Jay Seals from the band Blue Turtle Seduction: Emerging Triumphant
What does a band have to do to retain longevity and staying power in the music business in order to be successful and well known? It seems like only a handful of the lucky ones ever make it.
Case in point: For ten years, the band Blue Turtle Seduction had made a name for themselves; they played close to 200 shows a year and developed a following that kept the band alive. The guys had a sound that attracted fans at every stop and were responsible for memorable sets at The High Sierra Music Festival and Las Tortugas Dance of the Dead. Their tour bus was unmistakable, their live performance high-energy and their reputation solid. But then one day BTS decided to call it quits leaving their fans mystified about the break up and proving once again that bands are not immune from the failures of success.
Whatever the reason, Jay Seals has emerged from the ashes and has become a professional musician on the west coast. Whether it’s dabbling in side projects, running the open mic at Las Tortugas or playing reunion shows for Blue Turtle, Jay Seals is well known and respected in the community. He is honest, passionate and serious about delivering a top notch performance every time. It’s no wonder that he gets asked to sit in with other acts and also has a clear vision about what he wants to do and where he wants to go.
Jay has a new band forming called The HydroDyamics and he’s testing the waters for it to be a viable, touring act in the industry. At this year’s Las Tortugas Music Festival, Jay and the band played a long set in the Tavern and fans got a taste of the group’s sound and repertoire. Although, I must say that it was hard for me to place the band into a specific genre; but then again that’s what a jam band is best known for. Despite game four of the World Series being played on the bar television, the band belted out a professional and polished set to a packed audience who loved and appreciated the music as a soundtrack to the game.
Accompanying Jay in the Dynamics is Shara Martin and Cassandra Osbourne on lead vocals and filling in from time to time is Eli Jebidiah from Poor Man’s Whiskey on bass and Adam Navone from Blue Turtle on drums. On guitar and shredding with his instrument is Andrew Harris, a newcomer in the scene who wowed audiences this year at Yosemite. At age twenty-three, Andrew is ahead of his time, a kid at heart and eager to do whatever it takes to be a part of the community. Based in northern California, Andrew is coming up in the ranks playing with his full time band Blue Street Junction. A graduate of Humboldt State University, Andrew has his degree in music and also plays the Tenor Sax.
Out front it’s no mystery that the band’s sound is driven by Shara and Cassandra, a direction that resembles Mazzy Star and Stevie Nicks. Both singers complement the other and capture the crowd with their passion and sensitivity. I am eager to see them grow into accomplished musicians in the coming years. Overall, I hear a sound from the early eighties but one that also wants to be modern and Indie based. The songs have complex storylines and a clear theme throughout every one.
Smiley Dan and I caught up with Jay Seals, Shara Martin and Cassandra Osbourne in Cabin 17 to discuss the history of the Las Tortugas festival, Jay’s new project and plans for the coming year. We found out that Jay wants more than anything to be playing again with a group that supports his vision. He just might have a band that is ready for the next step and Jay is certainly eager to make it happen.
First off, congratulations on a great run. You are not a newcomer to this festival and you have been around with Blue Turtle Seduction since the beginning. What comes to mind looking back on the high moments, great memories and fun times you have shared here?
Looking back on it, the very first Tortugas where it was just us and a couple bands sticks out in my mind as a great memory. There wasn’t a big top tent, it was just the hall and the tavern and we did the main show. Jenn Ammenti made a great backdrop with a skeleton turtle that actually was still hanging up this year. It was really cool to see it all come together. We did a boxing introduction where Shawn Dolan had a microphone in the middle of the room. We all came in wearing bathrobes as professional boxers and did Eye of the Tiger to open it up. Three years ago, we had met the Poor Man’s Whiskey guys and became friends with Eli and Josh. I then got on the phone with Shawn and asked if he could get them to the festival to entertain all weekend. He agreed and they showed up in these green Mariachi outfits at the beginning of the festival and had nowhere to stay; they also didn’t bring much with them besides their costumes. They proceeded to play acoustically at random spots around the grounds. They killed it and never got out of their costumes all weekend. They slept in them, were hilarious with their skits and creativity which added to the memories. Blue Turtle had played so many great shows already here at the Evergreen lodge so it made sense when Tortugas first started.
Speaking of great shows, see if you can reach way back and think about some great shows of BTS?
There aren’t a lot of venues in the Sierra’s so we had to hussle and make our own gigs. The Tioga Gas Mart was off the hook, something we put together there. One time we had 1000 people for this free show on a Thursday in the middle of nowhere off of HWY 120. It was so under the radar and people came out of the woodwork. Every time we did UC Santa Barbara it was through the roof. High Sierra when we did the Vaudville Tent was incredible. Oklahoma believe it or not was amazing; we played Norman and Stillwater. People came out and were so happy we were there. Arcata, San Francisco at the Independent. There are way too many to list.
What about other bands in those early years at Tortugas?
Shawn was really smart and knew what he was doing; the first one was not considered a festival. The first one was all about branding a name, like a glorified show; “Blue Turtle with supporting acts” I think it was called. This is my sixth Halloween here in Yosemite because Hot Buttered Rum had The Meltdown right before Tortugas started. They did it one time and then Shawn took over.
