It could all end with the press of a button.
About 14 different effects pedals lay fanned out across the stage by his clean white shoes, a few synth pads and mixers and loopers lying on the closed guitar case set before Pat Brown, the man behind Greensboro-based synth pop band Tide Eyes. Amid the pedals, roughly 50 buttons and knobs, dozens more on the table within arms’ reach right before him. Moving from song to song, Brown hit each pedal with precision, and adjusted knobs for perfect sound, his finger’s dancing along the stings of his guitar with natural ease. The setup, with a surfeit of blinking lights, would be enough to overwhelm or deter most any musician who didn’t know what they were doing. But for Tide Eyes, it just makes sense.
“I had no idea what I was doing at the start,” Brown said. “I’d never used any drum machines or synth pads or any of it before. So I bought a few cheap ones from the ’80s online and found the original manuals and read everything I could.”
For Pat Brown music came naturally. Surrounded by parents who were always listening to classic rock when he was growing up, he finally got a chance to make his own music when his uncle gave him his first bass guitar.
“I’ve always been more interested in the heart of songs,” Brown said. “I’m not closed off to any genre or style, as long as there is this driving force behind it, as long as there is this essence. I want to make people feel good with my music. I want them to dance and move. I think that’s the point of it all anyway.”
Tide Eyes opened the bill at On Pop of the World in Greensboro on April 5, followed by Swartzwelder and headliners Lawn Chairs and the Ringos. Brown’s wife and young son were in the crowd, dancing and cheering along with the entire room.
“I try to bring my family to all the shows if I can,” Brown said. “Most people try to separate their families from what they do, but I kind of insist on it. It’s a part of my life, my wife is so important to my music, why wouldn’t I want them there?”
Brown had done the normal band thing for years before taking an indefinite hiatus from music. Playing guitar or bass in band after band eventually led him moving to Greensboro to play in Casual Curious in 2010. But with the birth of his son and wanting to focus on his married life, Brown quit the band and laid his guitar down in 2012. [pullquote]To listen and find tour dates, visit tideeyes.bandcamp.com.[/pullquote]
“It’s definitely tough sometimes,” Brown said. “Doing the normal band thing with other people was just impossible for me. Scheduling practices never worked; taking time to go write songs together never worked; it was just a nightmare.”
Working a full-time job at Barnes and Noble and also being a father and husband cut into any time that was left for music. But the itch to play never quite left.
“I knew I couldn’t do the band thing again so I started messing around with recoding things at home,” Brown said. “I’d always loved the sort of yacht-rock, synth-pop vibe and that’s what started coming out. I did like endless research on what all my favorite bands used for drum machines and how they modulated their guitars and I just started messing around with sound and writing songs again.”
It’s just him, so time for writing songs is easier to come by.
“It’s like a band for the 21st Century,” Brown said. “My day job is pretty passive and allows me to sort of daydream and do a lot of writing as I work. I have no real set schedule when it comes to music, it’s sort of whenever I have a few minutes I can go and work on a new song or mix something I’ve recorded. My wife is really the one who keeps me organized. If I come up with something that’s kind of good, she’ll tell me to go off and be a recluse for a few hours to work on it. In bands, you’re always having to find a time that works for everyone. Now I can be somewhat selfish. I do it when I want and it’s really nice.”
After officially starting Tide Eyes in 2014, it is only recently that Brown has been starting to play more shows. His first full length album will be coming out in May, to be followed by a small tour.
What separates Brown’s music and vision from many other groups is his ear for precision. Tide Eyes’ uncanny knack for composing near symphony-depth of layered sounds elevates his music. Each knob and pedal pressed at exactly the right time, each layer of guitar and backing keyboard make for a sound as fierce and beautiful as an ocean tide. Remaining in the synth-pop, yacht-rock style, Brown’s talents most abound in the realm of melody. With driving drum machines shaking legs free where they stand, the melodies in his set are easily stuck in your head for hours after the show. But while the sound remains happy and brilliant in that dreamy, shoegazer way, there is still a fear Brown faces each time he takes the stage.
“It could all end with the press of a button,” Brown said. “If I hit just one wrong thing, tap the wrong pedal, it’d be all silence on stage. I try not to think about it though. My goal is to find the heart of music. To find what makes people move, that essence that made me fall in love with songs as a kid.”