The Seedy Seeds – Piles of Instrument Fun Seed

Photo by Scott Beseler of www.taketheday.com

The Seedy Seeds don’t know you, but they already like you.

And you will like them too – I certainly did, after hearing their 2006 demo, and particularly “Earned Average Dance America,” (check out the track below, and see my essay for Song of the Day).  It is a captivating combination  of instrumental creativity and quirky lyrics.  Margaret was kind enough to shed some light on her inner workings, creative process, and crayons.

Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Margaret. I’m a transplant to Cincinnati—I grew up in Virginia. I like to think a lot. I also really like to cook.

How did you get started playing music?

My parents put me in piano lessons when I was maybe 6 or so… it didn’t last particularly long. Then, about five or six years later, when my older brother got a guitar, I’d sneak into his room when he was away and try and figure things out anxiously before anyone could catch me doing it. I’d make what I thought were really “progressive” and “experimental” tape recordings using my dad’s voice recorder. I bought my own guitar when I was 13 and started writing a lot of terrible music privately in my room.

What was the first recording you ever purchased?


Not sure I can remember… with my own money? Probably “The Sign” by Ace of Base. It’s the album that had all the jams… I wouldn’t share it with my little sister so she bought her own copy. Our home was rich with Ace of Base.

What do you think “indie” really means in terms of music? Is it an aesthetic, a culture, a state of being without cash?
When I first started going to shows, I had the impression that “indie” was a movement like any other, something that had come necessarily out of and in reaction to another movement. To me, “Indie” was an alternative to “alternative” rock radio. It definitely encompassed a particular sound, perhaps a sound mood, too. I remember when bands previously unknown to most of the people I knew suddenly became more accessible, and these sounds and sound moods excited a broader audience with their seeming newness, “indie” kind of expanded to encompass a lot more. Because it really stands to identify music produced by unsigned bands or bands who are not signed to major labels, “indie” now describes more sounds and styles of music than I’d previously given credit to. And to limit the term only to aesthetics would, I think, be unfair. It is most certainly a culture also.

By not elaborating on this last point I hope it doesn’t seem hastily or lazily tacked on… just seemed like this answer was already starting to resemble the introduction to a boring book by me that will be read by only me.

Of all the instruments you play, which is your favorite?  Do any of them have names?

Autoharp. Definitely autoharp. I so far haven’t named any of my instruments, but I have named my utility knife. I call it Peggy Sue.

When you’re writing a song, which comes first – the music of the lyrics?

I’ve written both ways. Sometimes lyrics and music come simultaneously. I write when I’m feeling inspired and so I can’t rely upon a formula—I’m not talented enough… when I’m itching to create something I just kind of explore… it’s organic I suppose. So sometimes I’ve got an idea I want to write into words and sometimes I just want to pick something up and hum to it and see if anything of interest comes out.

Who would you consider your musical inspiration?

Musical inspiration? It’s kind of complicated. Music inspires me to do things other than write, record and perform music, while things that are not musical inspire me to write, record and perform music. So, now I need to figure out whether you want most to know what music inspires me to do things non-musical or what non-musical thing inspires me to be musical… To keep it limited, I’d say my biggest musical inspiration on non-musical activities is Four Tet. And I’m most inspired by my friends and family to create music.

Is there a comparison you would make between your music and something non-musical?  A painter, building, dish of cereal?

Never really considered that before… perhaps one of those crayons that are like 4 colors in one and make a rainbowesque streak when you draw with the broad side, and a mess of mixed colors when you scribble.

If you could pick a perfect lineup of bands (dead or alive) for a show where The Seedy Seeds was the headliner, who would it be?

Oh my, oh my. There are so many ridiculously amazing bands that I would consider doing desperate things to share the stage with… but I have to say, if you didn’t know already, Cincinnati is brimming with some serious musical talent right now… and there’s nothing at all quite like playing a show with amazing bands that are also amazing friends. Right now I’d say the perfect bill for a show we’d be headlining would be: The Seedy Seeds / You, You’re Awesome / The Sheds.

What attracts you to a particular song? An artist?

It usually depends on the genre… I’m for sure captivated by melody and harmonies. I’m also very serious about lyrics—words I don’t like can ruin a song for me, and there are definitely entire catalogs by bands that I won’t touch on account of my lyrics pickiness. When I’m listening to electronic music or more minimalist music, I really like dynamism and balance. And more and more lately I’ve been really obsessed with production quality. To add to the list, I’m also kind of obsessed with mood in music. I love song elements that give me an overwhelming sense of a place, idea, feeling, or other noun, adjective or verb.

Which one person/band should I be listening to right this very moment? Why does their work get you excited?

You should be listening to Bro. Stephen. It’s the project of my friend Scott Kirkpatrick and it’s amazing. His delivery is beautiful. His lyrics are provocative and clever, and the way he chooses to word things makes me feel richer for knowing someone who interprets things so differently from me, but shares these thoughts in an easy to understand manner. Scott has a great sense of dynamic in his presentation and his songs are performed with this intense conviction that always manages to elicit real loyal devotion from my ears. To top it all off, Bro. Stephen practically sets the example for music that evokes mood. His songs really sound like sitting in a cozy, dark room at night lit only with colored lights in the middle of December when it’s still and quiet. Amazing!

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Listen to some of The Seedy Seeds!

The Seedy Seeds – Change States – “Earned Average Dance America”

The Seedy Seeds – Count the Days – “Dandelion”

and buy a disc, while you’re at it!


