Eugene Weekly : Music : 5.31.07

The Eyes Have It
After a year of transition, Eleven Eyes hits a jazzy stride

It all started as a senior recital. Five years ago, music major Tim McLaughlin wrote a half hour composition to fulfill a requirement for his graduation from the UO School of Music. He assembled a band of musicians he had met while gigging around town as a horn player and the rest, as they say, is history.

Eleven Eyes 5th anniversary show. 9 pm Saturday, June 9. WOW Hall • $7 adv., $8 door.

“Luna had just opened,” McLaughlin remembers when asked about the band’s early days. “Adam [Bernstein, of Adam’s Place] asked if I had a bigger, funkier band that could play there. We got a gig at the Eugene Celebration the same year.”

Never a demure little jazz ensemble, Eleven Eyes has been building its “bigger, funkier” sound ever since, incorporating electronic loops, samples and extended instrumental improvisation into their popular live shows. Their latest project, a live CD ideally to be released this winter, will include tracks captured at their upcoming five year anniversary party at the WOW Hall.

“We’re using a show we did at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland. We want to represent something from Eugene and from Portland, which are both hometowns for us,” McLaughlin says.

Eleven Eyes’ lineup has shifted in the half-decade since its inception. Not only have band members come and gone, but they’ve switched up instruments and traded around primary responsibility for the electronic elements of their music. Longtime collaborator MC Monk Metz is appearing with the band more often and will lend his vocal stylings at the anniversary show. Sam Berrett is the most recent addition to the band.

“Sam’s our new drummer,” McLaughlin says with enthusiasm. “He’s got a great feel for the music, a natural insight for the concept we’re going for. He’s really responsive to working with drum loops.”

After taking some time to regroup, Eleven Eyes is back on the road, playing all over the West Coast and planning to break farther afield. According to McLaughlin, their goals include working outside the U.S.

“We want to do more extended tours to the East Coast and we’d like to get to Europe,” he says. “We have a sense that people over there would have a great appreciation for what we are doing. We’re feeling really strong about where we are right now. This is, arguably, the best the group has ever sounded.”

McLaughlin says the band is feeling “refreshed vigor” for making music together, constantly experimenting with new sounds and pushing the borders of what Eleven Eyes has done in the past.

“I like starting with a riff,” he explains. “Starting from that and building more texture around it, going back and forth from the instrument to the computer. It’s never a set thing — that’s the beauty of it. You just have to listen for it when it calls, whether it comes from a saxophone or from inside your head.”