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There’s a fire in the jukebox.
We’re not just talking about the title of Burnt Seeds new EP, self-released earlier this year courtesy of Josiah Webb from Magic Shoppe. No–we’re talking about the DC/Virginia trio’s ability to warp sonic space into a fiery amalgamation of psych, pop, and twisted garage melodies. Warbling guitars echo through a void that sounds endless, blissful, and punctuated by singer-songwriter Roger Poulin’s hypnotic vocals. It’s drone music that makes you want to move, to dive right into the mix (excuse the namesake pun).
BTRtoday sits down with Poulin to talk with the artist about his songwriting process for Dive/Fire in the Jukebox, and the exciting possibilities moving forward for Burnt Seeds.
BTRtoday (BTR): Tell me a little bit about how you guys first came together.
Roger Poulin (RP): I had been living in Boston and playing in the band Magic Shoppe while my partner was in school. When she graduated, she accepted a job in DC, and so we moved down to the DC/Arlington, Virginia, area in early summer 2015.
At the same time, Eric (bass and vox) had moved here for similar reasons from North Carolina. Neither of us wanted to stop being in bands–personally I have been playing in various bands for a lot of years now. Our drummer Mark was already playing in the area, but was looking for something new. I met them both independently of each other, and with both of them we ended up buying each other rounds and talking for hours about the music we were into. It just all clicked when the three of us got together to play for the first time. Felt natural.
BTR: You were a member of Lotus Moons before Burnt Seeds. Why the departure, and did you learn anything from being in that band that you’ll carry with you moving forward?
RP: The Lotus Moons were based out of Oakland, CA. We had a good solid run for a while, but things started to kinda slow down–and to be honest there were some conflicts of personality as well. I am from Boston originally, and so when it became clear that we couldn’t maintain our vibe anymore, it seemed like a good time to move home. Actually I felt like I absolutely HAD to get off of the West Coast. But that band really pushed my boundaries as far as what a song could be.
I remember one song that was basically just five minutes of the same chord (called Hollywood Honey) and it might be my favorite tune that The Lotus Moons ever put out. It allowed me to be really free and loose with my guitar playing–to be more fearless. It might be that fearlessness in playing that I will carry forward with me the most.
BTR: How would you describe Burnt Seed’s sound to an alien that has crash landed on earth and never heard the music before?
RP: After making sure that the alien hadn’t sustained any serious injuries, I would be like hey man, welcome to Earth, wanna hear what it sounded like when you passed through that weird nebula a few light years back? Then I’d put “Dive” on.
BTR: Tell us a little bit about the making of “Dive.” The song is pretty epic.
RP: I started writing “Dive” when I still lived in Oakland. At the time, I was living in this weird half abandoned old factory space that the landlord was trying to convert into live-work spaces for artists (a plan which never really came to fruition). The factory thing is a whole other long story. I originally recorded what would be considered the “main riff” (I guess) to a junky old cassette recorder while I was on the roof. When I got to Virginia, I listened to some of my old tapes, and developed the song from there, adding other guitar parts and conceiving that driving beat that carries the whole thing. I was hoping to create something that sounded like Neu! had collaborated with Thee Oh Sees… instead, we have “Dive.”
BTR: It sounds like the songwriting process is very individually-based, tell us a little bit about how it usually works for you.
RP: I do a lot of writing at home, and a lot of the time I will demo a new song at home before bringing it to the band. Usually we will give new songs a listen or two, and then jump in and try to play them based off the demo- and of course, play them way different than the demo sounded, but that is part of the appeal. Often we will end up keeping the weird changes and happy accidents that occur during those first play throughs.
We will also tweak and pick apart the songs until they fall into a good space.We are a three piece and sometimes when I record a new song, I add more parts (guitars, etc…) than you would expect a three piece to be able to play; it’s a great creative challenge to figure out how to do it with just three pieces.
BTR: What does each member contribute to the band’s overall creative vision?
RP: Mark, our drummer, is our rock–nothing too flashy, no John Bonham fills or anything like that (not that he couldn’t if he wanted to) but he has this ability to understand the needs of the song, and to play for those needs. Eric has a deep font of musical knowledge and helps mold the songs into a fuller, more complete- sounding space.
I would like to think that my ideas inform their playing. I definitely think that as we have played together, we have morphed our own individual musical inclinations into something bigger.
BTR: How has your experience been so far working with Josiah Webb of Magic Shoppe? Do you plan on collaborating more in the future?
RP: Josiah is fantastic, and I am so lucky to have met him and gotten to play with him for a while in Magic Shoppe. I actually play on their most recent release, Interstellar Car Crash, and wrote the song “City Alight” on that album. I trust his work to the point where I don’t even feel like I need to request anything of him- pretty much it’s just like, “have at it man” and it sounds great every time. I think we plan to work with him for our next single.
BTR: Speaking of, what’s in store for 2016?
RP: Well as I said we have another single coming up within the next month or so, and then an EP (or possibly LP, we haven’t decided yet) which we will be recording over the summer. Probably will release it in the fall. I have also been talking to this small UK label (nothing is confirmed yet, so I don’t wanna name them…) about a possible cassette release. Hopefully some good East Coast shows as well!
To hear more of Burnt Seeds, check out their Bandcamp or tune into BTRtoday’s very own In the Den.