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Interview: Arc - Issue 2

Interviewed by Ken Holewczynski

In approaching the music of Thine Eyes, the Eugene, Oregon based quartet, beautiful is perhaps the best word to describe the rich and varied textures and soundscapes of layered sounds and complex compositions, or it could be 4AD-ish vocals by Jeni Sheldahl that haunt these songs but whatever the answer is, it draws you into Thine Eye's world and you come away wanting to hear and explore more.

Thine Eyes is comprised of the afore-mentioned Jeni Sheldahl, her husband, Laird Sheldahl, Tanner Volz and Rian Callahan, and while everyone has definite duties within the group, all four are involved in every aspect of their songwriting. This allows them to write what Laird humbly calls "decent music." if pressed however, for member descriptions, Laird will say that he and Tanner are the core of the group, with Jeni and Rian providing "help and breadth." Jeni expounded upon those. Humble descriptions with the following: "Laird hadn't really any musical training before his U of 0regon classes, but jumped right in with very little fear, a blatant disrespect for typical western harmonics and a brilliant understanding for the mechanical aspects of electronic music." of Tanner she says," he is definitely the melodic genius of the group." although Callahan must travel from portland to Eugene to work with the group, he also plays a large part in songwriting and construction. Of herself Jeni adds, "I am also good at taking someone else's melody and expanding it." but she also is proud to note that, "We really don't limit our roles in the band."

It is this aversion to description and labeling that is important to Thine Eyes and their sound. Although it is now fashionable to say that your band is definitely not "Industrial," Laird realizes the tag for what it has now become -- an all encompassing genre with varied sub-sects and sub- sub-sects, uniting people who create an endless array of machine-erased music. "The label 'Industrial' is so wonderfully broad that a band should be able to cover unusual ground without leaving the designation of 'Industrial'. Off the beaten path is the direction Thine Eyes has been moving," says Sheldahl.

With varied tastes that range from classical to avant garde electronic music, Thine Eyes tries to push their own limits and in turn, the limits of their favorite genres.

"We try to write very visual music. 'sonic cinema' is an apt description, we think. Our vocals are very important, but we write our music so that it is interesting to listen to even be e the vocals have been recorded," says Laird.

The band has put out the cassette "Once Despised," available directly from them and contains the chilling "Cocytus," a majestic sounding piece with Tanner's dead-on monotone vocals cutting across Jeni's melodic voice. The track literally puts a chill down my spine. In addition to Jeni's extensive study in classical piano and voice, Tanner, Laird and Jeni have all studied under Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, an atonal electronic composer at the University of Oregon. Rian works at an electronics firm in nearby portland, but that doesn't make him the only "Techno weenie" in the band. "Actually, we all are," say Laird.

Tanner and Jeni are the proclaimed poets of the group but still subject to everyone's input. Time are care is taken in all phases of their music that they sometimes take up to three months working on and off, on a particular piece.

"The longer time periods allow us to incorporate a lot of ideas into out music," remarks Laird.

With three members working on their majors at the University of Oregon, they still found time to record new material and remix previously recorded tracks to put together "Thread" to be distributed by Arts Industria.

This is the image we have tried to keep in mind while working on the new songs. Did you know that in languages which have noun classifiers, 'music' falls under the classifier for 'long slender objects,' along with such things as thread," remarks Jeni.

Moody is another word Thine Eyes used to describe themselves and perhaps this alludes to the Gothic feel to their music. "We don't try to write typical Industrial or Gothic music, quite the opposite, really," expressed Sheldahl. But there is that underlying Gothic Ambience that seems to be, yes, a connecting thread in their songs. It's not something you can specifically put your finger on, but you can definitely feel it.

Or maybe it's the somewhat melancholy lyric delivered so icily by Tanner that makes you feel a sense of desperation and bewilderment, "We also try to write cathartic music... We aren't trying to infect our listeners with our hate and violence and depression... Well, perhaps our weirdness may rub off a bit, I'm not sure," says Sheldahl.

Weird? if you consider finely crafted, emotionally involving music weird, then, perhaps. But Laird sees things differently. "For those familiar with MTV, Jeni and I went school with 'Kennedy' - she hated us and often insulted Jeni's style of dress (she doesn't dress that weirdly). We hope this suggests we're okay folks."

Finally, Jeni says that "All of the members of the group embrace both irational power and intuitive sensitivity. We are unafraid to express and feel our emotions. A state which I think is the future of humanity... And that is what Thine Eyes is all about.

[Thine Eyes]
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