Eula Walk the Fine Line Between Chaos and Order
Brooklyn-by-way-of-Connecticut post-punk outfit EULA is a force of nature. Incorporating shades of Wire, Bikini Kill, X-Ray Spex, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gang of Four, and Blonde Redhead, singer/guitarist Alyse Lamb, bassist Jeff Maleri, and drummer Nate Rose make an awful lot of noise for three people as they walk the fine line between chaos and order, melody and dissonance, negative space and sensory overload for a result that's as visceral as it is catchy. On their self-released debut full-length Maurice Narcisse (2011)--and even more so in their crackling live shows--frontwoman Lamb swings wildly between animal wails, percussive chants, and delicate vocalizations that are all the more anxiety-inducing for their sweetness, as if she's teetering on the edge of violent breakdown. In advance of the release party for their new "Orderly"/"Meadows" 7" (out now on Bloodmoss Records, show details following interview), we spoke with Lamb about her classical training, her production collective, and her love of riding her bike around Bushwick.
See also: NYC's Top 10 Rising Female-Fronted Bands
Can you tell me a little about your musical background? You are classically trained, yes?
Yes! I grew up in Cromwell, Connecticut and studied musical composition at the University of New Haven. I took piano, voice, and guitar, but it was grounded in written composition. I like dabbling around everywhere; it helps me write better to use different instruments rather than just one.
[Growing up], I listened to everything...I was actually a dancer so I love classical music, neoclassical music, everything. And you always listen to what your parents listen to, so I listened to classic rock, and my brother loved hip-hop and my sister was a dancer too, so she loved dance music...I was exposed to a lot of different shit.
My mom is a costume designer in CT and I always went to her shows, so I was exposed to a lot of musicals, a lot of operas, a lot of ballets, those always had gorgeous music. I'm glad I had that kind of foundation when I was younger. I knew song structures, and intonations and buildup, so I kind of had that grounding.
How did you first get into punk, post-punk, no wave, etc.?
We had very few record stores, there was one chain called Strawberries...I didn't have much of the underground music that I had at college, so I was listening to the top 40 alt-rock hits on the radio like every other kid does...then they had this thing called "flashback lunchbox" and I heard the Pixies for the first time, and PJ Harvey, and I was like "what is this?"
How did you move from your classical training to starting a rock band?
I was in a band here and there in high school. It was only about 90 kids on my class, super small. When I got to college at University of New Haven it was a much bigger pool, a lot of musicians. Right away I took a music production course. I bought a 4-track and it was my life's blood. I could finally record my demos, I learned how to properly record myself and use different types of mics and all that. So I did that and I recorded five or six demos and I wanted to play them live, so I eventually found a drummer and another guitarist and a bassist.
We started EULA during college and played around as much as we could, and took advantage of the recording studio on campus. We recorded a couple EPs, and then eventually became a three-piece with just me on guitar, which was huge, 'cause I was a nervous girl first starting out and doing all the guitar stuff myself was a big accomplishment for me. When it became a trio I felt much more empowered and I had much more flexibility to do whatever the fuck I wanted: noise, or just weird sounds, so it kinda grew very organically into what it is now.
Not everyone in indie rock puts a premium on performing or having a front person the way EULA does...does that have something to do with your theatrical background?
I don't think it was ever a calculated decision to be like "oh look at me, I'm a frontperson that's gonna be this this and this," it just kind of happened. Maybe it's my dance background. I don't really like to think about it too much, I just like to do it. I move around however the music makes me feel. It's just a form of expression onstage that makes me feel good...I like blown out of proportion stuff, being kind of outrageous...it hits you, but there are also layers. You can get deep into it if you'd like to, or you can dance to it if you'd like to.
Your latest video ("Orderly") has a lot of retro, feminine iconography spliced together with you looking kind of angry...what effect were you going for?
That song again is very percussive, sort of angular, but yet it has a sweetness behind it...so I wanted to juxtapose that sharp music with the 'I'm totally in love, my heart's about to burst' meaning behind it. I started this collective with Chris Mulligan, we're calling it Famous Swords, and this was our first project together. We wanted to use sort of trippy psychedelic images that had a very feminine edge to them, but also [have it be] very sharp and angular to go with the sounds of the song.
Tell me more about this collective! What else do you do?
It's a huge production collective...we want to do music videos, recordings, t-shirts, kind of an all-encompassing art collective, that's kind of our vision behind it.
I [also] do a lot of design with my stage outfits...leotards, unitards, shirts...I just like creating, that's a big part of my mom that's in me, she's a costume designer and I've worked for her a lot, so I'm always making things with my hands and designing.