By Jake Ausburn
Sydney’s favourite IDM trio, Seekae, have been keeping busy. After two years in the lab their third album, The Worry, is almost here. Slated for a September release, the record has already surprised fans of the electro-pop instrumentalists by adding vocals in the creamy, synth-heavy mix. I spoke to George from Seekae about the new album, messing with people, and working with lyrics.
“It’s always been something that we wanted to do, and it just made sense on this record. Lyrics used to strike us as an afterthought. We’ve been writing instrumental music since we were teenagers with the expectation that we’d write the songs and slap the lyrics on afterwards. But we found that the songs were complete, and didn’t really need anything else to them – all of the melodies were already performing the function that the lyrics would have. With this record, we did it a little differently. We left space in the tracks for lead vocals.”
This space has been perfectly filled by percussionist-cum-vocalist Alex Cameron, who released his own debut album Jumping the Shark last year, under an alter-ego of the same name. A bitter showbiz veteran with a chip on his shoulder, an ace up his sleeve and a stiff drink in his hand, the Alex Cameron of Jumping the Shark is a fantastic concept that ties in with a fantastic record. To get a sense of this caricature, visit his website, a functional relic complete with clip-art, ads for Viagra and an ‘Under Construction’ banner. Seriously, it’s fantastic.
Far from the long-winded, desperate arrogance of his solo doppelgänger, the real Alex’s career as a vocalist had recent, humble beginnings with Seekae:
“He just did it. I think he’d borrowed a microphone from a friend of his, then just turned up one day. We were just sitting around, and he was just like “I sang on a track.” He was really bashful about it, you know, saying “I know my voice isn’t very good.” He played it for us, I think half expecting that we would hate it, but it became our first single from the record. After that, we just kept running with it, I guess. It kind of became the blueprint for the rest of the album.”
Far from catering to expectation, Seekae are always surprising and challenging. ‘Another’ was, in a lot of ways, a softer, easier release than those previous, notwithstanding the introduction of vocals. Released at around the same time that the band signed to Future Classic, a label known for their popular, accessible electronica, a few eyebrows were understandably raised. As if to counter any accusations of pandering to the demands of their label, Seekae released ‘Test and Recognise’ as their second single from The Worry. A harsh, discordant piece, it quickly hushed any budding concerns about the band losing their edge.
“I think ‘Test and Recognise’ was chosen because we like messing with people. ‘Another’ was so drastically different from what we had released before. You know, it has vocals on it, and is really slow and really sparse. ‘Test and Recognise’, on the other hand, is fast, energetic, and kind of experimental when compared with ‘Another’.
“We thought that if people were expecting a track like ‘Another’, we’d give them the exact opposite – ‘Test and Recognise’ is full, loud and up-tempo. I guess we like to make it hard for the label or the publicist to give people an idea of what things are going to sound like.
“I think the two singles show the polarities of the album – one end of the spectrum and the other. I guess the rest of the album falls in between those two - it’ll be an average, but not average. Maybe that could be the tag-line for the press release?”
Asked to elaborate on the new album, George went on to describe the record’s cohesive new sound.
“The songs are all really different from the previous records. With the exception of ‘Test and Recognise’, the songs are a little bit sparser. They’re also quite electronic and synthetic, whereas +Dome had more sampling and real instrumentation. There is some live instrumentation on The Worry, but it’s primarily synthesisers and drum machines.
“The record covers a lot of ground, like the last two did. I guess the main thing is that it has a single aesthetic that runs through it - stylistically it moves around, but there is a distinctive sound that moves throughout the whole record - lots of augmented chords and distorted square waves and things like that. There are a lot of ‘old’ sounds from old synthesisers and old drum machines.
“A lot of it is about anxiety, and expectations you might have of what it is to be you. A lot of the songs are imagined stories, but I kind of hate it when you read the back cover of a book and it gives you an idea of what you’re going to get from it. I want people to interpret it in their own way.”
The band are touring ‘Test and Recognise’ around the country at the moment, and by the sounds of things, the rest of The Worry will also be on display. The band sound stoked to showcase some of their new jams.
“One’s called ‘The Stars Below’, and it’s a bit more up-tempo. It’s got a four to the floor rhythm and this one melancholic chord sustained throughout the track. And the other, ‘Monster’, might be a single. I really love it, it’s got this beautiful guitar melody that plays out over the top of it. I can’t wait to play them live.”
There’s currently no plans for an album tour, so get along to see Seekae play tracks from The Worry while you can. Oh, and Jonti will be there as well. Rad.
Fri 22 Aug - 170 Russell St, Melbourne
Sat 23 Aug - Metro Theatre, Sydney