Soto discusses the band's critically acclaimed new record By Eleanor Grace | May 19, 2014 at 1:00 PM
We’re only five months into 2014 and Seahaven have already released a critically-acclaimed record (March’s Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only on Run For Cover Records), provided direct support to mewithoutYou and Touche Amore on their co-headlining run, and embarked on their first ever headliner themselves. idobi managing editor Eleanor Grace caught up with frontman Kyle Soto in Toronto to delve into the new record, breaking down musical barriers, his love of Frank Ocean and Drake, and more.
So you guys are here touring in support of the new record, Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only. It seems, across the board, that people are saying not only is this your most ambitious work to date, but it’s also your best. When you guys were writing the album and recording it, did you have a sense of that?
It’s a very, very tricky way to look at it because I feel like any scale, any type of music, no matter what you’re doing, [with] your newest material, you’re always thinking, “Oh, this is the greatest thing we’ve done.” At least I feel most people feel like that because it’s the closest. Old stuff is, you know, you’re a little detached cause it’s been a while – that natural thing. But I don’t know, we’re definitely all very excited about it. I never want to be like, “Oh yeah, this is definitely the greatest thing we’ve ever…” but I definitely could say that I and I think all of us are very excited about it.
I think the title really sums up the record well. It is music for escapism. What does it mean for you personally to use music as escapism?
Well, it’s a little tricky cause the title works on multiple angles as far as the actual sonic product and what the music sounds like. When I started writing, [I didn’t] set out like, “I wanna write something like this,” but like, just in hopes the record would turn out to be like the handful of records that I listen to and just get lost and daydream. You listen to music and it does that generally, you know? You go somewhere else. But just like the records that I really put on and just really get lost to and I was like, you know, I hope this record can be the closest version of that. But also, escapism is a theme that travels throughout the whole record in a lyrical sense, as far as day-to-day life outside of what the music actually sounds like. So as far as me personally, it was me hoping to create an album that gave me the feeling that I get from other records in a listening sense, and also escapism being trying to deal with problems in maybe the wrong way – or the right way; maybe accepting things or accepting that maybe you’re not coping with something the right way or whatever. So it kind of ties into a lot of different places of the record.
Where were you drawing from on both spectrums of that – both musically and as far as the emotional subject matter you were touching on?
[Frank Ocean starts playing on the PA] Frank Ocean just came on. Channel Orange was something that I was definitely listening to a lot. It’s really hard to say because there’s records that I’ve had for years that just put me in that place, and then there’s like, Channel Orange, or In Rainbows by Radiohead, or Drake, just stuff where little nuances that they do, little things, little textures…there’s a lot of textural work on the new record, and I think it definitely subconsciously came from listening to a lot of that type of stuff [where] there’s just so many layers and me always really gravitating towards that and being very intrigued by that. And it was kind of just coming out in my own way; our record sounds nothing like Frank Ocean, but, you know, in the process, the transitive properties are going into our record.
On the emotional side, it’s just everything that I was dealing with, am still dealing with. All our releases kind of go in a sequence and I’m very grateful for the way they turn out, just because a lot of artists say, “Okay, I wanna write a record about this and this is gonna be the story,” and with all of our releases [it’s] just like, I’m gonna start writing songs and then by the end of them or halfway through there starts to be reoccurring things. Some of it’s conscious, some of it’s subconscious, but they all kind of create their own theme and references in between them all. But just the progress of my personal life, from Ghost to Winter Forever to the new record, it’s just a progression of where things have kind of gone. I’m sure the next record will be the next chapter. I never try to intentionally do anything. I want to be on a walk and something pops in my head and makes sense, or I’m being affected by something in quote unquote “real life” and it just bleeds into a song that’s being written. I never try to be like, “Oh, I wanna write a song that’s gonna help people go through a breakup or help people go through this situation,” like it’s never a conscious thing – it just happens. And then we end up that a lot of people can relate to it and a lot of people can take something from it, and that’s the most rewarding thing that you could ever ask for. As long as it comes from a genuine place, I think there always will be at least one person that can relate on some level.
This new record is definitely more subdued musically where some of your earlier music got a lot more aggressive. How did you find yourself channeling those same emotions that you’re always drawing from differently to make something more calm?
