I recently stumbled upon the fantastic music of Seaside Holiday, thanks to a glowing write-up in Alternative Press Magazine. I’ve subscribed to Alt Press for over a decade, but the last couple years have left me questioning why I still subscribe. Constant cover stories about bands that want to be Blink 182 or Avenged Sevenfold just don’t do anything for me anymore. Well, imagine my surprise reading about a band that I didn’t know, giving it a listen, and being blown away! These used to be common occurrences with the monthly arrival of my magazine, but I literally don’t think this has happened in years until this particular incident. So, thanks whoever it is at Alt Press that still cares about interesting music (Oh, and shoutout to my internet friend Jack Appleby. I always like to read your reviews.) Anyways, with the little amount of coverage Seaside Holiday has received, I wanted to know more about them and hopefully introduce them to more people. Here is my interview with band members Cara Dziak and Morgan McQuate:
1. Who are the band members and how do you know each other?
Cara: My brother Morgan and I make up the writing portion of the band and more recently have expanded to a live cast of long-time friends, Josh Agee on guitar, Jon Cole on drums, Zeb Dziak on guitar, (who also happens to be my husband), and Phil Neiswander on bass. Each member we also previously played with in varying groups and ensembles through the years.
2. When did you first start playing music individually and as a band?
Cara: I’ve loved music from as early as i can remember. The quest for the means with which to create my own expression began as the stock middle school band involvement with the flute in the fifth grade. High school was when i first began learning guitar and subsequently joined a few groups with friends where we played the standard punk and post hardcore covers.
As we progressed on our instruments and continued to expand our musical tastes, Morgan and I started to try our hand at our own songwriting, having of course no idea what we were doing. Somewhere around 2006 was born Seaside Holiday, I believe.
Morgan: I attempted to learn some piano when I was younger (then again in College) and I was a trumpet player in the middle school and high school band. I think I was in 7th grade when I got a bass guitar and then 8th grade when I got my first synth (a Moog MG1 Concertmate). My early attempts at learning the piano didn’t stick too much so I mostly just made weird noises on it. I played bass in a couple different bands in high-school mostly doing covers of other stuff (a lot of punk and post punk music). I had the opportunity to play as a hired gun in a couple bands in college then Cara and I started writing music together around my jr. year. In one of my classes I used this old program called Saw Pro and I thought it would be easier to record using that than the old Tascam cassette 4track recorders. So I bought a DAW and thats how we got started.
3. What artists have been most influential to you?
C: Definitely The Smiths and The Cure have a timeless sound that I can’t imagine ever not being moved by. Tori Amos and Kate Bush have been very meaningful to me in terms of groundbreaking female songwriters. As far as the last decade or so, a few bands that come to mind that have excited me are Future Islands, Xiu Xiu, Santigold, and Regina Spektor.
M: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the old Tooth and Nail Records stuff, like the 5 year anniversary box-set. I also really enjoyed the album “In This Light and on This Evening” by Editors, Sufjan Stevens stuff, and I’ve been listening to some Rush.
These are some questions I ask almost everyone because I don’t know how to not be curious about these things:
4. Do you like to read books? If so, what are some of your favorites?
C: That’s a difficult question, but probably C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I love Frederic Buechner, Flannery O’Connor, and also really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell.
M: Most of the books I’ve been able to read lately have been Richard Scary books with my son to be honest, but a book that came out some time ago that I really enjoyed was “Simplicity” by Mark Salomon (from the band Stavesacre).
5. What are some of your favorite songs of all-time?
C: Well, music marks time and transports vividly in a completely unique manner, so these are all tied to that in one way or another: Caribbean Blue– Enya, The Seahorse – Over the Rhine, The Crystal Ship – The Doors, Why Don’t You Find Our For Yourself – Morrissey, Dreams – Fleetwood Mac, Open Season – Lucy Wainwright Roche.
M: There are many but a few might be: Raw Meat=Blood Drool-Editors, Paper Hanger-Me Without You, Sand Dollar-Stavesacre.
Now to get more specific about your music:
6. Before I even read the liner notes of the self-titled album I found myself thinking, ‘Ronnie Martin had something to do with this.’ How did you guys get hooked up with this ‘scene icon’ to work on your debut full-length?