Were there always late night sets, when did that start?
Not the first year but after that one Shawn said “we are going big” and brought up the bay area bands. The musicians would say “we have to go on at what time”. Blue Turtle has played all four nights for some of the festivals, which was a challenge to split up the material.
You had a great set in the Tavern this weekend with the new band. There was a great crowd and it was well received. Did you feel that? What were your thoughts after the set?
I felt it was great because I didn’t know when we would be playing again, I just tried to enjoy it as much as possible. I knew there would be great moments as well as in The Blue Turtle set. I just tried to concentrate and enjoy when things were really firing. So, I had a great time.
How did The HydroDynamics come together?
I was writing songs last year and relieved that Blue Turtle was finished so I could concentrate on other things. I started pumping out these songs that I couldn’t do previously. Then a series of events started happening: Shara my girlfriend and I were living together, we started singing them together and she started helping me with some of the melodies. I started doing open mic’s or what I termed ‘open guests’ at our local venue The Divided Sky in South Lake. Mark Hoffmeister who is here with us tonight and part of my crew is also the boyfriend of Cassandra our singer. He told me about her and she ended up hitting it off with us. I told her about the project for The Dynamics and she seemed into it. It was originally a recording idea. And then we met Andrew Harris who lives up in Arcata at a show we did with his band. I knew he had talent and kept his name for when we were ready to move ahead with the project. He’s young, hungry and he shreds. I spent every minute putting this demo together with Garage Band on the Mac using sample drums for the songs. All of a sudden, people started noticing our sound and felt like it was worthy of something. It was just for fun but it really was good. For Tortugas, I started recruiting bass and drums for this weekend and booked two shows at The Divided Sky for rehearsal. Eli and Adam joined us last week and it turned out really well.
What type of band does The HydroDynamics want to be? Do you want to record and tour?
We are pretty open but coming off the Blue Turtle experience, we have to be realistic about our goals. I was waiting to see how this weekend went and then decide how to go from here. It did cross my mind that I might not be into it live. It was the exact opposite; I wanted to do it again. The rhythm section could change depending on the players, but the lead section is spread out all over northern California. Yes, we want to record and tour but I want to do it the right way. I like to think I am a little smarter this time around and want to take it slowly.
For those fans who haven’t seen your show, describe the sound, what’s the theory behind it all.
We are song oriented, like modern day Fleetwood Mac with a contemporary beat. Even though you might not get that, some say “Mamma’s and the Pappa’s meets the eighties”. We want to emphasize that there are two female vocalists and one male vocalist. Fleetwood Mac was also a song oriented group and that puts some kind of vision to what we want to do. People are definitely developing their own interpretation saying, “Oh I kind of thought The Cranberries”. We are getting that feedback too so it’s still evolving. It’s original and the sound may not have its genre but that could be a good thing.
Are you guys thinking about the coming year in 2011?
I was really waiting for Tortugas to be done. This is like the womb, or the beginning. There’s such a listening post here at the festival, I am looking forward to seeing what people say. I am hoping someone says, “I have an idea”. I would love to see other people recommend idea’s and run with it.
Will you have the pleasure of keeping Andrew Harris around?
I will try to do my best, he is certainly down for it. No matter what, we are not going to be gigging a lot and will look at special occasion shows. This New Years Eve we’ll do a show at The Great Basin Brewery in Sparks near Reno. We’ll be sharing the night with Whitney Meyer who does a soul, funk type of thing with her family as a backing band.
What about the crowds, what’s your take on the fans, watching them grow, getting into the spirit with costumes and seeing the community get bigger.
I really felt this year the crowd made it as their own festival which is awesome. In the beginning the crowd was definitely enthusiastic and it wasn’t lacking. People were glad to be in this bubble with the lodge, out in the woods, with the cabins and all this music going on. A couple years ago was an intense year and also challenging when people showed up just to cause trouble; it was really cold and it poured all weekend. So every festival has to go through growing pains but that year the crowd defied the odds throughout the weekend; it could have been a downer but everyone made the most of it. Some said that it was the best weekend of their entire life. That is testimony to them for having the strength and will to make it a great weekend. So, they own it like their own festival definitely.
Jay, tell us about your influences. What music have you been into over the years?
I am an alternative rock and hip hop person who likes Outkast and every grunge band out there. I am into all the nineties bands as well as The Muse and Mumford & Sons.
You guys have a new demo out with the HydroDynamics, there’s a facebook page and you are looking to book some shows over the holidays.
We’re in the honeymoon stage and it feels great; we are definitely going through that and feeling the energy of a new thing. We are trying to bring something different to the scene. Yes, fans should keep checking the facebook page for updates until we can get a website up and running.
Well, you should know that your two vocals shine out front and that is really unique and new for this genre. It is refreshing and good to hear. Dan and I wish you a lot of luck in the coming year. Let us know the response, keep in touch.
Thanks guys, we’ll see you out there.
For more of The HydroDynamics check out: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Hydrodynamics/122659747791741