The last Siberian Traps record, Blackfoot, was a pretty solid little chunk of jangly post-punk with some film score aspirations. I hear the new one, Stray Dogs, is going to be a little more straight forward, but we’ll know more this Friday when it drops. Check out a couple preview tracks down below. They’re pretty frickin’ great. I sat down with the Traps’ mastermind, Seth Reeves, for the usual questions.
Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?
SR: I first got into music in my parents’ living room at three years old, spinning Beach Boys vinyls and putting on a “concert”, complete with air guitar. That’s the first music I remember hearing that spoke to me. I’m still a huge Beach Boys fan. I don’t know that there was a moment of epiphany where I knew I wanted to make my own music. It was an inchoate idea that slowly became something I put into practice as I learned to play guitar. I’ve always loved singing. That probably goes back to the Beach Boys.
Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
SR: Post-punk and jangle pop doing the twist together at an old-fashioned dance hall.
Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?
SR: The aforementioned Beach Boys, for all of the aforementioned reasons. I love harmony in music because of them. Also, the early R.E.M. records from the IRS years have been a huge influence on me. That’s simply some of my favorite music ever made. What a cryptic stew of post-punk energy and rural Americana-ism. I also love Neil Young, because maybe more than any other artist who has endured for decades, he has shown how to follow your own muse and how to create a sense of mythology about the stuff you write. I buy into it completely when I hear a Neil Young song.
While recording our new record, Stray Dogs, I also found I was listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, particularly Tusk. They have a knack for writing a hook that burrows under your skin in about 30 seconds flat, but at the same time, it has staying power. If I try and visualize what their harmonies would look like, I see a light teal-colored halo around the notes. Their voices in harmony are smooth and almost airless. I love it.
Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?
SR: “Songs I Don’t Write”, on the new record, is to me, the most meaningful song I’ve written. I wrote it about my Dad, who passed away in 2011. It took me a few years to even begin to address in a song the loss I feel. He was a World War II history buff. That was probably his favorite subject in the world. I picked up an interest in it from him, but I especially began to fixate on the Eastern Front, on the horrific bloodshed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and on the powerful human narratives that emerged from that awful conflict. I had this ridiculous idea after we finished Blackfoot, our previous record, that I would make the next record one of fictional World War II-era Red Army patriotic songs. I was pretty much half-joking about it. But then my Dad passed and I spent a few years wondering if I’d ever manage to express how I felt in a song. I eventually wrote one about how I was never going to write those silly fake Red Army songs, but also about how I could try to write one for my Dad as a tribute. The words come to me all in one piece. The first time I heard the finished recording of it, I sobbed like a baby.
Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
SR: In a time machine, I’d travel back to 1986 and open for R.E.M., just so I could see them show me how it’s done.
Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?
SR: I’ve recently gotten into Steve Gunn. He has a remarkable sense of rambling motion in his songwriting and guitar playing. Beautiful stuff that feels familiar and bizarrely new all at the same time. His new record, Eyes on the Lines, as well as his 2014 release, Way Out Weather, have been in heavy rotation for me lately.
Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?
SR: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. It’s as close to a perfect record as anyone has ever made.
Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?
SR: I love the diversity of bands/artists, not only here in Fort Worth, but also in DFW as a whole. I actually think my favorite city to play around here is Denton, because folks seem to listen the most closely there.
Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?
SR: Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton is maybe my favorite venue I’ve ever played. The sound onstage is second to none. And the crowd seems to really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s a beautiful room for music.
Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?
SR: Earthchild Imperius are doing some really interesting things. Our drummer, Peter Wierenga, has been recording some tracks for them recently, and from what I’ve heard, it’s far out. Those guys are a wellspring of musical ideas. I also really dig Natural Anthem and can’t wait to hear anything they release in the future.
Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
SR: I have large swaths of Hamlet committed to memory. It happens when you’re an AP English teacher and teach it every year. You asked about desert island records earlier. My desert island book would be Hamlet, because it’s the closest approach to infinity that any writer has achieved.
So many thanks to Seth Reeves of Siberian Traps. Be sure to go grab the new Traps record, Stray Dogs, this Friday, June 17. Check out a couple preview tracks of the new album down below, and you can catch them live at the Foundry, July 30 (that ish is free). So, get out there and support a excellent local band.