Interview with Lion Eyes’ Katie Everingham

Spend a year cruising Mexico and the South Pacific by land and sea, and you’ll find a lot of beautiful scenery, and even some fun local music: in Mexico, my favorite band was Frixoleros, with infectious lady-percussion in the form of  “Son Jarocho”-dancing-feet; in the Marquesas, various  costumed drummers pounding on gorgeous, hand-carved drums was the norm. Nevertheless, as soon as my boyfriend and I docked our boat for good in Auckland, New Zealand, we took to the streets like a pair of feral jungle beasts, hungry for the sights and sounds of city life. After a quick paw through the local music mags, we settled on Cassette 9 for our Friday night out. Cassette’s “MUM” was featuring Australian it-band, The Jezabels, who never actually showed up (a sore throat, reportedly), but it all worked out for the best anyway, because the opener, Auckland-based trio Lion Eyes, turned out to be more our “cuppa”.

Energetic, inventive post-punk pop, tamed by the steady smashing of lioness drummer, Katie Everingham, goes wild at times, then kitten-cute, then drags its tail, pacing and brooding and sort of Joy Division/Jesus And Mary Chain-y, before breaking back into mane-shaking goodtimes. All beastly metaphoricalisms  aside,  Lion Eyes plays with time-structures and genres, and, though they might remind you a little of such-and-such indie band you’ve heard before (in a totally good way), you could never call them derivative. Try to, and they’ll flip your words back at you, turning a new direction with a mean as tail-swish. Better yet, don’t try to. Just read Katie’s entertaining banter, then buy their brand new EP. It’s rad. The end.

Full name: Katie Everingham

‘Where were you born: Whangarei, New Zealand

Where do you live now: Auckland

Musical instruments: Drums, guitar and vox

Bands past and present: Lion Eyes, Shadowbat (Solo project)

Tom Tom Mag: When did you first take up the drums, and what drew you to them?

Katie Everingham: I first started drumming when I was around 12, I asked my mum if I could take lessons at school and she agreed on the premise that I also learned guitar, so we had a deal! From then onwards I learned/played on and off but really got into drums being my primary instrument again in my last year of high school, around three years ago.

TTM: Did you’re mom have any special reason for wanting you to play guitar, or was she just hoping you’d prefer guitar so she wouldn’t have to listen to noisy drumming in the house?

KE: I think because we had a guitar at home I had learned a few basic things before then, so she was just trying to encourage that. Also I suppose at the time it would’ve seemed like a far more practical instrument for me to learn so having the option to take it further was good.

TTM: How and when did you get involved with Lion Eyes?

KE: It all began one fateful night at a party that Ben(bassist/singer), James(guitarist) and I were at. They were both in separate bands and I wasn’t playing drums much at the time. A friends band was unable to play a show that they had agreed to so we thought it could be fun to make a temporary band to fill their spot. We initially called ourselves ‘Zebratron’ and went for a bit of a robotic zebra theme, but when we decided we wanted to continue as a band we changed our name and expanded our style a bit.

TTM: Wow, can you start that again as a side project, please?!!! That sounds amazing! But, Yeah, I guess I can see how the zebra robot thing could be a bit…limiting? How’d you settle on the new name?

KE: Ben came up with Lion Eyes, he has quite the awesome/abstract mind. I think we settled on it, cos for one it has a nice sound to it.  I think it kind of evokes some pretty cool imagery, and also it was kind of a play on the word ‘Lionize’ which means to ‘treat or make something/someone important and interesting’/bring to public attention. As awesome as the robot-zebra angle is I think we outgrew it quite quickly, but we still cherish the gems we wrote while under the zebratronic influence haha.

TTM: Are you kind of an anomaly in Auckland, or New Zealand in general, being a chick drummer, or are there others? The lady drummer thing is kinda becoming a “scene” in Brooklyn, NY (no wonder, since this is where Tom Tom Mag is based), so I’m just curious what the atmosphere is like for you there. How supported are you? I mean, do you have to put up with crap like, “she’s a good drummer…for a girl”, or any of that nonsense?

KE: Not really, I guess we haven’t promoted ourselves enough to be too well known beyond our scene, and there are a couple of other bands around with female drummers, not heaps, but they’re there. I’ve always been a little hesitant to milk the female drummer thing, I want to be considered good, not just considered good for a girl. Although there have been times when I’ve got to know people who’ve later told me that when they first saw/heard us that me being a female drummer was an added draw card to Lion Eyes for them. I’ve also definitely had to put up with a lot of crap (mostly from gross drunk guys, or arrogant older men) who tell me I’m really good…  for a girl. Oh I’ve also even had one guy try ask for my number or something in the middle of a set while I was playing, my friend had to come up and ask him to leave. I think maybe playing drums does make girls seem a bit cooler than when they’re milling round not playing drums haha.

TTM: See, if you were dressed like a robotic zebra, maybe that wouldn’t happen so much (or maybe the hit-ons would just get creepier)? Incidentally, what do you think of that whole female drummer as added draw-card thing?

