Water From Your Eyes: “Even when things seem random, they’re tied together”

Dark, silly pop experimentation from NYC

David Lynch has developed a concept he calls “catching the big fish”. He imagines humans having an ocean of consciousness, within which ideas are like fish. The smaller ones live near the choppy surface, but deeper down, that’s where the prize catches are to be found. According to Lynch, finding your way to the biggest fish is a vital process for true artists to undertake. 

Water From Your Eyes seem to effortlessly trawl the furthest depths. The New York-based duo boast a wholly unique musical approach, drawing equally from indie-pop, techno and modern composition, reeling in an endless stream of catches from the sea floor. 

“A lot of what makes music like this work is creating a system or box to work within,” explains the group’s songwriter Nate Amos. Nate and his bandmate Rachel Brown are discussing their creative process with me from their Paris hotel room, midway through Water From Your Eyes’ recent UK and EU tour. “You have to choose at what point it becomes a limitation that’s helping you or is hindering you,” he continues. “There’s always this point where it switches from being kind of scientific to something you feel out emotionally or instinctively.”

Listening to Water From Your Eyes, you get an immediate sense of Amos’ and Brown’s skill at envisaging, generating and arranging seemingly disparate musical ideas in accordance with one another. The results are often disarmingly unpredictable, but make sense according to their own warped internal logic. The band’s latest full-length Everyone’s Crushed sees the duo delve further into abstraction. These nine tracks blow apart recognisable song craft conventions, a bedrock the duo then rebuild upon in their own playful image. 

Most striking are the tracks that draw on modern composition, such as the album’s more experimental cuts like ‘Open’ and ‘14’. “I was doing a lot of experiments with serialism,” explains Nate. “My loose understanding of serialism is that it’s a system for writing atonal music that replaces keys. The idea is that you choose a series of numbers that represent parts of a scale, then create a series where no other note can be played until the rest have been played. That’s the only guideline. However, in most cases where I used it on the album I also broke that rule.”

This exchange encapsulates the duo’s personality. They tilt from serious and insightful to daft and self-deprecating in a dryly endearing manner. Asked to define their sense of humour, Rachel giggles before the two throw out various suggestions. Nate goes with “dry and dark” and Rachel suggests “dark but also really silly”. Rachel adds: “I feel like our sense of humour is tied to the sense of dread but also the lightness that exists in the world. Something about existing right now is so odd. It’s really sad, but it’s also funny because there’s no reason it should be sad.”

The sensation that the duo are describing is one of absurdity. Rachel’s lyrics traverse the feeling of living in a world that feels less understandable every day. Their cut-up, abstract words shift from irreverent to poignant to apocalyptic. Nate describes this gently cryptic approach as “impressionistic”. 

“They’re not designed to be like ‘This is what this is about,’” he says. “Even the songs that are about something particular to us are ambiguous enough to mean something entirely different to someone else.” 

Rachel is more enigmatic: “Even when things seem random, it’s not like they’re not tied together.” 

This charming obscurity is winning the band swathes of fans. They’ve just supported Interpol around Europe and at the start of the year they announced that they had signed with Matador. 

“We met them for the first time in December 2021,” explains Rachel. “We got coffee, then got coffee a few more times and started to wonder what was happening. Then eventually they said, ‘We want to work with you.’ That was crazy.” 

Nate continues: “I think we both thought once it got announced it would sink in. But it still hasn’t, so I guess we can look forward to that whenever it happens.”

Following years of touring and a succession of increasingly sophisticated albums that has culminated with Everyone’s Crushed, Water From Your Eyes have more than earned their current dues. In our fractured world, their deft, oblique and kind music serves as both a cathartic parallel and an absurdist rebuttal to its nebulous uncertainty. Long may their trawling continue.