This past week, I was able to chat with Ryan Locke (lead vocalist) of Seaway to discuss everything that went into writing and recording their fantastic fourth album, Big Vibe. Ryan describes the band’s live performances, the artistic comparisons others have made to the sound the band went for on the new record, as well as their core influences.
Thank you for your time today, Ryan, and congratulations on the release of your new album, Big Vibe. Why did your band make a conscious effort to stray away from the pop-punk sound that you established on your first three albums?
Yeah, I mean, I would say it was somewhat conscious. I think it was it’s somewhat natural to I think, both of those are at play that I think that, on every record, I think we’ve kind of slowly strayed from that initial pop-punk sound that we might have started with in our early days of Seaway. And I think that that’s just, you know, experimenting with different sounds. So I think we don’t have a consistent answer as to why we moved away. I think it’s just something that it’s something that we’ve always kind of slowly done. I think maybe just on this record. There it was a lot more apparent. And again, that goes with, you know, just maturing, getting older and, you know, wanting to try different things then. But also, it’s just that it’s just natural that, you know, this is our fourth now full-length record. We’re trying to do something a bit different.
How would you describe your evolution as writers and musicians since you first started out? As you mentioned, this is your fourth album. So you’ve got a lot of writing under your belt at this point.
Yeah, I mean, I think we’re definitely moving back to what we were just talking about, which we’re trying to do something different. I think that as songwriters, just from the beginning, we’ve always kind of tried to do something a little bit different. It was never like, oh, this is a cool trend in pop-punk and this is what we should be doing, I think. I think that, you know, our you know, our listeners know that that’s something that we stand for and see where it is. You know, it’s never been like. Off the top of my head, you know, we’ve never been that aggressive, like bouncy finger pointing pop and, you know, we’ve always had a bit more of that, you know, poppy, light-hearted kind of change to our sound. And I think that, you know, now for record later, we’re just, you know, I guess maybe exploring that a bit more and not, you know, but thinking about the conventions of pop-punk in general, but thinking about songwriting as how do we access. You know, more and more people open up our sound without, I don’t know, I hate using the word “selling out,” but, you know, while still sounding like that but opening up that sound to a broader audience. And so that’s how we approach songwriting is like let’s keep it Seaway. But let’s open this thing up and open up the sound to a broader audience, you know, not just the people that are in, you know, listening to the pop-punk scene or whatever, but like, you know, rock listeners or, you know, not that we’re writing songs to get on radio, but, hey, wouldn’t that be cool for that kind of in the background?
Yeah, and it seems like a natural progression going from your debut all the way to where you’re right now. So it seems like you’re straying a little bit further away from that type of sound. This seems like a good fit for you guys.
Yeah, totally, I like I think you can hear it on songs, on Vacation to On The Beach or kind of exploring a bit of like indie rock sound, curse me out with a bit more, you know, like darker, kind of poppier. So, yeah, I’m that relieved is definitely songs that are like definitely starting to stray from that sound. I think that the difference being on Big Vibe is like we were it was a lot more just like letting go of any of those like preconceived ideas of what a fan base might sound like and just like doing what we wanted to do and making the record how we wanted to sound about like how people think we should probably sound.
So let’s talk a little bit about that songwriting process that you went through for the Big Vibe sessions. What did that look like? What did that entail?
Yeah, we went in I would say we went in a little bit less prepared than we did for Vacation. But I think that, you know, we kind of did that on purpose. We wanted to be able to work on it in the studio and, you know, work with. Our producer, Anton, in like, actually building the songs and making it, you know, cohesive but also dynamic and lots of different sounds and influences on it. And so I think going in with, you know, 11 finished songs, it’s harder to do that. So we had, you know, a ton of demos. I got a guitar player and you had just a ton of demos. And, you know, some of them were half done or some of them were close to being finished. Some of them were just demos, you know, just guitar tracks kind of stuff. So we kind of went in with that. And, you know, each song we would say, OK, how do we want this song sound? What don’t we have on the record? You know, like when we were doing “Big Vibe,” that was like, you know, the big, big chorus kind of 80’s power-pop influenced song. You know, when we were doing “Still Blue,” you know, we were thinking, well, right now we don’t have a kind of, you know, indie punk rock kind of song. Let’s try and do something like that for every song we were trying to fill a different void on the record instead of just like, oh, writing 11 songs. And this is how we were going to sound. You know, we went in with these demos thinking like, OK, how can we shape this song to sound something that we don’t yet have on the record or maybe in Seaway’s catalog? You know, that that was kind of. While things weren’t bad, it was like, well, we’ve never done anything like this before. It’s kind of like for the, you know, in the bedroom pop kind of sound. And so instead of maybe on future record, you would think maybe that’s a little too different, a little too, you know, a bit too much of a “curve ball” this time of year, just kind of like it was kind of just like, fuck it, let’s try it. Let’s see what works. And I think that’s what makes the record so cool. There’s so much going on there, you know.
