If you’re a local band who’s found popularity in the area (aka a fan base ratcheted to your touring schedule of seedy dive bars in Orlando), then I’m sorry but I’m with Ms. Twain on this one, “that don’t impress me much.” Not because my taste is too good for Spacebar on a Tuesday, but simply because I have only lived in Florida for a year and a half so, culturally, I’m still finding my compass. It’s with shame that I admit to nodding my head in awkward agreement to being totally stoked about a Southern Fried Sunday show and then immediately googling what the hell that is,(turns out, and you guys already know this, it’s the stuff of legends. Cheers Miss Pawli.) It is with the LEAST amount of shame that I claim my ignorance on the account of dudes who have name dropped people they’ve worked with in the aim of putting my next drink on their tab. (*Kristen Wiig’s voice* Oh you diiiiiiiiid???)
So, succumbing to societal pressure, I made a resolution for 2016. (Judging me? Fine, you make a life change in the dead heat of July. Please make sure to Instagram it so I know, though.) See more bands. At all costs. Weekdays? Bring it. Impromptu coffee shop jam? That counts. The best part of intimate local shows is the ability to talk to these hometown heroes or troubadours from the town over. You can shoot the breeze, really being able to dig into their music and sit in their skin, all for the price of some shitty rum and cokes. Enter Gary Lazer Eyes. Who…?
Monday; 8:00pm. Lizzy’s in downtown Orlando. A dark beer sits in front of me as I wait for Olde 64 to open where a colleague’s band is set to play. I don’t have any better social skills, so, here I am conversing with a very drunk French Canadian who thinks it’s interesting that I’m scrawling in my notebook waiting for doors across the street.
Fast forward to 10:30pm where I see guitarist, occasional bboy, and fresh-meat writer, Sean Gray, grabbing a drink from the N. Orange establishment. I slur out, good luck and he throws a gracious nod my way.
Frontman, Austin Young, begins to revel out deep, throaty sounds from the corner tile while I’m drowning in more whiskey than is customary for my weekday calendar. Shrouded in my early morning call time, I shrink out the door and skip the set. First impressions are forever, right?
If that’s the case then I failed with flying colors. Good thing we make our own rules, yes? Yes.
Soon after said shame-inducing shady bounce, I caught an intimate show at Will’s Pub, a welcomed stage for the four dudes of a familiar infamous title.
“We needed a name for a gig we were playing and we had just watched Trailer Park Boys and were like, sure, Gary Lazer Eyes, because it was funny. But we never got around to changing it. Fast forward a year or so and I’m still not sure if I hate it,” Young explains his feelings about the band’s namesake.
Sean weighs in with a culturally relevant suggestion, “I want to change our name to ‘Google Beyonce’. Think about the marketing, it would be, like, so insane.”
The four, Young, lead vocals/guitar, Gray, vocals/guitar, Stephen Gillen, bass, and Michael Otero, drums, hail from the Florida coast area of Melbourne. Sean describes Melbourne as the quintessential sleepy, slightly-alcoholic beach town. It’s not in this quaint beach side town that I find them, though. I’m given an inside look around their natural habitat which is a frat-like pad around the University of Central Florida, an institution which some of the boys just passed through. I’m welcomed by Sean’s lanky shadow, barefoot in the front yard and ushered in MTV Cribs style to their home. I have an immediate instinct to reach into my pocket and pay the door fee for my cup but then realize: Sarah, you’re a girl, you don’t have to pay(feminism?) swiftly followed by the realization I didn’t have to pay at all because I was not at a house party even if the Sports Illustrated poster led me to believe otherwise. It’s not only bare women making the walls anything but; there’s a Grateful Dead tapestry hanging above the couch, some intimate glances are shared with a 2-D Larry David and Al Pacino, all the while dusty liquor bottles line the upper shelving of the cabinets.
A wary pitbull mix sits next to me cooling herself on the leather couch. Her coat is coffee with two drops of cream. She’s soothed by the first sounds of her peers this AM; Austin warbling out the sleepiness from his voice, Sean tuning his guitar, one leg rested in the crook of the other, Stephen, in a chair, amongst wires snaking the floor picking at his bass, and Otero finding his rhythm as he taps the drums in front of him.
