I first learned about British psychedelic pop/rock collective Solar Eyes in the summer of 2021 when they initially released their fantastic single “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”. I loved it at first listen, happily featuring the song on this blog. They subsequently dropped an even better single “I See the Sun”, which I loved so much, it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and ended up ranking #18 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.
The Birmingham-based trio is comprised of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Glenn Smyth, drummer Sebastian Maynard-Francis and guitarist Tom Ford (who still records with the band, but moved away so no longer performs live with them). Their music is an arresting style of pop/rock awash in dramatic psychedelic grooves, twangy Western-style surf guitars and dreamy cinematic synths, giving them a distinctly unique sound. Their music has been featured in numerous televised sporting events, including Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Match Of The Day and Birmingham City Football Club, as well as traditional alt-rock radio channels such as BBC Introducing Hereford, BBC 6 Music and The Guardian.
In February 2022, Solar Eyes signed to Fierce Panda Records, and as is common with many labels and management companies, they had the band take down, then gradually re-release, their previously released material under the new label. Solar Eyes released their debut EP Dreaming of the Moon in April 2022, which I also reviewed. They re-released “I See the Sun” that September, then followed in October with a second EP Alcatraz, which featured “I See the Sun” along with five new tracks. Now they’re back with their third EP Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, featuring four new songs plus the title track that first introduced me to the band.
Glenn was inspired to write “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” after hearing a friend proclaim “life is like being a naked monkey on a spaceship, with no control.” The song is darkly beautiful and mesmerizing, with a Depeche Mode-esque vibe, highlighted by a pulsating bass groove, and featuring lush, eerie synths, propulsive drums and swirling riffs of psychedelic guitars. I love Glenn’s gentle droning vocals that have an almost sensual, otherworldly quality.
The cool animated video for the song was created by Birmingham-based videographer, lighting and visual design producer Matt Watkins, who’s also created videos and produced visual design & lighting for live performances by numerous acts, most notably Gorillaz.
Their signature twangy Western-style guitars make an appearance on “Lucifer’s Child” a dark cinematic gem about a devil woman who spreads evil and darkness wherever she goes. Glenn calls out her evil nature: “They schooled you well in the art of deceit. It’s second nature to your evil dreams. She sends the light, the light away“, then warns “But don’t you mess with me again.” The track ends in a discordant flurry of fading distortion in the outro.
Next up is the hauntingly beautiful “Someone Else“, a departure from their usual harder-driven style, and an instant favorite of mine. The multi-textured guitars and dreamy synths are gorgeous, as are Glenn’s melancholic but lovely vocals. About the song, he explained “I’ve been tinkering around with ‘Someone Else’ for years. Initially I wrote it after reading the book ‘Marching Powder’ – I’m sure Brad Pitt bought the rights to it and was going to do a film about it, so I was ready to jump in with it if needed, haha. But as time went on it sort of took on a life of its own, with that feeling that you’re turning into someone else, someone you’re not… going down a dark path. The path of least resistance. Blaming others and then a realisation it’s all on you.”
After the relative calm of “Someone Else”, we’re launched headlong into “Roll The Dice“, which the band calls a “tub-thumping call to arms in the midst of these troubled, rubbled times, top loaded with that Chemical Brothers/Primal Scream mashed-up sound, with the drive and swagger of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as well as a sly nod to the sonic mysteries of Messrs Morricone and Pizzorno.” The video, created by Tom Wagstaff, features surreal black and white kaleidoscopic images interspersed with scenes of a young woman dancing in a bucolic park setting.
The final track “Rabbit Hole” is a psychedelic trip of ominous swirling synths, distorted guitars and spacey sound effects layered over an almost sinister stomping beat. Glenn’s echoed vocals have a menacing, otherworldly feel, perfectly complementing the songs overall spooky vibe as he drones “I’m going down rabbit holes. Looking for what, I don’t know. To know the answers. I’ll keep on searching, I’ll find a cure. I’ll find a lover, won’t that be cool./ I’m on a trip to a different world.“
When I first wrote about their music more than a year and a half ago, Glenn told me he’d written lots of songs he was eager to get out into the world. With Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, Solar Eyes now has a total of 16 songs to their credit, all of them superb. I can’t wait to hear what they still have up their musical sleeves!
Glenn and Sebastian are currently in Austin, Texas, where they’ll be performing their songs at the legendary South By Southwest music festival.
Connect with Solar Eyes: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube