THE COVER of Eyelids' debut 7-inch is a tangled family tree of the many other bands its members have played in. There's the Needful Longings, in which guitarist/vocalist Chris Slusarenko, drummer Paulie Pulvirenti, and bassist Jim Talstra all played together; and the Dharma Bums, which featured Talstra and guitarist/vocalist John Moen. Those two also played in the Minus 5 with guitarist Jonathan Drews, while Drews and Moen also played in Sunset Valley. The list goes on to headache-inducing lengths, and the chart doesn't even include Moen's gig as the Decemberists' drummer, or the years Slusarenko spent in Guided by Voices.
It's the band that GBV's Robert Pollard formed after breaking up GBV, though, that might be the most important precursor to Eyelids: Slusarenko and Moen played in Boston Spaceships with Drews serving as producer and adding instrumentation. Together, the three transformed Pollard's fragmented song-sketches into full-fledged arrangements. "It was like every six months, here's another 18 songs, figure 'em out," says Slusarenko. "And it was such a great crash course."
"That was such a big part of this band, and I forget that," adds Moen. "We realized we'd been working as a triad for so long already, and it was easy and worked well."
Moen and Slusarenko, who have known each other since the late '80s, do most of the songwriting for Eyelids, trading lead vocals and guitar parts. Drews adds another crucial element, working as sounding board, arranger, and the band's third guitarist. It's the interplay between the three guitars that gives Eyelids the fine-woven, thickly jangling sound heard on the debut single's tracks "Seagulls into Submission" and "I Can't Be Told"—songs that echo the band's shared love of New Zealand rock, the mid-'80s Paisley Underground scene, and Richard Davies' Australian band the Moles.
"This was going to be a studio project that we were going to do before I joined Guided by Voices and before John joined the Decemberists—but then we both got very busy," says Slusarenko. It wasn't until January 2013 that they were able to focus all their attention on Eyelids. "We picked a weekend finally, and said this will be the Eyelids summit weekend. John had his songs and I had mine, and Jonathan was the tastemaker. And we narrowed it down to an album's worth of material. It was a little more conceptual, and then it became a real boy at some point."
"I was pretty amazed at their writing process, because they came in with just pieces," says Drews. "Chunks here and there, but nothing had been sewn together yet."
"Jonathan's really good at saying, don't overpaint that, let's move on, that's good, that's enough," Moen says. "There's always somebody reminding you that you don't have to go too deep. And that doesn't mean it won't be deep enough, but you don't have to keep fussing with things. It feels natural."
After some early recording sessions, the three were ready to play a live show, and enlisted Talstra on bass and Pulvirenti on drums. The new additions proved to be a leap forward in the band's sound, turning Eyelids from strummy, cloud-washed rock to something with almost thunderous power—best displayed on the 7-inch's bonus track, a live take of the Gun Club's "Sex Beat."
"When Jim and Paulie came in, it had more volume than we imagined, and more power to it," Slusarenko says. "It surprised us by how cohesive it already was.
Of the big sound, Drews says, "We were relieved to be hearing from people: 'Yeah, you can hear everything!'"
A split single with the Woolen Men is planned for April, and Eyelids is in the process of finishing a full-length, which they hope is out by year's end. "With the five of us, it's really kind of funny that it hasn't happened before, because it's kind of obvious," says Slusarenko. "It's a no-brainer, in terms of our tastes and who we enjoy being around."