If The Cure and U2 could musically procreate, their unlikely offspring might sound a lot like newcomers, Seaside Caves. Hailing from Asbury Park, New Jersey, the four-piece band has taken the often harsh realities of everyday life and reimagined them into a compellingly emotive artform. In a dreamscape infused by ambient-goth and synth-punk, sleazy seaside motels are transformed into picturesque caves, while gloom evolves into a sense of hope.
In an exclusive interview with Music Existence, the band’s founder and frontman, Todd, discussed their home-grown origins, influences, that certain je ne sais quoi of being a New Jersey musician, and the band’s plans for the future.
ME: What’s the story behind the name Seaside Caves?
Todd: It’s kind of simple. I’ve lived a lot around the ocean and Seaside Caves kind of comes from Seaside Heights, New Jersey. I’ve lived in that area for a while and I don’t really like it. There’s a lot of welfare motels around there that have a lot of typical stuff that comes with that — a lot of drug use, crappy, rundown motels, and crappy bars — and they kind of looked like caves to me, so that’s where the name comes from.
ME: That’s a very visual image!
Todd: (laugh) A lot of people never got it. They’d always ask, “‘where are our caves around here?” They’re all of our sleazy, crappy motels. They’re like caves, and they’re right by the beach. It’s really weird seeing the ocean and then you have all these people living on welfare a block away that never go to the ocean. After years of spending my time around there, I decided I just really wanted to take something positive from it, and make it my art.
ME: When did the idea of Seaside Caves the band become a reality?
Todd: It pretty much started off with me in a basement with a bunch of songs doing low-fi recordings, and a lot of friends told me, “you know, you really need to be playing this stuff live and get a band together.” So I got a drummer and we did some shows, and then that kind of stopped, but I had people telling me that the music I was doing really good and how I should really put a good band together to try to record some of these [songs] for real. A lot of my friends and other musicians helped me put together a band, and one of them would be my current drummer, James, and our keyboard player. So, we took it from there and started to play some shows, and I was always on the verge of not doing it at all just because art is such struggle in general, but people were always offering us stuff to help us record our records or telling us we should play a show. That’s how the band officially became a band: it was half me wanting to do it and half other people wanting us to be a band. This all happened about three years ago. That’s when this all kind of started, but over the last year [Seaside Caves] have gotten a full line up. We have three main guys who are really committed to the band, and now it’s not just a project anymore, we’re a functioning band that really wants to move forward.
ME: During the time when Seaside Caves was perfecting it’s line up, did the band experience any major challenges, and if so, how did those challenges go on to shape the band to what it is today?
Todd: (laugh) Oh yeah, there were a lot of challenges! A lot of it was the sound that I personally was going for, and just finding the right kind of people who wanted to duplicate that and not just doing it because they wanted to be in a band. The venues we were also playing at too. We were playing small venues that didn’t have very good sound bites and PA systems, and it was really difficult to get our sound across that way. We depend on our sound, but now we’ve won some of those places over and they’re willing to put in the time and realize our sound is really important for us.
ME: Speaking of your sound, you guys sound nothing like what’s on the radio right now. You have a very dark ambient, syntho-punk driven sound. What inspired the band to really go for this particular sound?
Todd: (laugh) Just life in general: graffiti, seasides, sleazy motels. I haven’t been an angel my whole life, unfortunately i’ve been down a dark path, but I made it through that. James [percussion], and Matt [keys] haven’t been down the same path as me, but I know they’ve seen people who have. We don’t sit down and write a dark song or write a happy song, it’s just how we write and the music comes out like that. And the music is dark too, but it’s also a little ethereal and hopeful too. It’s like the light through the darkness.
ME: While general life is the main force driving the sound of the band, are there any musicians that have influenced the band as well?
Todd: I would say The Cure for sure. From day one until now I’ve always been a fan. Definitely darker bands, but darker pop bands. There’s gotta be pop in there. Anyone from Velvet Underground to Type O Negative. If you put anything on that’s kind of shoegaze-y, ambient, or gothic, or dark, chances are any one of us in the band are going to like it. There’s definitely a lot of current music that we’re into too , but I would say there are two records that we could be like: The Cure’s Disintegration, which is a very dark record for them, and U2’s The Joshua Tree. A lot of people compare us to U2, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing. The old U2 I feel was incredible, let’s say pre-sunglass-wearing-Bono. But still, a lot of people say, people even made social media comments, and I mean we’re not that popular at all, but the few people who have made comments say, “oh, I like those guys, but they rip off U2.” Well, that’s not a bad thing. The Joshua Tree was a very hopeful record that had a hopeful sound to it. So, I feel if you kind of combine The Cure and U2 and something a little dirtier, that’s kind of what we sound like a little bit.
ME: There’s been a slew of bands to come out of New Jersey that have gone on to dominate the music scene. In a place that seems like the mecca for new talent, how do you differentiate yourselves from other acts?
Todd: Well, it’s like what you said before, we don’t sound like any other bands. We definitely have a unique sound. A lot of times when we play shows, people will tell us we sound pretty cool, and I’d much rather hear that then, “oh, you sound really good.” ‘Cool’ to me is good enough (laugh). I’ve also personally always have been doing this sound, and it’s finally getting to where people are listening. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing it long enough that people are just listening, like I’ve paid my dues or what have you. We’re not particularly trying to sound like anyone before, it’s like I said, each of us are just being us. Matt, our keyboarder, he’s a very androgynous guy, he wears lip liner, but he has just as much testosterone as any of us, yanno. It’s just who we are as people, and the sound just comes from us. We’re definitely not into doing mainstream stuff at all. Not that there’s anything wrong with mainstream, it’s just this is who we are.
