Sweet and Dour: Ann Arbor's Seaholm mixes pop-punk with dark lyrics on "It's Raining Outside"
If there was any doubt that a good pop-punk/power pop band can still cut through the musical clutter and make a powerful statement, Ann Arbor-based Seaholm proves it with style.
For example, check out “Cough Syrup,” a terrific single and video from the band’s new album, It’s Raining Outside. In just 2:11, the band offers a tremendous burst of musical energy, memorable visuals, and an earworm (“Can you please tell me what’s going on?”) that will stick with you for days.
It’s Raining Outside is a short, sharp album that displays the band’s talent for combining dynamic musicianship with thoughtful lyrics. On “Weatherman,” the album’s keystone, they sing: “What’s the weather like today? / I want the rain to wash me away / Cleanse me of my guilt and take me home / Say goodbye to the life that I’ve always known.”
Although an earlier lineup did some recordings, It’s Raining Outside fully introduces the current band, which consists of Pat Ray on guitar and vocals, Austin Stawowczyk on bass and vocals, and Kris Herrmann on drums and vocals.
Ray answered a few questions about Seaholm's history and new album via email.
Q: Is the band named after Seaholm High School in Birmingham? And if not that, where did the name come from?
A: Hilariously enough, the band is not named after the high school that’s so close to where we all grew up. A while back, the original bassist of Seaholm, Connor Holm, was spending a summer on the other side of the country. We had been toying with changing the name for a while—we were called Boyscouts, and the Boy Scouts of America didn’t seem like a group who would enjoy us profiting off their name/ likeness. Our friend Hamna suggested naming the band Seaholm after Connor, and we thought it’d be a funny way to include him while he was away.
Q: Where are the three of you from originally, and where do you live now?
A: All of us grew up in the metro Detroit area and have never been able to leave the Mitten. I grew up in Livonia/Northville before going to school in Ann Arbor, the area I've lived in for a while. Kris grew up in Clinton Township and is now in Livonia, and Austin lives back in the Downriver area they grew up in after a few years of moving and traveling.
Q: The three of you sound great and very natural together, yet you mentioned in your interview with New Noise Magazine that Kris and Austin actually started out as fans of the band. How did they transition to being band members?
A: I have had the pleasure of working with many talented and awesome musicians. Kris and Austin essentially started off as hired guns. In 2019, Austin and I were planning a tour for both of our projects—mine being Seaholm, Austin’s being a band called Great Expectations. Austin agreed to play bass and I had a friend lined up to play drums, but after a personal issue came up I found myself two weeks from tour with no drummer. I called Austin in a panic and I’ll never forget how calmly they said they knew a guy who could help out. Enter Kris, who nailed the songs within his first practice. After one of the most fun and rewarding tours I’ve been on, the group just felt like a natural cohesive unit, and as we worked on writing new music and recording the dynamics shifted from “hired guns” to what we call “threeholm.”
Q: When did you decide to record a full album with the new lineup?
A: I have always envisioned some sort of full-length release for these songs, but the “vision” for the album changed so much over the years that it was becoming a creative project with no end in sight. Thankfully Kris and Austin helped reel me in and work through the songs enough to a point where we felt they were “finished.” When the pandemic hit, shows stopped and we had a lot more free time. So we made it a goal to finally get into the studio with these songs. From there it all came together at Eureka Records with Tyler Floyd helping engineer, produce, and mix the album.
Q: How did you cope with the challenges created by the pandemic?
A: COVID definitely took away the live performance aspect for a while, which was quite a mental roadblock to get over as a band that prides itself on fun live performances. However, in hindsight the step back from performing allowed us to really flesh out the songs we had been playing for a while and write some new ones. And the work we put into recording made it very easy for us to fall back into the flow of live performances once shows began happening again.
Q: You’ve really mastered the art of pairing some pretty serious, even dark, lyrics to irresistible, upbeat music. Is that something you set out consciously to do, or is that just the natural way your music evolves?
