Take Five: The Blind Eyes building critical, fan acclaim | St. Louis Public Radio

Take Five: The Blind Eyes building critical, fan acclaim

Oct 19, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 19, 2011 - Seth Porter, Matt Picker and Kevin Schneider first came together as The Blind Eyes four years ago, after a short musical hiatus following the breakup of their previous band, The Gentlemen Callers.

The new trio soon began to pick up a core fan following and gain critical attention with a sound that was built on a foundation of power-pop and punk influences ranging from the Jam and Nick Lowe to Thin Lizzy and the Clash.

But on the band's 2009 debut recording, "Modernity," and this year's follow-up, "With A Bang," The Blind Eyes have forged a sound that pays respect to its musical roots - but that is also distinct, catchy and clearly stands on its own.

This Friday on the Nine Network (KETC Channel 9), The Blind Eyes will be featured in conjunction with the showing of Cameron Crowe's documentary, "Pearl Jam 20," a retrospective look at the legendary Seattle band. The Pearl Jam segment starts at 8 p.m., and the local program is scheduled to follow.

Recently I caught up with Seth Porter, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for The Blind Eyes, for a short phone interview to discuss the band's origins, evolution, its announced expansion from a trio to a quartet - as well as the Nine Network's taping of the band.

You came to St. Louis from Ohio, and actually have a musical background that includes classical training on viola. How did you become a guitar player ... and does that classical background affect your approach to songwriting and playing guitar?

Porter: My dad's a musician, and I had a violin in my hands when I was very young. But I started out studying piano, and played the viola when I was majoring in music in college.

I actually started playing in bands on bass guitar, and when The Blind Eyes started rehearsing, Kevin was playing guitar and I played bass. But we switched pretty quickly, and it seemed to make sense.

As far as playing guitar and songwriting, I think the music theory classes I took give me a little different perspective on how I approach playing guitar. As far as songwriting, I think I'm more influenced by great pop rock music writers. I love the way Ray Davies of the Kinks creates songs about very specific characters, for example.

It seems that The Blind Eyes really has achieved some remarkable success almost from the beginning. You have been named "Best Pop Band" for the past three years by The Riverfront Times.

Porter: Well, we certainly played our share of shows early on in front of sparse crowds! But we did find great support from the RFT as well as KDHX radio, and that was great for us. I know that there was a real comfort factor for Matt, Kevin and me since we had played together before. Everything just seemed to click.

You have two CDs to your credit, and you've done a good deal of the songwriting. Do you focus on getting songs done when you're in the studio - or do you write all the time?

Porter: I'm really always on the clock when it comes to songwriting. ... Although it does come and go. There are those times when you think you'll never write a song again! But there are also times in rehearsals when song ideas really come together and are shaped by all of us. It does seem that when we get ready to go into the studio, most of the songs are already fairly well together ... although there are lines and parts that always happen during recording.

The band has just added another guitar player, Andy White. What prompted that decision?

Porter: We had to do a few overdubs in the studio on "With a Bang" to get a fuller sound on some of the songs. And by adding Andy, we have an extra color to play with. It also lets us bring an added dimension to our existing songs - and gives us more possibilities with new material we come up with. We've all known Andy for awhile, and he's an amazing guitarist. He'll actually be playing live for the first time with us this Saturday at the Stagger Inn Again in Edwardsville.

What can viewers expect from the Nine Network segment that will air this Friday?

Porter: Well, we haven't seen it, so I can't really tell you. We went into their studio for an interview on Oct. 1, then we immediately went over to the Midtown Alley Street fest, and they taped a couple songs. So I'm assuming it will be a mix of some of the interview with some live performance.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who often covers music.