Seaway interview: “I hope that people can enjoy the record and maybe escape from the uncertainty of the world”
When we’re not living through a pandemic, the majority of us like to think we’re free, even if it’s not something we dwell on a lot. In the world of music, it’s perhaps more difficult to feel that way. Record label bosses stick their noses in, with dollar signs in their eyes and thoughts of radio play and streams in their heads. Some so-called stans are keen to make it known exactly how they want a new record to sound – bonus points if they want it to be exactly like Album X from Y years ago. Conventions of genre have been found to be more like constraints than simple methods of categorisation.
None of that is getting to Seaway though. On their fourth album, Big Vibe, the record reaches the heights their career has always been building towards, and they’ve done it on their terms, with genre conventions barely an afterthought. The result is a record closer to pop rock than the pop punk they’re perhaps more used to (though it hasn’t been completely abandoned) – however, truly fine pop- rock it is at the very least. It’s a refreshing take on their sound, and one that succeeds where so many similar bands fail in being genuinely distinctive.
“We wanted to make a really sweet pop-rock record with lots of different sounds, lots of different influences”, says frontman Ryan Locke. “Growing up, all our favourite records were very dynamic records – a lot of Jimmy Eat World, a lot of Weezer records.”
“They’re dynamic in that the songs all sound quite different and we’ve always tried to achieve that on past releases. But [with] this one specifically, we just went, ‘Okay, that’ll be the heavy song, that’ll be the softer song, that’ll be the punk rock [song] etc.’ Every single vibe or feeling we could think of we would try and mould the song too.”
“We definitely felt like ‘Okay, we’ve really got to prove ourselves, we’ve really got to do something big here”
The groundwork for what would eventually grow into Big Vibe had been laid for a while. Much of this came through on last year’s compilation record Fresh Produce, a collection of B-sides, reworkings and covers of songs including Alanis Morissette’s ‘Hand In My Pocket’ and The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’.
“We were kind of excited, after experimenting so much with different sounds on Fresh Produce, to maybe see if we could translate [those] to the new record. I think we definitely achieved that on a couple of those songs. Fresh Produce was kind of a cool little homework piece where we could switch the songs up, change the vibe or feeling of a certain sound and then use that on the new record. I think it was a really cool way to go about it.”
The Canadian four-piece were also able to enjoy the most relaxed recording process of their whole careers while making Big Vibe. They worked with Toronto-based producer and long time friend Anton DeLost, who had also produced their 2013 debut album Hoser.
“Every day we’d drive into the studio and [spend our time] hanging out and making cool songs,” Ryan explains. “We’ve always had good experiences when [recording], but when we made [2017’s third record] Vacation in LA with a producer like Mike Green, it was a great experience but we definitely felt like ‘Okay, we’ve really got to prove ourselves, we’ve really got to do something big here.”
“It could’ve easily been the soundtrack to a joyous summer that never was”
The band was in the studio throughout January and February, in a time where they could be within two metres of each other without worrying about passing on a potentially deadly virus. Although the record was done (or so they thought) by then, the pandemic did interfere with the album campaign.
“Shortly [after the band wrapped up recording], everything was shut down. Bands that were planning on releasing stuff started pushing that [back],” says Ryan. That kind of made us think ‘Well, maybe we should push [back] our release, not knowing what was going to happen with the world back in March.”
Big Vibe was originally supposed to be out in the summer, and it is possible for listeners to get that impression without knowing it for a fact. With its bouncing melodies and sunny yet chilled mood, it could’ve easily been the soundtrack to a joyous summer that never was. Instead, what we have is a postcard from summer sent into today – that’s a special enough thing in itself.
However, there proved to be a silver lining to the band being locked up in their houses when lockdown hit. Out of that came ‘Mrs David’, which Ryan believes is the best song they’ve ever made as Seaway.
“What ended up happening”, he relates, “was we thought we had our record finished and we were talking about getting it mixed and mastered. Since the shutdown, we kind of started, and Andrew [Eichinger, lead guitarist], writing new stuff at home. He said ‘Hey, I think I have something pretty good here.’ We put it together and thought, ‘Yeah, this song has to be on the record’. I think we all agree that the record would not be complete without ‘Mrs David’.”
It allows listeners to project their own feelings onto the words and melodies they hear, to create their own meanings in Ryan’s words.
Covid-19 will be having an impact on the Big Vibe cycle even after the record is released in October. Ryan admits that his usual ambitions for a record cycle – “play new countries, play bigger venues, get in front of more people” as “kind of a tall order”. With his fellow band members – Andrew Eichinger on guitar, Adam Shoji on bass and Ken Taylor on drums – Ryan is looking into alternatives to traditional touring that many other artists have had to employ. Ryan mentions doing some form of live-streamed performance in the future, either in Anton’s studio or an empty venue.
He also envisions doing another collection of B-sides to bridge the gap between Big Vibe and whatever comes next, in a similar vein to how Fresh Produce figured between this new cycle and the Vacation era.
For the moment, however, with the record still a month off at the time of writing, Ryan says that Seaway’s in the “let’s get it out there and hopefully people will love it mode”. Ultimately, for all it does for the band, there’s plenty it can do for the fans too. Discussing the record’s lyrics, Ryan admits that the lyricism is deliberately more ambiguous. It allows listeners to project their own feelings onto the words and melodies they hear, to create their own meanings in Ryan’s words.
“There’s obviously a lot of specific references on some of those songs,” he comments, “but I think [for] some of [them], you think they might be about one thing but they’re written about something completely different and I think that’s always been something I appreciate when listening to music too. [A song] might mean something different to someone else who’s listening to it based on what they’re going through at that time or feeling at the time that they’re listening to it.”
In these precarious times, Big Vibe offers a moment of respite from the horror show of reality, even just for its thirty-five minutes’ running time. It’s something Ryan hopes the record can do at least.
“It’s a fun record. There’s a lot going on there, a lot to sink your teeth into. I don’t think you’d just listen to it and that’s it. At the very least, I hope that people can enjoy the record and maybe escape from the uncertainty of the world.”
Amen to that, we say.
Big Vibe will be released on the 16th October via Pure Noise Records.