Yeah. And it seems like that thought process, kind of along the way, makes for better listening experience from just being an outside observer of your guy’s band as you go through it. It hits all the right chords, so to speak.
Yeah, I think so.
Also, looking back on the recording process, did you have any vivid memories that stand out from these sessions? You already talked a little bit about the songwriting process, but the actual recording, working with the producer and everything.
Yeah, obviously, it was solely because the record before we did Vacation and in LA with a brand-new producer and it was amazing experience, but it was very like it was a bit more pressure in that scenario. Like, you know, the label came for us to be in LA. You know, we’re set up with this producer that’s done stuff with, like All Time Low and all these, like way bigger bands. So, you know, you don’t want to waste his time and I mean nothing against that. It was a great experience. But we felt a bit more pressure on that. Whereas this time around we recorded in Toronto with a good friend of ours that we worked with a couple releases in our early days. So, it really felt like it was just a group of friends getting in the studio and making a cool record that we wanted to make, you know, there no outside pressure. It was just, we’re all friends here. Let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. And so there was no, crazy or different, you know, moments that really stuck out. I don’t like to I don’t know, doing “Big Vibe” is kind of funny in the songwriting process. Like all day we were working on that song and figuring out what direction we wanted to go with it. And, you know, we spent like kind of almost like eight hours, just like hashing it out, you know, stirring some guitar tracks and then scrapping and starting, you know, going in a different direction and scrapping it. And in like the last hour of the day, we basically figured out the framework of a song, you know, what direction it should go. And, you know, it’s funny, like the song, in my opinion, at least in, you know, and Seaway’s history. So the songwriting process is never the same. There’s really two ways of going about it. And so I think that you know, just like crazy, how, you know, you spent eight hours going in one direction, end up scrapping it and then figuring it out in the last hour of the day. And so that was like a funny one to me, where I was like, damn, you know, it doesn’t matter how long you work on it, it’s if you catch the right feeling or the right vibe or the right, you know, influence for a song is how science can really come together.
Yeah, and I’ve interviewed other artists who say sometimes their best songs are the ones that take the most amount of pain. And there’s also the other side of the coin. There’s songs that they come together relatively easy and they seem to be either the lead single or the title track on the record. So it could be either of the situations in those cases.
Yeah, exactly. You know, so many ways of going about it, you never know how things will come together, right?
Yeah. So a lot of our readers on our site have made comparisons to your sound on the new album to other artists such as Third Eye Blind and Motion City Soundtrack. Were there any particular artists you were listening to around this time that may have influenced the sound that eventually came through on this album?
Yeah, those two are definitely big, I would say Third Eye Blind, more so than Motion City, though, you know, we definitely love Motion City Soundtrack. I don’t think they were as much of a focus going into it, but it’s always cool to hear what people pick out. The Killers was a big one going into it, you know, like that they have like a streak of perfect, the center of like pop and rock, you know, like not quite a rock band and not quite a pop band, and that’s something that we’ve always loved about them, so the Killers are definitely a big influence. Weezer’s always been a big one for us. So it’s not you know, we didn’t start listening to a bunch of Weezer going in, just that they there are a huge influence on us. So all this stuff like this, like The Cars, we covered The Cars a couple of years ago, they’re like a big influence on us. And so I think, like, that’s where that the 80’s power-pop influence comes from within, you know, bands like The Cars or stuff like that. I mean, I guess to really answer your question, a big band like that, that really we really let the influence of those bands ride pretty hard on this record.
Yeah, I can hear that too. So let’s talk a little bit about some of those specific songs on the record. What’s the song, Mrs. David about? That is one of the songs you released a video for recently. Who inspired this track?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t really care to get too much into, like, what it’s exactly about, I really, you know, in in listening to music, I like when there’s some sort of shroud of mystery around it. And I think that, you know, it is also fun when, you know, listeners have their own idea of what it might be about, and I think I’ll just let that mystery grow. But yeah, I mean, in terms of influence, I think that one specifically, you know, you can trace that back to the influence on, you know, The Killers and, you know, pop rock like that. Yeah. I mean, it’s a tough thing to strike that like, you know, we don’t want to be a pop band. We want to be a rock band. But we like, you know, touching on a bit of both. And I think that, you know, The Killers’ influence comes out big time in that song because as I said earlier, they do that so well, like, you know, the perfect blend of pop and rock. Yeah. So that’s kind of where our head was that doing that song.
