“There is good talent here, as good as there is at any other school. When more people start realizing that, that’s when bands and the art scene here are going to thrive.”
The Cabaret Room was captured in sudden quiet as an anxious audience waited on the last of three names. Some of the more devoted fans—several dressed in band apparel—could be seen mouthing names to fill the silence, while others stared blankly. Still others had already begun packing up and filing out of the doors quickly, eager to move on to Friday plans.
The silence broke: the winner was Seaver’s Express. The announcement effectively drew the preliminary round of Battle of the Bands to a close. Sean Seaver, founder of Seaver’s Expess and A&S ’16, was emotionally torn. Earlier that week, he and his longtime musical confidante William Bolton, CSOM ’16, had created a Facebook event together to draw support at the event for Seaver’s Express and Times New Roman, Bolton’s act. Seaver’s Express advanced, while Times New Roman, along with a handful of other talented acts, did not.
For the recently reshaped Seaver’s Express, which officially switched out its lead singer just a month earlier, this was a moment of validation and surprise. Recently gigging at greater Boston venues like Middle East and Cantab, the band was happy to be back at Boston College, a place its members consider home.
The irony of the situation, however, is that following fall 2013’s departure of lead singer Jacob Monk, CSOM ’16, the individual members of the band are now mostly from the Berklee College of Music. Adding two new members to the band—Sean’s 22-year-old brother Brian Seaver, who recently graduated from Berklee, and Zoe Ainsburg, who currently attends Berklee—Seaver’s Express had a chance at an entirely new start, and yet, it kept with BC, and it kept with the name Seaver’s Express.
“I guess the only place that it’s not impressive to be a musician at the Berklee School of Music is at Berklee,” Sean joked with Chris Southiere, the band’s drummer and a longtime friend to Sean who also attends Berklee.
The two had met growing up in Cumberland, R.I. together, and they first began performing together in high school—initially under the joke band title Chris and the Pussycats, and later as Through The Wall. Coming to BC, Sean had planned to scale down his work as a guitarist, and he only began to consider performing at the University after meeting Bolton, who was a floormate in Hardey Hall on Newton Campus. Bolton, a Detroit native and Motown enthusiast, would show his work to Sean, and in time, they began trading ideas. This inspired Sean to begin performing at BC.
That spring, Sean and Southiere played at a University music event under the name Through the Wall. Joined by Monk, their act grew into Seaver’s Express in the fall of 2013, and with the new identity came the release of the Parachute EP, the band’s initial expose. “Recording that EP taught me that I wanted to do more live sounds,” Sean said. “Parachute was just me playing instruments into my computer, with Chris and Jake singing over that.”
Leaving the band to refocus on academics, Monk’s departure November 2013 left a pressing vacancy. “The obvious solution after Jake left was my brother Brian,” Sean said, “He has a great voice, and it just seemed like everything was lining up for him to join the band.”
Last spring, following a first-round win at BC’s Battle of the Bands, Seaver’s Express released “A Different Gravity,” its first single with Brian as lead singer. “We don’t really feel the same way we did before,” Sean said. “It kind of sucks, but at the same time, it’s exciting because there’s really no precedent of where we have to go from here.”
The new additions to Seaver’s Express meant that less of the songwriting responsibilities would fall on Sean, who wrote all five tracks of Parachute by himself. “It’s more collaborative,” he said.
With so much change in the band’s dynamic, Sean and the rest of the group considered switching around the name, but the members ultimately decided against replacing it, since it had already garnered a fan base as Seaver’s Express. “The name kind of brings a sense of community that I think we have as a group,” Sean said. “It feels welcoming to me. I was happy to stick with it.”
Now that there are two “Seavers” in the band, though, Sean mentioned the possibility of removing the apostrophe in the name, making it plural, rather than possessive. “But then whose ‘Express’ is it?” Southiere joked. “It could be anyone’s.”
It’s these little questions, apostrophe or no apostrophe, that have come to characterize the transition. In spite of all these internal changes, the band has unquestioningly kept BC as its home.
“We practice at Berklee, but I still feel like we’re from here,” Sean said. “I still feel like we’re based out of BC.”
The band has found the BC community far more welcoming, and generally excited by the idea of the band. Leaving for a concert, traveling down the Walsh elevator, the five members of the band will frequently get asked about their instruments. At Berklee, no one questions groups carrying instruments around. “Because it’s 100 percent music there, it’s a lot harder to stand out,” Sean said.
The band has found its identity quickly cemented in BC’s relatively small live band scene. Beyond the band’s immediate success at BC, though, Sean sees an opportunity with Seaver’s Express to broaden the opportunities for future generations of artists at the University.
“For us, we would rather help build the scene than try to fit into a preexisting one,” Sean said. “Here, I feel like acts like us, Bobnoxious, Juice, and Times New Roman are helping to grow the scene. I guess the opportunity is open-for the next two-and-a-half years that we have here-to leave our mark on BC art.”
Comparing Berklee’s expansive practice spaces and recording studios to BC’s limited piano spaces on the top floor of Lyons, Sean holds that improving BC’s music resources is an integral part of expanding the art scene on campus. “You kind of have to expect that when you come to BC, but at the same time, I didn’t expect it to be this under-the-radar,” he said. “I feel like arts, and music, and just the bands in general can get more representation.”
Bands at BC are put into a strange situation—at once, they are limited in resources and inundated with opportunities. “While the scene here isn’t as strong as it could be, there are some cool opportunities—like being able to open for Modstock,” Sean said. “That’s a cool opportunity. I don’t think Berklee has anything like that.”
During the Monk era, Seaver’s Express used to do far more with hip-hop covers, performing “B—h, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “No Church In The Wild” at a Music Guild event last year. When considering the chance of opening at Modstock, Sean and Southiere are hoping to get back to these hip-hop covers.
“I’d like to open for a rapper because that’s how we’d reach an audience we never reached before,” Sean said. “It’d be nice to be exposed to that.”
In the long run, Sean and Southiere believe that to become respected for its bands the same way Berklee is, BC will need the proverbial Passion Pit—an act that came out of Berklee years ago. “It’s going to take an artist to gain national exposure for people to take a look at what’s happening around here,” Sean said. “While that sounds like a shot in the dark, I think the artists here have the ability to do that.”
For now, it’s a different gravity for bands like Seaver’s Express, at once flourishing within BC’s tightly knit band scene, while also recognizing the obvious limitations of it. “There is good talent here, as good as there is at any other school,” Sean said. “When more people start realizing that, that’s when bands and the art scene here are going to thrive. Because we have the talent, the exposure and the audience are going to be there eventually. We just need to put the work in.”
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor
This story was a collaboration between John Wiley, Arts & Review Editor, and Ariana Igneri, Assoc. Arts & Review Editor.