The Beat: Rock refugees create musical lifeboat called Eyes Adrift

Eyes Adrift guitarist Curt Kirkwood also is an artist. He did a lot of art and logos for the Meat Puppets.

Curt Kirkwood

The members of Eyes Adrift represent a tasty sampling of alternative-rock geography. Bassist Krist Novoselic helped launch Seattle's music scene into the stratosphere via Nirvana, while Long Beach Dub All-Stars drummer Bud Gaugh and his former band Sublime gave more shout-outs to the "LBC" (aka Long Beach) than Snoop Dogg. Curt Kirkwood's Mojave-hot guitar licks and country-tinged punk with the Meat Puppets typified that band's Southwestern roots.

But in the incarnation of Eyes Adrift, Novoselic, Gaugh and Kirkwood might soon constitute one of the most touted bands in all the land. Though the group has yet to release an album, its considerable marquee value is leading to some heavyweight expectations. Word about the band's prowess should come soon, now that Eyes Adrift is performing its debut gigs, which include a show Tuesday night at Harlow's.

Eyes Adrift started taking shape last summer after Novoselic caught one of Kirkwood's solo shows.

"Krist saw me play in Seattle and he got in touch soon after that," said Kirkwood in a phone call from his home in Austin, Texas. "Coincidentally, within a day or two of Krist calling, Bud got in touch. Some of his friends had seen me in L.A. and they said, 'Hey Bud, you should give him a call.' "

Kirkwood and Gaugh hadn't met previously, though they shared just a couple of degrees of separation. Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary, a friend of Kirkwood's, produced Sublime's debut album. Stuart Sullivan, another Sublime producer, had also worked with Kirkwood's Meat Puppets. Kirkwood and Novoselic, however, had known each other since the early 1990s. With Kirkwood and his brother Cris in tow, Nirvana covered a few Meat Puppets tunes on the band's "Unplugged" album.

"Everybody knew each other through a strange roundabout way," Kirkwood said. "But Krist and I had never met Bud. I heard the Sublime record and was pretty impressed with it. I'd never seen them live, but I met (Sublime singer Brad Nowell) right before he passed away."

With mutual admiration in effect, Eyes Adrift banded together in early December. Though Sublime's reggae-flavored tunes were on more of a party-rock plane, compared with Nirvana's grungy guitar blast and the Meat Puppets' 10-gallon punk, the members of Eyes Adrift quickly found musical common ground. Before 2002 had been ushered in, Eyes Adrift had just about completed its debut album.

"We set up in the studio and recorded our first song within a day, and we had never been in the same room and played together," said Kirkwood. "We could immediately tell what worked -- you'd play one note and it would just go 'boom!' When you put people together like this -- potential ego-damaged freaks -- you've got to watch it. We put songs together by just jamming, Krist brought some songs in, and everybody responded well to my idea about sharing things in a Lennon-McCartney-like fashion."

As for the band's sound, "We took a lot of it from the strain we developed for our mutual appreciation for folk-rock," Kirkwood said. "It sounds like you would imagine: Krist playing bass, and there's really groovy Bud. There's quite a bit of backbeat in there and we're throwing in a lot of low-end. Everyone's very distinctive."

Perhaps the band has bonded so quickly because, for one, Sublime, Nirvana and Meat Puppets all operated primarily as trios. However, there's an unfortunate similarity in that these three bands were all sunk from drug problems, including the overdose death of Nowell and the addictions of Cris Kirkwood, which stymied the Meat Puppets throughout the 1990s.

"It's just a coincidence," said Kirkwood. "There's nothing to any of that."

In the meantime, the Eyes Adrift album is planned for release in the next few months on an as-yet-undetermined label. Kirkwood will also keep busy by compiling material for a Meat Puppets DVD and live album.

Novoselic will also juggle his Eyes Adrift duties with the legal wranglings over Nirvana's musical estate. While Novoselic has been trading barbs in the press with Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, the former Nirvana bassist has been channeling some of his frustrations into key tunes for Eyes Adrift.

"His fiction is fantastic right now," said Kirkwood about Novoselic. "He's got the clarity of Samuel Clemens for what he's been through. It's amazing. The allegories are painful, but absolutely wonderful and people are going to dig it. It's real. A lot of the music is about putting pain behind you or at bay. It's cool that you can take some swings back and not have it be through lawyers."

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