How a bathroom beatbox became 'Fuzz Jam': a chat with The Lazy Eyes

How a bathroom beatbox became ‘Fuzz Jam’: a chat with The Lazy Eyes

The Lazy Eyes

It’s astonishing just how quickly The Lazy Eyes have cemented themselves as the psychedelic new princes of Sydney.

What do you get when you combine bedroom production, tight-knit songwriting, rhythm shifts, spacey tones, and just about every dynamic symbol on a sheet of Bach’s 5th Symphony? Sydney’s own The Lazy Eyes – probably.

Harvey (vocals), Itay (guitar), Leon (bass), and Noah (drums), have been lugging gear from venue to venue since 2015, mastering their craft and melting rooms with inspired psych-rock haze. Two shimmering EPs later, not to mention a booked support slot for The Strokes next year, the boys have released Fuzz Jam, the first single from upcoming LP, SongBook.

We caught up with the talented musos to learn how the track started out.

The Lazy Eyes

HAPPY: Thanks so much for coming through Lazy Eyes, and congrats on your upcoming single, Fuzz Jam. First off, I want to talk about that bassline, Leon. Was that sort of the catalyst that started the song?

LEON: Well, I wasn’t really involved with the writing of this particular track, so probably a better question for the other boys.

HAPPY: Sure. Sure.

LEON: Yeah, we need help [laughs].

HARVEY: Yes, the bass line was the start of that song. I’ve got a pretty random story about how this song started. I was brushing my teeth at home, and I was looking in the bathroom mirror and I was just like beatboxing to myself. I don’t know if anyone else does that, but like, you know, when people sing to themselves, I was just doing a bit of a beatbox.

And then I started doing that like rhythm, which is what the bass line is. And then I think I just went to my room and recorded it on the guitar. And then maybe a few days later, recorded a GarageBand demo to show the boys. But yeah, the bass line, it’s all based around the bass line. No pun intended.

HAPPY: Nice. Yeah, it just sounds like the groundwork of the song – it was just the constant throughout. So good.

LEON: I like that, and when we made the demo for this one, I liked how the bass just stayed the same. And it was putting weird chords with it. Like, there were dissonant moments where they would be clashing notes. But because the bass line stayed the same way, it was solid.

HARVEY: I wanted it all to stay the same.

HAPPY: [Laughs] That’s a lyric hey?

HARVEY: [Laughs] Yeah.

HAPPY: Nice, nice. Itay, I heard that you bought a vintage keyboard, forgive me if I pronounce this wrong, but a Hohner Pianet T?

ITAY: Oh yeah. Nice.

HAPPY: What compelled you to scoop that up and play it on the track?

ITAY: Oh, well, for the longest time we were just a guitar band live, even though Harvey comes from a piano background. But we were thinking the problem was sometimes we don’t like bands that have a live keyboard because it makes it look boring, or it’s a bit weird when the keyboard player is standing up or something. So we wanted to find something slick and easy to carry.

The Honet was a bit different and like, not a digital keyboard. So I just saw it and was perfect because it’s just… it’s basically like a guitar. Like you just plug it in. There’s no volume knob or anything and it just goes through all the pedals, and yeah, it’s perfect for what we wanted.

The Lazy Eyes

HAPPY: Oh sick, that’s cool. And Harvey, going back to those lyrics. There aren’t many lyrics in Fuzz Jam, but that, at least to me, was sort of the charm of it. Is there a story behind the stanza?

HARVEY: No, I think it was probably just what I made up when I was making the demo. Because, you know, sometimes when you make demos of songs and you just want to show people so you can work on it or whatever?

ITAY: And that was the same with the title as well.

HARVEY: Yeah, Fuzz Jam. But yeah, sorry about that.

HAPPY: Don’t be sorry! It worked.

LEON: It kind of blew my mind, because before we put songs on YouTube, we would write the lyrics out and we would check each other for grammar and stuff, because we’re really shit at grammar, and Harvey sends me the lyrics. I’m like, ‘where’s the rest?’ I was like, oh, there’s only four lines.

ITAY: I was shocked, too. It’s like… we try not to see it as lazy. We just try to see it as a mantra.

HAPPY: A mantra, I like that. That’s the sound bite right there. I’d love to talk about the music video as well, one of the trippiest videos I’ve seen in a hot second. What was the experience of shooting it on set?

LEON: Well, yeah, it was a fun experience because we had rough ideas of general scenes we wanted to do, but we had kind of no idea in our head how it’s going to turn out. So it’s kind of pretty spontaneous and a bit random – just trying out a bunch of things.

It did involve listening to the song a hell of a lot of times. Got a bit sick of it by the end of the filming days [laughs]. But no, it’s was pretty fun. It was just us messing around and like, we were all really happy with the end result because it ended up being the parts that stuck with us when we were filming.

HARVEY: Alex Smith, the director, did an amazing job on the shoot and the edit.

HAPPY: Yeah, for sure. I love the ’80s inspired stuff, like the costumes and, you know, the reflection effects.

ITAY: Yeah, I personally like that the video has absolutely no story. It’s just purely based on how it looks, which I feel like with some of our other videos, it’s been a little bit more like a storyline or something. It was nice to just focus purely on the synaesthesia, on the visuals.

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s cool. It’s like… it’s more of like a mood than like a story. Bit of a throwback, but I saw you guys play live way back, supporting Middle Kids at Sydney Recital Hall. And one of the things that perked was how improvised your set sounded. Is that an important aspect of The Lazy Eyes, and songwriting for you guys?

