Late last week, it was announced that My Bloody Valentine are releasing not one, but two new EPs -- one this summer, and the other in Spring of 2019. Last year, we saw incredible new full-lengths from Slowdive and Ride. The shoegaze scene is stronger than ever, and Seattle is lucky to host the Seagaze Festival, which runs from Thursday, April 26th through Sunday, April 29th. Throughout the four-day weekend, Lo-Fi Performance Gallery will host some of the Northwest's finest in shoegaze, post-punk, and psych-rock, including Newagehealers, Black Nite Crash, Vibragun, Black Ferns, as well as guests from out-of-town, such as Italian band New Candys, New York City's Heaven, and San Francisco band Sciflyer, just to name a handful of the artists on the line-up. Festival founder (and guitarist for Blackpool Astronomy) Jeff McCollough was kind enough to chat with KEXP about the origins of Seagaze, this year's line-up, and the misconceptions surrounding shoegaze.
To help kick off the fest, The Morning Show on KEXP is playing all shoegaze on Thursday, April 26th from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM PT. You'll hear from pioneers of the genre, like the Cocteau Twins and Kitchens of Distinction, and the bands who carry the torch, like Moaning, Pinkshinyultrablast, Froth, and so many more. Start your day with a sonic blast, and get lost in the waves of distortion.
KEXP: What was the inspiration to start the festival?
McCollough: Greg Wilson of DKFM and I were online chatting and we both thought it was time. I had wanted to do something like this for a while, and he and I both agreed with a few other people it could be done. Greg had experience from working on Dreamgaze L.A. and was of the mind that we had a very good idea of how to do this right. I asked our friend Michelle -- aka Mama Casserole who books Lo-Fi Performance Gallery -- if we could do it and she was ecstatic and said yes! She would love to have the festival! After that, the festival grew like a wildfire and plenty of great bands jumped on after we booked Erik Blood as our headliner. We wanted it to be a festival anyone could afford and enjoy, that has a more intimate environment. Which would mean the performances would be much more intense and beautiful. Much like things were in the early '90s in Seattle. Leaning towards a more DIY approach than other festivals of a much larger size.
What have been the biggest challenges to running Seagaze?
The biggest challenges we have had have been due to a few big things that normally have not been an issue. While we run on a shoestring, we have been lucky to have the support of the community and had a PR firm literally help us out of the goodness of their hearts during the first festival. We even had other venues offer to help. Sadly, the city has changed. Everything is much more cutthroat. Larger venues seem to think of us a threat while we are not even competitive. We are catering to a very specific audience and while I understand we might have some effect, I think it’s hilarious considering one of them is a very corporate venue whose partners fund the RNC and other right-wing causes. This year we have been dealing with the new Facebook as well. If you don’t pay them for posts, they bury them. One thing that we use to fight that is the many shoegaze, psych, post-punk, and dream-pop groups that are all full of excited music fans who literally are as passionate about music as we are. Earlier this year, we had a sponsor offer to pay for us to hire a PR company who we have had a great relationship with and they would not even entertain the idea. While I understand they were busy, the response was cold. Something you generally don't experience in the shoegaze community. We truly believe in celebrating each other and lifting each other up. It goes back to the early shoegaze scene that thrived in the face of deep criticism. They knew how to band together and look brilliant and sound eloquent while not losing the focus on the music and that’s what we do as well. We take these challenges as a family. As a result, we learn and overcome and the show goes on as planned.
Tell us about this year’s line-up! What approach did you take to booking? Do bands apply to be part of the festival, or is it more of an “invitation only” affair? How do you go about discovering these new artists?
We have a basic idea of the bands we wanted. Me and Michelle start contacting the ones who have been big hits in past years and have been very supportive. At the same time, Michelle finds us amazing psych-rock bands like The Shivas and New Candys and begins working with them to get everything set in stone. I generally also look at the bands over the course of the year we have seen grow and we bring them into the festival after they have played for us at one of the Seagaze events and if it has been good on many ways we put them in the running for the festival. Some bands contact us. We always respond but we generally like to put bands on who have been working their way up and give them their big break and let them shine. At the same time, we have had some great bands due to messages from very deserving people who keep in touch and explain quite well why they want to play. Sometimes it just seems like the stars align and we are able to get amazing bands and we are so happy they do. It means a much more enjoyable festival for all.
