Seashine and the Failure of Genre

 In ALIVE, Culture, Feature

Creative people live with the concept of genre as an everyday facet of their lives. Whether they break out of it or define it, genre is inescapable. Every discussion and interview about one’s work is weighted by stylistic signature so that people might envision, with the briefest of exposition, what an artist’s work looks like or a band’s music sounds like.

These descriptors and labels can be quite granular. It’s not just heavy metal, it’s doom, black metal, thrash …. It’s not a comedy, it’s a rom-com, slapstick, screwball, parody …. The human brain is exceptional at finding patterns, and there’s an odd sort of irony that even in creative fields, which are often defiant of pattern and genre, we continue to push to define and think in those terms.

When singer and guitar player Demi Haynes and her boyfriend, Paul Rieger, a bass player and singer, first posted a Craigslist ad looking to start a band back in 2016, Haynes posted that they wanted to play shoegaze and dreampop.

“[Demi] lured me in because I wanted to be in a shoegaze band,” recalls guitar player and backing vocalist Kate Hayes, who answered the ad.

“I was just so enamored with that,” recalls Haynes. “I knew that was something I was drawn toward.”

(Here’s where I have to ask you, the reader, to shoulder a little more burden that I might normally: You may have been confused by the above quotes. I assure you, you read that right. There is a Demi Haynes and a Kate Hayes in this band, both of whom play guitar and sing. As an amusing side note, they are similar in appearance as well. Both are of average-to-tall height, have dark hair and tend to dress in dark colors. “People thought we were a sister band for a while,” laughs Hayes.)

By many measures, Seashine is very much a shoegaze or dreampop band. The shoegaze genre is very broad and allows for quite a bit of interpretation, but the basics revolve around a fullness of sound and a juxtaposed lighter vocal touch. Often shoegaze and dreampop overlap by virtue of that dreamy vocal quality and an also-dreamy atmospheric instrumental quality. And Seashine’s music is abundant with dreaminess.

Haynes’ and Hayes’ (you’ll get used to it) guitars and vocals sound how waves look: fluid and rhythmic, sometimes moving en masse in the same direction, sometimes colliding in surprising ways. The guitars are thick with effect. Delay and reverb build upon each other to achieve ethereal echoes, ghosts of sounds that can be inspiring or unsettling in the way one would imagine a non-corporeal presence would be. Yet there’s nothing thin or wraith-like about it. Just haunting.

While an initial impression may point to a convenient genre label for Seashine, very little excavation is required to uncover the frailty of such categorization.

In the most general of terms, there’s a lot to like about shoegaze and dreampop–especially for fans drawn to lush, gorgeous harmonic arrangement. Often, though, bands lack the rhythmic and dynamic sophistication that Rieger and drummer Bill Hudgins bring to Seashine. The quality of the bass-drum relationship feels sometimes like it takes on a bit of the flavor of The Cure or Joy Division. Maybe that’s what happens when you get a whole band of guitar players together. Even the drums, for all their forward-moving plodding, have a melodic ring to them.

Seashine can also be quite loud. Granted, this is not a feature alien to the shoegaze genre—or even shoegaze-adjacent groups, like some of M83’s more drone-y offerings—but Seashine brings a grinding rumble that feels more at home in a heavy metal setting. There’s an attendant thematic darkness that compliments these little pieces of metallic sludge.

“I don’t come from dreampop or shoegaze. I think I’ve only heard My Bloody Valentine once,” points out Hudgins, the affable drummer. “That’s the product of friends playing music together.”

Shedding even more light on the inclination towards heavy metal tones, Haynes adds that “Paul’s favorite band is Black Sabbath.”

And, with this short exchange, Seashine offers proof that often the best bands are the ones that operate as a sum of all parts. Each member brings something important to the table, and the entire project is elevated by the varying influences.

Some of these offerings are tangible things. For example, Haynes brings in most of the music as more or less complete songs, with most parts accounted for. From there, each song becomes a project of the group as a whole. Hayes provides the perfect complement to Haynes’ vocals and six-string musings. Rieger and Hudgins shape the rhythmic—and much of the dynamic—character responsible for so much of the band’s nuance.

But some offerings are more subtle. Much of the collective character of how most bands operate depends on the egos and personalities in the room. In Seashine’s case, it’s obvious the group has found a chemistry that can’t be engineered, and they credit it to Hudgins, who was the last to join.

“Everyone loves Bill,” says Hayes, with notable affection. “Bill came in and he’s just full of ideas and full of laughter and fun, and all of a sudden we’re fishing together as a band and taking trips together.”

The members of Seashine speak of each other with exactly this sort of deference and familiarity. The importance of the interpersonal dynamics is on full display here. Practice is sometimes a casual affair, more like hanging out than hammering out the details of song dynamics or drily scheduling shows and recording as so many groups rush to do.

Seashine and the Failure of Genre

Often discussions about creativity feel like driving in one lane. What are the influences? What tool was used to accomplish a goal? What does this thing “mean”? To the detriment of many, creative people often think in these terms as well as they look for the pattern and the place something should fit. A context.

Seashine is a group that makes its own context. To fixate on one facet of this group would be to willingly ignore what makes it unique. The members don’t need to be any one type of band, and they are not simply a collection of individuals filling disparate roles. Their personalities blend and compliment. All of these factors, both subtle and obvious, serve to create something beautiful and formidable. This is music that will make you feel things.

Seashine is in the process of wrapping up its first album, to be released late this year or early next. Until then, hear its music on Soundcloud—and make a point to view the video for the song “Witch,” beautifully produced for the Lo-Fi Cherokee event. The band performs at Foam Sept. 20 with Grivo, Cold Rooms and Lightrider and at The Heavy Anchor Oct. 4 with The Life & Times and Dibiase.

Images courtesy of Josh Basco.

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