Bleary Eyed has been around for longer than you realize.

It’s been 9 years at this point, and yet the Philly-by-way-of-D.C. band is just now getting around to releasing their self-titled EP via Born Losers Records. Almost a decade since their inception, and with an extensive discography under their belt, to some it may seem a little strange they would wait this long for an eponymous release, but as frontman Nate Salfi says, there’s just something different about these songs. The most self-assured they’ve ever been, the EP proves that the best things really do take time.

“We knew the new stuff was going to be a little bit better and a little more special,” says Salfi. “It was just a good time getting it together.”

Salfi has always been solely focused on music. Even his earliest memories revolve around it. He started playing around second grade and still can recall formative experiences like buying his first CD (it was American Idiot by Green Day), or attending a summer concert series hosted by Ian MacKaye’s sister Amanda at which his starstruck 10-year-old self would stumble through conversations with his idols in the park. His first band, Black Sparks, was a post-hardcore band influenced by Fugazi and Minor Threat, but he insists he’s “always been a shoegaze kid.”

Bleary Eyed - Wreck

It wasn’t until 2015 that Salfi formed the first version of Bleary Eyed while still living in D.C. From the jump, it relied on a rotating cast of characters poached from other bands in the scene like Snail Mail and The Obsessives. The first show they ever played featured a completely random line-up that practiced twice and then disbanded. However, this revolving-door approach wasn’t due to inconsistency, but rather a sign of the project’s fluidity.

Still, the indie scene in D.C. was lacking, and with college coming up, Salfi decided to make the move to Philly and attend Temple University. The band immediately began making the rounds in the house show scene, which was in its pre-pandemic heyday. It felt like the glory days of Philly DIY with legendary venues like The Trash House still hosting shows with Gavin Jr. and Blue Smiley, and there was an energy in the air that D.C. lacked, a contagious excitement and emphasis on experimentation that pushed the band to go from being the new kids in town to a scene staple.

“People are more genuine freaks for the art up here,” says Salfi. “In D.C. it’s like this kid has a poli-sci job, and he’s playing a show on Sunday with his band.”

Bleary Eyed kept at it until 2020 when quarantine hit, forcing them to hit the breaks and reevaluate. As the world went into lockdown, Salfi saw it as a blessing in disguise of sorts.

“It was kind of a weird reset,” says Salfi. “During quarantine, there was nothing to see or base your live set off, so I feel like people were making some very honest, raw music which was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing because people weren’t watching each other.”

As the world slowly regained some semblance of normalcy, Bleary Eyed hit the ground running. They released their album, Guise, and played their first show since lockdown at Grey’s Ferry skatepark in the summer of 2021. Their debut line-up included Doug Dulgarian (They Are Gutting A Body of Water) on bass and Margot Whipps (Heatloaf) as an additional vocalist. However, as I’m sure you can guess, this line-up quickly changed once they started working on the EP.

A collection of four songs that somehow combines ethereal shoegaze shine with some of their post-punk roots, Bleary Eyed the EP posseses a certain shimmer. The sparkle on “Mean” and the slide guitar that lurks under layers are the epitome of what I mean: a hidden glow they’ve been looking for and have finally been able to pinpoint.

The self-titled acts as a retrospective of the band even as it keeps its gaze steady and fixed on the future. It encapsulates soft memories and early day stumbles, each song containing a story that gives you a glimpse of how they got here. Whether it’s the lead single, “Run,” about “having to get your shit together after quarantine” or “Wreck” written about his little brother, their vulnerability is nuanced but undeniable.

“I could write shit that’s really esoteric” says Salfi. “But I want to write stuff that’s fun and warm for people to enjoy too.”

That aforementioned warmth has always been Bleary Eyed’s golden string, the thing that has led them through the labyrinth of life and back to the sense of community and undeniable love that defines their origin story. You listen to the EP, and you feel it too, whether it’s the way that Whipps and Salfi’s voices effortlessly complement each other’s or the sense of light that permeates the release.

It’s been there all along, through all the different versions of the band but this time they really got it. However, it was only by waiting that Bleary Eyed could have a self-titled so radiant, and that’s worth all the time in the world.

Bleary Eyed will play PhilaMOCA on March 10 with Highnoon, FIB, and Halloween. You can get tickets here. Support the Bleary Eyed EP or pick up a cassette over at Bandcamp.