It might not be the first description the band would like attached to its name, but Eleven Eyes is a party band. The Eugene sextet (which sometimes morphs into a septet) isn't a party band in the vein of booty shaking or "Brown Eyed Girl" covers, but they can throw a good party.
This is probably why the band is booked (or was booked depending on when you're reading this) for a New Year's Eve show at the legendary Eugene watering hole and music venue, Sam Bond's Garage. And this is also why they rocked the town's historic McDonald Theater (along with fellow Eugene band Reeble Jar) on Halloween.
Eleven Eyes, not unlike other Eugene bands, has roots in the University of Oregon music program, where Tim McLaughlin earned the classical training he employs on the trumpet, keys, sampler, percussion and effects. The band has morphed over the years, straying from its jazz roots to become what might best be described as a cluster-F-word of jazz-fusion, electronic, hip-hop and world music. Sometimes Eleven Eyes is one of those things, but mostly, it's all of them all at once.
"We've always been pretty chameleon-esque. We started off playing more jazz clubs, but now we're on the road more and it expanded our sound," says McLaughlin during a post-Christmas phone call.
McLaughlin, as stated before, is a classically trained jazz musician, so it's somewhat of a surprise that he uses so many effects, samples and other bells and whistles in his music - even if he is a balls-out trumpeter. But McLaughlin seems able to reconcile this divergence from his musical training.
"You know what? I graduated. I'm done with the requirements. They don't teach you how to make your career happen, so I guess it doesn't bother me," McLaughlin says with a laugh.
But this process of expanding its sound beyond jazz has made Eleven Eyes adaptable and able to fit on a number of bills. With Monk Metz (who will be with the band for the Bend show) providing rhymes, the band can, and has, fit nicely on a hip-hop bill. And with the slightly corny named Turntable Enabler on the ones and twos, Eleven Eyes can play a set during a mostly electronic music show (as they did as last summer's Emrg+N+See festival near Salem) and sound like they should be there. And should they want to get back to their roots, they can always head back to the jazz clubs. The Bendites who traveled south in early October to Summer Lake for the Outback Music Festival got a taste of the band's versatility with a show that one local musician called a "funky good time." Again, these guys can make a party happen.
McLaughlin lists Miles Davis, a fellow trumpeter known for reinventing himself, as one of the influences that has led him and his band to keep the door of innovation wide open.
"You can learn a lot by paying attention to Miles Davis whose career changed generation to generation. I feel like I'm a musician that needs to keep learning and keep my brain working. There's just so much stuff to pull from, especially now that you have access to so much music with MySpace and things like that," McLaughlin says.
In 2009, Eleven Eyes is planning to release (most likely in mid-spring) a new album of songs they recently finished up recording. Also, with a surprising recent influx of record sales in Japan, McLaughlin says they're looking into the possibility of heading across the Pacific for a tour.
Wait, Japanese people like parties, right?