Stephanie talked with Boston based metal band Swarm of Eyes as they talked about their past and how they describe their live shows among other topics - Read it HERE
By Stephanie Stevens
One thing about Massachusetts is we know how to bring the metal, and the local scene here is equipped with some talented bands. One that comes to mind and I have known and seen on many occasions is the boston based fury of SWARM OF EYES.
Influenced y bands like Slayer, Metallica, Danzig, Dying Fetus and At The Gates. The band sets this dark n moody tempo with some insane riffage, aggressive backdrops and insane fury of vocal torture throughout each creation they put to disc.
The band consists of George O'Connor--guitar, Randy Carter the yeller, Derrik Albertelli--guitar, Jeff Grossman--bass and Tommy Burke--drummer.
The band has been supporting their 2017 album WE GO TO WAR WITH WEAPONS WE HAVE but are in the works to get new music out in the next year; but with one listen to songs like CURSED IN BLOOD, CARRION and HUMANEMIC we understand how they are sailing easy with this disc because honestly these songs have such impact and life that you never get bored of listening. I had a chance to chat with vocalist Randy Carter during the crazy holiday season and he was able to get into the bones of how the band got together, future music and who he would love to show his music too if he could.
SS- When and how did SWARM OF EYES come together and how has the band evolved since this time?
Swarm was formed in 2009 by myself and George O’Connor. We had known each other for years in our respective bands back in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. George was previously in ROGUE and 12:06, and had been playing around with my old bands since the early ‘90s. Neither of us were in bands at the time, so we decided to try a project together. George played guitar and bass, and programmed the drums. I wrote the lyrics and did vocals.
As the writing and recording progressed, we brought in guitarist Derrik Albertelli, who was in my previous band, MOTOKOPS 2000, and is a master on guitar. He wrote and recorded a number of tracks that ended up on the album. Towards the very end of the recording, we recruited bassist Jeff Grossman, a longtime friend of ours who had been in a number of high profile acts like CRUMBLE and EXECUTIVE ORDER.
Once we completed the album, we decided to bring in a drummer and take a crack at playing live. Our first and only choice was Tommy Burke. I had worked with him previously in my first band, EXCEED, and we had lived together for a while. Tommy cut his teeth around Massachusetts in VERTICAL SMILE and RATCHABURI, and I’d known them since the mid-‘90s. We had a complete lineup and we booked our first gig in 2010, and we’ve been jamming together ever since.
SS - You guys are based as a metal band but your members are very varied in many musical genres. What made you decide the heavier and doomy thrash type thing was what you wanted out of this band?
We definitely have varied backgrounds when it comes to past bands and musical preferences. I think that helped us form our sound and really not sound like anyone else out there. You try to be original, you try to have your own identity, and I think our varied tastes help accomplish that.
I’m not sure we knew what type of sound we wanted, it just evolved. Tommy has huge influences like KORN and FAITH NO MORE, which adds some flavor to the mix that you don’t normally hear with metal drummers. Jeff brings a more modern sound in the vein of bands such as AUGUST BURNS RED. He’s also a ninja. Derrik is a tech/death guy, and is a big fan of bands like FALLUJAH, DECAPITATED and MORBID ANGEL. George and I fall into the Old Trash Dudes category (METALLICA, SLAYER), though I also have a love for bands like DYING FETUS and BROKEN HOPE. My vocals are certainly influenced by people like Chris Barnes and Max Cavalera.
SS - Your newest member, drummer Tommy Burke, played with Randy in another band. What stood out that made you reach out to him to play for this band and how has his style of drumming changed or enhanced the sound of SWARM OF EYES?
Ha, I think I answered this question in the two previous replies. I guess I should have read all the questions first… But I’ll reiterate, Tommy is not the proto-typical metal drummer. He can play heavy, but he’s just as happy playing Parliament Funkadelic tunes. That isn’t the only reason, though. A big part of Tommy is his creativity and his love of constantly evolving his drums in a song. After years of playing some of these songs and he’s STILL coming up with new things to surprise us. Take the song “Humanemic,” for example. It’s on the first album and the drums are all programmed beautifully. But when Tom joined, he made the song his own so much that it’s completely different now. That’s why I pushed to re-record it for the latest EP (We Go To War With The Weapons We Have). He’s also very handsome and does the best cartoon character impressions and funny voices. We have to STOP him from riffing on stuff at practice or we are laughing too hard to play.
