Akron/Family | Interview Miles Seaton
Copper Press | Jedd Beaudoin
Iâ€™ll hear a melody and get a visual in my head that Iâ€™ll try to replicate with soundIssue #24 Summer 05 â€œItâ€™s like the wheel is an extension of the foot,â€ says Akron/Familyâ€™s Miles Seaton. Heâ€™s speaking of his quartetâ€™s fascination with the studio and the unitâ€™s impressively prolific nature. The multi-instrumentalist band â€“ based in New York City, by the way, with no real ties to Ohio, thanks â€“ has amassed an impressive (much of it still unreleased) body of work since its 2002 formation in The Big Apple, a body of song that might even leave a young Lennon and McCartney baffled as to four young lads can do that. But, Seaton, continues, he doesnâ€™t think much about it. â€œItâ€™s almost like that for me where thereâ€™s a creative unconscious,â€ he says, then continues to point out that it never hurts to have plenty of recording equipment around. â€œIâ€™ve always wished that I could plug a quarter-inch cable into my brain and run that into a tape player. The fascination with the studio, for me, is that it affords people a real window into what youâ€™re thinking, musically. Itâ€™s a pretty mechanical relationship. Itâ€™s a tool. And you can get lost in it for hours.â€ Heâ€™s quick to note that having an outside ear - such as former Swan Michael Gira on hand should the going get rough and should there be too many ideas to sort through - will probably never be an impediment to a young bandâ€™s progress. â€œMichael will remind you that time and space exist,â€ says Seaton. Gira was an unlikely mentor for the band. Seaton recalls that he may have been most familiar with Swans around the time that his band mate Seth Olinksy suggested that Akron/Family seek a home on the same label as a rising singer-songwriter named Devendra Banhart. In the process of familiarizing himself with Banhartâ€™s work, Seaton also found himself reconnecting with Giraâ€™s work via his post-Swans project Angels of Light. â€œWeâ€™d sent our work to a lot of labels and pretty much heard, â€œThis is interesting but not for us,â€ or, â€œLeave us the hell alone.â€ But Michael responded to our email, which was pretty weird because the submission policy at Young God is pretty foreboding. And thereâ€™s a pretty intense aesthetic in terms of the uniform lines. And, â€œhe says with a touch of nonchalance, â€œhis reputation with Swans certainly gave him something of a reputation.â€ Reputation of a reputation or no, the former Mr. Jarboe took to this band of twentysomethings, offering plenty of advice. â€œHe really took the time to listen to it and respond and he was nurturing but also qualified all of that feedback as just being his opinion. But he did suggest that although he was busy we should continue to send him more stuff. So we kept sending more stuff.â€ Seatonâ€™s recollection is, in a word, rapid-fire and nothing short of enthusiastic, as though the events are still unfolding, even after having worked with Gira on not one but two records (Akron/Family - which also features Dana Janssen and Ryan Vanderhoof - figures prominently on the recent Angels of Light outing Other People). And all of it - the records, the recording contract and, perhaps most importantly, the experience - happened organically. â€œItâ€™s not like we hung out on the scene and met Michael through a buddy. It was great to have somebody say, â€œHey, you sent me a CD. I liked your music. Youâ€™re not crazy.â€ Gira may have been among the first in the quartetâ€™s peer group to give such feedback. Not ones to engage in hobnobbing, schmoozing or â€œfucking a whole bunch of people,â€ the Family didnâ€™t really expose many other musicians to its work. â€œWe got really great response from people who werenâ€™t musicians, though,â€ says Seaton. â€œIf you donâ€™t want to be part of the scene, itâ€™s hard.â€ Not that you should conjure images of four guys sitting in a cramped loft gazing at their bellybuttons and waiting for that right tenor banjo riff to come to them. At least not exactly. â€œA lot of times,â€ the former Seattle resident continues, â€œyouâ€™ll meet someone, find out that they have plenty of things in common with you and then, later, after youâ€™ve hung out for a while, you find out that theyâ€™re a musician. Itâ€™s usually some weirdo who really doesnâ€™t fit in. The cool stuff happens in this very different world.â€ But Akron/Family is cool, right? Well, sure. But not cool in the way that MTV Cribs is likely to profile Chez Olinsky or Vanderhoof some time soon. Cool in the sense that itâ€™s cool to swim against the tide, think outside the mall - that sort of thing. These are, after all, guys in their twenties who listen to Bach as much as they listen to The Beatles. â€œI end up listening to a lot of stuff from the â€˜60s and I like some of the free improv stuff that happens here, though hearing that usually involves going out. I donâ€™t know. I guess I just havenâ€™t heard a lot of stuff going on here right now that I like. â€œAnd,â€ he continues, â€œI also like sounds. If itâ€™s a difference between something thatâ€™s not any good and something thatâ€™s powerful to me personally, Iâ€™d rather stand outside and listen to weird harmonics coming from truck brakes. Better yet, itâ€™s springtime now and I can hear all the birds. Thatâ€™s really pretty.â€ Of late, heâ€™s also taken an interest in the visual arts, admitting that before relocating to NYC he wasnâ€™t much interested in that realm, until a visit to the DIA in Beacon, NY was, well, eye-opening. â€œThere are these great pieces there. I really got into these Richard Serra pieces. They totally blew my mind. That really started to interest me a lot in visual art. Not,â€ he says, â€œthat I necessarily keep abreast of it. But I think about it. I just got back from Italy where I saw these really potent religious paintings that really, really affected me. But Iâ€™m not really interested in doing it myself,â€ he cautions. â€œBut I am inspired more and more by the visual to do music, though itâ€™s more in an abstract sense. Many times as Iâ€™m making music, Iâ€™ll hear a melody and get a visual in my head that Iâ€™ll try to replicate with sound.â€ As for the future of the band - which Seaton refers to as â€œa regular, space-age democracyâ€ - the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist (a complete redundancy in a band where all members sing and play virtually every musical instrument under the sun to include, perhaps, the bowed saw) is optimistic. It helps he believes that the unit is largely a faceless entity thatâ€™s not bound by traditional roles. â€œA lot of times, bands go through that classic thing where you get somebody whoâ€™s the face and that creates a lot of inequalities,â€ he notes. â€œIt can create a lot inequality within in the band and gets in the way of the family aspect.â€ And if Seaton doesnâ€™t speak of his bandmates in gooey terms, or directly as â€œbrothers,â€ the message that there is equality in the ranks is clear and that, for the foreseeable future, thatâ€™s how things will remain, whether splitting duties on vocals, guitars, or figuring out whose head to hook up to the tape recorder.