Interview with Miles Seaton of Akron/Family

Steve Forstneger |

IGN Music: Do you have any pet peeves? Miles Seaton: A dirty kitchen.

In just five short years Brooklyn based Akron/Family-- Miles Seaton, Seth Olinksy, Dana Janssen and Ryan Vanderhoof—have risen to become one of the most prominent and prolific indie rock bands of the day.

The roots of Akron/Family were planted by Seaton and Olinksy, who initially met during their shared graveyard shift at a Manhattan coffee shop. After tinkering around with bedroom recordings they enlisted the services of Janssen, whom Olinksy had known growing up. As a power trio they moved from the bedroom to the club scene, honing their unique and unpredictable live show in the process.

Vanderhoof joined the band after serving as their opening act at what was their fourth ever public gig. So, by 2003 what had started as a tandem project had morphed into a full-blown quartet. Splitting their time between food service gigs and bedroom recording sessions and low-rent studio stints, the band culled together two home studio efforts and promptly sent them off to Young God Records. After the label's president, and musician in his own right, Michael Gira finally saw the band live he officially signed them to his label.

To date Akron/Family have released three albums under their own moniker and one split with Gira's Angels of Light, with their most recent release being Love Is Simple.

We caught up with founding member Miles Seaton, and hit him with a barrage of questions, some deeply intelligent, others a tad bit aloof in nature. He answered each with introspective aplomb.
IGN Music: What is your favorite late night snack when you're in the studio or out on tour and why?

Miles Seaton: It depends on where I'm on tour. In Europe, I definitely go for 3 a.m. Turkish kebab sandwiches and Belgian fries with plenty of their awesome mayonnaise. The studio is all about coffee.

IGN Music: Who or what are your non-musical influences and why?

Miles Seaton: This is a pretty broad question. It changes constantly. I love the tone-poems spontaneously produced by all the sounds of my immediate environment, be it crickets, truck breaks and train whistles—all sound that is constantly happening around me. Recently, I have also found the sculpture of Richard Serra and Robert Smithson particularly inspiring.

IGN Music: What is the motto you live by?

Miles Seaton: Mark Twain said something like: Eat what you want and let the food fight it out in your stomach. That seems like a good motto to me today.

IGN Music: Which do you prefer, performing music live or creating it in the studio and why?

Miles Seaton: There are advantages to both. I love interacting with people and the spontaneity of performance, and I love just as much the ability recording gives you to truly get inside an idea.
IGN Music: Do you recall the first concert you ever went to?

Miles Seaton: Date Rape, Aspirin Feast and Mr. Yuk at the OK Hotel in Seattle, WA. I was ten and it scared the shit out of me—I couldn't wait for more.

IGN Music: Do you remember the first album you ever bought? If so, was it on CD, vinyl, cassette or 8-track?

Miles Seaton: Maybe the soundtrack to La Bamba? On tape.

IGN Music: Realizing that this question is damn near impossible to answer since I know that my favorite album fluctuates from day-to-day depending on my mood, what is your favorite album and why?

Miles Seaton: This is a ridiculous question. Currently, I would say Take One by the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band because it sounds like sunshine.

IGN Music: Can you name a musician that you've always wanted to work with but haven't yet and why?

Miles Seaton: I've always wanted to work with Quincy Jones. Why? Put on Thriller and look at everybody in the room. If they aren't dancing by the time "Billy Jean" comes on, kick them out of your house and never talk to them again. They cannot be trusted.

IGN Music: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Miles Seaton: I'd like recorded music to be available for free while still providing a living for people who make it.

IGN Music: What has been your most important professional accomplishment to date?

Miles Seaton: Being able to pull a perfect shot of espresso. That, and getting four hundred New Yorkers to smile at once.

IGN Music: What has been your most memorable or most f@#ked-up gig to date and why?

Miles Seaton: None of our gigs are "f@#ked-up" enough for me. Once we played a show at Bard College in upstate New York where there was a mosh pit and I crowd surfed (which was hilarious, but amazing and FUN). I love it when things get out of control and it stops feeling like a concert or a spectacle. But mostly, people still treat music like going to the movies.

IGN Music: Do your dreams and/or nightmares ever influence your music?

Miles Seaton: Yes.

IGN Music: What do you like to do on your days off?

Miles Seaton: Cook, eat, swim at the crick, read…what do you do on your days off?

IGN Music: Well, since you asked, I like to sleep, read, go skiing (when there's snow), perhaps watch a movie or two, go walking around a neighborhood in San Francisco that I might not be totally familiar with, eat, the usual. But back to the questions at hand: What do you do on the tour bus between shows to while away the time?

Miles Seaton: We don't have a bus, so mostly I drive or read, or try to sleep.

IGN Music: What do you miss most about home when you're on the road?

Miles Seaton: My girlfriend.

IGN Music: What do you like most about visiting other countries when on tour?

Miles Seaton: In Italy, the food and the constant access to espresso.

IGN Music: Do you have a favorite book?

Miles Seaton: I'm partial to any of Coleman Barks' translations of Rumi.

IGN Music: What is your favorite cocktail and why?

Miles Seaton: Shirley Temple. Who can get enough of those maraschino cherries?

IGN Music: Can you name the last thing that moved you?

Miles Seaton: Ossian's pancake colored 1986 Volvo 240 DL.

IGN Music: What about the last thing that pissed you off?

Miles Seaton: I typically avoid politics, but the recent "gift" to the coal industry from the administration approving the continuation of mountain-top blast mining really pissed me off.

IGN Music: Do you have any pet peeves?

Miles Seaton: A dirty kitchen.

IGN Music: What about superstitions?

Miles Seaton: I hate sitting with my back to the door in a restaurant.

IGN Music: Who is the coolest person you have ever met?

Miles Seaton: Hamid Drake and William Parker are by far the coolest dudes I have ever met.
Spence Abbot/ 9/4
With four days until the release of their fourth album, this nigh-comically unhinged quartet will come to Chicago and nearly come together.
Resistant to categorization, Akron/Family can cheaply be described as four people singing together while stirring chaos with their instruments. An unwieldy marriage of hippie communion does daily battle with an anti-folk tabulation that usually results in anything going. Their last album, 2006’s Meek Warrior (Young God), hedged this bet further while taking on a Chicago post rock tint (due in part to contributions from Windy City jazzbo Hamid Drake).
But Love Is Simple, due Tuesday, replaces old leftfield fascinations with a noticeable chunk of acid-drenched classic rock. Drop in frequent incantations of “love,” and you have Barrett-era Floyd dancing with Polyphonic Spree or pre-widescreen Flaming Lips. Bad thing? Hardly. These are still New York art freaks who’d just as likely cut some cables as keep a steady beat. But it’s also a consistently rewarding listen that realizes the gang-vocal thing will grow into a gimmick if they don’t start learning how to play songs people can remember.