ME: How does the creative environment of New Jersey influence your music?
Todd: As a band, we’re from Asbury Park, and Asbury’s really cool. Like you said, it’s kind of like a mecca for music. There’s a lot of good bands coming out of here. If the record industry was what is was, this town could really blow up. It’s right on the ocean, so in the summer you have that spark of fun, but then when the winter comes and it’s like dreadful and dreary and grey. For me, the only way for me to get through that is through our art. It’s our output of what we do. We’re not trying to express ourselves particularly to say, “hey, this is where we’re from. This is what we’re doing.” We just wear it. Unfortunately, that whole “Jersey” thing that people have, it really is kind of true. It can be a really pretty place to live or it can be a really ugly place to live, like a lot of places. There’s never really a middle ground in New Jersey (laugh).
ME: Your self-titled EP, Seaside Caves has an interesting sort of formula at work. From “LES” to “Vision,” your songs have this storytelling aspect that you don’t really hear from other bands. Either artists are very direct with their lyrics, which tends to be used a lot in Pop music, or artists are more metaphorical with their lyrics. The storytelling aspect Seaside Caves uses, is this something the band is conscious about doing or is this just your own organic method as a lyricists?
Todd: It’s interesting that you say that because I’ve had a lot of people over the years who have said the really good way to write a story is through telling a story. I’ve actually written a lot of vague stuff and growing up listening to what my father listed to, which is a lot of country and they’re definitely story tellers. I never intentionally set out to tell a story. I also lived in the Lower East Side of New York for a while and that’s where that song [LES] came from. It’s just stuff happened to me, and you can’t really tell anyone about it because no one really listens. It’s how I turned to music, picked up the guitar, and [words] started to come out. Then a year will go by and I personally haven’t even realized what it is I’ve done. It’s like, “wow, I’m trying to tell a story here.” Then all of a sudden it’s on the record, and I think, “oh, wow, do I want people to know this stuff?” (laugh).
ME: When you play the songs on your EP live, is there a particular track that you’ve noticed your audience tends to gravitate towards?
Todd: I would say, “Vision,” the last song on the EP. We’ve closed our set with that a lot, and I think that definitely stands out. That song will also be coming out on a live record with The Bouncing Souls. We played their Home For the Holidays show. Their label is putting out a record of live tracks from all the opening bands, and our song, “Visions,” is going to be on that record. People like that or “Party.”
ME: How do you personally connect to “Visions” and “Party?”
Todd: “Vision” is easy for me to get into no matter what. it’s like a drug, it just takes you over. It’s also very hopeful sounding, so I like to perform that song live. “Party” is upbeat and that’s always fun to play. And the lyrics says “if I could party every night” I think it’s kind of cheesy sounding, but it’s like a personal problem I have because I could do that. I could do it every night, it’s just not a very healthy thing to do. (laugh)
ME: What does Seaside Caves hope to achieve by the end of 2015?
Todd: Well, we finished our EP, and it wasn’t like we set out to put out a record. We just had some songs, and someone our drummer, James, worked with really wanted to work with our band, and he’s from a pretty successful band from New Jersey. So we did that and we recorded [the songs] and were like, “now what are we going to do with these?” I personally didn’t want to have to record more songs for a full-length record. We’re a new band, no one really knows about us. We personally thought [the songs] were pretty good for the budget we did it on. We had a couple of small offers from small labels that wanted to put out the EP, and we passed on them because it really wasn’t much to offer except a name on a record. So we just put the EP out ourselves: on social media, Spotify, on the Internet, iTunes, what have you. We did that and people just started liking us. Someone from Chunksaah Records, which is a record label here in Asbury Park, she was really into our band, and she wanted to put our record out. So officially it’s going to be coming out on Chunksaah Records on vinyl, so we’ve already accomplished that. It’s not out yet; it will be in June. Another thing is we’ve been wanting to play outside of New Jersey more, and now with Chunksaah pushing us, we’re going to be doing a two-week tour in May, and hopefully the record will be in stores in the cities we play. We have to do all we can do to promote it ourselves, and I’ve realized as a band, you really have to work for yourself to really make things happen. We’re just looking forward to having the record out, doing this tour, and then possibly another one in June. We’re currently already working on new material. We’re in a pre-production stage, so we have that coming and as far as what we’d like to see as a band, it’s be nice to have people hear us and see us live. If we can get out and play other places, and get onto college radio, and hopefully people take to it and maybe the stuff we’re working on now can be a full-length record and we’re ready to be a fully functional, working band. That’s really what we’d all like to see happen.
Seaside Caves is hitting the road in May. The short tour will kick off on May 6th at The Watermark in Asbury Park, and wrap up on May 16th at Pianos NYC. Check out the tour dates & ticket info below.
May 6 @ The Watermark – Asbury Park, NJ
May 9 @ The Burlington – Chicago, IL
May 10 @ MAC’S BAR – Lansing, MI
May 13 @ The Milestone Club – Charlotte, NC
May 16 @ Pianos NYC – New York, NY
For the latest updates on Seaside Caves, visit:
Credit to Autumn Spadaro for the photo