Erik Blood returns to Seagaze this year. What is it about Erik’s music that keeps Seagaze coming back for more?
The positive nature of Erik Blood being part of this really helps. His and Irene’s involvement gives us a big boost and helped make this festival a reality. If you ever are lucky enough to see Erik and Irene live, you realize how beautiful and radiant they make everything feel, and we love that. Their music seems to be one of the best examples of what we call "the Seagaze sound." Erik also has been a big supporter and has said his best shows have been at Seagaze. His and Irene’s energy is very positive while dealing with heavy subject matter and for that reason, you are likely to have the same response you would have to seeing the Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, or the last show in Seattle by Leonard Cohen. It’s intense but lovely and it’s going to touch your heart if you are listening. We try to make the festival a feast for the ears and at the same time a feast for the eyes as well. So having Erik and Irene really helps. They seem like our lighting and visuals were tailor-made just for them. So all of these factors make their involvement every year a no-brainer. We look forward to their performance every year.
Jeff, you’re also a member of the band Blackpool Astronomy — what have been the difficulties of having to both organize *and* perform?
Actually, it’s not bad. We always perform early in the evening so we can enjoy the rest of the show -- when I am not working with Nicolas, the talented sound engineer at LoFi, to help him keep things on time or deal with any issues that might arise that are not his job. Because of Nicolas, I always know Blackpool is going to sound amazing and get a soundcheck because we play first generally. Not because we have to but because it’s easier on all of us. I was in a bad car accident in September and I am still a lot of pain so shows can be daunting but not being able to play music with my band would be hell on earth. I tried for a while and it was heartbreaking. I couldn’t see a show without feeling horrible that I wasn’t playing so making things work at Seagaze is now a second nature. The night we play, we load in, get stuff on stage after the backline is together, and soundcheck is a breeze and for the hour before we play, I take care of everything Seagaze, including making sure bands have their needs taken care of and are happy. I generally jump off stage after we are done, pack up, and go back to checking up on an aspect of the festival. For the most part, the festival is very low maintenance at this point. Playing only becomes a bother when it involves lifting.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about shoegaze?
The biggest misconception is we are all a bunch of nerds who listen to nothing but shoegaze, psych, and dreampop. We are nerds, but we listen to a lot of different genres. For instance, Geoff Cox of Fotoform and I along with Michael Schorr were in a Jawbox cover band that played the Clock Out Lounge’s Dischord cover night. I used to play in a punk band with Jimmy James of the Delvon Lamar Organ Trio and The True Loves. One of the members of Black Nite Crash used to play in a local alt-country band. The drummer of Slowdive, Simon Scott, has an amazing catalog of Ambient and found sound -- field recordings -- records as well as experimental tracks. Asa Eisenhardt of Nostalgist mixes his love of metal with shoegaze, not to mention Japan’s Boris who started out covering the Melvins have become shoegaze favorites. Also, a lot of us are huge post-punk fans with large collections of goth, synth-pop, and new wave. I know a good portion of us also have large jazz, blues, and Motown and soul collections on top of our rap and hip-hop collections. Some of us even love foreign composers who border on the edges of pop and minimalism. Also, we are generally happy to see a new person at a show especially if they love the music and are respectful of everyone. So please feel free to join us at Seagaze. We would love to see you.
The 2018 Seagaze Festival runs from Thursday, April 26th through Sunday, April 29th at the Lo-Fi Performance Gallery on Eastlake. Four-day passes are still available, or you can buy day-by-day.
Erik Blood has been a vital figure within Seattle's music community, emerging as a solo artist in 2009 to explore the cosmic intersections of shoegaze, dream-pop, and electro-pop, while frequently displaying his nuanced production talents with local co-conspirators such as Shabazz Palaces, Moondogg…
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