When they were middle schoolers, Mike Ibanez and Ricardo Garcia were much like every other preadolescent boy on Houston's north side -- they had fantasies of being rock stars, performing before thousands of adoring fans who would throw themselves at their feet at the drop of a guitar pick. Several years later, while in high school, Ibanez and Garcia decided to indulge their fantasy, at least a little. They joined up with guitarist Ray Rodriguez and bassist Tony Guerrero, also from the neighborhood, and began to rehearse. There was only one problem. With the exception of Rodriguez, they had little to no experience playing their instruments.
During early rehearsals for the "band" that would eventually become Eyeagainst, the guys were still undecided about what instruments to play; as a result, their jam sessions were, to say the least, crude. "It wasn't premeditated what instruments we were going to play," says Guerrero. "It was like a garage full of friends who would bring instruments, and slowly but surely we all adapted to what we wanted to play."
Ibanez was slightly more evolved musically than his friends. He had played drums briefly for I-45, the famed rap group that hightailed it from Houston to search for gold in Los Angeles. Ibanez's work with the group, including performing on I-45's debut album, gave the embryonic Eyeagainst some much-needed cachet. "I-45 was coming up at that time, and Eyeagainst was barely starting off," Ibanez says. "The best experience was playing the Westheimer Festival with I-45. It helped me in being exposed to bigger crowds. It helped with my stage fright."
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Initially Eyeagainst sought to mimic the rap-rock sound that influenced the guys at the time. "When we first started out, we were deeply influenced by the Deftones and Downset," Guerrero says. However, after playing a few shows and becoming more familiar with their instruments, the budding musicians abandoned their approach. It didn't help that every other band out there seemed to pattern itself after Limp Bizkit and Korn. To Eyeagainst, the decision was clear: Either join the bloated ranks of the rap-metal army or march to its own individualized beat. The band chose the latter.
The group developed a style of its own, one cobbled together from the many sounds that had crossed the band members' paths. "Practicing, listening to different music all our lives, hanging around each other a lot and watching other bands play helped us to branch out as musicians and gave us ideas," acknowledges Rodriguez.
The components of the Eyeagainst sound are pretty simple. They include screaming and emotional vocals, distortion-filled guitar work and thunderous drumming. The band likes to craft its sound, which of course means a heavy emphasis on the technical end. Still, it's the group's live performances that have garnered attention, whether Eyeagainst was opening for Suicidal Tendencies or Stuck Mojo or just playing some hole-in-the-wall club.
"Whether there were five people there or 500 people there, we would play our hearts out," Ibanez says. "It didn't matter much. One of our things we concentrated mostly on was playing to new kids. We weren't afraid to play punk crowds or whatever. We just wanted to show everyone what we were about."
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Now in its third year with a new release to its credit, Eyeagainst has developed a credible following. Furthermore, the quartet is attracting fans from around the country, even though it has not performed once outside the state of Texas. The buzz has come from within the Lone Star State and from that great global equalizer, the Internet, which Eyeagainst exploits effectively. The band's Web site (server5.hypermart.net/eyeagainst) boasts chat rooms, message boards, photos and, of course, merchandise.
The group's CD, Sentiments of Her, was released earlier this year on an independent start-up headed by local scenestress Kristin Bustamante, whose Corporate Records is part of a new breed of do-it-yourself Texas labels that focus on heavy-style music. "We have had some offers from bigger labels, but we chose to go with a smaller one because we felt like we needed some history behind us, and some of the labels that gave us offers were not the direction we wanted to go as far as music," Rodriguez says.
In Sentiments of Her, Eyeagainst offers some highly charged tunes that benefit from vocalist Garcia's cunning lyrics. The lyrics have progressed, as the music has, to encompass a range of topics. "When we were growing, I started realizing that it is not just writing on a piece of paper, and then that's it," Garcia says. "When I write lyrics, like for this CD, a lot has to do with emotion, and what action and experience allows you to feel this way."
Eyeagainst is hoping to release another CD before summer. The group already has new material, which it plays live, but the band members are writing more every time they get together. "The new sound is different than what is on the debut. I love what we are writing," Rodriguez says. "It sounds different, but it still has the heaviness, but [with] more groove, melody and more hooks. Vocals are going to be taken to a new level."