Q&A with The Dotted Eyes
by Chrissy Prisco
deli: How did the band start?
The Dotted Eyes: A few years ago, Neil Mittal started writing a lot of quiet male/female duets. Duets are very difficult to sing by yourself, so he decided to get a band together - which included our guitar/keyboardist Josh Breckman. The songs quickly turned into pop/synth/rock anthems that didn't quite work. As a result, the band fizzled and Neil and Josh learned some valuable lessons.
After a few months off, Neil and Josh took a step back and tried a new approach to working on these songs: demo early and often. Josh has a studio in his basement, and they'd record rough versions of their songs, and constantly tweak them until the arrangement really complemented each song. The results were quieter, more acoustic songs that really highlighted the melody and the duet nature of the songs.
Tried as they might, Neil and Josh had quite a bit of trouble playing male/female duets by themselves. So they started looking for girls on Craigslist. Not deterred by the invitation to go meet up in a stranger's basement, Raquel Barrientos got in touch with them, tried out, and was almost immediately an essential member of the band.
Craigslist then graced them with J.C. Zwisler on drums. At the same time Mike Johnson, Josh's ex-bandmate from Making It Right, was on a mini-tour with his band Elle Driver. The band imploded mid-tour and Josh quickly recruited Mike to fill out the line-up.
With their line-up in place, the new band recorded and released an EP - and played their first show in December of 2010 to a crowd of flannel-wearing-think-rimmed-glasses-types at the Middle East.
deli: Where did the band name come from?
DE: Band names are the worst! If you stare at a band name long enough, they all sound stupid. "The Wishing Fit" was tossed around for a while, but was nixed by a lot of people we talked to. Anyway, we were almost done with our EP and still didn't have a band name. Josh was up late one night, and looked up a list of common phrases/sayings that we could try to have fun with. "Cross your t's and dot your i's" came up and "The Dotted Eyes" stemmed from that. It felt familiar, but different - and we're sort of perfectionists, so it felt like a good fit.
Josh: The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, Sufjan Stevens, of Montreal
deli: What are your biggest musical influences?
Neil: Ben Gibbard, Jesse Lacey, Rivers Cuomo
Mike: Neil Diamond, Dustin Diamond, Oh Sleeper, Lady Antebellum, Vanna, Taylor Swift, Pearl Jam
JC: Alkaline Trio, Death Cab for Cutie, The Mountain Goats
Raquel: The National, Neko Case, Rilo Kiley
deli: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?
Raquel: I pretty much have The National on repeat; I usually fall asleep listening to High Violet and it makes for some pretty incredible dreams. I'm a big fan of Emiliana Torini and just discovered The Rescues. Fantastic harmonies are paired really nicely with very clever lyrics that get stuck in my head and I find myself singing them out loud as I'm going about my day.
Neil: I have been listening to a lot of local stuff - I am really into The First Annual - they are like Tom Petty and Bright Eyes combined.
Mike: Locally: the Tower and the Fool, Save Ends, & Vanna Nationally: the Decemberists, Lady Antebellum, A Day to Remember, We Came As Romans
Josh: Sufjan Stevens’ new album was pretty fantastic. I tend to listen to "of Montreal" more than I should.
JC: A lot of Death Cab, getting ready for Codes & Keys. The Weakerthans, Against Me!, The Hold Steady, The Frames.
Josh: Green Day's Dookie and... Green Day live. sigh.
deli: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?
Neil: Boyz II Men 2 and Philly Y100 Feztival (someone stole the radio).
Mike: Horde Fest w/the Black Crows and Ziggy Marley and I think the first cassettes I had were New Kids on the Block or a Wilson Phillips single (which I still have).
JC: Bought Running With Scissors by Weird Al and then saw him a few months later at the Warner Theatre.
Raquel: The first show I saw was The Plus Ones at The Catalyst in my hometown, Santa Cruz. It was a really small pop-punk show. The first CD I bought was Coldplay, Rush of Blood to the Head. I actually never bought a CD until I was seventeen. I listened to a lot of records and made tapes from the radio.
DE: We like that the city is literally full of music. On any given day there is music playing somewhere and it's all so varied.
deli: What do you love about Boston's music scene?
As a band, we're still pretty new to the Boston scene, but we've legitimately liked all the bands we've played with - both musically and personally.
DE: This is a pretty minor gripe, but shows tend to run past the time the T stops running. No one wants to be in a band, or see a band start to play at 11:30pm on a Wednesday night. People need to take the T home and work the next day, so a lot of shows without big headliners tend to just fizzle out as the night goes on.
deli: What would you like to see change in the local music scene?
DE: This past Sunday we started recording a 10 song CD! We hope to be done by the end of the Summer. We'll be sure to keep you posted!
deli: What are your plans for the upcoming year?
deli: What was your most memorable live show?
DE: Our first show felt pretty great. It wasn't perfect, but we had just released our EP that week and it felt like it really legitimized us as a band.
deli: Is there someone who has helped your band grow through support?
DE: Our wives/girlfriends/neighbors/friends who put up with us playing the same songs over and over and over and over again... and have only put one brick though our windows (same brick, multiple windows).
DE: We use Josh's recording setup in almost all of our songwriting/demoing. If that vanished, we'd have to completely change how we orchestrate and lay out our new songs.
deli: Is there a piece of equipment you couldn't live without and why?
DE: It's 'deli'cious!
deli: Why do you read The Deli?
Seriously though, as a small band, it's really good for us to keep track of what else is going on around Boston and New England, and The Deli helps with that. So thanks!