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!


Brian Rosenworcel of Guster – The Thunder God Seed

Guster was a milestone for me, musically.  I grew up in a kind of sheltered musical environment, sticking to my classical discs and showtunes.  So I get to college, and suddenly everyone around me is listening to music.  All the time.  Really really loudly.  And most of it, I couldn’t care less.  But a friend of mine, he handed me a CD during a study session for music theory in my dorm room, and told me to put it on.

It was Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever, and it became an obsession.

We listened to it over and over again, singing along, and then adding our own layers of harmony until we’d practically crafted cantatas around the thing.  I still can’t listen without adding extra lines.

But one of the things nearest and dearest to our hearts was something we couldn’t reproduce vocally.  The drumming.  These deep heavy sounds, but so rounded and whole, coming from a hand drum kit wielded by one Brian “Thundergod” Rosenworcel.

About two years ago I got to meet Brian – he is a friend of a friend of mine, who also happens to be the lead singer in my band.   And though I was concerned about my control of my girlish glee, I found him to be a wholly wonderful, self deprecating, and hilarious guy.  So though I was still there screaming and shouting with the best of them as Guster took the stage to play all of Lost and Gone Forever on their recent tour, I am even more pleased to have this small, personal introduction to the man himself, Brian.

Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Brian Rosenworcel.  In my 20s I called myself a “legendary conguero” in the liner notes for one of Guster’s albums.  I would never do that now.  I’m 36.

How did you get started playing music?

At some point in high school my friends got into acoustic guitar and mandolin and we began “jamming” after school.  With nothing to do but lots of desire to fit in, I tapped on a pair of bongos quietly in the background.  Thus began our band, Toejamb, and a fascination with hand drumming that I explored mostly on the steering wheel of my Chevy Nova.

What was the first recording you ever purchased?

I bought Toad the Wet Sprocket’s 2nd album, Fear, when I was in high school.  I had never heard of them, but my friend Jamie saw their video and convinced me to check it out.  I didn’t like every song, but I loved certain ones.  I flipped that cassette over hundreds of times, because I’d spent the money on it.  Shame that the I’m-gonna-listen-to-this-a-lot-because-I-invested-currency-in-it thing is behind us now — it really created more dedicated listeners.

Your drums are absolutely amazing.  What inspired you to put them together the way you did – was it a sound you were looking for, or a concept?

The hand percussion kit that I play live is a very organic creation, built up one drum at a time, with each drum being worked into the system individually, and simply because I wanted more and more sounds.  I never envisioned it becoming so elaborate, and I never envisioned myself hitting snares and cymbals with my bare hands.  It just made sense to move in that direction to expand our sound.  Eventually, after ten years of hand drumming, I got really excited about the idea of playing a traditional kit with sticks.

Of all the instruments you play, which is your favorite?

Djembe is a great instrument because it gets a variety of sounds — big low bass sounds and crisp ringing high notes all from the same drum.

Who would you consider your musical inspiration?

I’m inspired mostly by songwriters.  I can’t think of too many hand drummers that I’ve gotten into — I pretty much just tried to support Guster’s music with hand drums as best as I could because it was what I knew how to do.  The drummers I like tend to be simple players like Levon Helm and Ringo Starr.  If I spend too much time worshiping at the altar of the virtuosos like Stewart Copeland I’ll just end up feeling bad about my lack of chops.

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

I keep wracking my brain for a way to do this that doesn’t sound pretentious as hell.  I keep failing.

Guster is spending part of the fall doing a “Party like it’s 1999” tour.  How did you party in 1999?

Well, we’re playing an album we made in 1999 in its entirety (it’s the album that was all hand drums, “Lost & Gone Forever”).  As far as the “Party Like It’s 1999” thing, that’s the subject of the band email announcement I sent out about the tour.  Unfortunately the days where I was artful and creative in my subjects are about ten years old too.  Now if I can find something serviceable it goes in and gets sent without thinking twice.

In any event there are only two shows left on said tour, both in New York.  It was fun to revisit that album though — it was a very simple and creatively arranged record.  The melodies stand up.

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

Well, Os Mutantes would be on first, but they’d only play for like 20 minutes.  Then The Stone Roses would play their self-titled record front to back (everyone’s doing that these days), followed by a George Harrison solo acoustic set, before Guster takes the stage, as the audience hits the exits.

What attracts you to a particular song? An artist?

It’s melody that grabs me.  Sometimes it’s feel and rarely it’s lyrics, but a great melody always appeals to me.

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

Cass McCombs.  His first album and EP were raw, beautiful, and totally unique.  His voice just has the perfect affect.  I’m shocked he’s not more well known.  Check out the album “A” it’s a masterpiece.

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You can hear a few songs at Guster’s MySpace, and hear bootleg tapes from 2000 on their website (awesome)

If you don’t already own at least one of these discs, shame on you.

