Photo: Dillon Donovan
Seth Sutton may not have exactly settled down but at least he’s not living in his van anymore. The prolific and self taught musician has lived in a number of places in his short life including Germany, Nashville, Toronto and Memphis where he started Useless Eaters in his bedroom in 2008. It was also in Memphis where a young Sutton met Jay Reatard who took Useless Eaters out on tour and pressed one of their many singles. Reatard is also a noticeable influence on Suttons’ fast and frantic work ethic and style that takes traces of garage rock, Wire and Devo and thrashes it around like it’s being mixed in a cocktail shaker without a lid.
Now based in San Francisco, Sutton has a new warehouse spot, rehearsal space, band mates and an upcoming record on local label Castle Face. Things are still frantic and loud on Bleeding Moon but it seems like Seth and Useless Eaters are also trying out some newer sounds amidst the punk rock spit and speed.
Noisey: Did you move to San Francisco because it’s where Crime are from? I imagine it would be a lot more expensive to live compared to Tennessee.
Seth Sutton: Crime is great but I came here on a whim. I was getting evicted from my house in Nashville and had made plans to move out of the state. Two friends from Melbourne were traveling the US and I agreed to drive them around. Two months later we ended up in California where they were flying back to Australia out of LA. I knew people in the Bay Area and already had all of my belongings with me, so I said fuck it and drove up. I crashed with friends until I got a sublet in Oakland for a couple months. I then lived in my van for another couple months trying to find a place to live. I finally landed a warehouse spot in SF. I pay more money than I ever did for a room in Memphis, but my rent is comparatively cheaper than a lot of other people in the city. Also, where the band rehearses and records is five steps from my room, so I consider myself extremely lucky.
Living in various places must influence your songwriting. Does it make it easier or more difficult?
In some ways it’s easier and in others it’s more difficult. In Memphis I was 17 turning 18 and was feeling the most creative and inspired. There weren't a lot of people playing in bands but everyone that did had good taste. My best friend Chris Shaw (from Ex-Cult) and I would be at the Goner constantly and those guys would recommend us the best records. We eventually started hanging out with Jay Reatard and he opened our eyes to a lot of shit. I moved to Toronto in 2010 and lived there for a year. This was also a creative period because it was my first time I remember living outside the country and in a "real" city so this was stimulating. I hit my first real block living in Nashville. I had some great times but ultimately wasn't happy being there and it affected my writing greatly. Living in SF has improved the music tremendously. I live with my bass player, Brendan, and we write together. Miles, who plays drums, used to play for the Mallard and is the best drummer I've played with. The band is now a unit as opposed to it in the previous years being a one-man band project.
My favourite track on the album is the one we are premeiring "Out in the Night". It's a pure banger.
That’s about 9 to 5'ers coming into the city from the suburbs to escape their boring lives. On a Friday night a few months ago I was mixing the record at my house. This was the last song that didn't have lyrics so I decided on taking a walk in my neighborhood. I was amazed at how people could spend all their cash getting shit faced and failing miserably at trying to get laid while missing the fact that are being tricked into the never-ending cycle of misguided expectations. The lyrics are "The devil's in the alleyway pissing in the gutter, pissing on the lives of the everyday people. Process the text, you see it on your screen, the killer's the high rise building driving the death machine.”
You came out to Australia a couple of years ago. What where the highlights of that trip?
I had such an amazing time over there. Some highlights included:
-stopped being vegetarian after feeling obliged to eat grilled kangaroo at a BBQ in Sydney
-playing the Tote in Collingwood
-house show in Carlton
-getting a cabin in the middle of the outback outside of Broken Hill, where Mad Max was filmed.
-hanging out at Cat Food Press (RIP)
-all the "big things" I stopped to take photos of
So many people are discarded into prison, a lot for bullshit charges. The US should take some notes from other western countries where they actually take time to rehabilitate criminals and don't throw the book at people for weak offenses. I think this is a great idea, especially if it helps people who are being systematically crushed by the prison institution in this country.
"Bleeding Moon" is due out October 7 via Castle Face.