of our crazy prism-related visual ideas that are definitely going to come to fruition. Jennie’s taking off work to build this Claes Oldenburg-sized prism with a door that the band is gong to play from inside. We’re going to project light experiments from the '60s from the back so that mostly the visual experience is just different kinds of light and we’re just shadows.
Lawless: I don’t know what Chris is talking about. We’re giving everyone who attends a free copy of the EP! I created the artwork and got Graham Tolbert to take photos of my design projected onto my back in the dark. Along with the music of course, I’m really proud of the art I made on this album so I want to share a physical copy with everyone who comes to the release show. Also excited to share that this release show happens to be a tour kickoff as well. We’re headed east for a week and a half as a duo, stopping in Madison, Chicago, Nashville, Raleigh, DC, Boston, Brooklyn, and New York City.
Warehouse Eyes will release Prisms at Icehouse on Friday, July 10, 2015 with Fort Wilson Riot and Sports Authority Field at Mile High [DJ set by Jake Hanson and Jeremy Ylvisaker].
21+, $8 adv, $10 door, 10:30 p.m.