Mess+Noise interview: George Nicholas of Seekae, March 2011

An interview for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

Seekae: ‘We’re Too Busy Forging Battle Plans’

While other bands are out partying, Sydney’s Seekae are too busy playing LAN games backstage. Ahead of the release of second album ‘+DOME‘, they talk to ANDREW MCMILLEN about poverty, illegal downloading and how they recently “annihilated” Cloud Control on ‘Starcraft’.

Since releasing their debut album The Sound Of Trees Falling On People in December 2008, Sydney trio Seekae have become one of the most interesting independent acts in the country. Both in the studio and on stage, their set-up consists of laptops, MPCs, live drums, keyboards and melodica; their sound, a distinctive and complex brew of electronica. Rarely do vocals work their way into the mix, yet the band have a reputation for delivering: they won a Sydney Music, Art and Culture (SMAC) award in 2009 for ‘Best Live Act’, and re-released Trees with a bonus disc of remixes (and a PVT cover) upon signing with indie label Rice Is Nice.

So how have the trio – John Hassell on synth/guitar, Alex Cameron on synth/drums and George Nicholas on synth/melodica – spent the couple of years between their debut album and its forthcoming follow-up, +DOME? Playing too much Starcraft, according to Nicholas, though he confirms they still attempt to record new ideas each day, even if most of it is “absolute garbage”. It’s fitting that a video game would distract these three from their artistic calling; they were originally named after the DOS game Commander Keen, before shortening to a stylised version of its initials after discovering that the name had already been taken.

Though Cameron was initially scheduled to do this interview, some unexpected laptop problems ahead of a show supporting Mount Kimbie in Perth on the next night – simply, a computer wouldn’t turn on – caused him to flee to the nearest repairs store, leaving Nicholas to fill his shoes.

There was an article published in triple j mag in March last year, where you wrote: “Musicians don’t have any money. They spend all the money they earned on new instruments and laptops.” Is this still the case?
George: Yeah. I think I’m the poorest I’ve ever been, actually. I don’t think we’re going to hit the jackpot for a while. I hope we do, but we’ve still been eating spaghetti for a couple of weeks now, waiting for our cheque to come in.

You’re the poorest now that you’ve ever been?
Yeah. I mean, we put some money into recording the album, and stuff like that. What people don’t understand is that, in order to write an album, you have to take a lot of time off work. You have to dedicate a lot of your time to doing it. I think that’s the main reason why we’re so poor, I guess. But it’s not that bad. We’re not entirely starving. [Laughs]

Does the lack of money bother you?
No, it’s alright. I mean, it does bother me, because it’s always hard juggling a shitty day job and a band. A lot of my friends are going and getting real jobs and careers, but I look at this and just see – although I’m not being paid that much for it – it’s good to be able to do this stuff, and have people listen to it. It’s all fine. It’s all gravy! [Laughs]

You also wrote that you have to “try and convince security that an MPC drum machine is pretty much the same thing as a laptop, and that it was designed to destroy dancefloors, not jets”. I take it this conversation happens every time you’re in an airport.
[Laughs] Yeah. We always get a few snickers and laughs every time we go through the x-ray machine. I carry all my stuff in my backpack. I carry my laptop, my soundcard, my hard drive, my MPC, my Kaos pad, all in one bag. There’s like 10 different things. It’s really absurd when you see someone taking out all these suspicious-looking things out of their bag. We get a lot of strange looks. But we always make it through, although every single we time go through, we get the explosives check.

For the full interview, visit Mess+Noise. For more Seekae, visit their Myspace. The audio for their track ‘Blood Bank‘ is embedded below.

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