Interview: Underwater Seacreatures
Underwater Seacreatures are an exciting act currently based in Richmond, Virginia, which combines the skills of Nathan Keeys, Marcos da Silva and, live bassist, Ryan Beans. Underwater Seacreatures’ music is irresistibly smooth, incorporating synths, steel pans and fuzzy vocals into its soundscape to form the missing link in today’s funked up youth. Upon hearing their EP (the free download link for which can be found after the cut) we threw the calm and collected persona we project so well to the winds and shot some questions over to the guys. Both Nathan and Marcos took some time out to give us some answers concerning their name, backgrounds and favourite videos…
Why the name Underwater Seacreatures?
Nathan: I love telling people this story lol. Before we actually created the group, Marcos and I made music separately. I used to go over to his spot to just jam and listen to music, which is partly how we got our musical synergy. One day I actually came over his house to chill and I walked into his room. This dude was in a pitch black room during the day… playing a guitar… with shades on… watching some national geographic shit on deep ocean exploration lol. I then kinda just walked in and asked him like, what he was doing haha. This dude just swiveled around in his chair and said “Yoooo… you tryna watch some underwater sea creatures?” hahaha. …later when we actually decided to make a group together that name seemed like that icing on the cake.
Marcos: Honestly, I was just really stoned when that happened, but later when we were coming up with a name for our sound it intuitively seemed very, very appropriate. I actually appreciate the tautology. There’s a sort of mystery to it’s goofiness that makes people ask about it. To me it’s about displacement, as if these metaphorical “Seacreatures” we speak of have been uprooted from the “sea” they belong in to fend “under” the weight of different “waters”, that are not home, or the “sea.” Thus justifying being “Underwater” but in reality being a “Sea Creature.” It’s about being different than your surroundings but still blending in enough for any feelings of being different to be borderline redundant in the eyes of other fish. Another reason for the name is we also loved the ability to shorten the name to “Us,” and I really enjoyed the connotations of intimacy and isolation there. Or maybe I was just really stoned one day when Nate barged in my room haha, you decide.
What are your first memories of the ‘Chillwave’ movement?
N: I believe it was a couple of months before that summer of 2009 when chillwave started to hit. At that time we were still into making hip hop actually but we both felt like it wasn’t ultimately what we wanted to be known for. We knew we had something else in us. When chillwave was first recognized we automatically knew we wanted to do it. The first inspirations to us both were Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and Washed Out. It was somewhat ironic because Marcos found out about Neon Indian the same time I found out about Toro y Moi. We both came to each other like “listen to this shit!” and surprisingly they both had that same chill aesthetic. Chillwave didn’t really have its name then so we didn’t know what or where it came from. All we knew is that we wanted to do it.
Because of all the different components that go into your music, does it take a while for you to finish songs?
US: The main components for US is to keep our sound ours and making it suitable to the style we want. It took us a good while to find the specific type of aesthetic that we wanted to portray in our music. We each both have separate components to bring to the table. The fact that we can recognize and merge our styles makes it a lot easier to finish up our songs. In saying that, it doesn’t take to long when we know what we want and how to execute it. We’ve both realized that its okay to put aside some songs if your not fully sure its complete. However, that takes some serious discipline.
How do you translate your music for the stage?
M: For the time being, we use a setup based around a laptop running the things we can’t do live, while Beans plays electric bass, Nathan plays the Korg XL and sings and I play midi based instruments and sing. It’s quite similar to Nite Jewel‘s two keyboardist, one bassist approach. We’re looking into adopting Reggie Watts‘ delay and super looper ideas however, so that we can do a lot of the vocal layers that we really enjoy making in production, live. We are very, very new to the stage and still learning obviously, but nailing songs in the moment is really the most satisfying feeling, so we’re all looking forwards to our evolution as a live act.
Do you think it’s possible to be in a successful act without utilizing the internet?
US: It’s not impossible, but more and more unlikely as people become more and more immersed in media.
How have your backgrounds influenced your music?
M: Well, there’s a lot of similarity to our backgrounds, we all went to high school in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area so were pretty similar in that aspect, we all had a coming of age in the suburbs right outside a major city. And we all came together in Richmond to attend VCU, which has one of the top arts & creative programs in the country, so there was/is a lot of creative talent in the city here, there is a lot of like-minded individuals not just creating music but experimenting across many mediums and forms of expression. Also, the differences in our backgrounds have added a certain panache to our music. Nathan’s an African-American, I’m a Venezuelan immigrant myself, Caracas born and raised, and Beans, well he’s a funky white guy. Together, our influences create a very similar vision, and that’s what we give our fans, a little bit of us. lol. pun intended.
Any favorite videos?
US: Total Contrast- ‘Takes A Little Time’
Pay close attention to the “head turns”…classic.
M83- ‘We Own the Sky’
Shot on Virginia Commonwealth’s campus in Richmond, VA.
N.E.R.D- ‘Hypnotize U’
Is Tropical- ‘The Greeks’
Who, of the chillwave sect, makes the best use of samples in your opinion?
US: I’d probably say Toro y moi. His album Causers of This is like sample heaven. The way Chaz compressed his back vocals and side-chained samples made that whole album unique.
What are your plans for the future?
N: We’re gonna go back to the future. To the 80′s mostly. haha. But really, the next album has a heavy 80′s influence for its sound. We plan on releasing that and playing a lot more shows as soon as Marcos comes back from being an extra in the third installment of Batman.