‘Look Alive!’ by Early Eyes Doesn’t Fit Neatly Into a Box

The Minneapolis-based band released their genre-defying debut album on Feb. 25
Minneapolis-based band Early Eyes

Photo by Albie Sher. Courtesy of Early Eyes.

For Early Eyes, there are no rules when it comes to the exploration of sound and music style.

The rising indie pop band from Minneapolis released their debut album Look Alive! on Feb. 25. An amalgamation of fuzzy synths, groovy bass lines, and playful guitar riffs, the genre-defying record takes listeners on a colorful ride through the band’s pandemic-induced frustrations and vulnerabilities.

What began as a few University of Minnesota students performing at a campus arts festival in 2016 slowly evolved into something much bigger. Early Eyes has transformed a bit over the years, but the five-piece band currently consists of Jake Berglove (keys and vocals), John O’Brien (guitar), Joe Villano (guitar and vocals), Megan Mahoney (bass), and Sam Mathys (drums).

Since the release of their first single Waste of Time in 2017, the band has captured the attention of both local and national listeners. They’ve amassed over 233,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, and their 2018 single, Coffee, has been streamed on the platform almost 4 million times.

Early Eyes’ sound is constantly evolving. For astrology fans, Berglove describes the band as having an “indie pop sun, an emo rising, and a jazz moon.” He noted that Early Eyes takes influence from other local artists, as well as Japanese city pop musicians like Tatsuro Yamashita.

“The city pop was something that the three of us bonded over when we first met,” O’Brien says, referring to himself, Berglove, and Villano. “That sort of formed the foundations for the pre-Look Alive! Early Eyes.”

O’Brien notes that although this foundation remains intact, the debut album adds new layers and ushers in a more experimental era for the band, one that explores their fascination for different genres. “It pulls from a lot more influences than anything before,” he says. “I feel like it’s kind of changed our perception of the music we make.”

Among these influences were a number of video games and film scores. “We tried to make it more of a theatrical album rather than tight pop songs,” Berglove says. The song Marathon was directly inspired by the PlayStation game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and the fast-paced track Revel Berry encapsulates elements of  Sonic Adventure 2. The floral piano riff on Trust Fall mirrors those found in Studio Ghibli movies.

Villano says the name of the record captures this experimental style the band was taking on. “There was initially a title track that we were working on, and the idea behind it was like, this song’s gonna come at you, and you gotta look alive because it’s gonna hit you in the face. It ended up not making the cut, but that concept remains interesting to me,” Villano explains. “The intention of the album is that it’s something new for us, so the sentiment is sort of like, ‘look out, here’s the new Early Eyes.’”

The band started working on the project in August of 2020. “It was a COVID baby,” O’Brien says.

Due to the constraints of the pandemic, half of the album was made at home. Berglove, O’Brien, and Villano were living together at the time, and they recorded in the basement of their Minneapolis house. The rest was made in the studio, produced by Caleb Hinz and Jake Luppen. Luppen is the frontman of Hippo Campus, and Hinz has worked on production for bands such as Hippo Campus and Samia.

Aside from the recording process, the band says the pandemic also affected the emotional weight of the album. “I think for me, it’s really reminiscent of the emotion we were feeling during the initial stages of the pandemic,” Berglove explains. “I think we, to some degree, had to kind of shed our skin and be vulnerable and true to ourselves to make the record … it’s like a triumph.”

Early Eyes performed at 7th St. Entry on Feb. 26 at a sold-out co-album release show with Alien Book Club, fellow Minneapolis locals. Despite the album only having been out for one day, fans already knew the words. “We started playing Big Sigh, which is the first track, and people immediately started singing along with the first verse,” Berglove says emotionally.

“We’ve just been so familiar with these songs for a really long time, and we’ve been keeping them a secret from the world. Now that they’re out, it’s just so refreshing to see people respond well,” O’Brien says.

Follow Early Eyes on Instagram, Twitter, or the band’s website for details on upcoming shows.