It’s not easy to have things both ways, but that’s what Xray Eyeballs are going for. The Brooklyn quartet describe themselves as making “moody, catchy songs you can dance to—or cry to,” and the truth is, they’re right. Since guitarist O.J. San Felipe and bassist Carly Rabalais first formed the band (they previously played together in Golden Triangle), they’ve been fine-tuning their blend of ‘60s garage rock-meets-‘80s synth pop. It’s upbeat, downbeat, and everything in between.
You can hear it firsthand on the band’s sophomore album, Splendor Squalor, whose title alone epitomizes these contrasts. “I don’t recall what book I was reading, but it referred to New York as having a lot of splendor mixed in with the squalor. I just like the way those two words look together,” San Felipe says of the name, adding, “It perfectly describes us: grime meets glamour.” But while their sonic references—think The Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, and The Cure—are of the darker variety, the band spent the past year cleaning up a bit. “On the first album I feel like we were still figuring out what we were doing. With this album, we took it more seriously but still wanted it to be loose and fun,” says Rabalais.
Those weren’t the only additions; they had electronic drum tracks mixed in with the live percussion and included samples so that, according to San Felipe, listeners “can have their brain pick up secret messages.” They might not be able to have it all, but as Rabalais explains, “I think we found the perfect balance.” The only thing missing from the band’s repertoire? “Maybe a movie where we play a fictional band,” says San Felipe. “I’ve always wanted to be in a zombie movie!”