Q&A: Tuscaloosa band Seismos talk broad scope of sound and T-town scene

Q&A: Tuscaloosa band Seismos talk broad scope of sound and T-town scene

“We have to get a fan mail and start it off with ‘Hello Repeat Offenders,’” said RJ Marchand, drummer for the genre-bending, Tuscaloosa-based band Seismos. 

Seismos is a quartet of musicians with eclectic tastes, resulting in a melting pot of sounds and the promise of an exhilaratingly, unrepeated performance. The band consists of vocalist Patrick O’Brien, guitarist Nick Purvis, bassist Braden Blair and RJ Marchand on drums.

O’Brien, Blair and Marchand are Tuscaloosa natives that have seen the vast landscapes of musical trends and landscapes drift through Tuscaloosa, including an immensely exciting era of garage rock. The band is quickly becoming an Alcove and Green Bar favorite. While doing so, Seismos continues to establish a tradition of uncommon, original bands in Tuscaloosa. 

How did Seismos come together?

Nick: [RJ and I] met through playing other projects that were kind of short-lived around here. As the last one dissolved, we were kind of sitting there with empty hands, like 'What do we do now?' I had some ideas. RJ had some ideas. We’d each been working on things individually and we came together and put those together. After a couple of days of just playing and seeing what would happen, we were like 'This is kind of cool.' That’s when Seismos started. That was probably fall of 2015. Then, we brought on a bassist and went through that. We recorded, or demoed. Then, we kind of went through some lineup changes last August.

RJ: [Braden and Patrick] played their first show with us in October. 

Patrick: I had been to a couple of their shows, actually a lot of their shows. We talked and I found out that they were in need of a place to practice, and I have a sizeable basement and neighbors that don’t call the cops. I provided the space and they rented it out. I started humming along with it and writing poetry that I thought might fit. I recorded my own kind of demo and a Rock Band mic and sent it to them. It was the worst sounding thing ever, but they brought me on anyways. 

Y’all have been described as prog, rock, pop, punk and jazz punk. How would you classify your band?

Patrick: We still don’t necessarily agree. I think it’s part of the draw that we all have a different idea of what we sound like and what we want to sound like. That can have adverse effects if we had overbearing egos, but it can also make us really eclectic. I like to think that we’re post-hardcore with elements of emo and ambient and some jazz bits. 

Nick: We all have really vastly different music tastes and it all comes to the table. I disagree with Patrick a little bit. We’re all kind of half right. In my ears, the overall umbrella that we would fit in is prog rock at the most iTunes of descriptions.

RJ: If there was a diagram we would probably all be in the outliers and Seismos is where we all meet.

How did the sound change when Patrick and Braden joined?

Patrick: I think that’s when the post-hardcore elements started coming in. 

Nick: We got a little heavier with Braden. Braden just likes to play harder.

RJ: I think the heavy parts got heavier and the softer parts got softer. It got way more dynamic and the extremes of our sound got wider with them coming in. 

Nick: Especially with Patrick. Going from no vocals, which is untraditional for a band. The thing you do, Patrick, is you can sing incredibly well, but the vocals do double duty. At times, the focus is more on the lyrical content, and other times the words may not necessarily be important but the voice works as an instrument, which adds another layer to the songs. 

RJ: Jumping from instrumental to having vocals in a band, it makes it less ambiguous and gives it more of a personality. I guess that’s where the jazz punk thing came from. That’s kind of how we sound. Now with vocals, the band has its own persona. 

How did adding a vocalist change how you approach live songs and making new music? 

RJ: All the songs that we play right now are songs that Nick and I wrote. Some of the songs it made sense to have vocals over that Patrick had to get a little bit creative with and find an ebb and flow in the song where it made sense to have vocals. We’re currently writing music with the intention of having vocals.

Patrick: It’s something I’ve listened to a lot and they evoke a certain emotion, and I try to embody that in the words that I write. We’re getting to the point where we’re ready to write and release new material. I’m trying to write my own poetry and see what they like. Throw stuff to the wall and see what sticks. I also think it’s important that we maintain a little bit of the band’s past identity. There are certain songs that I just don’t think need vocals to be good songs and I’ve left them for the band.

How do you think y’all fit into the Tuscaloosa music scene and how do you think it can grow? 

Patrick: Growing up here, we’ve seen the music go from incredibly expansive, like you couldn’t throw a stone in the street without hitting some garage band’s door. Then, this venue, it was a DIY house venue called Big House, closed down because of people moving to Birmingham or people getting sick of it. That was the better part of a decade ago. Mostly bar venues are what book bands and they want something that pushes alcohol sales. That is really encouraging to bands that play music you already know. Now, we’re one of three to five original bands that only play music that we’ve made with the occasional cover. We’re trying to change that. We co-oped the opening of another DIY all ages nonprofit venue with King’s German Legion. We had our first opening a couple weeks ago and it went really well. We want that atmosphere of people going to shows to hear weird bands to come back to Tuscaloosa. 

Nick: I will say we have to give shout-outs to Alcove and Green Bar. There are bars that have original music.

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