Originally, Big Eyes was started in 2000 in Leeds, U.K., by James Green as a private project, a naive way of trying to create classical music. It soon outgrew the bedroom and a band was formed. Big Eyes recorded four albums over the next four years (for Pickled Egg Records) and split up in 2004. After this, Green formed The Big Eyes Family Players as a more collaborative arrangement (now based in Sheffield, U.K.). So far they have released five albums of experimental chamber folk-pop music, and worked with people like Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk and A Hacksaw), Terry Edwards (Gallon Drunk/Tindersticks), Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), James Yorkston, James William Hindle and many more. Green is also featured on two Rachel’s albums, Systems/Layers and Technology Is Killing Music.
Collaborations being close to the heart, Big Eyes released in 2009 an album of folk material with Yorkston called Folk Songs (Domino Records), and are currently recording the follow-up. Big Eyes also performed live film scores to the works of Czech animator Jan Svankmajer at the Roundhouse in London and at The Green Man Festival, appeared on BBC Radio’s Loose Ends with Clive Anderson, and recorded a session in Amsterdam for station VPRO and performed at VPRO’s Dwars Festival.
Big Eyes Family Players have shared stages with Alasdair Roberts, Nancy Elizabeth, Volcano The Bear, Sir Richard Bishop, Efterklang, Daniel Johnston, James Blackshaw, Marry Waterson, Damo Suzuki (Can) and Josephine Foster.
Big Eyes’ newest album, Family Favourites, their first with U.S. indie Karate Body Records, is a collection of reworked old songs alongside new material, as well as a cover-version of Dirty Three’s “Three Wheels.” The group started just over 10 years ago, so the decision was taken to reassess the back catalogue, and rework/rearrange/rerecord some songs with the recent players to perhaps serve the pieces a little more fully. A “best-of,” if you will, or perhaps a retrospective?
“This could be the finest Big Eyes Family Players release, the songs flowing together perfectly, each one exactly as it should be, the whole so much more than the sum of its parts.” —Simon Lewis, Terrascope
“Words are too unsubtle to do justice to this music, for it’s in the delicacy and complexity of songwriting and playing that Big Eyes shine through. All I can do is assure you that unless you have eardrums of leather or a heart of stone, this record won’t fail to move you.” —Ben Dorey, Now Then
“Few bands provide such a clear deconstruction of the folk form. … More often, though, Big Eyes rearranges folk traditions into its own particular groove. Pretty, yet unsettling. I like both, especially when they come at the same time.
Whatever the name and whatever the origin, Big Eyes has put together some stunning music during the last ten years. This album barely begins to do justice, but I’ll take it. Absolutely amazing.” —Aiding & Abetting
“To the uninitiated … you will detect copious amounts of DeVotchKa, Beirut, and mid-period Sufjan Stevens. Others of you will hear the contemplative sounds of The Unthanks mixed with early-to-mid pop bounce of Belle And Sebastian, along with the chamber-folk Lewis & Clarke and the celebrated classical-music-meets-Americana of Aaron Copeland. This is what happens when talented musicians are able to build dense, rich, massive layers of instrumentation ranging from familiar acoustic guitar tones, supple drums, and organ swells, to orchestral percussion and a cornucopia of violins, cellos, and woodwinds.” —Dryvetyme Online