About the music
Seas & Centuries
When TJ Buswell and Alex Hay describe the songwriting process for Seas & Centuries, they convey a scene of casual, relaxed freedom that’s difficult to reconcile with the deliberateness they presented to the audience during their recent first performance at the Knitting Factory.
“We don’t start out with any particular idea,” explains Hay, the guitarist and singer. “Our songwriting is a group thing. One of us brings in an idea, and it grows from there.”
Though they come from very different musical backgrounds, the members share a few core influences, such as U2, Dredg and Silversun Pickups.
“Songwriting isn’t challenging,” says Hay. “With this project we came to realize it’s OK to be simple.”
Though Hay writes most of the lyrics, the band members agree there are no exclusive roles in the band, no set responsibilities.
“With this project I’m freer than I’ve ever been,” says Hay.
“I just want to play cool music,” chimes in bassist Buswell.
The band formed after the breakup of A Digital Lie, of which Hay and Buswell were members, and Ghost Bear, the former project of drummer Andrew Garcia and guitarist Garry Dubay. Though the recent Knitting Factory gig was their first show, they hit the stage as though they’d been playing together for years. Every note, every song, every instrument meshed as though everything happened exactly the way they wanted.
The band’s name comes from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote about not having to cross “seas or centuries” when searching for metaphysical answers. Though the source might suggest deeper meanings in their work, Hay says, “It was just a line that stuck with me.”
There is an inherently organic quality to Seas & Centuries, both in their approach to songwriting and in their music, which builds and swells, with each piece fitting neatly into an amorphous, intangible jigsaw puzzle. At the core of their sound is Garcia’s steady hand on the drums. Playing a stripped down kit free of the frivolous extras so many drummers include, such as multiple crash cymbals and tom toms, his playing is reminiscent of driving, staccato beats on U2’s album War. His snare cracks through the waves of guitar neatly and carefully, leaving wonderfully open spaces for the rest of the band to move through.
Hay and Dubay both sport monstrous pedal boards that belie the simplicity of the sounds they produce with their collective 12 strings. They fill the room with enough feedback, delay and reverb to sail a tanker through, yet pull it off without appearing to work for it. Buswell performs exactly as a good bassist should, bridging the gap between guitars and drums. While Hay’s singing voice recalls the timbre of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Glen Phillips, he brings a moodiness to each song that evokes the likes of Stateless and Karate.
Their music speaks of maturity beyond the meager four months they’ve been together, and perhaps this is a result of their casual attitude. This relaxed approach permeates every level of Seas & Centuries, which has no plans for selling their music.
“It’s hard to make your money back when you have CDs pressed, so we’re just going to give them away via downloads,” says Hay. “Really, our primary goal is to keep things fresh and to play less often, so that when we do play, we can give the audience something new and not just play the same set list over and over. … We’re coming out of a place where everyone was worried about what you need to do to succeed, and people get lost in that. This is just about the music.”