Interview: Seahaven Talk New LP and New Beginnings

Posted: by The Editor

Being in a punk band is like watching a ticking time-bomb. Trends come and go through music scenes at hyperspeed, and the spotlight is locked on for just a few brief moments, if at all. On top of the ever changing atmosphere of DIY, stepping into adulthood is another huge factor contributing to the transient nature of being a touring musician. It’s truly so rare to see a band gain popularity and then disappear for nearly half a decade, only to return as if it’s been no time at all; but that’s exactly how it played out for Seahaven, who after a long absence are back with a new record.

Aside from a few self released singles posted without much context, radio silence had plagued all social media accounts for the band after touring wrapped up in 2016. A quick scroll through their twitter account will show a nondescript December 4th, 2016 tweet that simply reads:

Regarded by the band themselves as their “dark period”, the years following the release of Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only, the time period found the Torrance, CA based quartet directionless, scrapping a whole album’s worth of demos and leaving them unsure how they could follow up their last release. The band didn’t tweet again until October of this year to anounce their return, and a new record that opens with that same nondescript sentence. As it turned out, time away from music was the best possible thing for the band – Halo of Hurt is a return to the frenetic fervor brewed during the band’s inception, or as vocalist Kyle Soto puts it:

“A revived version of our younger selves in my garage in 2009. No timelines, no pressure. No need to fit a certain mold” 

To commemorate the release of Halo of Hurt, out now through Pure Noise Records, we took a deep dive into the creative process with vocalist Kyle Soto. Listen along while taking a closer look what the past few years for Seahaven have looked like below.

The Alternative: Halo of Hurt was essentially recorded in secret, and the world shut down mere days after recording wrapped so I can’t imagine your return to “band life” has felt very familiar. How did you spend your time while Seahaven was on the backburner, and how is the band fitting into everyone’s life now?

Kyle: I mean we all spent time on our personal lives outside of music. The band was full force for me since around 18, so I never had time to set my feet in the ground. Music is a huge part of all our lives of course, however it was a very revitalizing experience to focus on “everything else” for once. I think it’s easy to get stuck in the bubble, we needed the perspective.

Reverie Lagoon was an ambitious effort that blended horns, a theremin, and acoustic guitars with the rest of the familiar Seahaven sound. The first thing I noticed about Halo of Hurt was its reservations and the use of space and dynamics instead of a vast instrumental palette. Do lyrical themes have some effect sonically and on the instrumentation and/or is that part of Seahaven evolving? Does the band ever rework older material as your sound changes?

Kyle: I think the lyrical content does play into it. I feel that once I can sense the tone, I have an idea of where I want the emotions/movements to land. The hope is that the music and words will ultimately compliment each other as much as possible. As far as old material, over the years the songs definitely take on new skins. I think that mostly comes from the repetitive nature of touring and wanting to keep things fresh and interesting.

Are there any plans for a record release stream?

Kyle: Potentially. We have some ideas, however I feel it’s a very saturated space with limited options. We want to make something we’re proud of.

Pictured: Seahaven performing in Cambridge, MA 12.2.18 as part of Man Overboard’s 10 year anniversary shows. Shot by Kyle Musser

In the wake of their 2016 tour, some members of the band had begun to believe Reverie Lagoon would be their final release. “I don’t even know if I picked up a guitar for two and a half years”, Kyle admits.

By the time Man Overboard announced their anniversary shows it had been two years since you performed together on stage. Had the desire to write and play shows returned by then, or were you okay with the possibility of Reverie Lagoon being your swan song?

Kyle: To be perfectly candid, it hadn’t been deeply discussed. Of course it would get talked about but we were all busy in our respects. In the same way you can get lost in the touring bubble, the same can be true on the other side.

Your lyricism is incredibly honest and raw, which makes songs like “Bottled”, “On the Floor”, and “Void” exceptionally relatable but at times frightening. Can you speak to writing at that level of vulnerability? Can writing on such a personal level be cathartic and help with acceptance while at the same time pushing away those who the lyrics are about, and how do you grapple with that if so?

Kyle: To be honest, it’s the only way I know how to write. If I’m not drawing from personal experience, it feels disingenuous to me. Not to say lyricists writing about other things aren’t genuine, it’s just not how I know how to do it. I would say it’s cathartic through and through. If anything it’s only opened up a deeper understanding with people referenced, seeing as they know it’s my most honest way of communicating. 

Halo of Hurt is the band’s first release on Pure Noise Records, a label constantly expanding their reach into the various subgenres of punk and indie. In recent years Microwave, Spanish Love Songs, and Boston Manor have all released music through Pure Noise, as well as heavy hitters like SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Year of the Knife, and Counterparts. Before that, Seahaven’s first three records were released on Run For Cover, another label with an eclectic roster. Obviously these labels value artistic integrity and keeping creative control in the hands of the artist which, after hearing about the uncertainty regarding Reverie Lagoon’s follow-up, begged the question:

Does the freedom to write whatever you want feel better than competing for a similar sound with the rest of the label’s roster, or does it bring about some other insecurities?

Kyle: To be honest we don’t know any other way. In between labels we had some outside pressure and it just made for some lackluster music. Not placing blame, but we need to have radio silence in order to really work through it and get to where we’re going.

Clearly Seahaven fit right in on their new label, since Brendan Murphy of Counterparts tweeted this out months before they announced their return

Kyle: Preach! Haha that’s awesome!

Before the hiatus you were consistently touring with stacked lineups. Some standout ones were that Touche Amore / Mewithoutyou / Caravels run and your headlining stint with Adventures and Foxing. When it’s safe to start playing shows again, what’s your dream tour lineup?

Kyle: David Bazan.

Much like David Bazan, Kyle Soto has written music under multiple monikers, most recently as Welcome Café during Seahaven’s absence. 

You’ve said that “Bait” was an idea you held onto for the past few years. Do you sit down with the intention of writing for Seahaven or Welcome Café, or do the songs dictate what project they belong in while you’re writing them?

Kyle: Good question. Usually, I can tell right away, but some ideas float somewhere in limbo until I figure out where I want to go with it. However a lot of the time Dylan will have a musical leaping point for Welcome stuff and I’ll start riffing vocal ideas.

It’s worth noting that the name Seahaven actually comes from the fictional town inhabited by Truman Burbank in the Truman Show (squint your eyes at the street sign to the right!)

I also got some serious The Truman Show vibes from the music video for “Bait”. Did y’all return to Seahaven in more ways than one or am I connecting dots that aren’t there?

Kyle: Haha that’s awesome. It wasn’t intentional, but I definitely had similar thoughts after the fact. We may be the only ones!

Circling back to the first question, so many of us are really glad y’all are back. The album gives me something new to love about it each time I listen. Now that it’s out, do you feel as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders? I hope the reception has made up for the frustration I’m sure you all endured after the 2016 demos were scrapped.

Kyle: Absolutely. It’s been a very long time coming and it’s an extremely rewarding feeling to finally let go of these songs/emotions.  

Bonus question: was “Find A Way” part of that 2016 writing process? It’s a cool secret for fans to stumble upon and most of the commenters are wondering why it didn’t end up on Halo of Hurt.

Kyle: Yeah it was written back then. It just came from an entirely different headspace and didn’t seem to fit into this project for a number of reasons. The highlighted and relevant moments from back then made it through the gauntlet and ended up on HOH.

Halo of Hurt is out now via Pure Noise Records, and you can pick it up here.

Christopher & Kyle Musser | @ChrisMustard & @godvfwine

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