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Introducing Eye of Newt’s Broken Proto-Pop Agenda

The left of normal indie stalwarts are turning pop music on its head. 

by Sebastian Buzzalino

Photos by Michaela Gilchrist

“It’s a weird world, and I’m weird in it.” 

Nate Waters, the creative mind behind weirdo pop shredders Eye of Newt, is sitting across from me on the Ship & Anchor patio in Calgary on a beautiful early spring afternoon. Our setting is decidedly not weird — patio pints at the Ship is basically a ritualized practice in town — but we quickly worm into the nitty gritty gaps between songs on his upcoming debut EP, Stay in Your Lane. 

“[The EP] is kind of an exploration of being weird, or of just overthinking literally everything,” Waters says. “It’s that impulse in the back of your head to just go as deep as you possibly can on a single thought, or when you’re trying to do something normal and have it completely derailed by your minutiae. Musically and thematically, [Stay in Your Lane] delves into that space super hard.”

Waters is no stranger to the Calgary music community. The multi-instrumentalist is perhaps best known for his skronky saxophone contributions on countless records and projects throughout the years, and he’s a prolific contributor and player in the left-of-normal scene. On Stay in Your Lane, he recruited fellow strangelord veterans Chris Dadge (drums), Samantha Savage Smith (bass), and Brock Geiger (synths) to try to turn a pop song inside out, wrap it tightly around an ADHD aesthetic, and follow the unexpected rabbit holes that emerge. As a result, Waters stretches the possibility of what a pop track is capable of doing within relatively traditional parameters.



“It’s kind of like, what does it mean to be in a band, or what elements should be in a band if a traditional model is starting to get tipped away, or is fully broken?” says Waters. “In this project, for instance, I’ve been exploring building synth patches that sound completely crazy. Or Dadge, we’ll be recording and he’ll be like, ‘Yep, that sounds completely broken. That’s your aesthetic.’”

“It’s like conjuring up something new from the nuts and bolts of it,” he laughs. “It’s like I’d be building a drum part, and I’m not a good drummer. That just means that I’m coming at it from this other sort of perspective. Like, what do I think is important in a drum part? And then I give it to a real drummer and Dadge was like, ‘Man, this isn’t even drumming.’”

Incongruous shredding aside, it’s not that Waters wants to write an anti-song, or totally fuck with the listenability of a single. There’s still pop sensibilities at the core of the project, but he gives himself and his collaborators the space and luxury of experimentation for its own pleasure. Lead single, “Away Depot,” skirts the lines between post-punk, jazz, pop, and indie, always looking for an opportunity to do something just a bit different, not simply tread the same well-worn grooves.

“There’s this part on ‘Away Depot’ where literally all I wrote when I sent Sam the part was like, ‘bad jazz attempt.’ It’s more of a prompt than it is a part and sometimes you get these moments, especially live, where it’s like whatever is coming out is correct,” says Waters.

“How else can I get that impulse out? Playing music like this is full-on, you know? Creativity for creativity’s sake, that kind of restless energy… I just always like to have a hand in every pot and sort of try everything, dabble in everything. And I think that actively makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Anybody who’s creative knows that there’s going to be someone in their circle that is just like, ‘Why don’t you buckle down and do something normal for a change?’ And I kind of enjoy that. It’s in that sort of ethos where it’s like the whole world is trying to tell you to hem in the edges or whatever, but I enjoy the freshness. Why not fuck around?”

Eye of Newt releases their debut EP, Stay in Your Lane, on April 19 at Idle Eyes Collective.