There’s something to be said about a band that can drive out a woman drinking a glass of white wine after only a couple songs at their show. She had made it through Twin Peaks’ set, a rowdy run by four young “dudes with tudes,” but couldn’t quite stomach the loud noises by Eagulls.
Twin Peaks looks like a band that your cousin had started—they’re loud but with an unthreatening approachability. Guitarist and frontman Cadien Lake James, who is only about 19, kept shaking his head, tongue out, roaring though their energetic, fuzzy set before Eagulls took the stage a bit after 11.
English quintet Eagulls wants to be edgy. They want to flash their middle finger at pop in all its incarnations, shushing the critics calling them a buzz band who are expecting them to fizzle out after their first tour. They want to last, and they want to make it happen by embracing all of their oddities to stay interesting.
At least, that’s what it seemed like during Saturday night’s set at Bottom of the Hill. The group didn’t play a post-punk show, which was what I was expecting—they created a continuous shoegazy, corrosive soundscape interrupted periodically by organized riffing.
In the interim between songs, singer George Mitchell was glazed over, deeply removed from the present narrating from his self-imposed haze, only exhuming himself to howl over the searing guitar lines and rolling cymbals. “Everything’s broken again,” he barked after the third song—it was the first thing he said since taking the stage, and it was pretty dire.
That existentialism is where Eagulls resides. The group soundtracks misery like there is nothing else, and sings like the words are serrated. There’s a purposed groan in each phrase, and it jettisons out of him like he’s hoping it will make him feel better.
It won’t. There are other singers who approach the mic like Mitchell—Protomartyr’s Joe Casey and Majical Cloudz’ Devon Welsh, for example—but in their tones, there’s a dimmed hint at optimism. The end is the salvation. Eagulls, rather, remains in a Godot’ian purgatory, making as much noise as possible, always moving but never getting anywhere.
It felt like a sort of performance piece. There wasn’t any audience interaction really, just statements and phrases tossed out to give some guidelines as to how we were supposed to interpret them. “Talk. Why. Is. Everything. Wrong,” Mitchell punctuated, staring ahead blankly. The words had reverb specifically to be used for only this moment, which certainly suggests an artful effort.
Don’t get me wrong here though—Eagulls is first and foremost a punk band. They use their extramusical interludes to advantageously accentuate their songs—they just happen to come off as very framing in terms of how people consume their live show. I could see why the woman with the wine had even come out to Bottom of the Hill. Maybe she was expecting this sort of performance art, but ultimately, she just couldn’t hang with what they were really about—loud, hard, crashing punk.