HARVEY: Yeah, it’s really interesting that it sounds that way because… it’s like very much not.

HAPPY: I see, I see [laughs]. Enlighten me.

ITAY: It’s actually kind of the opposite.

HARVEY: Kind of calculated.

ITAY: I think what happens is like when we first start playing a song like we won’t know what the final kind of form is and over time, it’ll keep on chipping away, and the things that look kind of improvised, we end up just doing by muscle memory. Like even our mums, who have been to every show ever, they know all what’s coming up and stuff.

HARVEY: Usually if we improvise something, it will be a mistake.

ITAY: I think what we do improvise… and if Noah was here to talk about it, he’d like this, but like I feel like lately we’ve been like kind of having fun, just bouncing off each other live, like we’re kind of just like… we won’t stick to it like exactly.

LEON: And calculate’s like the wrong word, but it’s very planned.

ITAY: Yeah. But like, no solos.

HARVEY: All the parts are very planned, but there’s probably tiny little notes and stuff that we put in.

HAPPY: Yeah.

LEON: Yeah, I feel like we’ve been leaning into that a bit more and more, just for the last few shows we played.

HAPPY: I mean, yeah, props to you guys because it sounds like you’re just straight up vibing. It’s kind of cool that it’s got that effect, you know?

ITAY: Yeah, I think that’s a really fine line between them… because I think we definitely like, we never do like jams, but we do improvise a bunch if you know what I mean. Like, we’ll never have a guitar solo, but like within our parts, we’ll always be like listening to each other and spur of the moment, just having fun.

HAPPY: Yeah, nice. When I was doing some research, I kept seeing you guys compared to King Gizzard and Tame Impala and stuff. So, I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to talk about what other sorts of artists you’re listening to, or you know, give your fans another influence that inspires you guys.

HARVEY: When we were… all of the songs that we’re releasing and that we play live were written back in high school. So that’s the first era of our music and like, yeah, in high school, that’s when we got into music. And those are the sort of bands that like gateway-ed us into music. So it’s probably inevitable that some of our music would, you know, you can hear the influences. But these days, we’ve grown up. We definitely don’t listen to the same types of bands anymore. I can’t even really… and it’s pretty widespread. We all like rave music.

ITAY: I think Leon’s been really good at introducing us to like heaps of niche, like eclectic music. And I feel like we’ve also just enjoyed… because we definitely did used to just like obsess over like psych-rock or whatever – the classic bands. But I feel like these days, we listen to a bunch of random stuff, different genres. And, yeah, definitely nothing that… it’ll probably be a while before it seeps into the music that we actually put out.

HAPPY: Yeah. Cool. Were you saying rave before, Harvey?

HARVEY: Yeah. Like acid, techno, electro and stuff. I think it’s like it was definitely a lockdown thing. I’m not sure if it was related to lockdown or not because I’ve spoken to some other people, and they’ve been like, “Yeah, I’ve gotten into like…”

LEON: The worst time to get into it. You can’t even go to raves right now.

HAPPY: Manifesting it from the bedroom.

LEON: Getting into it subconsciously, maybe. But I think that’s like my dad’s blood coming down to me, because he was a bit of a raver in the ’90s.

ITAY: But Leon always pulls up the most niche things, like ‘have you listened to this like American primitivism solo guitar?’ And we’re like ‘what?’

LEON: Well, in lockdown, like at least the first half of lockdown, I was really, really bored, because I had the uni break, which I had a lot of plans for, but it obviously fell through, so I decided to just listen to a lot of music in a short span of time, including stuff like that. And like, I think I was really into Ethiopian jazz and that sort of thing as well.

HAPPY: Just took a deep dive. That’s sick.

LEON: Yeah, on the internet.

ITAY: I’ve been getting into classical music. Well, yeah, yeah, it’s really good. It’s a different emotion. But anyway…

HARVEY My lockdown music is like rave music and like dub reggae.

HAPPY: Sick. The next Lazy Eyes track is just going to be this huge morph of like reggae, Ethiopian rhythms…

HARVEY: Raves.

ITAY: American primitivism.

HARVEY: What have you been getting into, Manning?

HAPPY: I’m a bit of a sucker for like ’60s/’70s folk. So, it’s been like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, all that stuff.

HARVEY: Donovan?

HAPPY: Oh, yeah, for sure. He did Season of the Witch right? He’s sick. Anyway, I’ve just got one more question for you guys. Fuzz Jam is obviously off your upcoming debut full-length, SongBook. Is there anything you want to sneak to your fans about the project?

HARVEY: I don’t know. It’s just as I was saying before, it’s like the first era of The Lazy Eyes. So yeah, it’s all the songs that we’ve written, back then in high school and now, play live. Took a long time to do… too long.

HAPPY: Yeah, so you’ve been sitting on some of the songs for years?

HARVEY: Yeah, yeah. Whether they’re waiting to be recorded or even if they are recorded like it’s been a real long process. But…

ITAY: We’re really slow, because the other thing about SongBook is me and Harvey mix and kind of produce the stuff ourselves, so that was a whole other learning process in itself. Like we started on GarageBand and started having no idea how to do anything. So as well as recording the songs, we also had to learn how to do the more technical side.

HARVEY: Yes. It was a lot of firsts.

HAPPY: Nah, sick. Thanks so much for your time, guys. It’s been a pleasure chatting.

HARVEY: Thanks for having us.

LEON: Thanks for having us.

ITAY: Thanks, dude.


Fuzz Eyes is out now. Pre-order The Lazy Eyes’ debut album SongBook here

Interview by Manning Patston
Photos by Jack Moran