The Seedy Seeds have set some astonishing benchmarks for themselves in just three years. Arising from a chance meeting between Mike Ingram and Margaret Weiner at a friend’s birthday party, the Seeds have quickly become a scene favorite. Buzz on the duo’s early shows made them one of the city’s most anticipated new acts, and their 2007 debut album, Change States, earned them a well deserved pair of Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (Best New Artist and Best Experimental/Electronic Band).
The past year has been a whirlwind as the Seeds have jostled their schedule to include writing and recording their excellent new album, Count the Days, consistently playing shows and organizing an interesting tribute to … well, themselves. Sort of. When Count the Days hits the street, a mirror version of the album (minus the Seeds’ cover of renowned children’s songwriter Sarah Pirtle’s “My Roots Go Down”), attributed to The Friends of The Seedy Seeds, will be released simultaneously.
Although it seems like a local band tribute to the Seeds (featuring The Sheds, Wonky Tonk, Matthew Shelton and Paper Airplane, among others), it’s really the other way around.
“We handpicked the bands, because they’re some of our favorite bands,” says Ingram over coffee at the Rohs Street Cafe. “And the great thing is that everybody really did (the songs) their way and made the songs their own, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Forgive the obvious analogy, but The Seedy Seeds have truly blossomed on Count the Days. In songwriting, performance and arranging, the Seeds have grown exponentially beyond the stark simplicity and naive wonder of Change States, a remarkable accomplishment considering the brief amount of time since its release. Ingram and Weiner, whose mission statement was learning to master instruments they owned but couldn’t play, have expanded their abilities with a greater array of sounds and level of sophistication.
“We learned to play those instruments and for this album we got to get more instruments we didn’t know how to play,” says Weiner.
“So we’ve added additional instruments that we’re incredibly excited about. And we could tell when we were writing these songs that this album was going to be very different from the first one.”
“It’s really what we wanted it to sound like,” says Ingram of Count the Days. “The first album sounds really good but there’s a lot of stuff that we wanted to do and just ran out of time. It’s really cohesive in its own sound but each individual song could have been fleshed out and more thought about and this time we did that.”
On paper, The Seedy Seeds’ mere existence doesn’t even seem probable. When the pair met in 2005, Cincinnati native Ingram had been a member of 25 local groups, while Weiner, a Virginian relocated for work, had never been in a band.
“Not for lack of trying. I’m extraordinarily neurotic and apparently very difficult to work with,” Weiner says with a laugh. “But I kept trying to start projects with folks who didn’t seem to have the same devotion to the project as myself. Mike had some common experiences.”
The Seeds began with a third member on bass, but she dropped out due to school/work conflicts. The duo moved forward as a twosome rather than forcing another member into the mix.
“We’ve asked friends to play with us and we’ve found that the dynamic is not there when there’s a third member,” says Weiner. “I don’t think we’re excluding that from the future, it’s just that, so far, that’s been our experience.”
And the duo format is advantageous in more than just touring situations.
“We have a volume knob on everything we do,” says Ingram. “We can play an art gallery opening and a big Rock show. We played in the lobby of the Cincinnati Ballet, and we didn’t have a drummer so we weren’t too loud for the blue hairs. We can play super loud or not loud at all.”
The Seedy Seeds’ Electronic Americana sound has been infectiously appealing, but they didn’t start with that result in mind.
“When we had our first practice, Mike had a banjo, I had my accordion and we were setting ourselves up to make incredibly nerdy music,” says Weiner. “When I’d written in my bedroom, I’d put on a demo drumbeat from a toy keyboard to keep tempo and Mike said, ‘I have one of those lying around here somewhere.’ He pulled it out and it had some amazing, totally basic Casio-style beats -- probably designed by some awesome guy with shorter hair in the front and longer hair in the back -- and we started jamming along and ended up with what would eventually become ‘Earned Average Dance America’ from the first album. We thought, ‘This is a really interesting sound, I wonder where we can take this?’ In my mind, I’m thinking a cross between Deerhoof and Toni Basil, and that’s totally what it sounded like, but the more we wrote, the more we realized there was this Appalachian element with a Beatle-based Pop overlay.”
Count the Days is a quasi-concept album where each of the album’s 12 tracks represents a typical month in a calendar year, Count the Days just as effectively represents the incredible growth the Seeds have notched in that very time frame. Even more impressive is the very organic sound that the Seeds have invented in a process that requires a certain amount of rigidity in creating backing tracks for their live presentation.
“If we’re going to play a song live, we basically have to completely demo and finish a song first,” says Ingram. “ On some songs in our past we’ve tried to get that done as fast as possible without exploring where it was and lately we’ve been taking the time with that. When it came time to do the album, a lot of it we’d already fleshed out and gotten it where we wanted it to be.”
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