|Photo by: http://kaninerecords.com|
Xray Eyeballs formed in Brooklyn in 2000 under the musical hand of O.J. San Felipe. Their debut album, Not Nothing, dropped in 2011, followed by another full length the next year. The band also has two sold-out cassettes and stays busy touring and working on new material.
This year, Xray Eyeballs is set to co-headline Lobsterfest, also marking their debut at Ohio University. ACRN had the chance to talk to O.J. San Felipe, the man behind the band, about his music, performing live and why he could be the next great zombie actor.
ACRN: To start, can you tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are today music-wise and also about the formation of Xray Eyeballs?
O.J. San Felipe: Well I actually started getting seriously into music in New York ... I moved to New York and I [formed] a few bands here and there and ... Xray Eyeballs is my favorite project right now and Xray Eyeballs was just, I wasn’t even planning to play live really, it was more to make music and just have some recordings and just give them to people for fun kind of ... I was going to record them and play all the instruments and record them myself just to have them, and then Night People [Records] ... he did a cassette of all the songs that I made and after that and then ... people wanted me to play them live. And then yeah, and so I gathered up a few people to start playing shows and then a couple more singles came out and a whole album. Once we started making records we just started to hit the road. And then that’s where we are--making records and hitting the road all the time.
ACRN: Now, you were in a band before Xray Eyeballs called Golden Triangle?
OSF: Yeah that was right before Xray Eyeballs.
ACRN: What made you break away from that and instead create this other band?
OSF: I didn’t "break away" from it really, it was right on course ... I just started doing [Xray Eyeballs], and there started to be more of a demand for this project and it never really ended officially, I guess. But [what do] they say, hiatus? You know what hiatus means: probably not going to happen again [laughs]. But I don’t know, we might play again sometime, but I’m really busy with Xray now. And I don’t know if that’s going to happen again, but that was a really really fun band.
I thought we were really good and I have a lot of great memories with that band. I think we were [a band] for like three years ... Carly [Rabalais] was also in Golden Triangle. She plays bass in this [Xray Eyeballs] band. She didn’t play any instrument in Golden Triangle, but she was a singer. But in this band she plays bass.
[Xray Eyeballs is] kind of also a vehicle, kind of a way for her to learn how to play bass 'cause she always wanted to play bass in a band. And that’s kind of another little thing about Xray, it's ... kind of a way for me to change, a way for Carly to play bass, and I don't know. It’s really fun. We write a lot of love songs. I love love songs.
ACRN: where do you get your inspiration for your music--lyrically and/or musically?
OSF: Different things. Like for the first album ... those songs were kind of just kicking around the whole time and I mostly wrote them. And I get inspiration from bands, living in New York or--man, I’ve answered this before and it was really good and I can’t think of it! [Laughs] I don’t know, sci-fi--I get inspired by sci-fi a lot. Just how I’m feeling.
The first album was kind of sad, kind of more like a sad kind of album ... I love Wire, Suicide, I get inspired by music I listen to like that. Or even new music. I really love The OC, Dum Dum Girls. You know what? I’ll tell you what. I really love pop music. Xray Eyeballs is more like pop music 'cause I love pop. You know you never get bored of pop. All my favorite kinds of music are pop songs--like Rhianna, I love [her]. I don’t know, any pop song in any format is inspiration to me.
ACRN: Your sound has been compared to Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground. How would you describe your own sound? More pop-y?
OSF: Well, I think [Jesus and Mary Chain are] real pop-y...They have really pop-y songs. I think people probably compare us to them because we [are] kind of noisy too, kind of ... Jesus and Mary Chain has like a noisy element but still pop-y ... Kind of what I’m going for in a way, so like, really noisy but keep the pop there to make it memorable.
I really love Crystal Stilts, they’re one of my favorite bands. They’re like really noisy but they have pop elements in there even though they’re noisy. I think that’s where the comparison is--noisy and kind of pop-y as well.
ACRN: Do you agree with those comparisons then?
OSF: I mean, I love that it might make people think of Jesus and Mary Chain ... which is something good. I like being compared to that. I don’t think we were really trying to sound like that, but maybe it just happened unconsciously. I’ve heard some people say we sound like The Cranberries. [Laughs] I don’t know how but someone said that. People just get different ideas, people have different ideas about us.