Young wears his coffee mug snuggly in his palms between songs, still feeling out how the rehearsal is going to transpire. The band starts out with some older songs from an EP done in a local Orlando music hot spot, Studio 18.
“To be honest, it’s not really my favorite collection of songs. We just felt so much pressure to get something out. This time around we’re taking more time with the whole process– writing, tracking, all of it,” Sean tells me.
The Gary Lazer Eyes EP, Black and White, sits in the space of their band website for all to hear. It’s an odd turn for the band now that I have heard their live sound and they’re in front of me. The songs have a dark undertone. You wouldn’t picture the bright, beachy boys dressed in slouchy jeans and loose cotton tees that were putting on a living room show right before my feet. They’re not so far removed from a time when living room furniture or garage walls were the only patrons to their sound. In band years, the guys are in the crawling stages; the formative years of finding their sound, their niche.
“We started playing together around two years ago and I had done a lot of solo stuff before,” Young says, a red cup of mystery liquid now cradled in his fingers.
“The first music I ever heard was most likely some southern gospel at the Melbourne Church of God. It was this Christian side of my family that got me playing music at a young age. Although I have to attribute my early exposure to alternative music to my dad.”
From there, the frontman carried on writing and making music throughout his adolescence until he connected with his now bandmates of GLE,(Google Beyonce is kind of growing on me.) They started off with acoustic gigs and DIY events until they decided it was time to make this side project a full time gig. That is to say, in between day jobs, night jobs, and other daily tasks that get in the way of practicing, rehearsing, and touring all the time.
“I think the goal is to be able to do this full time and live off of just playing, to not have to work for my parents anymore. That’d be tight,” Gray says.
“The goal is to be a rockstar, duh,” Young chuckles out on the end of Sean’s statement.
It’s perhaps a stab at people who might perceive a career in music to be all girls, whiskey’s, and major chords back to back but the guys of Lazer Eyes know the hard work that underlies all the perks. Although their band life may be short, they’ve covered a lot of ground around Central Florida and beyond in the past two years. Their feet, often shoeless, have seen the Florida Music Festival(twice), venues all across Orlando and surrounding beaches, and stages as far as Nashville, Tennessee. Instead of pointing at what could be bigger or better they’ve taken every opportunity and parlayed it into the next helping them form relationships with bands in the local scene.
2016 has been very cool indeed for these intercoastal artists. Between Melbourne and Orlando the band has seen a lot of show time be it at The Social with the likes of The Western Sons and The Mellow Relics or Indialantic’s Monkey Bar, with SWIMM. They’re not slowing down anytime soon so you should probably stop sleeping and catch them before it’s too late.
Slept On : overlooked; forgotten, ignored.
Don’t worry, while you’re napping they’re in the studio, grinding to the f-in bone.
“You’re nothing without good material. You can tour and sell merch and be everywhere but without good songs you have nothing, no longevity.”
“That’s what we’re doing now, really putting in the work to make good, new songs we like,” he iterates.
It’s more than refreshing to see a group of people courageous enough to make their passions into a lifelong career. Their combination of raw musical abilities and work ethic make an unbridled groove-rock sound that gives this band longevity in Florida and beyond.
Stop reading here, though…okay maybe just a bit longer but what I mean is stop reading and go see for yourself. Drop your plans on May 30th and see them moving the crowd at the Shows I Go To and Ten10 Memorial Day Bash. Put your Netflix binge aside and stay after on Craft Music Mondays at Sidebar to have a couple of drinks with the guys. Ask Sean about dancing very closely with Father John Misty. Watch Otero make angelic noises on a wooden box that doesn’t seem humanly possible. Talk to Stephen about his surprising love of folk music. And you should most definitely ask Austin about the story involving a newly repaired hole in the glass window of their UCF home.
So keep your eyes open and one ear to the streets for a contagious sound from your new favorite Orlando band; Gary Lazer Eyes, that’s mother fuckin’ who.
Show some love on their Facebook page, Gary Lazer Eyes. You’ll also find their HOT new single, “Galapagos” and all the exciting upcoming tour dates! Like or share it, maybe. Whatever you think is cool enough to tell your friends.