Cincinnati Scene Page

Foam Parties and Spider Bites: An Evening with Eat Sugar

Sidney Hilley
Eat Sugar is a riot. A maniacal twist of dance your hot pants off beats mixed with a murky lullaby of classic rock and roll. Don’t compare them to David Bowie, and definitely don’t compare them to Vampire Weekend. This electronic dance quartet isn’t full of lightning bolt face paint and mullets; and they’re definitely not working the Yale cardigan and Oxford sole mantra that many other indie acts may be sporting. Eat Sugar is simply a witty bunch with the ability to seduce you to the dance floor.

So far the crew can check off their resume playing with The Faint and Enon, playing the Great Escape Festival in the United Kingdom and now the release of their first album with Mush Records, Levantense!, set to drop February 22.

On a frigid January evening, I caught up with Aiden, Greg, Jim and well, the spirit of Mike who was unable to attend. To fill the extra bar seat was Aiden’s girlfriend, who hilariously portrayed the insider scoop on Eat Sugar’s missing in action keyboardist.

After a round of drinks, Eat Sugar educated me with the philosophy and paradoxes of the music industry as well as the monotony of bars with lethal after show foam parties.

AltOhio: Why did you guys decide on Levantanse for the album title?

Aidan: Well names are always a troublesome thing, whether it’s a band name or a song name or a record title so for the record title I came up with a list of 100 titles. (laughs)

AO: 100? How long did that take?

Aidan: I just kind of did it off the top of my head, which is why we came up with something that’s kind of out of left field.

AO: Were you flipping through an old Spanish book or what?

Aidan: Actually, yeah it was just something that I remembered. Cause I went to Catholic school and we would have to stand up to pray before class started. It’s pretty much the most un rock and roll thing you can think of.

Jim: We just liked the way it sounded, plus the other 99 were pretty uniform and awful.

Aidan: The cover art seemed to fit perfectly too.

AO: Speaking of your cover art and your newest video, I read that it had a John Waters influence to it, is this true?

Greg: Actually it was John Carpenter’s Halloween, but now that you mention it, it does have a John Waters kind of feel to it (laughs).

AO: Was the video a remake of Halloween or did it just have a John Carpenter influence?

Greg: We were tossing ideas around and Aiden really likes horror movie and B movies and I’ve always liked the 70’s and early 80’s stuff. It just seemed like something I wanted to do and could make work. Actually, I can’t believe that it came out the way that it did. It was just one girl running around and Aiden was the killer in the suit. It was done at my house, and our neighbor has a barn, a chick barn.

AO: Of course, you have to have a barn for horror movies.

Aidan: We’ve done it both ways now where we make our videos ourselves or we’re lucky enough to have someone talented approach us in making a video. I’m happy with all of our videos but for me, it’s way more fun to make them ourselves. I think a lot of bands maybe have negative view of videos, being forced to lip sync words and stuff but the videos we’ve made ourselves are super fun.

AO: After just releasing four songs, you were recognized as Artist of the Day on and you ended up going to the UK shortly after that. Now that’s just impressive. How was the response in the UK?

Aidan: The response was great. I think British people, as a massive generalization, particularly young British people take music more seriously and they seek shit out, it’s not so much a game of follow the leader. They really seek stuff out.

AO: So is England on your list of places to go back to?

Eat Sugar: (Long, dead silent pause)

AO: I’m going to take that as a no?

Aidan: It’s expensive, it would have to be worth our while.

AO: You didn’t have to stay with some old British lady, did you?

Aidan: We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Brighton called the Funkelhouse, which is way too close to “fungal”. Every single toilet was broken. We were in a couple hostels and basically we were all staying in a closet.

AO: So I know that you opened for the Faint and want to play with LCD Soundsystem, with that said, City Beat as well as other publications have compared you to those two bands. Would you say that that’s a pretty on point description or who would you say that you sound like?

Greg: I would say that we don’t sound like LCD Soundsystem. I love that band but I don’t think we sound like them. I know (the media) is just picking bands that are popular to steer you in the right direction. I would say we sound more like The Faint than LCD Soundsystem, although truly we don’t sound like either of them.

Aidan: It’s kind of hard to say because you’re too close to (the music) to know. The whole “recommended if you like thing”, I think a lot of people just go overboard with that. There was a review that said we sounded like a mix of “Afrika Bambaata” and Lady Gaga.

AO: Oh…I’m so sorry.

Aidan: It gets worse; one review said we sounded like Vampire Weekend. (Changes voice to an overdramatic movie announcer) If Vampire Weekend crashed into the doors of a wedding with David Bowie…

AO: Well maybe they want Vampire Weekend to crash…

Aidan: (Laughs) It’s kind of annoying to be compared to something that you hate. I think what it really is, is that all four of us write, but we all have very different tastes. I think that’s reflected in our song writing, I think it’s very eclectic. So what I hear is just all that crazy shit pressed together. That’s what keeps it fun.

AO: In that case, what musical differences do each of you bring into your band’s sound? What would you say you sound like?

Greg: I think it’s hard for the people in the band to find a band to say that we sound like.

Aidan: I think we sound like a singer from a Doors tribute band singing with a Catcha Goo Goo tribute band.

AO: How would you say that your sound has changed?

Jim: It’s more poppy, but the tempo has slowed down.

AO: Since the tempo has slowed down and from taking a look at the genre of the video for “Clap Your Hands”, would you say your music has gotten darker?

Aidan: It’s like a party record where the party has gone horribly wrong.

Jim: As far as our song writing being varied, I think that comes across in Levantense. Everyone’s influences have really come about. The first EP has the same sound all the way through.

Aidan: By the way, Mike couldn’t make it out tonight.
<Interjection from Aidan’s girlfriend/ Mike’s stand-in> He has a spider bite.

AO: I’m sorry. (Stifled chuckle) A what?

Aidan: Mike is allergic to an absurd amount of things. The last time that Mike was in the ER was the last show in Toledo and the bar down the street was having a foam party, as soon as the last note sounded we went down to the foam party, we were dancing around, everything was great. And all of the sudden I looked at him and his eyes were swelling shut and I was like “oh my God”. Yeah the foam party was at this disreputable bar, they weren’t using regulation foam.

Jim: For an entire week Mike couldn’t open his eyes.

Aidan: If there’s one thing that Eat Sugar can do in terms of social awareness, it’s end the irresponsible practice of using common house hold dish soap at foam parties. If we can reform foam party practices, then we will have accomplished something.

AO: (Laughs) I had no idea foam parties could be so malicious.

Aidan: You can’t just spray soap into people eyes.

AO: So what’s next for you guys? What about maybe moving out of the ‘Nati?

Aidan: It’s a tradition of Ohio bands to kind of be isolated kind of the Galapagos islands kind of scenario where because you’re so cut off from everything you can kind of evolve in a cool new way and then as soon as anyone pays attention, you just shit all over Ohio. You can either leave, or take your time and then leave. I have a significant amount of regional pride. I think regardless of whether I grew up here or not, a huge amount of my favorite bands would still be from Ohio. I love The Pretenders, I love Brainiac, I love Devo, Isley Brothers…

Jim: And the Ohio Players.

Aidan: OHIO! Ohio is the capitol of rock and roll. I’m proud to be apart of the Ohio rock and roll legacy.

Check out Eat Sugar’s CD release this Friday, February 18, at MOTR Pub.