A: It’s funny, it started off as a natural thing but it did grow into a more conscious effort as I got older. I remember my friend hearing one of the first songs I wrote in my first band at age 14—it was called “Sigh,” super edgy, I know—and he was the first to point that habit out to me. A lot of the lyrics/musical parts we use just sort of come natural to us, but there is a bit of conscious pairing of ideas if we feel like there’s an interesting juxtaposition. Our song “Cough Syrup” is a pretty good example of that—an upbeat instrumental being propelled by lyrics that are easy to sing along to, but thematically the lyrics are about recognizing toxic relationships.
Q: I understand that the songs on the album are a mix of older and newer. What’s the oldest one on the album, and what about it has made it stick with you for a while?
A: It’s definitely been a creative project years in the making. “Twenty Three” is the oldest song on there, although the version that the world knows is so different from the original demo I recorded in my bedroom at age 17. I always sort of had a soft spot for that demo, even if the lyrics were complete crap. The new title “Twenty Three” came later after a lyrical rewrite and reworking the song structure, but ironically it has a similar theme about feeling stagnant in life. I’m sure 17-year-old Pat would like the current iteration of this song a lot more.
Q: Do you have a favorite song on the album, and if so, what makes it so?
A: All of us could give a different answer to this question depending on how we’re feeling that day. Mine is probably “All Work and No Play Makes Jack A Fuckboi,” mainly since the spoken-word part about wrestling always gets an interesting reaction from the crowd. Kris really loves “Weatherman” mainly because it’s such a good medium of everything we are capable of capturing in a song. Austin’s would be “Weatherman” as well but lately they have been liking “Care” a lot because at almost every show they try to throw a different “bit” at the very end of the song. For example, Austin would start singing “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC or “Purple Rain” by Prince. We can always expect something different every time.
Q: The whole album is strong, but “Weatherman” is indeed a particular standout. Is there a story behind it.
A: “Weatherman” felt like a demo trapped in purgatory for so long. There were always ideas in there that we liked, but it never felt like a cohesive song. Part of the reason it’s so special to us is because it’s one of the first songs we sat down and completely worked through as a three-piece. We played it what felt like 1,000 times at the beginning of quarantine and we got more and more confident with the structure. The song thematically is about overcoming mental illness you feel like you have no control over, sort of how we can’t control the weather. The good ideas finally came together with new lyrics in a way that has really seemed to resonate with people.
Q: The cover art for the album is fantastic. Who gets the credit for that?
A: The cover art was done by the extremely talented Liam Rush. Kris ended up reaching out and working with him on the energy and art direction. Then from there Liam just ran with it and we fully trusted his vision from there on.
Q: You’ve been playing some live shows lately around the Detroit area. How has the crowd response been?
A: Like I mentioned earlier, we’re a band that prides itself on fun, energetic live performances. So to be able to do this again after COVID brought everything to a halt has brought a new energy to shows. And we’ve felt this both on stage, and from the crowd. There have been so many kind, supportive, and passionate folks going out to shows, and their support is a huge reason we enjoy doing this.
Q: On social media you teased the possibility of a tour coming up. Can you share anything about that?
A: It is true. We are doing a weeklong tour November 7-13 around the Midwest and a little bit of the East Coast with New York band Innerlove. It will be our first tour since the album has been released, and we may or may not have It’s Raining Outside vinyl available.
Q: Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to mention?
A: Besides the tour in November, we’re always excited for our Metro Detroit shows—our social media platforms are a great way to see what we’re up to. Besides that, we’re already working on a follow-up release. We won’t share too much, but Seaholmerica is going to change the world. Besides that, Kris and Austin perform in the always-talented Shortly, and Kris will be playing drums for Hala this fall on a Europe tour. Austin meanwhile records many talented artists out of their studio in Wyandotte, Eureka Records. Check any of those projects to see what we’re doing outside of Seaholm!
Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.