Everyone’s Crushed

“I actually think this project has made me better at Karaoke” – an interview with NYC’s Water From Your Eyes
By Alex James Taylor | Music | 22 April 2024

Photography by Al Nardo

On stage, NYC outfit Water From Your Eyes commands your attention. Pulsing beats fill the space, sliced up by Nate Amos’ distorted riffs. All the while, frontperson Rachel Brown spins around the stage, lost in the music. It’s captivating, compelling and makes you move – everything you want from a live performance. “One, Two, Three, Four/I Count Maintains.” The opening lyrics of their lead track Barley kick in, each word acting as a beat, building pace to the song’s brilliantly-unhinged chorus. It’s a sound that defines New York at the moment; a fusion of genres, speed and rhythm that drives hard. Following the release of the band’s acclaimed 2023 record Everyone’s Crushed, they recently grew from a duo to a four-piece, signed to legendary New York label Matador, and last night supported Interpol’s biggest-ever show at Mexico City’s Zocalo ceremonial square. Prior to that, we caught up with the Nate and Rachel during their tour supporting Squid across Canada earlier this year.

Photography by Al Nardo

 Alex James Taylor: Hey, how’s the tour going?
Nate Amos: We’re having a lot of fun opening up for squid. We’re in Montreal, but we’re about to drive to Toronto and then we have a day off before we play in Chicago. I want to say it’s like a five, six hour drive. 

AJT: Are you quite used to that now? The long drives?
NA: Yeah, we got a van with benches, so I tend to sleep through a bit.

AJT: I saw you guys in London supporting Bar Italia, and your set made a real impact. I want to talk to you about performing – do you have a backstage routine?
Rachel Brown: The thing we do right before we go on is we all put our hands in, like in sports, and then I say, “When I say fuck, you say fuck,” then I go, “Fuck.” But everyone’s trying to lift their hands up and I kind of sabotage them. [laughs] We do it three times and then we play.

AJT: You’ve gone to a four-piece recently, adding members, how’s that transition been?
NA: Awesome. It’s going really well. I’m really stoked. It was funny because having live drums was an eventuality we spoke about for a long time. Now, having a string of shows and doing it, it feels really great. It’s very natural and still feels like the same band. That was the thing I was curious about: is it going to feel entirely different?

I would rather hear interesting music that sounds OK than shitty music that sounds perfect.”

AJT: Does it change the way you play, having live drums? I’ve spoken to other musicians who say that the drums lead everything.
NA: That’s the interesting thing about it because we still use the same backing tracks. So there are certain songs where the live drums do kind of naturally lead it a little more, and there are certain songs where they’re more of a layer, which is cool because I feel that’s a role live drums rarely play in a performance.

AJT: Did it take a while for that to become cohesive?
NA: We were practicing pretty heavily for a couple of weeks before the tour started, just working it out. But because the recordings are so planned and precise, or the backing tracks rather, I think one of the important things for the live show is to let the live instrumentation develop naturally – to have an idea for a direction but also to figure it out along the way.

AJT: It definitely feels like there’s a lot of freedom and playfulness when you perform, especially Rachel’s movements with the music, it encourages the audience to move.
RB: I’m trying to get better at being in a project where I’m the front person. If you take a guitar out of my hands, I’m just terrified. It becomes like the world’s most awkward karaoke party, [all laugh] – except there are like, too many people there. I actually think this project has made me better at karaoke. I feel like I’m more engaging now. When I do karaoke, I used to just stand there.
: Yeah.
RB: You’re like, Rachel has become insane with karaoke! [laughs]
NA: I think Rachel and all four members of Model/Actriz are the most engaging karaoke performers I’ve seen in my recent life. In very different ways.

AJT: What’s your song, Rachel?
RB: I do Lose Yourself by Eminem a lot. But me and Al, who plays guitar, we did I Got a Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas and I lost my voice. I was going way too hard. It’s a dangerous sport, karaoke. You need to watch yourself. [all laugh] I used to be a lot more shy, which is why I wear sunglasses [on stage], because I am still very shy. I actually really hate being on stage in front of people, even though I do it all the time now. But I do love to dance and I love music, so I kind of just try to forget them. 

AJT: Do the sunglasses help?
RB: Yeah, I mean, I close my eyes a lot. So behind the sunglasses, my eyes are completely shut most of the time. That helps because I can be in my own world.

AJT: Moving onto your album, Everyone’s Crushed – congrats it’s amazing. I read that you made it on a broken interface with a broken computer and I was really interested by that. I like the idea of you making music with big cracks on the screen.
NA: Yeah, the side of my computer screen was completely busted and I was kind of worried that the whole screen was going to go, because it was doing the thing where it’s just like this weirdly coloured stripe and it’s gradually creeping. And the interface – the headphone jack had like a part of an old headphone adapter stuck in it, and the USB  jack was slightly busted, so I had to wrap the cable around it and sit it a certain way for it to work.

AJT: It’s the true meaning of DIY music.
NA: The most interesting art is usually made with severe limitations. I don’t think that’s necessarily a hard rule, but for the most part having a pretty strict box to work within uncomplicates things a lot. So there were really only so many things we could do in terms of recording. It was also a very cheap interface, so the whole process of worrying about the engineering side of it was taken out of the equation.

AJT: Did you enjoy that stripped-back way of working?
NA: Yeah, especially with this last album, it was freeing because I’d spent years worrying about making things sound [perfect]. And that gets baked in and becomes an instinctual thing. So once you set things up in a way that’s good enough, it allows you to focus on the content more, which is way more important anyway. I would rather hear interesting music that sounds OK than shitty music that sounds perfect.

Photography by Al Nardo

AJT: I also want to talk to you about signing with Matador, it must feel great to be acknowledged by such a renowned label.
NA: Yeah, it was pretty unreal. I mean we’ve been doing this project since 2016. It started as something we were doing for fun, and then somebody wrote about it randomly after finding it on Bandcamp and we were like, “Wow, maybe this is going to be something.” So for that to actually become the case, and to put our music out on such a legendary label, it’s pretty crazy. We’re just kind of rolling with it. We haven’t been home a lot in the past couple years. We’re adjusting to a lot of things.

AJT: Before this, did you guys travel much?
RB: When I’m at home for more than two weeks, I go fucking crazy. I actually just got rid of my apartment and put all my stuff in storage. I was like, “I don’t know why I pay rent anymore.” We had never really toured at all [before this]. I’d been in university for most of the time before, or actually almost the entire time before Covid – like, I graduated in 2019. I hadn’t even been to Canada before, much less Europe or anywhere else in the world. And now I’m in Canada, right now. Last year we went to Europe like four times. I took a plane a week, I took 52 planes last year!

Follow Water From Your Eyes on Instagram.
The band begin their North America tour on 1st May at Bottlerocket Social Hall in Pittsburgh, PA.

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