Brooklyn-based Stuyedeyed (pronounced "stide-ide") is a mosaic of musical dynamics and cultural awareness, whose adopted hometown is one of the planet's biggest melting pots. As for the quartet's musical aesthetic, Stuyedeyed's intense blend of Punk, Garage Rock and Psychedelia howls with inescapable rage and passion. Their latest EP, Moments of Terribleness, exudes the verve and fury of bands like Black Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies, At The Drive-In and Fugazi, while also often twisting things through a trippy, kaleidoscopic lens.
Simultaneously, Stuyedeyed offers an incredible sonic range that incorporates quieter passages within the tumult, which bassist Humberto Genão attributes to the broad experiential range of the band's individual members.
“On the subject of the quiet and loud dynamics, that very much reflects each member of the band, because we all have different dynamics within ourselves and we try to add those flavors to the songwriting,” Genão says. “I wouldn't say it's a proper formula but that's sort of the main idea. Nelson (Antonio Hernandez-Espinal), the guitarist and lead singer, is the main composer and he brings a lot of ideas into the studio and we kind of hack at them. I'm the bass player, so I'm always sitting in the back and I get to see things develop in a very organic way.”
The band's frenetic sound is driven by the musicians’ common musical interests and their broadly unique influences as well as their distinct cultural experiences associated with their Latinx backgrounds. Those influences and experiences are then refracted through the prism of their New York environment, which adds yet another interesting component to Stuyedeyed's varied presentation.
“I could name Hip Hop or Rock & Roll that we all listen to, like Black Sabbath, but we're all very eclectic in the sense that we're in New York City and this is a melting pot,” says Genão, who identifies himself as a “citizen of the world” due to his Afro/Brazilian heritage and nomadic upbringing. “I come from out of the country, Luis (Ruelas), the drummer, is from California…so we all have these different variables when it comes to colloquial tastes. I grew up with Afrobeat and Fela Kuti, so I'm definitely the churchman in the band. Nelson has deep Puerto Rican and Dominican roots and I've learned so much Salsa and Caribbean Afrobeat from him. It's a really unique perspective.”
Stuyedeyed 's seeds were sown nearly a decade ago, just after Genão moved to New York as a 20-year-old session bassist and met New York native Espinal at a studio gig. The singer/guitarist, then 17, impressed Genão with his songs, leading to the typical “we should work together” conversation. Around six years ago, that suggestion finally came to fruition.
“Nelson pulled me in the back of a van and was like, 'Dude, I've got a show in like three hours, and I don't even know the name for this band but here's my demos. If you can learn them right now, you can play today,' ” Genão says. “That was how it started.”
Though clunky at first glance, the band's name came about as organically as its sound. The “Stuy” part of the name refers to Espinal's original New York neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant. Although the initial christening was born of panic and necessity, Stuyedeyed has come to represent the band's sense of self.
“We must have been walking down the street smoking a joint and walked into a bodega or something,” Genão says. “We had a multitude of firing back and forth, and as silly as it may have seemed at the time, it grew on us because it does have a resonance on what it means to have a perspective on a place. Having a Stuy-eye mentality or any interpretation of that is purely personal, but I think Stuyedeyed is like having an accessible piece of information or a sense of reporting, and being there by having that perspective.”
"I'm kind of like the dad (of the band),” Genão adds, “so you're getting existential answers, but to me, it feels like that.”
For a while, Espinal and Genão populated Stuyedeyed with a rotating cast of players, but with the addition of Ruelas and guitarist George Ramirez, the band gelled into a consistently formidable sonic powerhouse. With the band's evolution, Espinal's songwriting grew as well, becoming an even sharper outlet for his outrage at racism, police brutality and gentrification, leading the band to find the balance between entertaining and proselytizing.
“That's becoming more and more clear as we go along and with Moments of Terribleness, it's the clearest it's ever been,” Genão says. “Songwriting is very personal, and even if you try to hide things, on a psychological level, you're laying down bits and pieces of your psyche that you could never hide. We're becoming more attuned to each other's frame of thinking, so the lyrics kind of subconsciously hit you. I think intimacy is the catalyst here, definitely a personal approach to songwriting but also feeling uncomfortable and knowing it's OK to say these things on stage and then laugh about it. It's finding that balance of, 'We're human, but we enjoy that sense of work. Don't feel guilty for the work you put in.' It's the balance of life, I suppose.”
Stuyedeyed's other wirewalk is the fine line of addressing and incorporating their distinct Latinx heritages into their music without making it their defining characteristic.
“That conversation is not necessarily ignored but it's not something you announce as soon as you walk in the door,” Genão says. “We've found a balance by getting on stage and dancing to a Cumbia beat while playing Rock, and people come up to us afterward and say, 'What is that? What happened there?' We understand that we live in a world where we sometimes have to cover what we say so that people don't think a certain way, and sometimes that balance comes with a sacrifice, but we're finding a way to deliver that uncomfortable message without having to sacrifice. That's the goal, always.”
All of this coalesces during Stuyedeyed's frenzied live appearances, which have included songs from 2017's Funeral EP and the more recent Moments of Terribleness. As Genão notes, the band will probably never stop playing longtime staple “Mr. Policeman” from Funeral, but the group’s current tour will find them concentrating on the new EP as well as fresh, untested material that could comprise their first full-length album.
“All of these songs are still being worked with and they're still breathing,” Genão says. “So playing them live and the reaction we get will solidify them. It's going to be fun.”
Stuyedeyed plays a free show Thursday, Feb. 20 at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub. More show info: motrpub.com.