SS - Who came up with the band name and what does the name mean to you?
I came up with the name. If I recall correctly, it was in a book I was reading (probably a coloring book) and the sentence was something like, “He came into the room, and a swarm of eyes fell upon him.” It sort of clicked and I ran it by the guys with a list of other ideas and that one stuck. It was simple, yet memorable. And I think for meaning, as a band you want a swarm of eyes upon you at all times. That’s why we do it.
SS - Your last disc came out in 2017. Have you been working on new music and where will fans see the most growth and experimenting with the new music that you’re working on?
We are the slowest band in the New England area when it comes to writing songs. Unfortunately, we all have very busy lives and some of us live far from each other. If we can practice once every two weeks, I’d be amazed. Kids, work, life, crippling gambling addictions…they are the priority.
When we do get to practice we mostly focus on being tight for the next gigs we have. Hopefully, over the Summer we get more time for writing. That’s the slow season for us. I think fans will see a bit of growth, but we haven’t pinned down all the songs we want to record yet. There might be a track that’s the heaviest thing we’ve done yet, but we’ll see if it happens. We also have another track that was put out on a comp (Deathkiss Vol. 2) called “Turn Back to Light”. It’s been a HIT for us so far live. Mellow verses, anthem-y chorus, groove bridge, and a punch- you- in- the- face ending.
SS - Any idea when something will be released?
Yes, definitely something will be released before 2020. We have a new model for records. George would love to put out a few short EPs over time, then we can compile them later when they are all out for a full album. People digest music in smaller chunks now, and, because we are so slow to put out material, it will help us get SOMETHING out to the fans quicker. The latest EP is actually longer than it was meant to be. We’d like to stick with four songs.
SS - Your first album DESIGNING THE DYSTOPIA came out in 2011 and had a lot of songs on it. Looking back on that album, what do you feel was the highest pro about the disc and the one thing or con you would have changed or did differently if anything?
George and I will probably have VERY different answers about this, but I’m the one typing, so you’ll get my take. He recorded it, I just sang on it, so we have different perspectives. First, it had a lot of songs because George is a riff master that has a million ideas in his head. And Derrik had a lot of unformed ideas that George helps him get down and form into something solid. So, you have two guys pumping out songs, with no deadline of when to be done, or any expectations of a second album (remember, this was basically an experimental project). So, we went for it and dumped everything on there.
As far as the highest pro for me, it was working with George and having him really pull out of me things I didn’t know I could do. He didn’t go easy on me, and he made me really have to think and work hard. I loved it. The disc reflects so much blood and sweat., and t That’ is the high for me.
For a con, it was really just not having Jeff in the band for the whole album. We brought him in so late that he only had time to play on three songs. And what he did was so good, it’s tough not having him on everything. I won’t say “No Tommy” as a con, though it would have been AMAZING to have him, but this album was a drum programming experiment, and I think that was a high. We are lucky enough to have Tommy (Boo Boo Blackstone) on everything going forward, though.
SS - Lyrically, you have some grim storylines and I read you take from the hard times of history and or turmoil in life itself. What do you want people to walk away with after sitting and listening to the words your creating for the music?
My lyrical content covers everything from heartbreak and loss, to Lovecraftian fantasy. I try to write what I call “universal” lyrics, where I weave a story, but let the listener interpret it the way they want. I have a song about Darth Vader, but you wouldn’t know that from the lyrics. But you can possibly identify with his struggle of loss and redemption --, and that’s what’s important.
SS - Give me your thought process when you were writing the song THE DAY THAT GOD WENT MAD?
Lyrically, that song is in the Lovecraft realm. It’s not based on anything from the author, but it’s very “old gods” and “ancient evil” fantasy. The song title actually comes from an unused name of a Doctor Who episode from the ‘70s. (Genesis of the Daleks). We are huge sci-fi and comic nerds. I love the song and, I think we need to get it back into the rotation. The riffs are just chunky as hell, and the chorus is easy for the crowd to sing along to.
SS - Your cover of The Ramones’ BLITZKRIEG BOP which is always fun to hear and hear in a live setting. Hhow fun was it putting your own touch on the song and recording it and who decided that would be a good cover to cover?
