Aaron Calvert, guitarist and vocalist for East Bay band Winfred E. Eye, is a man of contradictions. For one thing, the guy who sings like the snide bayou chile of Tom Waits and Billie Holiday has a speaking voice much younger than his 29 years (though he does speak as elliptically as he writes). For another, despite his lyrical topics of choice — phantoms, heartache, sore-luck crackheads from Phoenix — Calvert makes his living with kids. “I work with children, and the more I work with children, the more I remember about being a child,” he explains. “I was given a chance to really explore in my early developmental stages. Whereas I think sometimes, in my line of work, I see a lot of questionable tactics, and I think, god, I really wish these kids had a chance to maybe eat a little more or something.”
Winfred E. Eye’s latest full-length, The Dirt Tier (Luckyhorse Industries) is just as somber as its predecessor (last year’s A Bottle, a Dog, Some Milk, a Bottle), but the darkness has grown past loneliness and misanthropy, into something larger, more threatening. The music is still mellow and sparse, sparser even with the departure of keyboardist Dax Pierson (though he still plays in places on The Dirt Tier). It still has that bluesy, outlaw-sitting-on-the-falling-apart-porch feel, only now, the dust motes drop through the fading sunlight onto the rifle at the outlaw’s side before they land on his guitar.
“I think A Bottle, a Dog … was coming out of some hardships and some life changes,” Calvert says, “and that’s still going on. Maybe that is a little grim or scary, because in parts of it, it deals more with myself transforming into a monster of a human at times. And not being so happy with myself, or maybe things I’ve put other people through.”
Meet the monster Friday night at Winfred E. Eye’s East Bay CD release party at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. The Moore Brothers and Deers open the 21-and-up show, and cover is $6. The music starts at 9:30 p.m.