DC musicians Dan Gonzalez and Alejandro Castano are under no illusions about the world we live in. It’s a frightening, harrowing place. And things are only getting worse.
Replicant Eyes, the duo’s post-industrial dark wave project, seems almost tailor-made to reflect today’s increasingly bleak times.
As the band’s self-titled debut album on Exte Records demonstrates, Replicant Eyes weave horrifying soundscapes from Alejandro’s spidery guitar lines and brooding synth pulses, capped by Dan’s vampiric croon. It’s a devastating collage of sounds that reminds me what I love so much about bands like Fields of the Nephilim, Sisters of Mercy and obscure 12 inches from Wax Trax Records — this is music that drips with atmosphere and nervy energy. It gives you a feeling of dread and yet, seems strangely cathartic.
Goth is often dismissed as faux fashion — a contrived subculture of despair and decay to make angst-ridden teens feel better about themselves. But given that the leader of the free world tears immigrant children from parents and locks them in cages and abuses power on a daily basis, the question becomes who is really contrived? The “goths” or the so-called “normals” who continue to pretend all is well?
It’s reassuring to know that Replicant Eyes are not ignoring real world horrors, but reflecting them in its music. With the band set to play a special live show at Friday’s WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW), I took the opportunity to get in touch with Dan and Alejandro to find out more about this shadowy band…
1) How did Replicant Eyes form?
Dan: Alejandro and I met and became friends through our current office job. It was then I was introduced to and became a fan of his project, The Red Fetish. I told him if I ever gathered the courage to be involved in a music project, he was the person I wanted to work with. A few years later, over drinks, my lowered inhibitions led me to finally say ‘fuck it, let’s do this.’ Thankfully, he agreed.
Alejandro: Dan took me out for drink about a year after Non Sequitur, when The Red Fetish quartet was winding down. He let me know that he really loved Temporal Joke, Vol. I and wanted to sing over stuff like it.
A couple of months later we started writing songs together and something immediately became clear to me: Dan is a force of nature. I decided that I need to do everything to get him in front of an audience.
2) How did you arrive at the Replicant Eyes sound?
Dan: Replicant Eyes is unabashedly influenced by a bevy of various artists. Alejandro will certainly have his own to discuss, but mine range from Nine Inch Nails, Suicide, Siouxsie and The Banshees, to Laurie Anderson and all things Mike Patton. Through our mutual love of goth and industrial things, we immediately decided we’d incorporate synths, drum machine, and guitar into our sound.
Alejandro: We decided pretty early on to embrace the synthetic nature of our project: that the computer is a fully fledged member that carries and constrains what we can / should do. The goal is to have the human elements be as human as possible to balance out the computer, which is as inhuman as possible, rather than try to make the human elements robotic or the computer elements humanized.
3) What is your process like for writing music? Does it vary from track to track?
Dan: Alejandro can talk more about the creation of these musical compositions. He is the brilliant mind that birthed these fantastic electronic soundscapes. We collaborate once he has created original sketches. We then talk about different sounds we want to incorporate or tweaks to make. After which, Alejandro improvises guitar parts, while I vocalize stream of consciousness until something catches. From there the lyric writing process begins for me.
Alejandro: We’ve tried a couple of different approaches. The one that works best for us is the following: we talk about music we like and then improvise the bones of a song together, in a practice room. Songs evolve from this, sometimes arduously and significantly, but sometimes not. We wrote and recorded “The Truth” from the first album in a single sitting, for example.
4) You released a self-titled record last year. What was that experience like for you and are you pleased with how it turned out?
Dan: Album one had a very DIY approach. We got a great boost on the mastering side from Jake Reid (Screen Vinyl Image, Alcian Blue, Secret Wilderness) while the songs were all recorded by us in our practice space and mixed by Alejandro at home. We incorporated the found sounds of opening/closing tape decks, CD disc trays, and dropping a needle on a dusty vinyl record. We wanted those machine-like sounds to create cohesion to the overall mood conveyed from track to track. We were pleasantly surprised how quickly and easily the album fell into place.
Alejandro: It was a pretty effortless album to make. The songs came together quickly. Considering how carelessly we made it, Dan’s found sounds of outdated music machines (like turntables, tape decks, and CD players) make the album feel cohesive and whole.
5) Let’s talk about your live show. Is there a certain feeling or atmosphere that you seek to capture live that’s different when recording?
Dan: The live show is more of a visceral experience. We can crank up the volume and turn out a barrage of sound. I’m a big fan of David Lynch, and the Black Lodge he created within the Twin Peaks universe. Performance art begins with setting a mood, so the use of accent lighting, strobe, and fog lends itself to that. I have trouble standing still when I perform and like to jump off stage when possible. I enjoy getting right in the crowd and disrupting the otherwise shoegaze sensibility displayed by most in attendance. I derive no pleasure from simply standing still and watching you watch me. I really want to connect with the audience in an emotional and frenetic way.
Alejandro: When I said, earlier, that Dan is a force of nature, I meant that he is a madman. Part of the reason that we decided to lean into the artificial nature of the drum machine is because Dan cannot be contained. When I said that we try to make the human elements of the music as human as possible, it is not to balance out the robotic elements of the computer – we need to make the computer robotic to balance out the madman on the microphone.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Dan jumping through walls, and biting microphones in half. I’ve watched him leap over burning buildings, and glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate.
I have learned, over the years, how to fake these moments on recordings, but they can only be believed in the flesh.
Check out Replicant Eyes on bandcamp.
And don’t miss the band’s show at WFTBO!