KE: Haha maybe it would scare people away, that would be helpful in the middle of a set! I think often bands with female drummers get ahead a bit quicker than they should purely on the premise of having a female drummer, rather than on the quality of the music and more specifically drumming, and that kinda bothers me a bit. Girls can drum just as good as/better than guys, so why not put in the effort to achieve that rather than playing the same four to the floor beat in every song ya know?

TTM: What are your favorite bands to: dance to / clean to / throw a dinner party to / emo-out to / throw raging tantrums to?

KE: Wow, good question. Dance to.. Fleetwood Mac definitely.

Clean to.. um (I probably don’t clean enough to answer this very well) right now I’m quite liking Tune-Yards, I could imagine that would be good cleaning music. Ooh and The Smiths. They’re good for a bit of a cleaning/dance fusion I reckon.

Dinner Party – Warpaint.. probably Warpaint would be the answer to all of these actually, but I’m trying to mix it up a bit.

Emo-out to, I guess it depends what kind of emo-ing out you are doing. The Sami Sisters‘ ‘Happy Heartbreak’ album, even though it sounds very upbeat, is awesome for having a sulky/’Waaah! I can relate to these lyrics so well’ moment when your heart’s feeling a little sad, otherwise I like kinda ambient and/or mellow stuff like Cocteau Twins, Portishead, Dear Time’s Waste. etc

Um I’m not much of a tantrum thrower but I guess music like At The Drive In, Smashing Pumpkins etc is good for getting your spazz on.

TTM: Are you still on schedule to have the Lion Eyes physical debut EP out by the end of 2011 (I hope so, 2012 is end days, you know.) How has the experience of recording an album been?

KE: Our internet release is available now, and the physical release of our EP will be out by early 2012 also. I guess this is a good example of how our recording process has gone, it’s been awesome but quite dragged out. We have had so many cool, talented people help us out and do things on the cheap but I guess in exchange for that you at times lose priority and such. We recorded our EP over a few days in September 2010, and every stage beyond that has been slightly less speedy. We’re basically just finishing the last touches of the album art graphics now and then we’re good to go. We are all so relieved about finally getting it out, but also keen to jump straight into recording our next one because our music has developed and changed so much over that time. Even though I still love the EP I feel like it doesn’t really represent where our music is now, but I guess I’ve also listened to it a lot over the course of it’s creation, hopefully it’s still fresh and exciting for everyone else.

TTM: In what way to you feel your music has developed/changed?

KE: I think we’ve all been attempting to be more creative in regards to creating our individual parts in songs, and trying to bring them together in the best way possible. For example one of the first songs we wrote was ‘Zebra’s Comin’ Back’ which, at the time, considering we were all a bit rusty, was really fun and felt like a good accomplishment. But it is essentially the same thing over and over again, just with slight alterations between the sections. Now we’re trying to use different sounds, different dynamics, different time signatures and just trying to make our songs more diverse and interesting. Initially it can be tricky to write a song with time shifts and get everything locked in well with each other, but when we achieve it it’s really cool, and I personally feel that if people are going to support us by coming to shows and buying our music and such then I want to put in effort to do the best I can to make it worth people’s while, if that makes sense?

TTM: Of course! That’s a great philosophy. Speaking of live shows, at the Cassette 9 show where I first encountered you, I noticed you have a lovely voice in addition to kickass drumming skills. But you only stepped out from behind the drums for one song. Will we hear more of your voice on the record then? And, do you foresee yourself one day singing more from behind the drums, a la Don Henley or Levon Helm?

KE: Thank you kindly! Um there is one track on the EP that I sing/play guitar on, which again is a very old song that we don’t play anymore (from our Zebratron days, hence it being about a gangsta Zebra) and to be truthful I cringe a little when I hear it. And now, other than the song you heard, I don’t really sing too much in Lion Eyes. I guess I am kinda focused on drumming and do not have the coordination/mad talent required to do both simultaneously and well. We’re not closed off to the idea, but when we write music we just do what comes naturally, so you never know I suppose. I dabble in writing some solo music, so I guess that’s my outlet for singing/writing lyrics and I’ve been lucky enough to get to do some recordings where I’ve recorded drums, bass, synth, guitar, etc. for it, but it’s very different to what Lion Eyes is doing.

TTM: You’re talking about Shadowbat, right? What’s it like, in ten adjectives or less. And do you ever perform as Shadowbat? Any plans for an official release?

KE: Yeah Shadowbat’s the one! Eepp, um I guess Mellow, melancholic and delicate at times, fairly subdued. Um I don’t know, it’s quite hard to describe! Haha! I used to perform my solo stuff more, but not so much now. Not because I don’t want to, just because of general business/poor organizational skills. But yeah I should seek that out and it get it underway again. I have done some pretty low key recordings that at some point I may do a free release kind of thing with, but again it’s just something I haven’t quite sought out yet.

TTM: Okay, I admit it. Being a clueless expat, I kinda stalked your facebook music friends on the assumption that birds of an (awesome) feather flock together. And I learned that, yes, this cliche proves true, and, shit! Do I really have to relocate from Wellington to Auckland? Because all of your favorites (and my new faves: particularly Strange Beast, Blue Room Experiment, Cool Cult, and The Aristocrats) are Auckland-based. Say it ain’t so! Are all the cool kiwis in bands skulking around Auckland?

