No matter what widely circulated memes, dated musician jokes, and frequent placement behind everyone but the drummer may lead you to believe, the bass player is an integral part of a band. Aside from rounding out a group’s rhythm section, some bassists take an active role in the songwriting process. Jake Kornely was one of those bassists. When the aspiring comedian moved out to Los Angeles this spring, it left his longtime band Static Eyes is a bit of a predicament.
“We knew we wanted to keep going, but we weren’t exactly sure if we wanted to keep being Static Eyes or if we wanted to form a whole new band,” singer Lee Olson says. “That was our first decision, to keep going as Static Eyes.”
The second decision the garage-punk hybrid faced was who would take the place of their founding bass player, who also wrote the framework for approximately half the band’s songs. The search didn’t take long. In fact, Kornely recruited his own replacement. Lindsay DeGroot learned of the bass vacancy while she was cutting Kornely’s hair. She says he encouraged her to take his place in Static Eyes, one of her favorite Milwaukee bands.
“I was like, ‘Holy shit, you’re right!’”
DeGroot—a former member of The Olives and current member of Fox Face—became a part of Static Eyes in April. The whole process was simple, though the replacement bassist was prepared for a more rigorous path to acceptance.
“She said she would like to audition for us, which is really silly because we don’t hold auditions. Either you’re in the band or you’re not,” Olson says. “I just loved the idea of an audition.”
DeGroot’s introduction also prompted the decision to put almost all the band’s previous material out to pasture. Kornely had written half the songs, and members had grown tired of all but two songs in the catalog.
Guitarist Chris Capelle wrote the other half of the songs. He says he was happy to say goodbye to old material and focus on writing new stuff. “I think it’s more fun for us to start over. It’s like being a new band,” Capelle says.
Though three members remain in tact, a couple songs have stayed on a setlist, and the name is, um, static, this is by most accounts a new band with new material, a new songwriting process, and a slight sidestep in sound compared to earlier songs.
“I think our songs are a little bit longer. Before, we were playing songs that were 1:45, and now they’re closer to 2:01. We are pushing two minutes, as people say in the business,” Olson says. “I think we’re getting a little weirder, too, with different tempos. We’re trying to get away from the straight garage-punk song.”
Much of that has to do with the new variable. The band now collaborates on writing and arranging music, with every member having an equal voice. Though she now brings ideas and a heavy dose of background vocals to Static Eyes, DeGroot was hesitant to insert her opinions into the mix at first, not wanting to disrupt the formula of a band she enjoyed long before she enlisted.
“I’ve never joined a band that was already established before, so it’s a little bit different,” DeGroot says. “You kind of want to go with what they’re already doing and not try to derail it. I really liked their stuff to begin with.”
To this point, the new look Static Eyes has six new songs, including four they recorded in September for a seven-inch they hope to release in spring. Saturday night, the band will play its first show with the new lineup and new music in support of Phylums at Bremen Cafe. The departure of Kornely—whom every member was quick to say they enjoyed playing with and still like—and introduction of DeGroot was essentially a shot in the arm for a lethargic project every member had placed on the back burner.
“I think we’re trying to make songs sound like something we’re totally happy with. I feel like we’re trying to make things sound like we really wanted them to sound, as opposed to getting halfway there and just giving up,” drummer Lydia Washechek says. “It’s really fun. Everybody is excited again.”
It took an important member’s exodus and being faced with extinction to help Static Eyes regain its focus, but the new lineup is peering ahead to new horizons, and things look good for them going forward.
Static Eyes will play in support of Phylums and Lutheran Heat at Bremen Cafe on Saturday, October 24. The free show begins at 9 p.m.