Q&A: Vela Eyes on passing out in the studio, taping merch to the car hood, and becoming 'a real band'

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Vela Eyes are smiling.
PHOTO BY PATRICK MCCRACKEN

Vela Eyes is a relatively new indie-pop act right out of San Francisco that combines a huge, spaciously synthesized sound with the personality and camaraderie one can only find in decades-old friends. It’s a perfect fusion of the rawness of punk influences with the technical proficiency and sampling-song mapping of a DJ set.

The group has been playing packed shows throughout the Bay since its inception mere months ago, most recently an album release party for its first EP, The Pleasure Sunrise, last week at the Elbo Room. Get to know Vela Eyes before the band's next local gig (you’ve got ‘till July 26):

SFBG So you guys don't have a van and had to come up with a crazy wacky maneuver to get your gear back from your record release show?

Julia Johari We had to make three trips to get all of our stuff there. But at the end of the night we realized we didn't want to make multiple trips to get our stuff back. So I just remember Nate being like "I'm going to tape the merch to the hood of my car!"

Ian Zazueta Luckily I brought that big roll of red duct tape. I knew it would come in handy.

SFBG Tell me about playing the Elbo Room for the record release show.

Jef Pauly I actually had the place in mind after playing there a few times. It's got a very intimate atmosphere and packs a crowd close together.

Nate Higley That's a P.C. answer. Truth is we knew we couldn't sell out Mezzanine.

JJ We knew we would be able to pack Elbo Room.

Florie Maschmeyer And the sound was really important, we've always felt we sounded really good in the Elbo Room.

IZ It's kind of a give and take. You want a location that's a good fit for you, but you don't want to sacrifice a good on-stage sound or the sound that's directed at the audience.

SFBG Where does your sound start?

FM We kind of conceptually write. For example, I would call and be like "I just had the weirdest dream, you want to hear me out?"

IZ And I would honestly take notes and stuff while she was talking and start coming up with some things. Then Florie would add some more and we'd build a song around it. Then Nate brings in a lot of creativity and musical contrast and intelligence to it. We're finally starting to develop our style.

NH Yeah, it doesn't take like a year to write a song anymore! [Laughs]

JP We're basically hitting phase two now that we're a "real band."

IZ Oh, you mean since you joined the band! [Everyone laughs]

JP Well, did you have any drummer before me?

IZ Yeah we did, it was called Logic Pro and it wouldn't talk back. [Everyone laughs]

SFBG So Jef, as a drummer, you always play to a click track?

JP Every practice, every show.

IZ For me, who creates a lot of our sequences and samples, having someone who can be able to do that adds so much more to our creativity and allows so much more potential for pushing our product. A lot of people would see playing to a click as being more rigid, but once we establish the right tempo to the song, in terms of manifesting a product, it gives us so much more freedom.

SFBG So any time I see you guys play live anywhere it will have the exact same tempo?

IZ Yep.

FM Especially because we have trigger sequences that happen all throughout the track.

SFBG The trigger sequences are something you've designed ahead of time to drop at a specific point with the metronome in the course of the song without physically having to push a button to turn whatever sound on?

FM Yeah, it's in the song already. So Jef gets the count-in and then the song starts.

JP There really is no room for messing up. There's just a count-off at the beginning and if I miss the start, it's all over.

SFBG On multiple occasions I've heard you refer to your music as "the product," what does this mean?

FM We refer to it as product because it takes our music and makes it a sellable package. That's what you have to do if you want to be in the music industry, you need to have a product, which means your image, your music, your presence. In the end that's what we pay for, that's what we record and what we sell. It's always important that we think of the product as a whole because we've got so many different songwriters in this. Egos can battle, but we always agree on what's good for the project. The music is a separate entity who's not one individual person. At different points anyone in the band might be leading the song, but it always comes down to what's right for the product, the band as the whole is separate from us individually at this point.

SFBG What, in one sentence, is the selling point for me to come to your next show?

FM It'll be a sexy kick in the teeth. I think you'll love it.

SFBG So let's close this out with another awesome rock and roll story, shall we?

FM Remember when we got all hammered and passed out in the music studio, sleeping on the floor, spooning? Then I pissed my pants.

IZ No, the funny thing is that she tried to blame me. Like, after she peed all over me. Florie's like "how do you know it wasn't you?"

SFBG Were you playing a show beforehand or something?

NH No, this was just a typical Thursday night.

Vela Eyes plays next July 26 at Bottom of the Hill, with the Orange Peels and the Corner Laughers.

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