It’s Just Chasing the Right Feeling
By Jon Hersh
Seekae are difficult to categorize in the best possible way. After releasing two albums without lead vocals – the indie rock inspired The Sound of Trees Falling on People in 2008 and the post-dub/IDM +Dome in 2011 — the band moved member Alex Cameron to lead vocals and fully embraced their post-dub tendencies on 2014’s The Worry. The album, their first for label Future Classic, marked a major departure, evoking the sounds of artists like Caribou, Baths, and James Blake. Jon Hersh of Black on the Canvas spoke with band member and lead vocalist Alex Cameron of Seekae, which also includes members George Nicholas and John Hassel.
To start things off, there have been some great remixes off of the The Worry, including Henrik Schwarz’s remix of the title track. Where do you see remixes of your music as part of the artistic process? Are you often surprised by the results?
Alex Cameron: I’d like to think that remixes are born out of a mutual respect for the artists involved. I would only ask someone to remix a song of ours if I liked their music and they were known for their remixes. It’s not different from other forms of writing, in that the artist remixing has to give a shit. We’ve had some shockers where the artist clearly took the money and ran. I’m excited by remixes that find new rhythms in the stems sampled. They change the song. Those are the ones that surprise me. The ones with thought.
The Worry was your first album where you sang lead vocals. Why the shift? Did this grow out of the writing process? How have the songs with lead vocals been to perform live?
Alex Cameron: I wanted to write more. Learn more about song writing. I like new things. I’m not attached to any one method of music making. The next record could be instrumental. I don’t know. We don’t really plan things out. They just happen over time. The songs are fun to sing live. Hearing the words back from the audience is always new.
Tell me a bit about the writing and recording process for The Worry. Firstly, the record just has an incredible sound to it, I love the mixing and musical space the album creates. Where was it recorded and what was that process like?
Alex Cameron: We wrote half of the album in London. We had a small flat in Brixton and some recording equipment. We wanted something rough.Something gritty. But we can’t seem to avoid the soft, melodic colours that always make their way onto the record. Once we had the songs we were lucky enough to have Dave Wrench mix the album. He’s been a part of some really incredible records. He does so much with space. It’s a job that’s totally beyond me. Really, he made the album sound spectacular.
Structurally it seems like you are doing something really unique as well. How do you approach structuring a song? Is that a conscious process or more organic?
Alex Cameron: It’s just chasing the right feeling. Nothing too complex. Just what makes the gut feel good. If it makes me feel dead inside I’ll put it in the bin.
You guys are playing Sydney Opera House later this month as part of Vivid LIVE 2015, a set showcasing ten years of the label Future Classic. What artists are you excited to see live as part of Vivid LIVE? Do you have anything special planned for the show?
Alex Cameron: We just want to nail it. We’ve stretched ourselves before for Vivid with strings sections and what not. But when it comes down it we just want to play our music and do it well. No horseshit. I’d like to see Touch Sensitive, I see him everywhere but never get to see him play.
How has your live setup evolved through the years? How much are you performing live and what technology do you utilize? Feel free to get as wonky with music tech as you would like.
Alex Cameron: We go through phases. At the moment George is the brain of the operation live. He uses Ableton live to trigger samples and loops. John and I are sort of colouring the live set. Making the music human by littering the songs with errors. We like it that way. It’s a bit demented. We’ve got two korgs on stage for melody and pads, an MPC, effects units, an SPD, guitar and drums. There is probably more.
[Ed note: To get more of a sense for how this comes together, see Seekae play a live set for Boiler Room in London here]
[Ed Note: insert photo 2 here. Caption: “Seekae’s music video for ‘Another’, directed by Ian Pons Jewell”]
I would love to discuss the music video for “Another“. I can’t think of a music video that has impacted me on such a visceral level since the Mark Romanek-directed Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt”. How did this video come about? Can you describe in words some of the themes you were exploring?
Alex Cameron: It’s a ripper of a clip. I can’t remember exactly how it came about. But Ian Pons Jewell the director contacted us or we contacted him. Something happened and we were excited so we got the money together. It was the first thing we did with Future Classic, so we wanted it to be powerful. It needed to be as brutal as the songs lyrical content. Really frank and a celebration of something dark.
As a follow-up, where was the video shot? After some heated debate my friends are equally split between the setting being a mining town in Peru or somewhere in Bolivia.
Alex Cameron: It’s Bolivia. Ian was living there for a while. It’s based on an urban legend.
You’re from Sydney, tell us a bit about the local music scene and how it’s influenced you as an artist? What other artists from that scene should we be listening to?
Alex Cameron: Sydney is a very excitable place. There are things to be excited about. And artists who are capable of being excited. We’re far away from everything else, so even if the music is an attempt to be derivative – it’s like Chinese whispers, we always end up distorting it a little. The artists that excite me are the ones pushing a confident angle. People like Kirin J Callinan, Jack Ladder, The Presets. We need more artists globally that aren’t afraid to commit to a sound. We need to be blunt to be heard. That’s what I hope to achieve. An unashamed commitment to a sound. Get behind something and go all the way with it.
Lastly, any plans for touring the States anytime soon?
Alex Cameron: I hope so. I’d like to be there playing shows later in the year.
This interview was conducted on May 13th, 2015. Follow Jon Hersh on Twitter.