Out today via Birds Robe is ‘Four’, the new album from Australian math-rock/post-rock band Seims. The brainchild essentially of Simeon Bartholomew, the band have become evermore experimental and formidable over the course of their career, with recent albums ‘3’ and ‘3.1’ being lauded over internet land and beyond.
Upon the release of ‘Four’, we spoke to Simeon, who gave us the lowdown on an album that spans almost lullaby like piano and string writing of the opening, to complex polyrhythmic post/math-rock right through to almost funk inspired moments of metal. It shows a breadth of ideas and ambition that makes it an album to sit down and spend time with.
So pull up a chair, open your mind, take a listen and see the stories behind the record.
I’ve always loved writing concept albums and after exploring the colour spectrum and its contributions and interactions with itself, it made me think about a similar idea in the verbal medium. FOUR was initially inspired by the Myer Briggs indicator of personalities. I always found it fascinating how words on paper can change inference, intent, or perspective purely by someone’s speaking tone and demeanour, and also how it can be received or perceived based on your personality, context, and cognisance.
The Mountain’s Lullaby
This was an accidental song that, at the time, didn’t mean anything. Once we had our daughter (Montagne), this was actually the song that helped ease her to sleep. Turns out she must’ve heard a lot of this album being written via the womb’s wall! Note: whenever I did play it for her, I didn’t play the sinister ending…
The Pursuit of Intermediate Happiness
This song is exactly the intent of its title. Finding and then holding onto a moment in time that is pure elation, only to hold onto it for a brief enough period to watch it dissipate through your hands. The fleeting bass VI turnaround riff in Theme A later comes back in “Stranded. Isolated.”, bigger and darker.
Showdown Without A Victim
The song is about arguing with no outcome. Two voices trying to battle it out to be heard because they think they’re right. Turns out in Theme D, they realise they’re both wrong, and they don’t know what’s right – you can hear the passing over of the dialogue from the fuzzy bass to the dire flugelhorn. The outro of the song is all about these two voices having no power to their words. Their opinions are moot and their argument never resolves. To make sure this song felt intense the entire time, Theme A is in 5/8 and Theme B in 11/8. Even the outro Theme E is in 11/4. The song never resolves.
Shouting At A Brick Wall
We’ve all been there. Feeling like you’re actually yelling at someone that you can never get through to – not because they’re not listening, but because they can’t conceive what you’re saying. The mix of this tune is intentionally so dense that the violin really has to fight to get heard. In the 2nd passing of Theme B, Kat’s solo starts to break through, but still buried under every other thought happening. The intro was initially an idea for another song that got axed. I don’t remember how the rest of it sounded. That’s why it got axed.
I knew this would never be a single, but I always visualised this as a combination sci-fi story of Gravity meets Raised By Wolves. Being alone with your happy thoughts and letting yourself drift in space, only to be found out that those “happy” thoughts are received completely differently the moment you’re out of your bubble. We tracked and layered two sets of drums for Theme A to really feel that thunderous pulse. Theme D was originally supposed to be played on a resonator acoustic guitar, but the bass VI just had an extra layer of body that made it sound so much desperate.
Elegance Over Confidence
I wrote this song in 3 hours and never thought more of it. I knew the role it had to play on the album, and never gave it any effort beyond emailing the charts to the band and apologising to everyone for having to play a dumb riff 14/8. The story is simple – showing how complex our music can be presented in an easy-to-digest form. Turns out this was one of those songs that really dialled up the moment it touched the gang playing it. Chris (drummer) called it immediately that this would be the first single. I told him he was dreaming. “It’s a filler track!” I was wrong. This was the one everybody loved.
Make what you want of the lyrics for this song. It can be about doubt. It can be about not knowing when to stop. The true inspiration was not knowing when to speak up on a Zoom meeting. We recorded the violin solo first so I could play around Susie’s epic shred. We then recorded roughly 20 takes for the mega-guitar solo at the end of the tune with a plan to comp together the perfect solo. It all sounded contrived and shit because I was getting more comfortable with shredding on that song, and ‘perfect’ wasn’t what that movement needed. We went with the first take in the end.
Nuance Lost In Translation
With every passing of Theme A, there’s a subtle key change when the next instrument enters. Theme B always sits in E to ground it and make you feel like nothing has changed; but Theme B returns again in another key, subtly shifting the implication of its intent. The harp solo in this tune is one of my favourite moments on the album. Victor Valdes is Australia’s leading concert harpist and plays for a lot of incredible acts. I was lucky enough to film him for a tvc campaign back in 2012 and he made such an impression on me, that I booked him 7 years later to perform at my wedding ceremony (it was the Jurassic Park theme song… because we got married in a dinosaur museum!) A year later, I send him the demo for this with a bit of a “hey so I make weird music and here’s my album and would you be interested if not that’s cool”, and he’s straight up “I’m in.” Sidenote if any Producers from HBO / Netflix are reading this and need a new title theme for a new Scandinavian crime drama, this song would be perfect JUST SAYING.
A passing moment of imperfection. When Alex mixed this tune, my brief to him was ‘leave all the shit in.” I wanted to hear the room. My poor thumb-picking technique. Chris’ unprepared percussion (we improv’d it on the spot.) The click track coming through the cans. It needed to feel intentionally rough. It’s all about saying something sweet without really saying it the best way you could.
The Mountain’s Scream
A tie-back to the opening lullaby’s melody, with a slight inversion on the chord progression (and a lot more fucking distortion haha!) This once again ties back to the inspiration of my daughter, but more acutely – the intent and nature of a baby’s scream. It’s their only form of communication. Hungry. Scared. Cold. Frustrated. Uncomfortable. Angry. Not happy with sitting in their own poop. One ‘word’ that says a range of emotion with one key constant – it’s always said loudly.