Seattle indie pop trio strips down, unplugs
Simple and stripped-down though their songs may be, the Seattle-based, three-piece Seapony are a product of the electronic, interconnected modern world.
Seapony’s story is one of cross-country flights, trans-continental record deals, drum machines, and the democratizing effects of social networking sites and the blogosphere. While their music—a fuzzy, bittersweet, laconic and lo-fi indie pop—would have appealed to fans of the Breeders and Blur circa 1993, it’s possible they would have never been discovered.
“We’ve all got full-time jobs,” songwriter Danny Rowland explains, taking a break from his job as a customer support representative at a third-party billing vendor. Before the web, the band would have played gigs, but considering the brevity of the tours they can take while working 9 to 5, it would have been difficult to gain exposure.
“We’re maxing out our vacation time this summer to go down the West Coast, and then we’re going to New York later,” says Rowland.
Thankfully, the Internet does exist.
Rowland met his band mates—bassist Ian Brewer and singer Jen Weidl—answering Craigslist ads seeking drummers. He began jamming with Brewer in 2001 in Oklahoma. They then moved to Olympia, Wash. before Rowland moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he met Jen. The two became romantically involved as they made music and reunited with Brewer, who moved to Seattle in 2010. Weidl came up with the group’s name by writing down a list of words they liked, cutting them up and rearranging them like fridge magnets until the moniker was nailed down.
After throwing some demos up into the cloud in late 2010, they were picked up by Double Denim, an independent label in the United Kingdom, which released a limited edition seven-inch Seapony single. A few weeks later, the group was given a favorable review by Pitchfork.com and played on the radio in Seattle. In April, they opened up for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
The rush of acclaim has not gone to Rowland’s head, however.
“We’re not really pursuing the full time,” Rowland says. “It is a fun hobby. It’s nice to be able to travel, do something fun and maybe even make a little cash to offset the cost for your travel.”
Though Rowland plays the drums, the group doesn’t have a permanent drummer. They write songs using a drum machine “the size of a desktop calculator,” which makes things easier, Rowland says. “Drums are too loud—plus, I don’t like the sound of the crash. It can get in the way.”
Everything about Seapony screams simplicity. There aren’t many songs on their debut LP, Go With Me, that use more than three chords, and only four break the three-minute mark. “To me, it’s always what ends up sounding right,” says Rowland.
It’s an ethos the band sticks to in-studio and live, plowing through each set without wasting time on banter. “The Velvet Underground didn’t talk,” he says. “It’s cooler to just play song after song, like the Ramones did.”
Their brand of straightforward, hazy pop fits neatly into the national zeitgeist, as millions have been driven into austerity by the recession.
It’s little wonder the indie music blogosphere is bewitched by myriad groups crafting prim and to-the-point tunes. Seapony, like contemporaries the Dum Dum Girls and Beach House, crafts bright and crisp melodies, even as the guitar and vocals are buried under reverb and fuzz.
Consciously or not, Seapony is responding to the times, proving it’s possible to have fun while tightening our belts. Like the cover of Go With Me—a woman gazing wistfully at the ocean—Seapony’s pop tunes are upbeat.
From their self-produced ascent to their Spartan philosophy of bare-bones touring, there is something very DIY about Seapony. As such, it makes sense for them to stop at 105 Pioneer St. in Santa Cruz. Part rehearsal space, part venue, the warehouse and self-sustaining compound of artistic entrepreneurship is located in an industrial cluster near the intersection of Highway 9 and 1.
On tour, Seapony stays true to form by packing light. The band will be hitting the road with a drummer (“there was an energy lacking” without a live percussionist, Rowland says), but they’ll still be able to fit everything they need in a midsize SUV.
That’s because drummer John Bryan, will only have a floor tom and a snare. “We tried a full set,” says Rowland, but the current arrangement just “sounded better.”
Seapony plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at 105 Pioneer St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8.