Before Animal Eyes releases their new album May 12 at Mississippi Studios, we sat down to discuss the band’s Alaska roots, their marriage-level friendships and whether art-pop is an appropriate descriptor for their sound.
Remember the color of sunlight that endless teenage afternoon as you picked up speed, your hands lifting off the wheel, alone and free in your car after passing your driver’s test? Or the first time you found yourself swept up, caught, hanging on the edge of a moment at a rock show with old friends in a new city, staring surprised at the beauty of strangers? Still feel the way the rocks and desert dust crunched beneath your back as you stared up at the midnight blue heavens stretched out over Joshua Tree? Portland’s Candace, by way of Minneapolis, will remind you that at least some people aren’t content to let their youth and dreamy ambitions disappear into a box of melancholy memories after 25. These three girls are getting after it, and don’t let the critics mislead: Candance wants you to come along with. Candance’s latest album, New Future, came out on Found Object Records in March.
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ELEVEN: Well, let’s talk about your guys’ beginnings and moving to Portland. You came here from Minneapolis in 2012?
Mara Appel: I actually came in 2010, and we were a band in Minneapolis for about a year and a half before I moved. The band continued without me when I moved to Portland, but we all basically absolutely needed to play music with each other still so we went on tour when I lived in Portland, and we were always kind of connected. Then they followed me four years later.
Sarah Nienaber: The two of us (pointing to Sarah Rose) moved out here almost two years ago.
Sarah Rose: We just followed her. We had like five different drummers or something crazy like that.
SN: In the time between when Mara moved and we moved we couldn’t hold onto anybody. I think nobody else was supposed to be the drummer. It just wasn’t right. Either we don’t do this band anymore or we move to Portland.
MA: It was just as extreme a feeling for me being away, but moving away from my hometown was something I always wanted to do and so I had to do that, but being disconnected from the band was not really the best thing for me either. But now we’re all together in Portland again and it’s really great.
11: Does it feel like the Portland culture or perspective has seeped into your musical style or lyrics since moving here?
SN: Being in a new place and not having a lot of friends or social engagements, just because we’re new to town, at least for me, has forced me to fill that empty space with something. Feeling more alone out here has made us turn to the music even more than we did before. But not to say that we’re not a part of the place and that this place isn’t touching us every day.
SR: I feel like we designed our lives out here to have the band be our first priority.
SN: Yeah we got to start over and reinvent our lives.
SR: We all live together, and we can walk to our practice space.
MA: I love Portland, and we do have friends that we love and they’re the best. But we just happen to have a situation right now that’s very inexpensive and we can do this as much as we can because we don’t need to work all the time, and we happen to live together in a really cheap apartment. Since we have this dream scenario right now we’re just taking advantage of it and playing all the time.
11: You just made it into the Willamette Week’s Best 10 New Bands of 2016 as number nine, and the people who vote in that poll are people who are totally enmeshed in the Portland music scene, so obviously you guys are on the radar. How does it feel to be recognized by the Portland community?
MA: It feels good to have so many people hear the music we’re making, that’s really the important thing for us, and it’s nice that people are embracing it. We want to make people feel a feeling.
11: How do you guys feel connected to the Portland music scene, the other bands, and how do you feel that you guys are doing something that is a little different?
MA: Well we obviously have bands and friends that we love what they’re doing. Talkative, Ah God, Hands In, are some of those people. Dræmhouse from Seattle is one of those bands, who we’re about to go on tour with. There’s a cool stew of things that are going on, and we definitely don’t feel disconnected from that. But I feel like the term “scene” is a pretty weird umbrella term.
SN: Music just because it’s in the same place geographically doesn’t necessarily have to have a connection outside the fact that everyone’s in the same place. I don’t feel like our music itself is influenced by very much outside of ourselves and what we dig. And I think that’s OK.
MA: But we have a connection in the fact that we’re all here, we all play at the same weird sort of places, and have the same weird experiences, and there’s that commonality. But I think that–and this is a good thing–that it’s less of a club than is being conjured up in the imaginations of people. We’re all doing this grind; it’s kind of like a job I guess. We all have our weird hustle. The scene is there but I don’t know if it’s a 100 percent real group.
SN: I still feel pretty new to it, honestly. Two years isn’t that long, and I think it’s only been in the past ten months that people have even noticed that we’re here. Which is fine, and I think as time goes on we’ll wriggle in there more and be more connected with more people. But I feel like that’s just starting.
MA: I feel like as far as Candace and the music scene, we’re like kindergarteners.
SR: But it’s weird because we may be kindergarteners here but this band has been around for six and a half years, and we were all in bands before that. So I don’t feel like we’re a new band, but we’re a new Portland band.
MA: Sophomore year of high school perhaps.
SN: We’re like 22 years old and we can’t get past 10th grade.
11: What does this album achieve that your previous LPs, EPs and mix tapes didn’t?
SN: Compared to everything else I feel that the sounds are most fully realized. I feel like the sounds for every song were carefully chosen, and carefully recorded, and carefully put together. I think that on the other albums we were always doing the best we could but we never really had the wherewithal to make those really careful decisions that I think make the difference between an OK sounding recording and a good sounding one.
SR: This time we were able to book eight days in a row, and we had demos of all the songs done beforehand so we knew what we wanted to do, and we had notes and ideas for all the parts. We obviously experimented in there too, but we were very focused on this one, and it sounds more cohesive.
11: What does this album express best about what you aspire to with your art?
SR: I think there’s better songwriting on this album. The songs are more interesting. That’s something we’ve all been working on, writing good songs.
SN: And that’s, I mean, for all of us regarding music, what we love are songs. Not genres. Not even necessarily bands…
MA: Just obsessed with songs.
SN: Songs, yeah. All we want to do is write really good songs. And I think that this album is closer. I still think that we can do better.
MA: I think that we’re going to do much better. I love this album. But I’m really excited about the next one, because we basically have enough material to do that now, but there are a lot of logistical things that we have to do in order to do that next album. But I’m so excited for it and I think this album is a good peek at what’s about to go down.
SN: It’s a good introduction to what we’re about to do.
SR: We are also just better musicians, which is something we’ve always wanted to be.
11: Where do you hope to see Candace going after the album release?
SR: We’re doing this tour in March, and then we were going to do another tour in the summer, and I want to do another one in the fall, and then have that fall one bring us to whatever studio we were going to record at, and then record another album before the end of the year.
SN: This time next year we want to know that the next album is coming out soon.
11: What Portland bands do you really admire?
MA: Hollow Sidewalks. Our friend Nora is the front lady in that band. They’re ripping it up super hard. Hands In. Pure Bathing Culture is a band that we really like right now. A band that is kind of coming back that is an obscure Portland band is The Whole Wide World. I think they’re on Bandcamp, and they’re playing shows here and there. But my friends Josh and Charlotte, they have that band, and it’s some of the best music I’ve ever heard. »
– Ethan Martin