Quick Ten With Detroit Guitarist Mark Bilek From Through Our Eyes

Used with permission.
Mark Bilek from the Detroit band Through Our Eyes. The image was taken from a concert in 2018. Photo Credit: (c) Scott Whiteman 2018.

Just off Arts Beats and Eats Beats Go on, the Detroit band Through Our Eyes was one of the many bands that took part in this virtual show. The virtual show was to set up to showcase many of the local bands that normally would take part in the annual Arts Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, Michigan. DigitalBeat was able to catch up with the guitarist Mark Bilek and have a little chat about the band ‘Through Our Eyes’ and his experience with virtual shows.

DigitalBeat Magazine: To begin with, I would like to thank you for doing this interview. I hope your family and you are doing well, in these interesting times. That everyone is safe and healthy?
Mark Bilek: Thanks for having me! Thankfully, we are all safe and relatively healthy. Physically. Maybe not so much mentally. LOL.

DBM: Let start with an easy question, can you tell our DBM readers about yourself?
MB: Well, I am and have been, the lead guitarist for “Through Our Eyes” for a little over (a shocking) 10 years now. It’s insane how quickly time flies. It kills me that it’s been almost 6 years since we released our debut album ‘Welcome to Life’.

DBM: How would you describe your band “Through Our Eyes”. I know the band is a hard rock band based out of Detroit if I am not mistaken. What else can you tell the readers about the band?
MB: We are based out of Detroit. Our sound has changed a bit since we 1st put the band together as well as our line-up. Our 1st album is a bit experimental, some may even say progressive. Our sound was heavily influenced by bands like “Evanescence”, “Flyleaf”, older “In This Moment” and definitely “Metallica”. Very melodic, with some aggressive & heavy guitar at times but also beautiful clean riffs sprinkled throughout the album. We tried to think outside of the box as far as song structure and writing style. We wanted to show that we were capable of writing a radio-friendly track but also go into a long, riff packed jam session that might fit on “Metallica’s” ‘…And Justice for All’. Since then though, our writing style is more refined, more mature I suppose. It’s much much heavier and more straight to the point. And there are guitar solo’s on this one. We didn’t do any solo’s on ‘Welcome to Life’. It’d like to say it’s comparable to “Trivium” and “Killswitch Engage” but with female vocals.

DBM: How long has everyone been playing together, as a band and where did everyone meet? It is my understanding there is a new face in the group?
MB: In 2008, my sister (Annette) and I 1st started out as a top 40 rock cover band called “SoulFury”. We had a good, almost two year run before the band ultimately had a falling out at the end of 2009. I immediately started looking for a new band to join or for members to start-up a new one. I found a couple of guys that were looking for a guitar player, so I met up with them to jam.

At that point, we clicked pretty well and decided that now we just needed a singer. I said, “Well, I happen to know someone that’s pretty good”. That was February 2010. Because the old cover songs were still fresh in Annette’s and my head, we decided to continue to play gigs as “SoulFury” for a few months while we secretly wrote original music. It took us about 8 months to write our album and by October 2010, “Through Our Eyes” was officially announced.

Steve (guitar guy #2) has been with us since 2016. We met him as an intern at Metro 37 Recording Studio’s, where we were recording album #1 and one day he came to one of our shows. Then a few more, and eventually he became our official, unofficial roadie. He came to all of our shows, traveled everywhere with us and ultimately was like a 6th member.

When our former guitarist Kelly had more frequently become unavailable, we had Steve fill-in on guitars. Eventually, it was only natural at that point to have Steve take a permanent role in the band. Shortly after Kelly’s departure, we parted ways with our drummer and bassist as well. A couple of months later, we had Jordan take over on drums. We met him through a friend of a friend. We took things slow for a few months, rather than going full throttle and hit the stage as soon as we could, we laid back a bit and just jammed with ourselves, for ourselves. No pressure, just fun. We had several bass players fill-in since then but did not find a permanent fit till early 2019 when Tyler “The Kid” joined us.

More recently, we had added a second drummer to our roster. Two drummers you ask?? Yes, with Jordan’s drum-making business taking off & family life, he decided to take a few steps back and let someone with more time take the lead role on drums. So for now, we’re a six-piece band!