Balthrop, Alabama – Barnyard Epic Indie Rock (from the Ben Arthur Seed)

It stays in the family for this bit of our musical tree , in part because Ben Arthur’s brother, Michael Arthur, is a member of the band.  But really, it’s all a family thing anyway, having been started up by Lauren and Pascal Balthrop, and grown into the bustling musical metropolis it is today. With 11 members, a bevy of different instruments, and a carefully crafted backstory, Balthrop, Alabama creates wonderful songs that bring you back to the warm green grasses of home.

Lauren Balthrop (aka Georgiana Starlington) took the time to respond, talk a bit about their music, and represent the fair town of their creation.

How did you get started playing music?

We come from a pretty musical family. As kids, there were always sing-alongs and we were singing along with when the family got together. It was just always a part of who we were. My mom and her sisters are like the Andrew Sisters. When they’re together, they are in three part harmony. I wrote my first song when I was 6 after having gotten back from a trip to the circus. It was called Tightrope and it ended up on the first Balthrop, Alabama album ‘Your Big Plans and Our Little Town’.

What was the first recording you ever purchased?

I’m embarrassed to say that the first CD I ever bought was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On Come On. I was 8 and heavily exposed to country music everywhere I went. She did a great cover of Lucinda William’s “Passionate Kisses”, and I was just obsessed with “I Feel Lucky”. Oh, to be 8 again.

How would you describe the music you play now?

Someone called it “Barnyard Epic Indie Rock” and I guess that sums it up pretty well. We always say that our songs tell stories about dead people and dead people in love, although sometimes they aren’t quite dead. The songs tend to be pretty narrative and when we play in concert, our town drawer, Toxey Goodwater (Michael Arthur) does these live drawings that are projected behind us, which makes the show kind of like a live cartoon.

Some reviewer in Alabama said we were like a touring version of Barack Obama’s Rent and that will also do as a description, even though I don’t really know what it means. I think he didn’t like us, but we like Barack Obama and Rent’s a pretty good show, although Hedwig [And The Angry Inch] is better. We’re like a touring version of Barack Obama’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Balthrop, AL has a population of about 11…how did this particular musical town come to incorporate?

It started with my brother Pascal and I, but the expansion was pretty organic. We all knew each other through this local coffee shop called the Fall Cafe in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn which is across the street from where Pascal lived. Most of us either worked there or spent some time each day there. But the Fall Cafe is sort of where the community of it all began. That’s where the city limits were laid out.

Is there good real estate value in Balthrop?

Well, Balthrop, Alabama is located primarily in Brooklyn and real estate’s mighty pricey in New York City. But, the town travels around a good bit, so we can find deals here and there. I gotta say we have some nice parts of town and some pretty shady areas, and sometimes it can change just like that. But, it’s strong property and we consider it a good investment. There was some fear that we might qualify for a super-fund clean up, but then Douglas Snead showered and everything worked itself out.

Is there a comparison you would make between your music and something non-musical?  A painter, building, dish of cereal?

Oh, I think we’re pretty much that good pair of overalls that everyone has but only wears on laundry days. It never gets washed, but it’s comfy and every stain tells a story.

Who would you consider your musical inspiration?

That changes all the time. I’m pretty restless and I get bored easy, so I listen to and borrow from a lot of stuff. Pascal got the notion of the band after seeing an Arcade Fire show. I think we’re all inspired by the Beatles story–the hard work and constant creative stuff that went on there, but we’re also pretty partial to Hank Williams too. On tour, we’re always swapping out iPods and listening to everyone else’s music–it’s a pretty eclectic group of tastes, so we listen to Hillbilly stuff and punk stuff and big bands and show tunes and a lot of Patton Oswalt. Man, Pascal and Jason really like that Patton Oswalt album.

If you could pick a perfect lineup (dead or alive) for a show where you were the headliner, who would it be?

Well, I think we’d be playing a bar show with the Hamburg-era Beatles. We’d probably have Rocketship Park and the Ne’er Do Evers play, because their members are in our band too and we have fun playing in all sorts of configurations. I wonder if we can get the Hamburg-era Beatles to tour again–it would be a sweet opening slot for them and we wouldn’t make them change out of their leather stuff jackets. Also, Coldplay should be in there, just so they can see how a real band does it. It would be good for their career and their musical growth.

What attracts you to a particular song? An artist?

A good marketing strategy and product tie-ins. A little payola gets me every time.

Ok. For real. Uhm . . . I like a good melody and a nice bit of melancholy stirred up in some optimisim. I guess we don’t really like fake stuff and don’t much go for attitude unless it’s got something backing it up.

Who should I be listening to right this very moment? Why does their work get you excited?

Our label mates (and frequent collaborators)  Caithlin DeMarrais and Kyle Fischer each put out amazing solo albums last year. I guess I think you should listen to either one of them. They were both in the Indy band Rainer Maria and their solo albums feature a lot of members of Balthrop, Alabama as players. I know it seems like nepotism or something to choose albums that you’re on, but I swear Caithlin’s My Magic City and Kyle’s Black Milk are two albums that everyone should be listening to. We listen to them repeatedly when we’re out on the road. They’re SO GOOD.

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Listen to some Balthrop, Alabama

Balthrop, Alabama – Your Big Plans & Our Little Town – “Explode”

Balthrop, Alabama – Subway Songs – “Subway Horns”


And pick up an album or two while you’re at it…

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Ben Arthur (seed) → Balthrop, Alabama