Ben Arthur – The Quirky, Soulful, Singer/Songwriter Seed

I first heard Ben Arthur play in a lineup called The Modern Troubadours. I tagged along with some friends, having never heard of what I assumed was a band. Instead I was presented with four singer-songwriters, sharing their work in an intimate, acoustic setting. I fell in in love with Ben Arthur’s music that night – his quirky sense of humour balanced the sometimes morose cloud of soul-bearing lyrics. With songs like “Keep Me Around” and “Mary Ann” I found new use for the “repeat” button on my playlists.

Years later, and I’m still listening with as much rapt attention as that first show. Arthur’s second album “Mouthfeel” was considerably darker than the first, showing a different side of his sharp wordplay and vivid imagery. His arid vocals put all the emotion front and center, but never without a musical cushion to soften the emotional blow.

We met about a year ago, after I wrote about “On A Sunday” for NPR’s Song of the Day. He emailed me, and I immediately jumped off the couch and danced around the room in fan-girl glee. Then I calmed down, actually met the guy, and realized he is a real person who just happens to make music I love.

So let’s meet….Ben Arthur.

How did you get started playing music?

My brother Michael lent me his guitar when I was 13 or 14 and taught me the chords to Lola. No idea why that particular song, but Lord did I play that one riff about a million times. (Badly.)

When did you decide that playing would be your career?

Shockingly soon thereafter. Something about it just seemed right to me, and I’ve never found anything I like doing as much. Well, actually, I like writing as much, but then I’m doing that these days, too.

What was the first recording you ever purchased?

Well, let’s see…I stole a copy of the Doors “13” when I was, well, 13 or so. But that doesn’t count, I don’t think. I’m going to say Appetite for Destruction.

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

Hm. My work is like…a corner bodega, There’s a lot of different stuff in there, it’s kind of a mess, but the folks inside are friendly.

When you’re stumped for ideas, what do you do? Go someplace, read something, drink copiously?

Rarely stumped for ideas. I always have 10 or so projects up in the air (by design), so that when I run into a problem with one thing I can just switch to the other. Generally when I come back the problem has solved itself.

I do occasionally run into a directional tangle, and then I usually chat with my wife or friend Asli, both of whom are whipsmart and have excellent instincts.

You also write books – is that a totally separate project for you, or does it feed into your musical work?

Funny you should ask…

The new project is a concept novel/album called If You Look for My Heart. The album has narrative songs that reflect elements of the story arc, as well as ‘artifact’ pieces, that is, songs that the characters themselves hear during the course of the story.

It’s been a fascinating, fun project so far and I’m looking forward to getting it out to the public.

You’re usually billed as a solo artist – do you prefer this over playing with a band? Or did it just work out that way?

I’m usually billed as a solo artist because I can’t afford to tour with a band. If I was playing Wembley, I would surely be billed with a band.

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

Dave Grohl–drums, vox
Emmylou Harris–guitar, vox
Rachel Yamagata–keys, vox
John Paul Jones–bass
Tom Morello–guitar, vox

I picked all live people because i am not at all partial to the undead/zombies.

What attracts you to a particular song? An artist?

I like hearing something unusual, particularly lyric-wise. A new use of an old phrase, an interesting match of words, a reversal of some sort.

I’m also partial to writers to put themselves on the line. It’s fairly easy to hide behind obscure semi-nonsense lyrics, and I like hearing songs where the artist is brave enough to say what they mean, to put their cards on the table. (Which isn’t to say I don’t like the lyrics on, say, OK Computer. I do. But it’s a different thing, and I’d love to hear Thom Yorke write a true love song.)

In art generally I like to see contradiction. In motivation, in action. I like voices and characters that/who are difficult or disagreeable but still sympathetic. I like complication.

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

I love my friend Parker Paul’s songs. His voice is so true and pained/painful, and his lyrics are so beautiful without being overly ornate.

Pete Miser is a friend of a friend, and has a song called “I’m a Robot” that just knocks me out. The video is insane, and even more so that he managed to do it as a true indie. He has an iPhone video that is hysterical, too. He’s awesome and his albums are rock solid from start to finish.

Aesop Rock never fails to impress. His album None Shall Pass is a masterpiece.

My brother’s band, Balthrop, Alabama is a blast, particularly live. I played a show with them in the city over Christmas and they have such enthusiasm and such a sense of the theater of live music that it’s just a pleasure to see them do their thing.

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Listen to some Ben Arthur:

Ben Arthur – Mouthfeel – “Tattoo”

Ben Arthur – Roadkill – “Keep Me Around”

And of course, pick up a few albums while you’re at it…

Charlie Williams – the Creative, Intellectual, Music-Crafter Seed

Charlie Williams has one of those minds that is frightening in it’s creativity. This is a guy who not only plays beautiful music, he composes, arranges, develops new sounds, and then thinks about physics and builds a circle-of-5ths clock in his free time.

