It's just about inarguable: The See are the kings of Little Rock's current landscape of bands. In the town's musical yearbook, in a time where local music is experiencing a renaissance, they're holding down the Who's Who “Most Likely to Succeed” in a sea of other wildly talented acts.
Sunday night, the four guys came over to the porch of an infamous former house venue for bourbon and “Treme,” and we ended up chatting until 2:30 a.m. about our love for Ho-Hum's Lenny Bryan, Velvet Kente's joshua, combining sauces No. 5 and No. 3 at Whole Hog, spirit animals, and baseball's National League-Central division. So, y'know, just another night with those guys. Here are some highlights:
Let's start with an easy one: what are you guys listening to as of late?
Eric Moris: Built to Spill.
Dylan Yelenich: Spiritualized: “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Now Floating in Outer Space.”
Joe Yoder: Sports radio. 103.7. Tim from Stuttgart. All day. Oh, and my favorite song ever, “Frogs” by The Flaming Lips.
Tyler Nance: I hate that song. But I'm on Archers of Loaf. Love them. And this new band, Warpaint.
DY: Oh! My favorite song ever is Flaming Lips! “Five Stop Mother Superior Rain!”
JY: Then, uh, my favorite song is, I dunno, some '90s R&B thing about getting a boner while you're dancing.
EM: “Rag Doll” by Frankie Valli.
DY: Then my favorite song is “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith.
Okay: What's been your worst show?
JY: Christ. There was this art space show in St. Louis we did. This guy that did booking quit and this other guy was grandfathered in. He didn't dig music, but he really dug young boys. Creepy. Anyway, he told us, straight up, “I didn't really promote this show,” so the only people there were us, The Thing That Always Explodes, and the guys he fooled around with.
TN: Oh! And he made us terrible, awful spaghetti. Worst show, friggin' … worst spaghetti. He hated our music, too. Jesus.
How are you guys going to tackle your next release?
EM: Here's what I'm thinking: we're a strong live band, no doubt. So I figure we should embrace that, right? Capture it on record. I want to take all the songs, figure out a tracklisting and spend, like, a whole week setting up the audio side in the studio. Then we bang out the whole album in one take.
EM: Yep. One take. If we mess up, we start over again. And, you know what? That's extra practice! I mean, it's gonna be hard. No breaks between songs and all that, but we've gotta take that live energy to the studio or it'll be, I dunno, a let down?
Tell me about your songwriting process.
JY: Um, I want the songs to be participatory. I took a class called “History of American Music” and it really struck me that the best way to use voices is to use other voices as well. Like that last scene in “Treme” just now was unbelievable. Two guys and their tambourines, killing it. Anyway, I hear melody first. There's tons of stuff going on in my head and I really do care what I'm saying, but then it's all about filling space with syllables and writing in melody more so than words.
EM: Songs are meant to expound on mood, not convey emotion: That's a task for essays.
JY: Or, on a smaller level, poetry. You write a poem, you're doing it in the moment; you have to write a reason to write it … like, I don't have 13 things going on in my life to write about … thank God. So I'm digging for content because I don't want to be fake. A lot of times it's the first thing to pop in my head with syllables that work with my tongue.
How did Eric end up joining?
EM: Y'know, I saw them live, was around them a lot. Ran into Tyler at a bar and was immediately like “I want to jam with you.”
TN: And I was like “Yes. We've gotta do this.” And Joe was kinda —
JY: — sorry. Didn't want to change the whole dynamic.
EM: Then Dylan got on the boat and, after a while, the three guys agreed. Anyway, I was on a road trip up to Illinois for a wedding and down to Alabama to visit my parents, all the while moving from one house to another in town. On my way back from my folks', Dylan called, said “Get back, let's jam.” So I get back and immediately, he helped me move, literally, all day long. Put my bed together, humped boxes of shit across town … longest, most exhausting day.
DY: We practiced all night for seven nights straight, right? And Eric came in, seamlessly.
JY: Yeah. I was totally wrong for dragging my feet.
EM: Man, the first show I was freaking harder than I ever have. My glasses were falling off, I was shaky but — screw it, I'll say it — I was golden! Didn't miss a thing!
DY: Totally organic.
Describe The See in one word.
you know you're a great writer if you can use "lugubrious" in your work