KE: I don’t think you have to relocate, Wellington is known for being a pretty awesome place when it comes to the arts and general creativity, you just need to find where it is (I’d recommend lingering around Cuba Street, you’re bound to hear something awesome some time soon) but Auckland is also pretty good when it comes to a wide variety of awesome indie/alt kinda music. Strange Beast, Blue Room Experiment and Lion Eyes all kind of got into the scene towards the end of/just after High School and we did a lot of shows and stuff together so I do love those cats and their music a whole bunch. Auckland has a pretty hip & happening indie/noise scene as well, so if you’re into that then it’s a good place to be. Dunedin is also a good place for New Zealand music. I think these are probably the three places where you’l have the best luck finding sweet bands, but definitely doesn’t rule out other places. There’s plenty of awesome talent hidden around New Zealand to get amongst.

TTM: Phew, well that’s good. What’s your favorite thing(s) about New Zealand? Least favorite?

KE: My favorite thing about New Zealand is probably the size, but I guess my least favorite thing is also probably the size. Being such a small country we’ve managed to do a (relatively) good job of preserving some amazing nature and the fact that it is always so nearby and so easily accessible is pretty amazing and I think we’re pretty lucky to have it. Though the fact that as a nation we’re so small is quite unideal when it comes to music, as there are generally quite limited audiences to try to expose your music to. Especially if your music doesn’t fit into a mainstream niche. I think realistically if you can make a living from being a musician in NZ then you are pretty fortunate, most of the time musicians and bands need to leave and take their music overseas pretty early on in their careers cos’ there’s only so many times in a small time frame that you can play the same things to the same people and have it go anywhere.

TTM: Kiwi kids have a grand old tradition of getting the eff out outta dodge when they turn about 18 or so, called their OE (overseas experience). Have you already had your OE, and if so, where’d you go and how was it? If not, do you have plans to (and what’s kept you?)

KE: This is true! I’ve been real lucky in regards to traveling and have been quite a few places. This time last year I went to Mexico, New York, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. I love South America and would love to do spend more time there some time soon, and go to some other countries around there. Also New York was amazing, it’s the only place in the USA (not that I’ve been too many places there) that I could imagine living for a little while. I’m still paying for all the traveling now, eek! But it was so worth it. I think again due to NZ’s size it’s quite common for kiwis to have a desire to get out and explore. Also just cos it’s such a common thing for people to do, it feels like the norm and so most New Zealanders intend to do it from a pretty early age. I never really considered it my ‘OE’ though, I just wanted to get out and experience something different. I think there is still bigger and better traveling to be done for myself.

TTM: Will Lion Eyes do an “OE” tour of their own in the near future?

KE: I hope so, we would really love to. To be honest there’s nothing in regards to overseas touring in the works at the moment. Once our EP is done we want to go around NZ a bit, but if the opportunity arose to go overseas we would definitely seize it straight away. That will probably be the next step after our 2nd EP is done, maybe try organize some Australian shows and gradually expand from there.

TTM: It’s 2 minutes after midnight on January 1, 2012. Lion Eyes is busy killing it at a fancy dress party, when suddenly, your set is interrupted by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, who have just come charging in through the ceiling. They are threatening to trample all your friends to mush unless you play them The Best Song Ever Written. Which song will it be, and what are you wearing?

KE: Oh my goodness, pressure. There are too many best songs! Do we have to play it or could we like, plug an ipod into a PA and let the magic happen? If so I’m just going to go with my first instinct and say I’d play ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush. Even if they don’t agree that it’s amazing, at the very least I can imagine it would stun them and give us time to escape. In a perfect world I would be wearing some amazing jumpsuit, ideally with an amazing pattern on it, realistically no shoes and maybe some cool sunglasses or something, cos wearing sunglasses as nighttime makes you badass.

TTM: ‘Wuthering Heights’ turned up full blast, combined with a silver/gold poly-spandex zebra-striped jumpsuit, and sunglasses at night, just might eff with those ponies enough to stop End Days. Way to go! Okay, now that you’ve saved the world from exploding, any near-death resolutions for the New Year?

KE: I would like to think so, um near death resolutions.. Do some EP release shows around the country, get EP two recorded and released, hopefully get a video or two done. Not too sure what else, but those are definitely some band priorities.

TTM: Cool, thanks Katie! Readers, click on the album cover below to get the new EP now! Only $3 NZD!!! What’s that, like $2.20 US? Do it! And, if you’re in NZ in March, check out Lion Eyes and other sweet kiwi bands having fun in the sun at the Chronophonium festival. Happy 2012, everyone!

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview by Leslie Henkel

Photos courtesy of Lion Eyes, MUM club photos from Cassette are by Suren Unka, and the “tea cups” band photo is by Liam Mertens

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  1. “‘Wuthering Heights’ turned up full blast” sounds very daunting because I remember the novel had only one happy chapter. All the rest of the novel was about how miserable, bitter, unhappy, and how angry they were.

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