DBM: Where did the band’s name come from? There has to be an interesting story behind the name.
MB: During that 8-month period where we were writing the 1st album, we would write down on a chalkboard a bunch of names and phrases that we heard or thought of that might make a cool band name. When we were close to finishing up writing, we realized that we didn’t just write about random things. It was more about how we perceived things in our lives and events or things that we were going through or had gone through. So, when we were ready to choose the band’s name, we scrolled down this long list and thought, well hey, “Through Our Eyes” kind of makes sense because this is life through-our-eyes, our point of view. Most of the lyrics are written by Annette so the words are through her eyes, but for the rest of the members, it was through our musical perception or interpretation of those words.

DBM: I saw back in February there was a video posted on YouTube for the song ‘Life Forsaken’. Which I have to say, is a great song.  When was the video recorded?  
MB: Oh well thank you, I really appreciate that. We actually recorded the video during the winter months of 2018 – 2019. It took us a while because we were waiting for the right timing between the type of weather we wanted and every member’s availability.

DBM: Who directed/recorded the video? Sorry but I have to ask, whose idea was it to shoot the scene in the snow? It must have been cold, filming it.
MB:  Annette directed it. It was mostly her vision. The rest of us were just along for the ride. Literally, in some cases. It was recorded by our friend, Detroit photographer/videographer, Ed Serecky. He actually recorded our first official video for our self-titled song ’Through Our Eyes’ way back in 2012.

Again, Annette’s idea to be out in the snow. She thought it would look really cool to have a fire with snow falling in the scene. Unfortunately, instead of heavy snowfall, like we were hoping for, we got freezing rain instead. It was coming down hard, so we were only able to do one take before we had to pack-up all our gear to avoid causing any damage to the equipment. In the video, you can see us covered in raindrops, but what you can’t tell is that they were mostly frozen. Our clothes were crispy, and all the gear had a thin layer of ice. Although I must say, it did look really cool when our drummer, Jordan would hit the cymbals. We could see all the ice flying up into the air. Not sure if that made it into the video though. Sucks, ‘cause it was really cool.

DBM: As COVID-19 Virus running amuck with shutdowns and live gig/show almost non-existent in Michigan, how is everyone handling the shutdown? I know it cannot be fun, not doing much of anything. Or is everyone still working behind the scene, doing projects like writing or recording? Anything you like to share?
MB: We were preparing to get back into the studio to finally record our 2nd album. At that point, it had been 5 years since the release of the 1st one and some of the songs that will be on the new one, we’ve been playing out live for 3 years. So we were WAY overdue to get new material out. We waited to release the video for ‘Life Forsaken’ to a closer time to the album’s release so that there wasn’t too much of a gap of time between the single and album release. So here we were, finishing up on writing, starting to record scratch tracks in preparation for studio time and like a dirty s.o.b., COVID threw a damn wrench right in the middle of it. What was REALLY unfortunate was the timing of the video’s release. The DAY we released ‘Life Forsaken’, our former bandmate Kelly, tragically passed away. What makes it even worse is that the lyrics were inspired by an event from his past and some of the guitar riffs in the song were inspired by some that he had written himself. It really hit us hard how all of that played out. The music community in Detroit had planned on putting together a benefit show in his remembrance, but that had to be canceled because of the state’s mandate to shut all the venues down. One nice thing that came out of all this was that we were able to record an acoustic version of “Alter Bridge’s” ‘Godspeed’ that we paid tribute to Kelly and released it on his Birthday. RIP brother.

DBM: I saw that “Through Our Eyes” did a virtual show on 8/28/2020, How was it? This is the second one that the band has done, correct?
MB: Yes, we did. The Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats n Eats “The Beat’s Go On” virtual concert featuring Through Our Eyes! #artsbeateats #TheBeatsGoOn. Sorry about that. I’m contractually obliged to hashtag those, Lol. But yeah, it went well.

DBM: How do you and the band like doing “virtual shows”? I know it is not the same as doing it live in front of a crowd, but it must be close.
MB: The show was a lot of fun actually. It felt like being on stage but without hearing anyone in the crowd. We usually can’t see anyone much in the crowd anyhow because of the lighting in our face, so it felt quite normal. He had a bunch of fans blowing on us during the live-stream because it gets super hot in our practice space, so maybe that kinda sounded like a roaring crowd? I don’t know, maybe. This was in fact our first live virtual concert. We recorded a few live songs that we had uploaded, as well as a couple of rehearsal’s but that was our first time streaming live. It was really kind of cool to be able to interact with the fans that tuned in. We had a big monitor in front of us while we performed so that we were able to not only see ourselves and how we looked on the live stream, but we could also read the comments from the viewers. The interaction was kinda cool. Obviously, we couldn’t do it as naturally as we would in an actual concert, but we could read what they had to say and respond to in-between songs.