ACRN: Well you just released an album earlier this year [Splendor Squalor]. Do you have any other new music in the works? Or anything in store for your band in general?
OSF: Well, we’re always working on the next album and we’re about halfway done writing this one, the third album ... We definitely have a bunch of stuff that hasn’t even been recorded yet. It sounds different from the album that just came out, I feel like.
ACRN: How so?
OSF: It just sounds different. It sounds more like Brit pop-y almost. It just sounds different to me. I feel like it’s like Brit pop or something, but it might not sound like that to people [laughs].
ACRN: Sounds great! How did you get involved with Lobsterfest and what drew you to it? Why did you want to play it?
OSF: I mean [ACRN] emailed us and asked us, and I was just like, "Alright." ... We like playing for colleges, at colleges. [We thought about] going on an all-college tour sometime. It’s like no venues, just play at all the colleges.
ACRN: What do you like about playing at colleges?
OSF: College kids are so enthusiastic. I just feel like it's different than playing a regular musical venue ‘cause people at a musical venue, they have their own expectations if they’re musical fans. At a college festival, it could be a bunch of people that aren’t necessarily music fans, but just students that want to enjoy music, you know? They don’t go there to make any judgment and just want to hear music and hang out. I mean, that’s my take on it. It’s a different kind of acceptance in a way.
ACRN: What can the audience at Lobsterfest expect from your live show?
OSF: They can expect a dance party hopefully. They can expect a lot of energy from us. We’re always exerting a lot of energy into our shows, trying to entertain. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Our shows are really unexpected ... Weird things always happen at our shows.
ACRN: We’ll see what happens at Lobsterfest then.
OSF: Actually, they were going to let me borrow the lobster costume. I saw a picture of the mascot wearing a lobster outfit and ... I said I wanted one, but they said they couldn’t give me one, but they’ll lend me one so I might dress up as a lobster. We’ll see how it goes ‘cause those claws, I don’t know how I’ll be able to play guitar.
I like wearing costumes. Yeah, I want to wear that lobster one. If not, maybe I’ll think of something else.
ACRN: Ideally, where do you see yourself or your band in the next couple of years? What are your long-term [plans]?
OSF: My whole master plan, my whole thing about being in a band, is I like to travel. I like where it takes us. We live here and I hope to at least visit Japan and Australia because I’ve never been to those places before. We’re gonna go to Europe in the fall and I just hope it takes us to more traveling. And hopefully also--I’m telling you my master plan and I never tell this to anyone--my goal is to be an actor. [Laughs] And hopefully somehow I’m an actor at the [same] time I’m in a band. I don’t know, we’ll see. I was in one comedy once. I played an assassin, I didn’t play any of the funny parts. I want to be one of the funny parts in a movie...
ACRN: Was it like an indie film?
OSF: It was “Sexina: Popstar P.I.” And if you go online, on Youtube, I think that trailer’s still there. [Laughs] And you’ll see I get killed by a bear. They showed it in the trailer, but I think they showed my only two scenes in the trailer. They spoiler’d me. If you saw the trailer and you saw the movie, you’d be like, “Oh. We saw everything you did in the trailer.” You don’t have to watch the whole movie, you can watch the trailer.
... I think Carly wants to be an actor too, but I’m not sure. She’s a good actress ... She never did any movies, but if you’ve seen any of the Xray videos, she’s a good actress. She might act better than me. I make a better zombie, but I think she’s a better overall actress. Being a zombie is something that I’ve practiced almost every day so no one can out-zombie me. It’s talent; it’s hard to make a zombie face. It’s really hard. It’s like if you don’t do it right, you just look like a drunk person. There’s a style of being a zombie without being a drunk person and it’s like a really fine line. Only the great zombie actors can do it. [Laughs]
ACRN: Maybe you can be the next great zombie actor?
OSF: I’ll try! I’d also like to be on the other side ... the humans that are cooped up in a house trying to survive the zombies outside. That might be kind of fun. Yeah, that’d be an interesting thing ... I just wanna do both roles--surviving humans or zombies.
ACRN: I think that sounds like a good plan! So, is there anything else you’d like to add about music or Lobsterfest--anything?
OSF: There’s not going to be any lobster, someone told me, but that’s cool. At first, I thought there was going to be lobster or something. It’s called "Lobsterfest."
I like Pujol too. That guy’s awesome, man.
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