Nighteyes, the evocative solo project of New Zealand-born and Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist Rachel Trainor, unveiled her haunting debut album ‘The Way Back Down’ a couple of weeks ago. This ethereal collection of dark rock, folk and electronica navigates an intricate narrative through realms known and unknown, traversing themes of trauma, love, sorrow, environmental consciousness, connection, and transformation.
Intrigued to know more about Nighteyes, we dispatched a dozen questions her way to see what we could discover
1 What was the spark which lit your flame for music?
I’ve always loved music ever since I was a child, I grew up in a fairly musical household with my oldest brother learning the drums when I was about 3 or 4, he would come home during uni holidays with his kit and I was so fascinated by it. There was always music playing in our house, my Mum’s favourite band Deep Purple was on high rotation, as well as bands like Crowded House, Metallica, Nirvana etc. I loved to perform and sing, so when I got to perform in school plays and other shows, I just adored it and knew it was what I wanted to do.
2 What was the first music you purchased with your own money?
I feel like so many artists have a really cool first album they ever bought, for me I was a kid in the 90s so my first album I ever bought on CD was B*Witched. I was really into the pop girl and boy bands back then, like most kids. I also remember when I was a bit older buying the first two Foo Fighters albums on CD. I was lucky because I’m from a big family so I could always pilfer my siblings CD collections and make my own tapes (and then later on CDs).
3 What are the main tools you use in your music making?
Usually when I’m writing it’ll be me in my studio with my acoustic guitar, notebook and pen, sometimes I’ll use my electric if I want to experiment with sounds and figuring out what kind of vibe the song is. My Roland electronic drum kit is awesome because I can play any hour of the day and not annoy my neighbours.
4 What’s the best artist merch item you ever purchased?
I don’t know if this qualifies as merch, but I have a pair of drumsticks signed by Ian Paice from Deep Purple that my mum got signed back in 2004 when they toured to New Zealand.
5 A record that changed your life?
Old Stories by Giants, a post-rock band out of Iowa. My partner found this album on YouTube about 8 years ago now, and I’d never heard anything like it. I was just started to explore the post-rock sound and this album is one of my absolute favourites, and it heavily influenced the sounds you can hear on The Way Back Down.
6 Tell us about the lead single ‘Plenty’
Plenty is a song about our earth and the issues we are facing with human-driven climate change and general societal progress. The song starts as a prayer to the land, reminiscent of how we used to connect to the Earth, nature, and its gifts. It then tells the story of our accelerated progress and how, although the world seems so immense and we’re so small, we hold its fate in the palm of our hands. The song ends with a lament to our Mother Earth, how we’ve passed the point of no return and we’ve abandoned her. Musically the instrumentation follows this story, starting out quiet and dreamy, then getting heavier and darker throughout until the heavy outro section closes out the song with keening guitars and loud drums.
7 Briefly tell us about the journey of your debut album?
The Way Back Down is a journey through our collective unconscious, through realms unknown, the darkness and the light. It’s a somewhat personal story, through trauma, love, sadness, environmental issues, connection and change. I ordered the tracks to take the listener on this specific journey, so it starts out somewhat dark at the beginning, heading into the light then back down into the depths nearing the end, before reaching some beautiful light at the end of the last track. I love albums that feel like a journey, and while I didn’t write these songs with that in mind (some of them were started over ten years ago), I love how it came together in that way.
8 What’s on your gear wish list?
I’m not hugely into gear, but I really love vintage kits and have always wanted a John Bonham style Vistalite Ludwig with a 26” kick drum. I probably wouldn’t have space for it though!
9 What would you like your music career to look like in 5 years time?
I just want to keep making music for as long as I can, so if I’m still doing that in five years it will be a win for me. I’m lucky that in my professional career I have so many different types of opportunities. And then with this project Nighteyes I can express myself and my songs in a way thats’s true to myself.
10 What would be your dream collaboration?
I’d absolutely love to collaborate with Chelsea Wolfe, she’s one of my favourite artists and a huge influence on me. A collab with a heavy band like Mastodon (another fav) or Russian Circles would be cool too!
11 What would you consider to be your greatest musical achievement to date?
Releasing The Way Back Down. This Nighteyes project is something I never thought I’d get off the ground, so I’m so very proud of what me and my amazing producer Drew Handcock have made together. An album is a lot of work, and there have been a lot of amazing highs and low in the process so I’m really happy that I stuck with it and got it out. A huge thank you to my wonderful family and friends for their support!
12 What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
I’ve got one more gig before the end of the year, Riffmas on December 22nd at Old Bar with Bogmonster, Zombie Hunger and Lamassu. That’s going to be a great one to end the year!
MORE ABOUT NIGHTEYES
Rachel Trainor, the visionary behind Nighteyes, masterfully blurs musical boundaries, seamlessly melding electronica with the haunting resonance of doom-inspired guitars and vocals. With a rich background in diverse musical, circus, and cabaret acts, Trainor’s captivating performances have graced international stages, solidifying her presence in the professional circuit. Her impressive multi-instrumental prowess is showcased in this album as she skillfully takes on almost every part, further attesting to her remarkable musical dexterity.
‘The Way Back Down’ is a deeply personal story that guides the listener through a journey from darkness to light. The album’s opening track, ‘Down By The Sea’, is an ever-evolving slow-rock number and tells a poignant tale of fading love, where a couple clings to the fragments of their relationship, forever tied to memories of a house by the ocean. This emotional journey continues with tracks like ‘Lowlight’, an eerie doom-electronic number with walls of fuzz-driven guitars and glitchy electronic percussion which paints a vivid picture of a moonlit night on a deserted beach, and ‘Hollow Tree’, a dreamy love song tinged with darkness.
‘My Only One’ is a slow-burning track that pushes and pulls with ominous finger-picked guitar riffs, echoing percussion and a cathartic release of head-spinning rock. Venturing into the realm of mental health, it is an autobiographical account of the author’s struggle with anxiety. ‘In The Wake’ follows, featuring a full-bodied acoustic guitar as Trainor’s distant cries stir a haunting atmosphere, addressing the helplessness felt in the face of environmental catastrophes, painting a vivid picture of a burning shore and the mourning of a land beyond repair.
‘Plenty’, the lead single, serves as a poignant commentary on human-driven climate change and societal progress. This foreboding track opens with Trainor’s graceful vocals, gradually building momentum, culminating in a haunting crescendo of distorted electric guitars and resounding drums.
The album culminates with ‘Third Eye’ and ‘Spiral’. ‘Third Eye’ is a hauntingly ethereal exploration of family dynamics and generational echoes. Graceful, optimistic guitars interlace with the airy vocals of Trainor, painting a celestial soundscape. ‘Spiral’
a reflective journey through the mind’s darkest corners during the 2020 lockdown in Melbourne. This final track encapsulates the cyclical nature of thought loops, with a transformative shift from darkness to hope, evoked through uplifting harmonies and an evocative synth section.
This stunning debut from Nighteyes is filled with graceful moments that stir introspection and hope, contrasted by weighty and intense impending doom created through unique soundscapes and powerful subject matters. It skillfully unravels a flowing and ever-evolving journey that immerses the listener in a transcendent experience rich with emotion and intensity.