The band Seawhores was formed in 1996 in Fargo, ND by Cody Weigel (guitar/vocals/keyboard/samples) and Adam Marx (bass/vocals/samples) while the two were still in high school. Like Hammerhead before them, Seawhores took off from Fargo as soon as they could and settled in Minneapolis, MN. Throughout their existence the band has made a point of collaborating with others (30-40 people, by their count), but their live configuration for the last four years has stabilized around the trio of Adam, Cody, and drummer Charles Gehr. The last time I had a proper sit down interview with the Seawhores was with Joe Nelson when we were preparing the first issue of TEVS in the spring of 2007. In the time since then it’s hard to describe how much of an impact this band has had on our musical upbringing. We were exceedingly fortunate to find that a band of their stature was willing to help out a couple of dumb high school kids with contacting other musicians, getting into shows, fixing equipment; whatever we needed, Seawhores returned our phone calls. I could gush for awhile about how adventurous and powerful the music of the Seawhores is, but let’s just get to the interview.
You guys have played with a lot of great drummers, what is it about Charles that has clicked so well?
Cody: He’s the cheapest.
Adam: They’re all the cheapest.
Cody: You answer this Charles.
Charles: He asked you guys, I’m ready to hear it.
Cody: What was the question again?
Charles: It was really weird for me to get into this band because I have done a lot of improvisation stuff and [played] a lot of different styles, but didn’t expect to be in a situation where I didn’t understand how the music was written. You would come in where every song is really intense, calculated, methodical, and then those things just get ripped apart, changed, altered, all these different things end up happening. I really had to stay on my tiptoes, [and] try to figure out how to move quickly in situations that were always changing. Eventually I started figuring out how the band worked, “Oh okay, this is constantly creative.” There’s all kinds of stuff happening all the time. It’s always flexible, always moving.
Cody: The biggest help has been finding someone like you, who is able to roll with things. Why not take out an entire part of one song and then maybe bring it back in another song a year later?
Adam: Anybody we’ve ever played with– it’s always been in a very, very thick layer of insanity and a commitment to make progress. Things sort of get figured out along the way.
Charles: Having played in so many different types of bands, I thought I had done pretty much everything. Then I got into this band and I was like, “This takes it to a completely different level.” It’s really cool to realize that there is no cap; as music evolves, as culture evolves, you can evolve along with that. You just have to be open enough to do it, and put yourself in potentially dangerous or weird situations.
Adam: There’s not a point where it gets uninteresting. I think we’ve seen and been through a lot more in the last four years than in any four year period that we’ve ever had in Seawhores. We’re pretty happy with what we’re doing. Where we’re at right now is the best that we’d ever hoped to be at, and it’s time to start wracking our brains to think of new goals.
When you guys put out an album, you draw from a bunch of different spots in your catalogue (lineups, locations, etc.), I was wondering what that experience has been like for you [Charles]?
Charles: Honestly, I come from a school where you would go in and record songs for an album. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was confused as to how their [Seawhores] process worked and I hadn’t seen an end product yet with me involved in it. I had to adapt to it really quickly.
Cody: Things can become unclear when we’re moving so fast, too.
Charles: Yeah, I just had to get comfortable with it and feel secure that, “Okay, recordings are going to happen where you’re playing drums in a room and suddenly there’s a song, possibly, and you’ll hear about it later. Oh, that’s me playing on that? I had no idea.” The ends justify the means. Confusing at first, but now I understand.
Did that at all change how you play?
Charles: When we first started playing I was really calculative about all of my parts, I would chart things out and I would figure out exactly what each individual was playing. Then we’d play live and I would tend to go into this natural improvisational mode, then we would start to push each other around a little bit and see what we could deal with, what we could take, and how we adapted. That creates another musical language and a musical comfort zone. Me adapting to them changed the way I played.
With each album it seems like you guys try to show the range of Seawhores, it’s not like, “Here’s these 10 songs by these four people.” There’s electronic pieces, noise pieces, full-band pieces–
Cody: I think the basis for that stems from just necessity to not rely on other people. Being self-sufficient is huge. You can get a lot more done that way rather than relying on engineers for every detail. “Okay, we’ve got a chunk here that we did ourselves and we’ve got a chunk that we did at the studio,” putting them together to create a thing
seems far quicker. It may not be the studio album recorded at blah-blah studios by whoever. A lot of that comes from being self-sufficient in Fargo because there was nobody there to record with back then. The more we can do and the less other people can do, the more we have control over timing and when an album can come out.
And that ties in with doing the artwork, the video promotions, making shirts; all of that is in-house.
Adam: What’s important to me is having the albums as, start to finish, fluid pieces of composition. I don’t think we would’ve experienced the longevity of what we have, for sixteen years, without making a few people really dislike us.
Charles: We don’t have time or funds to actually go in and take over the Terrarium–
Cody: Right, if we could live there for a month, that might be a whole different experiment.
I guess the thing you guys keep coming back to is the longevity piece–
Adam: I hope we’re not the ones coming back to it.
Cody: You’re the one who called us.
Adam: After five years.
Cody: I’m glad you brought up the longevity thing– [Much laughter.]
Adam: What’s the question?
How do you make a band stick around for that long?
Cody: It helps to be in the band with your best friend. We know each other so well, and we get on each other’s nerves. If we want to we can push buttons. It doesn’t get us anywhere, except pissed off. Sometimes that’s what you want to do, it takes a day or two to go, “Okay, sorry that was a total shit move. Let’s get to the point.” Relationships get that way too, “Are we arguing about the point, or are we just trying to argue to see who can hurt each other the most?” Longevity is being such good friends that you can be like, “Are we done with the bullshit so that we can work through this?” We’re all out for the same thing, MO-NEY.
Charles: This particular band– everybody knows that part of being in a band is being in therapy. You are a group of people that know that all you can really do is work on yourself. You want this great music to come out and to be successful, whatever that means to you. The only way that’s going to happen is if each person in the band is willing to set the ego aside, talk things through, know that you are going to spend a lot more time in a van or in a rehearsal room than you are on a stage. Spending time trying to correct your ways, and not upset people.
Adam: There’s never been a moment where we’ve regretted what we’re doing with the people that we’re doing it with. Along with writing the music, I think that we are getting better at having an open dialogue, even if it’s negative sometimes or difficult to listen to. We’re at a really great place right now, and how can we keep it going?
Cody: I think our main goal for everything is just to create more opportunities. There is no one thing we can all look to and go, “That’s it, that’s where we all want to be.” We want to be like, “We hit this goal, and what opportunities are beyond that.”