Last year, the Rochester-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben Morey released his second LP Still Life with his backing group the Eyes, delivering his most reflective and immediate album yet. Tomorrow, Morey and his band will play their first show in over two years for free, celebrating the release of their latest album at Radio Social.
Ben Morey and his backing band the Eyes will finally showcase their latest full-length album Still Life at Radio Social on Saturday, August 21. The 7:00 p.m. outdoor show is free for all ages with proof of a Covid vaccination card. Morey and his band will also be joined by Benton Sillick's band The Heavy Love Trust, who will be celebrating their latest effort Dust Diamonds and last year's Always Kinda Nothing. The upcoming triple album release show will serve not only as a document of Rochester's lively DIY scene, but as a snapshot into Morey's steady evolution.
With Morey serving as the guitarist and primary songwriter, his backing band consists of his wife and keyboardist Katie Morey (Katie Preston, Pleistocene), vocalist Mikaela Davis (Mikaela Davis & Southern Star), bassist Cammy Enaharo (Cammy Enaharo & Dessert, Gold Koa), and Joe Parker (Attic Abasement). Recorded in a little attic above his old apartment in a span of three years, Morey and his band's latest album is a complete testament of Morey's own life. Across the twelve tracks, Morey's second collaboration with his backing band is ultra personal and intimate, blending pensive lyrics with sweeping Americana and dusty folk rock that showcases Morey's growth as a musician. Morey has been part of the Rochester music scene for a while now, playing in the indie rock outfit Howlo and the psych-pop group Dumb Angel, while also recording and producing albums for fellow artists. On his band's previous album, 2017's Mt. Doom, Morey brought in an ensemble of more than 20 musicians, evoking a cosmic drop of Americana that was sprawling and overwhelmingly warm. His band's latest album in comparison, is more focused and reduced, but is just as explorative with its loose and contemplative soundscapes that venture between breezy Laurel Canyon-inspired jangles and swooning country rock.
Ahead of the show, we had the pleasure in catching up with Morey, who takes us behind the making and experimentations of the latest record.
Take me through the recording process behind your band's richly crafted latest album Still Life?
Morey: We wrote and recorded over about three years (2017-2020) in a little attic above my old apartment in Rochester using our own microphones and instruments we've collected through the years. We tracked things as we wrote them pretty much one song at a time. The attic had a pretty thin skin so it was really hot in the summer and cold in the winter but always an inspiring space to make music. We weren't really sure what we were working toward for most of the project. We had just finished our last album which was an intense four months of recording almost every day in a church with a ton of musicians involved and I don't think we were ready to think about making another whole big thing yet. But we writing these cool songs and getting together to play music and record things, which is how we've always hung out so we kept making things together steadily for a long time and eventually we had an album.
Besides the pandemic, how was the approach different compared to your massive 2017 release Mt. Doom?
Still life was definitely a lot more focused and scaled back compared to Mt. Doom. That record was all about experimentation with sounds, recording techniques, odd groupings of musicians and just trying out every idea. It was kind of like we said "We have access to this giant space, this giant community of musicians and for the moment we have the time to really put into something big so let's shoot for the moon." Still Life was kind of the opposite. It was in a small space with our core band and making things in the moments we could find, recording the ideas as they came to us. I realize that sounds a lot less exciting, but in a lot of ways I prefer this new record. It feels more real to me and less cloudy. Time was more precious when we made this album and I think that made our performances better and the songs hit a little harder.
Are there any songs on this record that turned out much different from their original concepts? Are there any that really surprised you?
I can think of two. One was "Cry Cry Cry." That one started as a slow folky acoustic song and that's how we played it when I first showed it to the band. At the next practice our drummer Joe [Parker] had forgotten how we'd played it and gave it this really driving beat and we all looked at each other in an "Oh shit, this is much better" kind of way. Since then I'm always tempted to try to speed up a song to see if it's really a jam waiting to happen. But it usually isn't. That was just a happy accident that worked really well. The other one was "Vacuum," which I had started writing with Dumb Angel. It was a lot trippier and faster, but when I brought it to the Eyes it kind of took on this raw '70s rock feel that I was really into and didn't envision at all.
What do you hope listeners take away from the new album?
I think in it's heart this album is about loneliness and real love. Half of the songs were written before I fell in love and married my wife Katie and half were written after. There's so much about the fullness of love and the emptiness without it. I hope someone listens to one of the love songs and feels grateful for what they have or hears one of the lonely songs and feels less alone.
You're finally showcasing your Still Life to an audience this Saturday. What are you most excited about finally being able to play these songs live? Also, what can the audience expect?
These songs just lend themselves so well to a performance since they were recorded in such a simple and direct way. For the first time with this band I feel like we can pull off every song without feeling like anything is missing and for once we can sound like we do on our record. I think the audience should be ready to experience the joy and energy of a band that loves each other and hasn't played a show together in two years.
Still Life is out now via Dadstache Records.
Stream the new album below.