M: It probably started back in the 90’s by just going to lots of shows around Ohio. We lived about an hour away from 3 of the bigger cities so it was easy to travel around and check out the bands that came through. Ronnie was very approachable at the shows we saw him at so I think that was how we first met him.
There was a community of people that developed, based around bands like Joy Electric, House of Wires/Travelogue, Norway, etc. and old electronic music gear. The community was very close online and you’d often run into them at shows around the midwest (people had no problem driving several hours to see a show). So I think the group was known by Ronnie. He also made himself really accessible online so you could ask him all kinds of questions about gear, his projects, other people’s projects, whatever.
He started doing some mixing for bands a while back and expressed an interest in Seaside.
7. Grand Tours is the best album I’ve listened to so far in 2017. There are so many enjoyable elements: I hear post-punk, synth pop, shoegaze, post-rock, dream pop, dark wave, electronic, some early-Cure like goth beats, and they’re all done really well. Is it a conscious effort to use all of these elements or it just a result of your natural musical tendencies?
C: Wow, thanks for such a nice compliment! I’d say that we tend to write relatively freely and unrestrained without strict guidelines/style parameters. I think that in this sort of free-spirited approach, you end up drawing from influences over the years whether intentionally or subconsciously. That being said, we do have an affinity for the usual suspects like New Order, Stereolab, and Ladytron, but also grew up listening to the Tooth and Nail Records catalog. Bands like Starflyer 59, Stavesacre, and Blenderhead were the soundtrack of the high school cassette deck. (and I love The Cure as well)
For Grand Tours, we were going for a darker, heavier electronic, “John Carpenter” feel. Since synth is primarily Morgan’s thing, I was deliberate in my choice of guitar tones and effects with the intent that nothing sound easily discernible as a typical clean guitar. This opened up a lot of creativity in tunings, effects, unconventional playing, etc. We also ended up building the songs a little differently for the bulk of the album, beginning in many cases with synth sequences first. This, while very challenging, provided some interesting parameters to focus on other elements that may have otherwise been overlooked.
8. What is your personal favorite song from Grand Tours?
C: Haha, well, that’s a really tough question, especially this far out from something that has become such commonplace to my ears after all of this time and tweaking. I think that “Blue Mass Patch” for me was the most natural flow writing wise. I really had to wrangle some of the others but this one just seemed to come together for the most part.
M: I think my favorite song off Grand Tours is probably The End of All Things. Out of all the times I’ve heard it hasn’t gotten old for me yet.
9. The lyrics are very deep and captivating. Who writes the lyrics and what tends to be the inspiration behind them?
C: Well thank you, that certainly means a lot to hear that. Hopefully without sounding too predictable or vague, simply stated, I tend to write directly from the things in life that I’m feeling and experiencing at the time. Writing songs is cathartic in that it is one of the few tangible ways for me to sort of capture a time and place, validate and earmark portions of ebb and flow of life. They remain as souvenirs, reminders, measurements, and so on. The particular span of the Grand Tours writing period encapsulates a pretty turbulent series of years in my own life which I like to characterize as a sort of rebirth, of hope being born out of ashes. I believe that sometimes in the darkest, most desperate places in life is when you have the most vivid sensory capacity to discern truth and where faith becomes more than simply an ascribed title or badge.
Morgan had the original vision for an album built around the NASA space probe program so in a somewhat allegorical way, the two themes align to make what is “Grand Tours”
M: Cara handles the actual writing of the lyrics, but as far as the album concept, I’ve always had a fascination with space from a very early age. Looking at the stars can really humble us if we allow it – how small we are, trying to comprehend how vast everything truly is, and how short a human lifetime is in comparison. There is so much out there we just don’t know. The Grand Tour Program was all about discovery and mankind’s search. Each craft was created with a meaning and a purpose, and was totally cutting edge for the day. Some of them were considered successful while others weren’t. Some are still operational but slowly dying; some broke very early. Time moves on and history is slowly forgotten. Thus, the idea for the album was mankind’s search in space but also the search within.
10. So, what does the future hold for the band? Have you started working on a follow-up to Grand Tours? Will you be playing any shows soon?
C: We have a show September 2nd here in Ohio and are planning to do more throughout the year. As for songs, we have a batch in the works, all in varying stages of life. Also, be on the look out for a single release soon.