Only out of this kind of brain could Mira Mira emerge, a band where beauty and geekdom live side by side, and inspiration comes from anywhere. Their latest project, Music for Scientists, brings the technical world further into the musical one,and creates some really fascinating songs and sounds.

Having first known Charlie as a classical musician, studying piano at the Meadowmount School of Music, and then through the many various stages of creative development that have come since, I was so happy to hear what he would have to say about his journey and musical tastes.

How did you get started playing music?

My parents got an upright piano from their landlord when I was very small and we lived on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. I wrote songs like “This is a Rocket Ship Taking Off” and “This is a Rainstorm” for a while, and eventually got lessons.  Eventually I got a keyboard and played in a band in high school, and somehow fell into writing music for school plays, which is how I got started writing actual structured pieces of music, as opposed to improvisations.

What was the first recording you ever purchased?

Wow, that’s a real Freedom-of-Information-Act type question. Um, it might have been: (a) Billy Joel’s “Storm Front” cassette, or (b) MC Hammer’s “Too Legit 2 Quit”, also in cassette form. Billy’s got the better album, but MC has the better single. Can’t touch “U Can’t Touch This”, though. That’s still Stan’s best work to date.

How would you describe the music you play now?

Now? Lately I’ve been trying to focus on what I’m best at— playing the piano and making weird electronic textures. I’ve been inspired by the music of Yann Tiersen (Amelie), especially after I saw him live at Logan Square Auditorium and he wasn’t all sugar and spice. He’s such a master of simplicity, without ever writing simplistic music. Also, his band has ondes martinot, concertina, violin, ukulele and melodica. Wow.

Your band, Mira Mira, has changed personnel over the years – is it a sound you are looking for, or a particular group of people?

I think I was chasing after a sound with Mira Mira, but I also didn’t always make the best management decisions. You might say. I was lucky to play with a large number of very gifted musicians, but several times we added someone to the band who wasn’t making music their way of life, and that brought some stress to the full-time musicians in the group, who were used to a different level of dedication and focus. I’m not saying that we always were ready to know what to do with a higher level of focus, but for whatever reason things never fully coalesced.

But to answer the “sound” question in a different way, I think I’m still searching for a sound. And maybe a group of people will come with that, or help me find that. Right now, though, it’s me and the piano.

How does your classical music background feed into what you’re doing musically now?

On the one hand, it’s great to have an instrument where you know you can play anything, and that’s what classical training gives you. On the other hand, I love to surround myself with instruments I don’t know how to play— lately clarinet and bandoneon, as well as ukulele, have been inspiring. Uke is sort of in a separate category because almost everything you do sounds great. It’s so much fun to play. But when I’m playing an instrument I don’t know, I have to really be fully present and focused in order to do anything at all, and I think correspondingly my musical ideas are a lot more interesting. On piano it’s possible for me to run on autopilot. These other instruments are teaching me how to get out of that habit, whatever instrument I’m working with.

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

My music is like a pear tree.

Who would you consider your musical inspiration?

Andrew Bird is a big one. Every time he puts out an album it makes his previous albums look like warm-ups. This is, like, four albums in a row he’s done that for. Radiohead would break the laws of physics if they kept doing that, but of course everything they do is perfect and inspirational. Also since I’ve been working with Max/MSP this year, the fact that Johnny Greenwood uses that program onstage has been prompting me to try to hear what they’re doing with it in albums and live shows. I only recently got into Ben Folds, but I think he’s an incredibly talented guy and I also respect his production skills a lot. I took a break from Wilco for a while, but now I’m enjoying them again. Not the most recent album, but YHF and Ghost.

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

Oh jeez. I don’t think I’d be able to go onstage if these famous acts I admire so much were to stoop to share a show with me. I’d have to pick bands I’m friends with — The Cedar, from Bristol, UK are one of my new favorite bands, and I’d love to play a show with them. Also Rob Sharples, from London. I could play a show with those two and not feel totally ashamed of myself.

What attracts you to a particular song? An Artist?

They have to be trying their very hardest, and not treat the music like they might break it if they get something wrong. One of the reasons I love Joanna Newsom is because of this quality. Also the Magnetic Fields.

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

The Cedar and Rob Sharples are two that aren’t well-known on this side of the pond, but should be. They’re both benefiting from the emphasis the British put on really well-crafted songs, and they’re both also saying something really, truly new without tearing their genre to bits. That’s harder to do than it seems.

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Listen to some of Charlie’s music:

Mira Mira – Music for Scientists – “Churches”

Mira Mira – Music for Scientists – “Is It Snowing/Part 2”

Pick up an album, while you’re at it: