Published September 1994, The Aquarian Weekly
It's a classic Cinderella story. Four young musicians are inspired and somehow find each other. A band forms, songs are written, and the fledgling outfit plays their first shaky gig at Austin's Back Room club in March 1992.
Starting out as Dig (the band switched names after receiving a cease-and-desist order from the original Dig), the Seed line-up - drummer Kyle Schneider, guitarist Dean Truitt, bassist-vocalist Chadwick Salls, and vocalist-guitarist Gabriel Ordonez - has been the same since the beginning.
Going against the grain in a town (Austin, Texas) known for its folk scene and for bands such as the Butthole Surfers, Seed wore their musical influences (Beatles, Rush, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren, Yes and early Genesis) proudly.
The group continued playing out, enduring blank, uncomprehending stares, a forced name change, early sets, empty clubs, no pay and the hundreds of other frustrations and pitfalls that come with virtual obscurity.
Applying for a showcase spot during the 1993 version of Austin's famous, South By Southwest Music Convention, the boys (none are older than 22) were summarily rejected by the convention committee.
"They didn't really give us a reason," said Ordonez during a recent phone interview, "they just didn't like us, I guess."
"This year, oddly enough, after all the interest in us, the label, the video, etc., etc. ... heck, we didn't even register this year," he chuckled, "anyway, our label called the committee two weeks before SXSW '94 was scheduled to start and we were immediately offered a Saturday night gig at the best club in town. So much for helping out those struggling, unsigned bands."
After watching several less eclectic, more "marketable" bands play at the '93 convention one night, the members of Seed trudged off dejectedly to a band rehearsal at the semi-famous Austin Recording Complex.
While they were jamming that night, producer Howard Benson (Wild Seeds, TSOL, Bang Tango, Motorhead) walked in, heard one song, and immediately offered his assistance to the band.
Completely sold on Seed, Benson made his way to Mechanic Records armed with a three-song demo and the conviction of someone who truly believes.
Label president Steve Sinclair was so impressed with the tape that the money for a full-length recording and four plane tickets to L.A. were fronted to Seed before a single contract had been signed.
"We'd already had some label interest from Atlantic Records, but they had us pegged as this bouncy singles band or something." said Ordonez, "They wanted an album full of "Rapture"-type songs, and that was just so not what we wanted that we couldn't even consider it. They wanted to mold us, as they put it, into a hit group."
"Mechanic had the good sense to leave us alone," he added, "everyone there believed in us as a group, and not as one single song. They had faith in us and gave us enough artistic freedom to make the album we needed to make."
That faith was rewarded with Ling, a truly diverse offering that, while it does give a minimal musical nod to the '90s, for the most part draws on classic pop, rock, art-rock and psychedelic influences from the last three decades for its overall sound.
"We had a bit of trouble figuring out the song order for the album," mused Ordonez, "but I think we did well. It has a natural flow, sort of like XTC's Skylarking. It's not an album you listen to just for one song, but for the entire thing."
Brimming with ringing harmonies, joyous, pealing pop songs, art-rock structures and time changes, deeply introspective lyrics, a metal-based drum/bass sound, lush, piano-driven ballads, soothingly sweet vocals and a few all-out rockers, Ling also packs enough hooks, angst and noisy guitar crunch to keep even the most fledgling of alterna-ears listening.
"That's what we're all about,
passion, compassion and chops help, but
it always comes back down to a great song."
~ Seed vocalist Gabriel Ordonez ~
"I think 'grunge' as an alternative-thing has had its day," declared Ordonez, "it's already become mainstream. I hear more melodic bands and music starting to become popular again." he added, "I hear more of a sweetness, maybe its a reaction to so much anger in today's music and society."
"The thing that remains after the next wave has come and gone, is the song." Ordonez said, "All that really matters is a good song, not what genre of music it's supposed to fit into or who plays it. If it's a great song, it will remain long after the band that did it is gone."
"That's what we're all about," he added, "heart, passion, compassion and chops help, but it always comes back down to a great song."
Seed is about to hit the road for their first extended tour in support of Ling. Knowing that four people crammed into a tiny van can strain even the best of relationships, Ordonez is cautiously enthusiastic about Seed's upcoming tour.
"It'll be a real test. We've been together for about two-and-a-half years now with no major blow-ups." laughed Ordonez, "Fortunately, we get along really well."
"Seed has done a bunch of local shows, but we've never really been out." he added, "Packing up the band, driving, playing, sleeping and existing in very close confinement ... it'll be a fun challenge."
"We love to play in front of people." enthused Ordonez. "The best part about the tour will be meeting new people, making new friends and seeing how our music goes over in new towns. We can't wait to hit the road!"
The aggressive push from Mechanic Records is already starting to pay off.
While Mechanic has an indie label's typically strong ties with the college radio market, the inking of a release deal with major label, Giant Records, has already been a big help at the retail level simply because the album is available (not as easy as it sounds) in stores.
It's also helped get the group's whimsically appealing video for the first single, "Rapture," some crucial air time on MTV's all-important 120-Minutes program.
The simple, hooky, immediate catchiness of the song, a great video, a solid album and the four Seed-mates teen-magnet looks has helped create a buzz that many predict will help Seed grow into a major force on the music scene.
-- AL MUZER