Rollo & Grady Interview // Seth Kauffman of Floating Action

Rollo & Grady Interview // Seth Kauffman of Floating Action

Floating Action is the moniker of North Carolina native singer, songwriter and producer Seth Kauffman. His self-titled album is one of the few refreshingly unique albums of the year. And, for that matter, the past couple of years.

Kauffman infuses rock, country, dub, Bossa Nova, soul and folk cohesively without having his songs sound like a jumbled mess. There’s a method to his madness. When listening to the album you wouldn’t believe one guy is responsible for writing, performing, recording and producing the entire album, on which he plays drums, bass, sitar, guitar, violin and keyboards.

Rollo & Grady Interview // Seth Kauffman of Floating Action

R&G: Where are you right now?

Black Mountain, North Carolina.

R&G: So you’re done with your tour, or your mini-tour?

Seth: Yeah.

How was it?

Seth: It was great. We played D.C., Philly, New York City, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and then we did a Daytrotter session in Rock Island, Illinois. We played a gig there and then Indianapolis.

R&G: What’s the origin behind the Floating Action moniker?

Well, the newest record was going to be called that. I was just calling myself Seth Kauffman and then I realized Floating Action was a good name for a band. I’ve always wanted to have a band name instead of just my name. I decided to make the switch, so now the album’s self-titled.

Is that a fishing reference?

Seth: No. My bass drum pedal is an old ‘50s Gretsch. In the model description it’s called “floating action.” That’s where I got the name.

R&G: Is it true that you began violin lessons at the age of four?

Seth: Yeah.

R&G: Can you talk a little bit about your training on the violin?

Seth: It was called the Suzuki method. Have you ever heard of that?

R&G: I have not.

Seth: It’s a Japanese program based a lot on memorization and ear-training. My sisters and I both took that, and I took it all the way up until I was 15 or so.

R&G: When did you start experimenting with other instruments?

Seth: I picked up a guitar when I was 15. My mom had an old nylon string Kingston guitar that she had in the ‘60s when everybody wanted to be a folk musician.

R&G: Your musical styles and sounds range from Bossa Nova, to country, to Motown soul. A lot of your stuff is lo-fi and folk. Can you discuss your influences and how you came to incorporate them in your songs?

Seth: I just wanted to make something that’s good or interesting to me. There are too many records you hear that are basically the same beat for the whole record. To me, that’s not interesting. I love all that Bossa Nova stuff and Motown.

R&G: You have traveled to Jamaica, Africa and several other countries. How did the trips affect your musical style?

Seth: The Jamaica trip was a mission that I went on with this group of people. We were in the ghetto of Kingston and supposed to build church pews, but Jamaicans are really laid-back and the supplies never got there, so we basically just hung out all week. In 1999 I went to Africa by myself and visited some missionaries in Angola.

R&G: On your recent album, you wrote, performed, produced and recorded every part of it. Can you tell me about your do-it-yourself approach to music?

Seth: Yeah, I guess every time I’ve recorded with bands it sounds like a band. But, I think I have kind of a weird, bad style of playing that seems to, I don’t know. I have a vision of the way I want stuff to sound and it has a weird way of coming out the way I want it if I do it all myself.

R&G: Tell me about the process.

Seth: Maybe there’s a fearlessness about it. But, when I get with other people I start going with first takes and weird ideas that somebody else might think are stupid. I can just do it myself and not waste any time arguing about whether or not it’s going to work.

R&G: You produced for Courtney Jaye. Is that the first record you produced for someone else?

Seth: Yes.

R&G: How was that experience? What are the primary differences between producing yourself and producing someone else?

Seth: It went pretty well because she heard my record Research and wanted to try to get that sound, which meant me doing my thing. She definitely had a lot of input, so when she wanted something there were a few compromises. It worked pretty well.

Is producing for other artists a path you want to pursue in the future?

Seth: Yeah, it’s pretty fun. I guess I would have to be strict on who I’d work with because some people aren’t willing to go the distance. There is some pretty crazy, fearless stuff that goes on that people aren’t comfortable with.

R&G: Would you only work with artists who are completely open to your vision?

Yeah, pretty much. A couple of other people wanted me to produce for them and I’ve done a couple little things that we’re still working on. But, usually they’re like, ‘Oh, I want that sound,’ but they don’t always understand what’s involved in getting that sound.

When they want your sound, are you performing with them or instructing them how to meet your vision?

That’s another kind of hang-up because basically that sound is when I do it all.

Download :
Floating Action – Floating Action [Park The Van Records] (iTunes)
Seth Kauffman – Research (iTunes)

MP3: Floating Action – To Connect
MP3: Floating Action – Absolute Sway
MP3: Seth Kauffman – Summertime Bossa Nova

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