Pump up the VOLUME; An interview with Jay Garrigan of The Eyebrows

The Eyebrows are a rock band from Charlotte, NC, whose quirky lyrics — coupled with manic-fuzz guitar, beer-soaked bass and a retro backbeat — have brought comparisons to the Talking Heads and Pixies with a touch of The Stranglers and Modern Lovers.
No strangers to the scene, The Eyebrows tracked and mixed their debut album, VOLUME, with legendary REM producer Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium sound studio. Ten tracks have been mastered by Greg Calbi out of Sterling Sound in NYC, and the band released the album themselves in August 2018 on vinyl, CD and digital formats.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with The Eyebrow’s Jay Garrigan to discuss their newly minted pop rock gem. This is what he said.
When did you first begin writing the material for VOLUME?
I should probably start out by saying that I’m constantly writing music, so The Eyebrows had a lot to pick through and choose from. One song is fairly old. I think I wrote “Pent Up Things” near 2006. I have a cool demo of it where you hear footsteps upon a creaking floor before the first chord of an organ is hit, and I recorded the vocal the very first time I ever sang it. To the trained ear, I’m sure it sounds terrible, but there’s a very cool low fi vibe to it. It’s one of the more complex songs on the record, and I think it had the right time to bake.
Some of these songs, like “Red Dress” and “Tonight’s Your Night,” Shawn [Lynch] and I played but never recorded when I had a solo-type band near 2012. The songs evolved an grew into better arrangements, and we put those into The Eyebrows set.
The rest have come over the past four-five years. Some were written in five minutes and BAM done… well with some refinement. Some I’ve re-recorded several times before going into the studio, just to be sure I’ve got the right arrangement and/or parts.
Tell us a little about yourselves. Are all three of you from the Charlotte area? Did you guys know each other from being in previous bands?
I’m a military brat, so I have the “I’m from nowhere, but I’m now here” mentality although I’m more of a Charlottean than most. Shawn is originally from Gastonia and Darrin Gray (bassist) is from Hartsville, South Carolina. Charlotte is our home, although we often scratch our heads as to why this is. It’s a strange, perplexing city often diametrically opposed to its best interests. It’s musically and artistically isolated from the music business, which in terms of creativity, is great.
Shawn and I have been playing in bands off and on for 18 years, so in a way you could call The Eyebrows an evolution of what we started in 2000. We had a three-piece trio called Poprocket between 2000-2006 where we put out two EPs. Darrin Gray was a fan, and we were fans of his as we met him when he drummed for glam/stoner rock outfit Smithwick Machine.
Shawn and I also spent some time in a band called Temperance League. Shawn was playing guitar, and I joined on bass, then moved over to keys. They helped me out a lot because at the time I was recovering from botched Lasik surgery and became uncreative due to severe pain and occasional low vision. A side-role in that band gradually gave me a path back to enjoying life and music. Life gets in the way, and sometimes your friends help you refocus.
Darrin was our first pick for a bassist when we started talking about starting up The Eyebrows. I can’t begin to express how happy we are to have Darrin in The Eyebrows on bass… finally!

We’re loving that video for “Red Dress” amd just our hands on the tripped-out “Avocado.” Do you have more videos up your sleeve?
Thank you. I have a few more video ideas for VOLUME, but I don’t want to give them away! I think my bandmates are becoming protective of me and want me to concentrate on writing songs. I’m thinking of making a video in secret and not telling them. Just for fun.
I’m already thinking through videos for the next record we are recording in November… You could say I’m waiting for a traveling carnival to come to town for the next location…
How did you come about working with the master, Mitch Easter?
For the longest time, I thought someone like Mitch Easter was out of my league for recording my own music. I guess I just really respect and revere the work Mitch has done, and it just seemed outlandish that someone I admire could be part of my art and story.
Over the years we’ve shared show bills, and I’ve been on several records (five with Temperance League, a 45 with Amigo, and one so far with The Eyebrows). So I think it’s been a natural progression of work and friendship. I’ve gotten to know Mitch best through my drummer Shawn – as Shawn plays bass in Mitch’s bands (currently under the name Balderdash Ltd.). We often joke that those two are related because they both have similar fuzzy hair.
We know you’re grounded in many of the classics (Modern Lovers, Bowie, Zappa, etc). But what artists are you listening to these days? Any North Carolina artists we should be aware of?
I have been exploring the world of cheap, used vinyl records. I’ve been  rabid collector of ELO and Black Sabbath lately. Same thing with The Cramps and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. As far as new stuff, I like some California bands like Mother Hips and The Schizophonics. Honestly, I don’t like a lot of new music because I feel of it isn’t recorded in a genuine manner. The digital recording revolution has made things sound less special to me.
As far as Charlotte, North Carolina goes, I think there are quite a few great bands. I like a band called The Business People a whole lot. They have great melodies and can make a room of strangers break into spontaneous dance. I like whatever Phil Pucci and Nicholas Holman are doing – they have a band called Pullover that is dream-guitar-pop amazing. There’s a crazy noise-psychedelic band called Paint Fumes out of here that you may know about – that’s probably my all-time favorite active Charlotte band. There’s a traditional-style country band called the Loose Lugnuts that puts on a stellar alcohol-fused, stomping and stammering show. Genuine singer/songwriters like Reeve Coobs, John Dugan and Mike Strauss will leave you longing for more intimacy. You can have a hilarious time watching The Alternative Champs play a show in mime gear (mime before money… right?). You can also catch a cruise on the power-pop Party Battleship. I like a band called Delirium Trio very much – kind of different for me as they are instrumental, as in I feel like I want to jump on the mic an go into a Tom Waits character from Small Change when they play. This band contains former Eyebrow bassist Jon Lock – and I’ve recorded their first demos, and recording more.
It’s been said that Charlotte bands, generally speaking, have a lot more teeth than bands from other towns. There’s a discomfort here, and an underlying hunger.
What’s next in the world of The Eyebrows? Any possible touring?
Great question. I think we are waiting to see what opportunities this record will produce. For whatever reason, the stars are seeming to align around the record VOLUME and the band. I’m aiming for us to play more regionally in the Southeast between now and February. You could say I’m cautiously optimistic it could grow into something more.
We are tracking the second record with Mitch Easter starting in November, so I’ve also been focused on refining the songs and the band has been learning/working them up. We already have five of the new songs in our current set.
I think there is a certain neive romance with touring. Then again, I just traded in my car for a band-ready minivan.
I’d love to play in front of more people, but right now I’m just feeling very lucky to be playing in a band with two of my best friends. These two guys make The Eyebrows a really fun band and it would be great to see more of the world with them.
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