Name: Seafoam Walls
Members: Jayan Bertrand, Dion Kerr, Joshua Ewers
Occupation: Singer-songwriter, guitarist (Jayan Bertrand), bassist (Josh Ewers), guitarist (Dion Kerr)
Interviewee: Jayan Bertrand (pictured in the middle)
Current release: Seafoam Walls' debut album XVI is out via Thurston Moore's Daydream Library.
Recommendations: I would recommend watching a video game streamer called Berlin. He goes by the name Berleezy. He plays games with captivating stories, his commentary is hilarious, and it’s funny to watch him play horror games. My second recommendation would be to listen to Bars. 16 by Steve Lacy.
If you enjoyed this interview with Seafoam Walls and would like to stay up to date on new releases and tour dates, visit the band on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music after joining my first band, Kazoots. This was around 2011-12. My influences around that time were Unknown Mortal Orchestra, anything Dev Hynes was doing, Arctic Monkeys, DIIV, St. Vincent, Radiohead, and White Denim.
What drew me to music was the fun of watching or participating in the act of being part of a whole.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
It started out similar. I mimicked what I could to develop some techniques on my own and further bolstered my foundation with some guitar lessons. I broke off of my lessons pretty early to start teaching myself the rest of the way.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I’m really shy and quiet. So I try to stand out with originality so that I can do so without saying too much.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenges starting out was sounding too much like the artists that influenced me. Once I had enough in my repertoire to compose my own work I took a break from learning covers. Eventually I was able to write with my own sound.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Most of my decisions regarding equipment always revolved around getting the best quality while putting up the least amount of money.
My first guitar was purchased with what my mom could afford at the time. It wasn’t the best quality but it was enough to stay motivated and teach myself a few songs. Soon afterwards I met the apprentice of a luthier and he taught me more about the specifications I should look for in a guitar. I was adamant about establishing my fundamentals before altering my sound or leaning too much on guitar effects.
My first effect was a reverb pedal. A beat battle that my friend hosted inspired me to buy my first sampler and it changed our sound for the better. After buying a sampler I bought a laptop and an interface to record from home during the pandemic.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Watching some friends create amazing compositions with sampled material was inspiring. So inspiring that within weeks I had my own sampler. I used it as much as I could for the new album but I hardly explored it beyond that.
The biggest challenge has been approaching an instrument so digital and new coming from my analog background.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Talking about ideas and jamming were essential in creating the band’s early style. Jamming helped me learn from people who knew techniques that I didn’t and pushed me to adapt in a flow that wasn’t in my control. Collaborations definitely get me out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself working within styles that I wouldn’t have envisioned.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
These days my daily routine starts at 4AM.
The routine is a shower, dog walking/feeding, then breakfast. I get ready for my 6AM shift of tending to plants in a high-fashion district. The work is fulfilling since I love nature and working with my body.
I have not yet found a way to mix my love of nature and my passion for music so naturally they remain separated.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I would definitely have to say that meeting Thurston and Eva was a breakthrough moment in our career. This was monumental because he was a part of a musical movement that greatly inspired me, my peers, and other musicians I admire.
Saying that we worked for that moment sounds a bit strange to me only because it was so coincidental. Staying active on stage and online was all we could do until an opportunity came along, so in a way that was the preparation.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
An uninhibited mind is what will create the space for creativity. I achieve that state in complete solitude. There are no eyes or ears around to judge any of my actions or the thoughts and sounds that leave my mouth.
I get nervous expressing myself in front of people. It’s ironic as I’m a performer. I meet the audience halfway and close my eyes to sing. I do that to mimic solitude.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
The closest I can get to describing music as hurtful is the bittersweet feeling of remembering a song that is associated with someone you no longer associate with.
Other than that, music, whether I’m listening or playing, has always had a positive impact on me. Even if some songs brought up memories that made me cry I think it was important that the music could give me that catharsis.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I personally think it’s ok to participate in a culture that isn’t one’s own if they’re willing to educate themselves, be active in the community they wish to be adopted into, and use identifiable cultural traditions in the proper context.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I’ve always been intrigued by the connection between the senses of smell and taste.
I remember having one teacher describe flavor as a combination of taste and smell. When I was a kid I ate a French fry that literally tasted like shit. I’d never tasted shit but it tasted like the smell. My curiosity grew when I noticed that we reduce our ability to taste by holding our noses or by having congested nasal passages.
It all kinda tied together when I saw a cross-section of the human body. The nasal and oral passages connect in such a way that they have to naturally influence one another.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I can’t stand to complain about the problems wrong with the world and my immediate surroundings without having a way to help. Music was the easiest way to heal and gain a worldly perspective through travel. I share my music with others in order to inspire the same feeling.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I don’t know that there’s a distinguishable factor that separates those methods of expression aside from the melodies.
Personally, I’ve been moved by words alone and the effects were similar to hearing my favorite deeply introspective lyrics.