The band’s name was borne from a stanza in the somber poet Edgar Allen Poe’s poem "To One in Paradise." But don’t think everything birthed from the poet is drab. Grey Eye Glances is far from melancholy. If you’re a fan of their dreamy, melodic music you won’t want to miss their upcoming performance at Whitaker Center — and if you’ve never heard of them, you might just want to open your ears and listen to their music. Grey Eye Glances’ official website considers them to be "one of the most literate groups to appear in ages." Certainly not a modest comment, but definitely one of truth.
Those attending the show can expect to hear songs off of the band’s latest EP, If I Was. A self-described ‘bridge record’ — recorded by the band to "bridge the gap" between Painted Pictures, the band’s last national release, and their next, yet-to-be recorded national release — the EP was recorded and mixed independently by Grey Eye Glances at their own Pennsylvania-based Farmhouse Studios. Produced solely by the band, If I Was is filled with songs that, according to Grey Eye Glances’ keyboardist and vocalist Dwayne Keith, were "recorded very much as they were written and very spontaneous, with a cool energy" — an outcome that the band was extremely happy with.
Often compared by critics to such acts as Sarah McLachlan and 10,000 Maniacs, Keith instead chose to describe Grey Eye Glances’ sound as "melody driven music with positive, upbeat messages — I think we’re a little more sing-songy, a little more pop oriented than them." Responsible for most of the band’s lyrics, Keith admits to always having a notebook nearby for those times when he becomes inspired — which is apparently quite often. "I’m constantly writing," he said, "… my inspirations come in from all different directions all the time."
No strangers to the area, Grey Eye Glances first hit the area a few years ago, making their area debut at The Wire in New Cumberland. At that time, the trio was a regular flavor of coffeehouses along the east coast, including Borders Books and Music. Borders, a large chain store with in-house cafés, is where the three long-time friends — Keith; vocalist/guitarist Jennifer Nobel; and bassist Eric O’Dell — got their start. After playing regularly twice a month, Grey Eye Glances developed a following, and it was then that they realized a market existed for them in a venue different from the traditional bars and clubs where most bands first get their start. "[Playing in coffee houses like Borders] was a very conscious decision," said Keith, "we knew the crowds there were part of our demographic and that that demographic was always going to be there on a Friday or Saturday night." Successfully drawing crowds, the band booked and financed an expanded tour of 50 Borders stores throughout the country.
In addition to promoting themselves, Grey Eye Glances also successfully recorded and distributed their first few albums — including Songs of Leaving and Further On…— in the early ’90s. The releases were so successful, in fact, that it didn’t take long for record executives to pursue them — and the band soon signed with Mercury, where they recorded two records, 1997’sEventideand 1998’sPainted Pictures. Signing with the label had mixed rewards, however — the band’s music reached more people, but the band found themselves in turmoil when the label was bought out by Universal, and they were forced to re-prove themselves and, according to Keith, almost ‘earn their keep’ with the new powers-that-be. Through it all, though, the relationship wasn’t a soured one. "It didn’t go poorly at all," said Keith, "it was just a matter of big companies getting bought out by other big companies, but we got to do two recordings, which is more than 90% of the bands who actually get signed, so we were quite happy with that…"
And while the band is on a search for a new label through which to release their material, they hardly have to worry about the music reaching their fans — an eclectic group of people who range from mothers and daughters to middle-aged couples and college students. In Philadelphia, the band has received airplay on the radio station WXPN — where the station’s World Café program has given them the opportunity to perform live and have their songs played by affiliate stations — and word-of-mouth on the band’s talent has also helped them attract listeners. "We have an amazing fan base," explained Keith, "and we’re not a band that has tons of publicity, tons of promotions, so it’s always interesting to hear the stories people tell us how the word of us spreads."
Currently in the midst of a mini-tour, Keith said the band is looking forward to the upcoming Whitaker appearance — the band’s third at the venue —for a variety of reasons, including both the atmosphere of the theater itself and the local audiences. But, even more than atmosphere and audiences, Keith and the band enjoy performing live for the sake of performing their music. "I think people should come to shows to enjoy themselves," he said, "it’s an escape … it is music is in its most natural and pure form and it’s the best part of the whole thing."
Grey Eye Glances will be at the Whitaker Center on September 15 at 8 p.m. The band’s most recent release, the 6-track EP, If I Was, will be available for purchase at the show or over the Internet at the official Grey Eye Glances website:greyeyeglances.com.