Wise Eyes is a hard-working, hard-rocking local band, originally from Bowie, that makes exceptionally distinct music. After a few switch-ups including the departure of Evan Ruhl, the band now includes lead man, Sean Mo (Sean Moore, guitar/lead vox); brothers, Brett Setera (guitar/vox), Tyler Setera (drums/percussion/vox); and the ready, steady Alex Wolsky (bass, vox). Wise Eyes has been playing around #naptown since The Whiskey (Without exaggeration: The BEST bar in the history of the universe) circa 2010, and we remember being impressed - not so much the very first time - but every single time since then. Exponentially, they've gained momentum. Now, they're serious about their path, and they can tear the house down at will.
On their newest release, "Empath" the group conjures some seriously compelling indie-rock jams that are sure to make you wanna’ join the already-in-progress party. Our Dreams opens with classic introductory guitar riffs, in some ways reminiscent of The Who - but before 1971 and all of Townsend's synth and keys. Tyler's pure, driving drum beat confidently leads the way and just when you think you're acclimating and familiar with the surroundings, the band fades out early, making way for a longer second cut, Breathe. It's a hipster ballad with punch, classic crooner elements, and beautiful staggered harmonies. Listen to the song a couple of times to appreciate the band's work: once for overall layout and emotionality, then another time to listen to the devices of the song, the components and how they are artfully woven together... it's very nice, illustrating Sean's skill at storytelling and featuring some pretty sweet guitar solos from Brett.
The guys describe themselves as "a Folk Rock band from Maryland with a similar sound to CCR and Grateful Dead." We checked their Reverbnation page, and they cited "The Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Against Me!, NOFX - Official Page, Lagwagon" as influences. In Facebook, they mentioned "Bob, Dylan, John Fogerty, Bob Marley, Dr. Dog, Jack Johnson, Elliott Smith, Mad Caddies, Grateful Dead, (and) Pennywise." Hmmm... All this may be true, and thank goodness if it is. By the time this impressive recipe comes together, there's only one band that they truly sound like: Wise Eyes. There is no fusion confusion like you hear from some bands, like Dr. Suess' famous "push-me-pull-you," always pulling in opposing directions. Instead, they compliment each other adeptly, with professionalism and respect, taking turns to contribute to the musical conversation . This shines through on the album, a top notch effort.
So, enough about these guys as serious musicians. (We really don't want to spoil their hard-earned reputations as mischief makers!) Truthfully, nothing could be further from the truth - and if you check out tour videos (below) from their very recent national tour, you will see the evidence. The band works hard, but plays harder. This playfulness translates to their music as well. You'll note creative guitar play throughout the album, some calling to mind the distortion and reverb effects used by the King of Surf Rock guitar himself, Dick Dale. As we mentioned earlier, that's what is so wonderful about Wise Eyes: they're adventurous and use lots of fun, novel ingredients for their rock 'n roll stew. At times, it feels like you, the listener, are getting a workout just from following the Tyler's intense drum play.
As you read this, I can hear your wheels turning, "but what about the jams? Grateful Dead? John Fogerty and Creedence too?" Rest assured, it's in there. This band likes nothing better than to let loose (even more so in their live performances) and it's clearly reflected in Mama O Papa, Upside Down, Minor Turn, and another of our personal favorites, Peyton Court. [Check out the crazy acoustic Silo Session video #3 below! ("Thank you U-tah!")] Privately, Sean alludes, with a sideways glance and rueful smirk, to a story behind this stirring tale - we'll leave it up to you to boldly ask for more details when you see them playing out. It makes for a great tune.
And yes, we confess, maybe we're just suckers for soft and sweet yet totally kick-ass rock ballads, but the band delivers two more immense crowd pleasers in Runnin and Empath. Runnin definitely has a hint of Radiohead's Creep, but we absolutely love the way Brett's guitar flows like quicksilver, slipping in and around Sean's stellar vocals. The song closes out, featuring more pristine harmonies, then evolves into a delicate little frolic. As you hear it, you think to yourself, "did they include a hidden track? You congratulate yourself at finding it, and then, whoops! It ends. These guys are definitely masterful teases, leaving you to always want more. The next ballad, poignant "Empath," is very Beatles-esque with a beautiful, iconic melody, and an incredible, classical piano solo by Brett Setera, to close out the album. We're told that this was done on the first take. By far, it is the cleanest sounding, and best-organized song. The entire band comes together at the end, with Alex' assertive bass line, in perfect balance.
We could go on and on about this work, but In closing, we'll sum our comments up by saying that this is an album with a lot of detail and complexity, the kind that you can listen to over and over, picking up new nuances each time. It's a very good value, undoubtedly one that will still be prized in five years. We can't wait to see where Wise Eyes will go, and what they will do, as an encore.
Standout Songs: City, Minor Turn, Runnin, Chance Encounter, and Empath.
Produced, Recorded & Mixed by Seth Donaldson at Airshow Mastering
Mastered by Randy LeRoy
Release date: July 20, 2016