DBM:  Do you think you will be doing more virtual shows?
Yes, definitely. We’re already talking about doing another. We had too much fun to not do it again.

DBM: If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a few off the wall questions. The questions were originally asked by another interviewer, the late James Lipton of the ‘Actor Studio’. I am always curious about the responses to these questions. What is your favorite word?
MB: “Metallica”. Duh LOL. Anyone who knows me knows that “Metallica” means the world to me. Ever since I discovered them way back in 1991. I believe that “Metallica” is the absolute, most perfect name for a metal band. No name will ever top that. Still to this day, I will sometimes just sit there and repeatedly say the name out loud, in awe, of how perfect it sounds. “Me-tall-ica, Met-all-ica, Muh-tal-lica”. Lol I don’t know, maybe I’m weird.  

DBM: What is your least favorite word?
MB: The Jamaican word “Bumbaclot”. It’s slang equivalent to “douchebag” or “motherf**ker”. It’s not so much that I hate the word itself, it’s just that once I hear it or it pops in my head, it will literally rattle around in my brain for weeks. And I’ll just randomly say it out loud or use it in sentences. Drives me crazy till somehow, I finally forget about it.

DBM: What turns you off? It can be just about anything you want.
MB: Stupid people. Not people that have a mental illness or learning disabilities. I’m talking about the kind that SHOULD know better. The Kyle’s and Karen’s of the world, if you will. The kind of moron’s that throw their COVID gloves on the ground instead of a garbage can. There’s no fixing their kind of stupid. No words, no amount of evidence or education can change them. They are useless and are just a parasite sucking the life out of society.

DBM: What sound or noise do you love?
MB: There is nothing better than the sound of a loud, deep and heavy guitar tone cranking out of a killer amp. And thunder. Thunder is really cool.

DBM: What sound or noise do you hate?
MB: Whatever you call that junk on the radio these days; hip-hop, rap, crap? I don’t know, that “shit on your dinner plate” Cardi B garbage they be spewing in our kid’s ears. Back in the day when hip-hop and rap were actually hip-hop and rap, I didn’t love it but I could tolerate it. This stuff out now…absolute trash, man.

DBM: What profession would you not like to do?
MB: My current one. LOL. Am I allowed to “LOL” during an interview as much as I have been? Honestly, I rarely lol in real life so I don’t know what my problem is right now. Uh…honestly, I don’t think I could ever be a veterinarian. Nothing hurts me more than seeing innocent animals suffering. I commend those that do it. Real hero’s right there. I just don’t think I could do it. I can’t even handle seeing people post their pet pics on social media because I think that it maybe them saying goodbye to their loved one or something. I have to scroll by quickly to not read it just in case it’s a tragic post.

DBM: Are there any plans that you would like to share with our readers? A new album or some more virtual/live shows, perhaps?
MB: Yes, new album in the works. Still untitled. Could be a full length, maybe a double-sided EP. We’ll figure that out as we move along. It’s gonna be heavy, I can tell you that much. And EPIC for sure. We’re talking about another virtual show, but our problem right now is that we played all the songs we know during the last virtual concert. We’ve been working with a new drummer, Natasha the last couple [of] months so she could only learn so much. But even if it’s not a full show, I definitely see more live streaming in the future.

DBM: Is there anything else you would say that I didn’t cover in this interview?
MB: I’d like to apologize to anyone that has lost their patience with us. Yeah, we know it’s been 6 years since the last album, and 3 since you’ve heard new material. But the band members have busy careers and/or family to take care of so yeah, I agree with you, we should change the band name from T.o.E. to S.M.M.F.T. (Slow-Moving-MotherF***ing-Turtles). One day, we’ll have something else out. Hmm. ”One Day…” 2nd album title?? maybe??

DBM: Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. Good luck with your career and cannot wait to see you in the bright lights again. Thank you.
MB: Yeah, my pleasure. This was fun. Thanks again!!

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