HEAVY METAL & THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC: Memphis, TN Stoner Rock Veterans The Heavy Eyes

Heavy Metal and the Global Pandemic is a new series that focuses on examining how metal bands are dealing with the COVID-19 world. Heavy Metal is unique as a genre for often writing songs steeped in dystopian imagery, the darker side of the human condition, and of course – death. However, these are unprecedented times for everyone, including musicians with an inclination for chaos.

Started a decade ago in Memphis, Tennessee, The Heavy Eyes have developed their psychedelic, stoner rock sound across four full-length albums and a slew of EP’s and split-singles. Comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Tripp Shumake, guitarist Matt Qualls, bassist Wally Anderson, and drummer Eric Garcia, the bands most recent offering, Love Like Machines, was released at the end of March, just prior to the COVID upswing across the globe.

From the press release:

Their fourth full-length and first new offering since 2015’s critically lauded He Dreams Of Lions, The Heavy Eyes continue to deliver their fuzzed out, bluesy, hypnotic riffs, this time with the addition of long-time recording engineer, Matthew Qualls, as second guitarist. Adding a new layer of depth to their groove, Qualls – who’s worked side-by-side with The Heavy Eyes for many years and has performed with them live in the past – enabled the band to collaborate in a different way, exploring new song structures, tones, and attaining a bigger sound overall without stripping any of the grittiness and love of ‘60s and ‘70s rock that has shaped their sound since inception.

We talked to drummer Eric Garcia to see how the band is dealing with the pandemic and getting through the day-to-day in this strange new world. The band recently cancelled their scheduled European tour and look to enter the studio to record new material for 2021. You can follow The Heavy Eyes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Their album, Love Like Machines, is available on Bandcamp.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your band, be it cancelled tours or studio time?

Eric Garcia: We’re sad to have missed out on our record release show in Memphis, and Stoned & Dusted, but are working with their team to plan for 2021. Currently, we’re talking about scheduling some studio time to continue working on new material and potentially doing a live-stream. But, let’s be honest – with all that’s going on, worrying about our music seems pretty trivia, lol. We’re listening to top health experts and doing what we can to mitigate the spread.

Where are you sheltering in place and what are your circumstances? Are you alone or with family? How are you coping?

Eric Garcia: We’re all staying at home and playing our part during this, but cities are starting to reopen and test the waters. Coping just fine. Life is much more mundane without social gatherings and playing live music, but it’s only temporary so we’ll get through this and be on the other side sooner than later.

How are the members of your band staying connected?

Eric Garcia: The same as before. For our 10 years as a band we’ve all lived in different cities at one point in time and have written both He Dreams of Lions and Love Like Machines remotely. We typically share ideas remotely and get together to hash them out in person, so nothing has changed too much. We’re still sharing ideas and talking about future sounds and songs. I guess the only thing that is different is planning on when we can actually get together next to start working on the next chapter. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner than later.

Concepts of “virus” and “pandemic” are no strangers to heavy metal lyrics and imagery. Is it strange that we’re now living in such a world? Also, have the current circumstances provided any inspiration for writing new material?

Eric Garcia: Yes, it’s surreal at times. We’re focused on staying healthy, but obviously with time on our hands we’re still writing. We did two songs at Sun Studios in January and are looking to finalize a few more tracks and potentially drop those as an EP in the future, so we’re staying active for sure. As soon as we can all get together we’ll be hashing out more material.

The absence of live music is no doubt affecting the audiences and communities who thrive on the experience of seeing bands perform. But, as performers, what’s it like for you not knowing when you will be able to return to the stage?

Eric Garcia: Missing out on performing is a bummer, but we’ll be back on stage when the time is right. We’ve talked about doing a live studio show in the near future as well.

Music provides solace for many in times of hardship. What have you been listening to in these strange and uncertain times?

Eric Garcia: Great question. We’ve all been listening to a bunch of stuff. The new Chicano Batman album, Invisible People, and the new Stonefield record are great. Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes put out an album, What Kinda Music, that’s awesome. For heavier stuff, this band Narrow Head has a cool grunge/post grunge sound. Also, more genera specific, the new Elder and Lowrider albums are a wonderful listen.

The Heavy Eyes LP, Love Like Machines, is available now via Bandcamp.

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