When it comes to deciding what cover to do, we usually try to go with something short and something easy to learn and short. That way, we can throw it into a set if we have an extra minute or two. We also like to find songs that most people know and can at least sing the chorus to. This was a perfect song that fit all that criteria. I don’t remember who came up with the idea (probably George), but once we started playing it, it morphed into something of our own. We take that third verse and bring it right down to a half-time, hardcore breakdown, which just punches you in the face. So that was VERY fun.
SS - How would you describe your live show and what show for you has stood out to be the best one so far throughout your career?
Energetic. We don’t stop moving. We LOVE playing every song and we move with where the song takes us. We don’t set out to put on a show for people, that’s just what we feel when we get on stage. We work hard and we put every ounce of energy into it. Personally, I’m not entertained by watching a metal band just stand there staring at the floor counting the nails in the stage and playing every note perfectly. I can listen to your album if I wanted that. We’ are also fun to watch and we are a fun band. We are happy dudes who have a great band and get along well, and that translates into the show.
I can pin down three shows that really stand out for me as our best. Top of the list for me has to be when we played with THE EMPIRE SHALL FALL (Jesse Leach from KILLSWITCH ENGAGE’s side band) at Church (RIP) in Boston. The crowd was insane, the place was sold out, and we were on point from the first note to the end. Second would be playing a show at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester, MA years ago with ACARO and THE RIVER NEVA. It was a video shoot for TRN, and we were one of the openers. It was just a perfect storm of a packed house, a killer set, and a lot of fun. The last one on my list was playing the main stage at the Palladium in Worcester with LIFE OF ANGONY. Playing that huge stage to a great crowd is one of my best memories.
SS - What are your thoughts about the touring aspect of the band? Have you guys done any extensive touring and would you if something came up?
Touring just isn’t in the cards for us. Everyone is far too busy, and, from my experience, it’s costly and doesn’t usually pay off. If this was 20 years ago and I was with this group of guys, it would be a HELL YEAH. We’ve done two “weekend warrior” trips, and they were okay. It’s a lot of work and a lot of money (gas, food, lodging, transportation). We found the bonding aspect of it fun --, like a mini-vacation, -- but the shows weren’t good enough to want to run out and do it again. We book the majority of the shows we play (besides with touring headliners) and that ensures we are in control over everything and we KNOW we typically have a great show. It’s too big of a risk to have to depend on Depending on other booking people and promoters and local bands in the areas we travel to on tour. put in the time and effort is too risky.
All that being said, if the right tour offer came along where we didn’t lose our shirts, and it was just a week or two, we’d be interested.
SS - What one band or musician would you want to cover one of your songs and what song would you want them to do?
I’d love to have Acid Bath cover “Irredeemable” from our first album. The second choice would be to have Amon Amarth do a version of “Journey to the Endless End.”. Listen to them and you’ll see why I chose them.
SS - If you had 5 minutes with your biggest inspiration what would you ask them and what would be one thing you would show them that you have written or created musically throughout your career ?
Wonderful question! (All the questions have been wonderful. This has been great, Stephanie!) I think that I’d love to meet Tomas from AT THE GATES again, and play him a song from my old band MOTOKOPS 2000 called “Lost is My Way” (It’s on Spotify, kids!). My other option would be to meet Matt Pike from HIGH ON FIRE and play him Swarm of Eyes’ “Tell Your God to Ready For Blood.”.
SS - Where can fans get music , merch and updates on your shows etc?
You can find us on all the regular places!
We have our own website where you can get gig info and buy merch: http://swarmofeyes.com
And we are on Spotify and iTunes, etc.
People can message us in FB, or email at email@example.com
SS - Future plans and last comments?
Our future plan is the next EP, which I already have a title for. , and we have at least three songs ready to go. We just want to figure out what song we’ll add as a fourth, then we’ll figure out a recording plan. George is an aspiring engineer and did the ENTIRE first album, and worked on most of the last EP, so we’ll probably go that route again.
For 2019, we already have a few shows lined up with DEATH RAY VISION (side project of members of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, OVERCAST, SOULD REMNANTS). We are looking to get on a few more local shows with touring bands and get in front of some new faces. We played with DOYLE (Misfits) at the end of 2018 and it was fantastic. Great crowd and we gained a bunch of new fans. We hope to keep that up.
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