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The fusion collision of Eleven Eyes

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Tim McLaughlin of Eleven Eyes rattles off a list of musical influences and he sounds schizophrenic. He leapfrogs from Miles Davis to Blackalicious to Mudvayne as if drawing connections between jazz legends and glam metal bands is no big deal. And for Eleven Eyes, maybe it’s not so strange. Unlike a lot of musicians who get off on name-dropping from as many different genres as they can think of just to sound worthy, McLaughlin and Eleven Eyes back it up with a collision of the styles in their music.

“I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” says McLaughlin from his home in Eugene, Ore. “It took some time—a lot of experimenting—for us to figure out how to bring all our styles together.”

So far, the experiment seems to be working. On the sextet’s first album, Depth Perception, they manage to mix an acid jazz ensemble with hip-hop back beats and turntable samples, then add in guitar solos that could just as easily fill a funk jam on one song and hard rock ballad on another. Case in point: a wild update of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.”

The band—McLaughlin on trumpet, Matt Calkins on saxophone, Mike Pardew on guitar, JD Monroe on turntables, Dave Trenkel on bass and Steve Weems on drums—first met in the music program at Oregon State University. After McLaughlin transferred to Oregon, he asked his old friends to play with him for his senior recital. Ever since, they’ve been working to create and refine their sound. And the origin of the band’s name?

“The fact is I don’t see out of my left eye. It’s more literal than people would hope,” McLaughlin says.

The band’s upcoming tour brings them to Missoula for the first time. Next month, they’ll release a second album, which McLaughlin says is more composed than the first. The calculated approach doesn’t lose the band’s live groove (the songs were tracked live in studio), but he says it’s a more technical and polished side of Eleven Eyes.

Incorporating the new songs into live sets will be easy. The hardest thing, according to McLaughlin, may be choosing which CDs get played in the band’s new tour bus. “Needless to say,” he says, “we have a lot of music to choose from.”

Eleven Eyes plays The Top Hat Monday, April 11. The show starts at 10 p.m. Ticket price TBA. Call 728-9865 for information.

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