DC’s DIY music scene is a formidable one, with a history rich in hardcore punk (among other genres) and countless concert venues mere blocks away from one another, it's hard to deny the opportunity the city provides for cultivation and experimentation.
Bleary Eyed, however, isn’t a band that was born from the streets of Dupont Circle or given a “break” by one of the famous venues in the area. Rather, the punk/shoegaze/noise band whose music melts between genres and creates fuzz to fill their listener’s ears was formed a mere few miles outside the nation’s capital in the clean cut suburbs of Bethesda. It was among overpriced houses and indulgent consumers that the guys who comprise Bleary Eyed experimented with different music projects, grappled with growing up, eventually found one another, toyed around, and released two EPs, all eventually before finishing freshman year of college.
The original lineup of Bleary Eyed, when formed in 2015, was Ray Brown (drums), Coby Haynes (guitar), Brandon Minor (bass), and Nathaniel Salfi (guitar/vocals). However, over the course of the recent year, the lineup has shifted as a result of the guys being somewhat scattered for college but hasn’t altered drastically. Currently, the members stay the same save two additions: Paul Burke (bass) and Ben Kaunitz (guitar). This expansion happening in hopes of giving the band a fuller sound. Salfi and Haynes both attend school in Philly and their gradual diving into the music scene there resulted in their meeting Burke and Kaunitz there and thus them being the newest members of Bleary Eyed. Nonetheless, the members and their roles continue to fluctuate, as Haynes and Ben Abrams (who played drums for Bleary Eyed’s newest EP) will often fill in on drums when Brown is playing shows with his other band, Snail Mail.
Though one might brush the band off given the members’ youth (all around 18 and 19 years old), their collective and individual experiences prove them to be quite the music scene veterans. Take for example frontman Salfi, who has been in a number of side projects leading up to Bleary Eyed and when he's not playing he can be found humbling booking and hosting shows at his home (or, technically his parent’s) in Bethesda. All the members also have histories with in side projects, sometimes even overlapping ones (as Salfi and Brown have been in two bands together before Bleary Eyed and Haynes and Minor were at once a two-piece). The guys are also advent attendees of gigs, both while at home and at college, emphasizing the importance of supporting all music scenes, not just the one you’re used to.
The group recorded their first EP, Cherry Blossom, in late 2015, and was released January of 2016 through Sorry Dad Records. Their sound during this fledgling stage was primarily heavy, teetering between punk and shoegaze, reminiscent of the hardcore influence from DC as well as past music projects. The instrumentals are very hard hitting, creating an intense background as Salfi sings of hazy situations and the unfamiliar sensations that come with leaving home. Salfi’s lyricism is definitely an aspect of the band that ties it together and tops off it's strangely satisfying sound, particularly so in the band’s most recent release, Zeeke. This EP, released early spring through Twin Moons Art Collective, provides a better grasp of the band’s vibe, as it can be heard leaning closer to shoegaze while still heavy on guitar and incorporating new intricacies, like keys. All the while, the lyrics stay somewhat similar in form but maturing in content and delivery, as the songs on Zeeke relay specific encounters and images that overlap into one another and allude to larger themes and feelings.
On the opening track, “Chopped Just Fine,” Salfi creates an image of dissociation and the anxiety that comes with doubting yourself as he croons “In case you wonder, why things are this way, (I too ask myself)/In case you’ve stuttered, and held on to a moment too long/Watch your past self, yell and feel warmth underneath your skin.” While on the EP’s closing track “Speaking Just Fine,” he alludes to the unexpected emotions that come with leaving home and the unsure sense of how to deal with it or the people you're leaving, he sings out “A short walk to grab the mail I don’t know I can leave here/ justified/our short talks the look behind their eyes I hope that one day/ I’ll leave here but they come with me” all while the guitar whines and keys reel behind his voice. ✉
article by: lydia velazquez
visual by: al smith