Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview with Josh Davis of the Seacats

I got a chance to catch up with Josh Davis of Seacats this week. Seacats are playing a CD release show at the Vera on May 20th, next Friday, and we talked about their history and relationship to all ages shows in Seattle, among other things.
Josh tells me that Seacats “started in Summer 2009, didn’t really have intentions of doing much of a band but then we got a show, then we did another show, and we just kept doing it, then the EMP Sound Off made us get really encouraged.”

The EMP Sound Off in February and March in 2010 was a major turning point for the band. Seacats are from Kelso, which is closer to Vancouver WA and Portland than Seattle, just off of the Columbia River. Josh said he read about Sound Off, didn’t know much about it but they applied anyway. They thought it was a minor battle of the teenage bands thing; in fact it has turned into quite an incubator for local performers and bands.

Seacats ended up in 2nd place in their round of the semi-finals. The 1st place bands advance, but only 1 of the 2nd place bands get to advance to the finals. Josh is pretty humble about the band, as he put it “we listened to the other 2nd place bands and thought they’d probably beat us out, but the youth advisory board chose us.” Josh mentions that apparently they appeal to the all-ages crowd, which I can vouch for.
Later in the Summer of 2010 the Seacats played a free Veracity show, which I saw with my 12 year old son. By coincidence my son also saw Seacats playing an outdoor show at the Summer Sound event in front of the EMP later that summer. We bought a CD with a few of their songs and my son really enjoyed it, going around singing “Whoa whoa whoa hey hey hey” for several months there. Seacats ended up being my son’s first local band crush, which is pretty cool. Josh really nailed the youth appeal thing!

I asked Josh about who writes the songs and the answer was that 3 different members all write songs, which is fairly unusual. The rule of thumb is that each member gets to sing lead vocals on the songs they wrote, so they definitely trade lead vocals around. They also swap instruments around – they did that quite a bit when I saw them last Summer, although Josh tells me they don’t trade instruments quite as much now. They worry a little about a lack of a cohesive sound, but they all work on crafting the sound together. Hopefully it increases the variety and appeal – it certainly works for me!

Up until January they actually had 4 members who wrote songs, but in January a guitarist left & a new drummer joined. As I mentioned, they swap instruments around, including drums, so somehow that makes sense.

They use a mild amount of harmony, which I always like – “not as much as some local bands” says Josh, “but as much as we can; wherever we think it fits.”

Tristan (the guy who books shows at the Vera Project) was quite complimentary about the Seacats – coming from Kelso, they don’t have a huge local fan base, so they wouldn’t normally be booked for a main stage show at the Vera. They ended up being “up and coming” local band that the Vera Project’s Programming Committee (I’m on that committee) voted to include on the Bumbershoot stage that Tristan got to book – alongside the Head and The Heart, for example – and had another successful show in front of an even larger all-ages audience.

Still, playing a CD release show at the Vera without a label or much of a local fan base behind them was a stretch. Tristan complimented the band on working within the system, contacting the agents for some touring bands they liked and getting included in a show with Aqueduct and the Tea Cozies, so now they have their main stage show to be their official CD release party – excellent execution, working the business like pros – this Friday’s CD release show should be fun!

Speaking of releases, Josh tells me the Seacats released a couple of previous EPs – I have one of them and quite enjoyed it. The upcoming CD is their first full length release. It includes 12 songs and has a cowboy themed cover – which is about all I know about it so far, by next weekend I’ll see some or all of it played live and buy a copy so I’ll update my blog with a show and CD review shortly after that. Josh is very proud of it, saying it’s the best musical work they’ve done. They are self recorded without the support of a label so far, and he feels each release has seen a major jump in recorded quality each time.

Kelso is closer to Vancouver & Portland, but they don’t get all that many gigs there. I asked Josh if they prefer Seattle but he rephrased it as “Seattle seems to like us more.” He notes that the Portland scene is more 21+ oriented, all ages venues having a hard time there and rarely lasting more than a year. Seacats play bars on occasion but “we like all ages venues better.” Considering a couple of members are 15 and only 1 of the 5 is over 21, that makes sense.

Josh tells me they feel they are improving: more dynamic in their songs, more depth in general, better studio chops. Looking forward to the new CD so I can see if I agree, I'll blog about that and the Friday night show once I give them a listen.

I'll give Josh the last words: “We enjoy playing live! We haven’t played a show like this one (at the Vera) next Friday in a while now, we’re looking forward to it!”

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