Nice! So how would you describe your live performances? I know you guys are pretty eager to get back on the road, but how would you describe when you’re touring?
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely high energy. It’s fun. I like to think it’s pretty interactive. You know, like growing up when I was younger, playing in bands, I was always a drummer. So I don’t I you know, I never you know, I didn’t grow up, cutting my teeth on how to be a front man. And I think that that kind of has worked in my favor because, you know, I really. I don’t hold back too much on, you know, getting up and dancing and trying to get people to dance with me, and so I think that that’s like a fun aspect of our live show and make. You know, we’ve been talking about the livestream thing, all these bands do these livestreams because we can’t play in venues and obviously we’d love to do it, you know, for the for the fans, you know, to play our new stuff. It just feels strange for us because we are such an in the moment live, you know, in you know, in your face, kind of not in your face in an aggressive way, but, you know, it’s interactive, I guess. And to not be able to have that interaction and it’s, you know, doing a disservice to our lives. I think it’s that’s where we’ve been a little bit reluctant. And we are you know, we’re trying to figure out how to do that without losing that fun interactive, you know, interactive side of our live show. So, you know, we are working on it. We haven’t written it off. But I’d say that that’s a huge part of our live performance.
And also being kind of reactive to the audience as it kind of being living in the moment. A lot of those things kind of come up in the spur of the moment kind of thing.
So, yeah, big time. And like I, you know, nothing against any of these bands that, you know, get up there and perform, you know, and just do their thing. But that that’s definitely not like I you know, every night is something a little bit different on tour, you know, when the crowd is absolutely nuts. We try and emulate that every night. But as you said, it is reactive, too. So, you know, playing in like an empty studio or venue feels a little bit stale and sterile. Yeah. You know, we’ll see what we can do.
There seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding your new album, which is good for you guys, for sure. What goals do you set for yourselves as you progress in your careers as musicians?
I mean, I guess, you know, achieving the sound we’re going for as long as a big goal, like, you know, we’re obviously so proud of the records we put out in the past. But I think looking back, you know you know what we were talking about earlier, trying to change our sound like in the moment Vacation felt pretty different, but maybe looking back on it. Oh, yeah, it is still kind of a pop-punk record. And so like to go for this record, like, let’s do something a bit different. You know, as I said, open us up to a wider audience. Now, the jury’s still out on that one because we can’t get out and play. So I think that, like, you know, a goal for this record is just to get out and, you know, play to more people, play to new people that haven’t seen this before, maybe try and get on some different tours. You know, we’ve talked it through already, like, you know, we exist in the pop-punk realm. But it’d be nice to kind of open up and tour with some different bands, you know, get on a bigger festival. And I think that’s what it boils down to, you know, like. We’re obviously in the business of selling records, but for us, it’s you know, it’s about playing bigger shows and then being in the studio and just making songs that we are proud of. And so I think that we’ve definitely achieved, you know, the first part of, you know, making those songs that we’re very proud of. I think next comes like getting on the road and playing it to more people in more countries and, you know, different audiences and stuff like that.
You kind of alluded to the last question I have for you today, but what are you most proud of in regards to how Big Vibe turned out?
I think I think I’m most proud of how dynamic it is. I think that…One thing, at least vocally, is like I tried a lot more different things on this record. I don’t usually sing in the lower register or, you know, stuff like that. So I’m proud that we kind of took a risk on doing some of those sort of things. And I think they paid off, you know, on songs and they showcased in songs like “Wild Things” and like, I guess a bit in “Still Blue” as well. I mean, probably across the board I’m talking about vocally right now, but across the board we definitely took some risks on the record and again, dropped out because we can’t really get out and play, you know, you know, see how it translates to setting. But I think we took some risks and I think they I hope will pay off. So I’m pretty proud of that.
I congratulate you again on this great release. I definitely enjoyed it. I had the pleasure of reviewing it for our site, so hopefully you guys got a chance to see that. If not, check it out! It was one of my favorite releases so far this year, so I really like what you guys are going for. I wish you nothing but the best moving forward in your career. And I hope eventually we can see you guys on the road at some point.
So, yeah, I appreciate your kind words.
All right. Sure thing. And enjoy the rest of your day!
Thanks again, Adam!