I just think it’s time. I remember like a month or two ago someone asked us something in an interview and it triggered something – I totally forgot about this, but like the first record, it was the first like, “Okay, this is our band, we’re gonna take this seriously.” And starting to write songs, there’s a lot of like – not that I’m ashamed of those songs in any way – but just being afraid to do certain things. In this instance, it was being afraid to not do certain things – like, always feeling like there has to be loud guitars or everyone playing as loud as they can at one time. And then the next record, you know, we kind of broke down a little; there’s a little more dynamic to it. Then this one, I just got to the point, personally, where I didn’t feel like I had any restrictions. I was just like, “I want to write something that I wanna hear.” Everything I’m listening to is very relaxed, calm music – I haven’t listened to aggressive music, at least steadily, in a while. And now I just understand that, you know, you don’t have to have full gain and every string on the guitar strumming at once to make a song. That’s not how it works. I think that any artist, at least most artists, you progressively figure out songwriting more and more the more you do it. The more you practice something, the more you’re gonna figure it out, so I think it was just that. I think it was, before, maybe having these little barriers – whether they be known or not – of like, “If we do have clean guitars and there’s just one guy doing this and then there’s a little texture here, it’s not gonna sound ‘full,’ quote unquote.” Those things being there and then breaking past that on this record, and also just genuinely being in a calmer place – in a sonic sense, not necessarily the lyrics. The lyrics are kind of more accepting on some songs too, but just like, wanting to hear something more mellow.
For sure. So you were talking about how going into the album, you didn’t really have a set of intentions. But now that the record is out there and you’re able to step outside of that process, what would you hope you accomplish with this record before it’s time to go in and make the next one?
I mean, before it got released, it was definitely an interesting time because we had it recorded for a year before it ended up being able to be put out. And it was just a year of thinking like, “What are they gonna think of it?” It’s clearly different; I think there’s definitely like, the “Seahaven” thing in there – there’s elements that are throughout other records – but it definitely sounds different. So how are they gonna receive it? And it came out, and it seemed way more positive than we thought or than we anticipated. I mean, I don’t even really know what we anticipated. But it was definitely positive, so we were very grateful for that. I hope we can grow and branch out to maybe a bigger audience than the other records could’ve. I mean, I like music that can reach as big of an audience as it can, but at the same time, I never make music to do that. I make music for myself and it’s like, my process of coping with things. And then when people can take something from it, it’s a huge bonus, and it’s the reason why we can continue to do it. So, you know, hopefully it just spreads out and more and more people can appreciate it on any level, very small or very large – whatever it is.
You touched on something really interesting in there, actually. This might be a tough question, but I want you to give it a shot.
You said that the songs have an inherent “Seahaven” quality to them. And given that you guys have now experimented with a vast spectrum of sounds on your different records, what would you say it means to you for something to have a Seahaven sound or be a quintessentially Seahaven song?
I think that it’s something that I could never specifically put my finger on. But like, the songwriting’s always coming from the same place and it’s always coming from the same person. The way that I feel is like, if I listen to an artist and their records change from each release to the next, it’s like, okay, yeah, it’s changing, but if the songwriting is coming from the same place, I related [to] and respected their previous work so even though they’ve gone to this different place – like, maybe I’m not quite there yet, but I’m not gonna dismiss it because I can feel everything else they’ve done. So I just need it to give it more listens and figure it out and then I’ll understand it. Maybe they’ve stepped further than I was ready to, but I think it’s just where the songwriting comes from. If we did this record and someone else wrote the whole record or something, like the core things changed of the way the songs are written, then I think that it could be completely different. But the reason I think that there are Seahaven elements is because the songs were written in the same way that I’ve always written them. It comes from the same place. People that immediately get it, I think they immediately get it because they hear Seahaven in it, whatever that is – they hear that, even though it sounds nothing like something from Ghost. I definitely think that there’s little nuances, whatever it may be; I think there’s definitely things that carry over and like, I hear little things that could be on our past releases in different places. I don’t think it’s like, we wrote a metal record or something. It definitely is different, but I think that there’s a common thread throughout all of it.
You mentioned breaking down some of the barriers that you had been setting in place for yourself musically. Are there any other barriers that you feel you still need to knock down?
I mean…I feel like this one, I’ve always wanted to experiment with more instruments; I’ve always wanted to not have to rely on real loud guitars. Like, I love loud guitars, I love noisy things, but at the same time, I love really calm stuff. So, I don’t know. You bringing that up is kind of making me reflect a little bit. I think this record personally for me did a lot because, not to say that the next record after this is gonna sound like this one, but I think that this record specifically took away a lot of the things that I used to let stop me trying new things. From now on, it could go whatever direction, and I don’t know what that’s gonna be but I know that I’m not gonna be as maybe timid as I was before. Not that we wrote the other records like, “Oh no, we can’t do this, we can’t do that” – it wasn’t like that. But just like, little subconscious things where you don’t really think about them but later on you’re, “Oh, I think there wasn’t that much quiet stuff in this because we were trying to figure out how to write rock songs.” You know what I mean? But this one, it wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re gonna try a new thing” – we tried a bunch of new shit. So I think from this point forward, we can really just do whatever. Which is kind of exciting, because now people know that, you know, any instrument could end up on a record and it’s not gonna be weird. So now it’s like…
Sky’s the limit.
So we can start spreading the rumor of the Seahaven and Drake collaboration that’s coming up?