Birmingham's Seeland are more familiar than you'd think. Formed in 2004 after the demise of playtronica darlings Plone and the dissection of pop experimentalists Broadcast, the duo of Mark "Billy" Bainbridge and Tim Felton took their love for vintage electronics and art-damaged pop music to the next level. Borrowing a name from a song by Krautrock legends Neu!, Seeland took their time over the last few years, releasing a couple of EPs on Stereolab's Duophonic imprint, while honing an album that took some shopping around to secure a release. Eventually the newly formed LOAF came to its senses and signed on to release the band's brilliant new album, Tomorrow Today. Felton fielded some questions for Exclaim!, filling us in about how they came together, discovered their sound and weren't afraid to consider their previous bands in order to build Seeland.
Can you each tell me what happened with Broadcast and Plone?
Tim: I left Broadcast (after touring Ha Ha Sound) during the recording of Tender Buttons. I was writing more and more and there wasn't room for this and after seven or eight years together our relationships had gone so far it seemed the best way to change things was to leave. We are still friends though and never fell out.
Plone delivered their second album to Warp just as Rob Mitchell became ill and died. It was a great blow to Warp and everyone who knew him. Warp declined to put the LP out and Plone basically ran out of steam, with the members not deciding to split but just do different things. Billy: [The second album] is a selection of around 18 or 19 songs. We had planned to choose maybe 12 of these for the album. There are also a few others that have never been leaked. We approached maybe two labels after being dropped by Warp and that was it. A few labels have expressed interest over the years but it has never seemed right for various reasons. A few CDs of the songs were sent to people (pre-downloading days) and this is how they have been leaked. It may come out one day if the situation is right (possibly remixed/remastered). Does it bother you that all of the press so far has focused so heavily on your previous bands?
Tim: We are proud of our work in our previous bands and I guess it helps people to understand Seeland if they have some reference or history to make sense of it. If it exposes more people to Seeland then fine. I think our music stands up for itself.
The two of you toured together and had bands both signed to Warp. How exactly did Seeland start?
In the mid-to late '90s, both bands lived in the same district and would play shows together, borrow equipment, share records, hang out, etc. The fact that both bands later signed to Warp is just a detail. After Plone stopped Billy played keyboards for Broadcast on the tour of Ha Ha Sound. When I later left Broadcast it seemed natural for Billy and I to work together as we shared similar tastes and were both refugees.
How did the music develop?
We both had music already written when we started. We shared these and found we could work together, providing each other with aspects we lacked. It was very natural.
Did you take anything from your previous bands - either consciously or subconsciously (looking back on it now) - or perhaps other influences when you started making the music?
You can not deny the past and we both had our equipment from before so in some respect there is a direct link to the previous bands. Some of the guitars, keyboards, etc, you hear on our album you can hear on older Plone or Broadcast records. Of course, there are different influences as well.
The name is taken from a Neu! song. Did that band have any profound influence on you guys? I can hear some traces of them on occasion.
We both listened a lot to German music, specifically the work of Conny Plank, who created so many great records. His attention to sound can be compared to that of Joe Meek, Brian Wilson, Lee Perry, etc. Basically you can spot people who love sound and make it there own. The simplicity and beauty of Neu! is great but it was never a holy grail for us, just something that was always there.
You guys first started Seeland back in 2004. I know you released some material on Duophonic, but what took you so long to put out a full-length?
Well I had to find a job so it was never full time. Also finding a record label to put it out was a struggle, the LP has been ready for some time. Labels would offer to put it out then disappear. Kinda depressing. We have enough material to do another album right now plus the previously released stuff would make another LP so we are ready and willing.
The music sounds crammed full of instruments and layers. Was there an "everything and the kitchen sink" attitude when you were arranging the songs?
Ha ha, this relates to the previous answer. Because we were sitting on the LP for so long the temptation to tinker is great and in fact we removed a few kitchen sinks. We ended up with so many versions of songs that the decision process became tricky. We could do a "directors cut" version of the LP at twice the length.
I'd say that this is easily the most accessible music either of you have made. Was giving establishing a friendly pop sound important to you or just what came out of the partnership?
Thank you. What we both love about music is melody and sound (surprise!) and so it was very natural. The pop form I think is something everyone fall's in love with at some point.
Are there plans to tour Seeland?
We really want to tour so when the offer comes in we will be there.