Premiere + Q&A: Seldomo – “Superman”

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“Who the fuck is Seldomo?”

Seldomo is the bedroom-folk creation conceived by New-Yorker Michael Corrado. Although based in Queens, Seldomo’s music elicits a sound that belongs on a roaming gypsy caravan, where the city is only a faint glow in the distance. Seldomo often utilizes whimsical harmonica cadences backed with mellow guitar strums, resulting in a wholesome sound that transports you to a crackling campfire surrounded by friends.

 

Seldomo’s upcoming release, Probably Cool, is the product of being optimistic in the face of adversity.

“The name Probably Cool is meant to represent the struggle we all face between planning and execution. “Probably Cool” is the most healthy mentality to have after preparing for something. It admits that things can go wrong, but still remains optimistic. Living in the world we do today, it can be easy to get swept up in negative emotions such as fear or anxiety. As hard as it seems though, it’s probably cool.”

 

Probably Cool will be out on October 15th, but you can listen to the first single “Superman” here on Radio Trails first.

Give it a listen below and continue reading to find out where the name Seldomo came from, and about the time Mike got hit over the head with a 40 oz bottle.

 

Hi Mike! Well, I’d like to start just by hearing how Seldomo started.

Seldomo started from a simple urge to create. Since I was really young, like 10 or 11 I have been messing around with various music making programs for the PC. As I got older my cousin Ray really helped me progress on that front because he was always active in bands and at family parties we would work on songs together for our goofy project “Transcendant Toad”.

I want to say by the time I was 14 or 15 I was writing all synth and vocal songs using a minikorg R3 and Audacity (Free music software). This was all before it had a name, but it was still the beginning of Seldomo. I think when I was 16 I picked up my brothers old guitar and learned “Knockin on Heavens Door.” From that point on I just kept learning songs using the internet and my database of chords just kept growing. I recorded one or two guitar songs with my cousin, and then got my hands on Logic Pro 9 from a friend who was opening a studio and that sort of opened the door to recording myself. I started taking chords from different songs I had learned and forming new harmonies out of them.

At the time I was pretty shy and unpopular with the ladies, so a lot of my songs back then were sort of yearning love songs – I quickly grew tired of them and don’t really play them anymore. So I put out an album under the name Mike Corrado and soon found that there was already a successful musician going by that name… er…. my name, so I decided to come up with a new name and Seldomo was born.

Where does the name Seldomo come from?

As you probably already guessed, pretty much everyone I’ve encountered since I started this band has asked me what “Seldomo” means. The truth is it’s sort of a word without a meaning.

It all stems back to when I was 13 or 14 years old. I broke my arm skateboarding for the second time in like a 3 year period, so I was bored out of my mind inside the house all day. I started getting really into video games – I’m talking like spending 8-10 hours a day playing world of warcraft. At the time I was really interested in just making a unique name to play by, so that I wouldn’t have to be known as “skater92” or “one armed bandit” or some generic name like that. So I would just try different words out with different endings. I did this for a while but nothing really stuck. Still, names were on my mind all day – and I was always trying to find the word that really captured what I wanted to represent – in digital space.

One night I was on tons of medication for my arm and I dozed off to have one of the strangest dreams of my life. I was looking down off of a cliff side, surrounded by trees who’s leaves meshed together in strange patterns. There was a waterfall off to my right and it’s water ran over onto some of the trees. When I followed the stream down past the trees there was this strange humanoid creature that kind of looked like a mouse combined with a human. It had huge black eyes and it’s ears were long and elvish. It pointed down into the body of water below the waterfall, and in the middle of the water were jagged rocks, but they were shaped like letters. And what did they spell? You guessed it, Seldomo. I was as confused as anyone who first hears the word Seldomo, and looked back at the mouse-thing. It looked in my eyes and said (without moving it’s mouth – I guess telepathy?) “sel·dom·o – seldəm-oh” – It’s basically pronounced seldom with an oh sound at the end. When I heard the thing speak directly into my brain I think I realized I might have been dreaming and looked down at my hands. They were normal at first, but my eyes locked on them and couldn’t look away. They slowly started melting, and as I freaked out I woke up in my bed, with my cast on my arm. I still remember that dream vividly, even though it was over 10 years ago.

Anyway, that was how I came to use the name Seldomo for my video game characters. Once I was writing music and needed a name other than my birth-given one, I quickly adopted my internet moniker to my stage name, and Seldomo started putting out records.

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Wow that is a pretty strange and incredible dream. Definitely makes for an interesting story. So you’re from Queens, NY? To me, your music sounds like it belongs out in the country. What inspired this “softer” sound?

You’re absolutely right about this music not being what most New Yorkers expect. I would say 90% of my friends growing up listened to heavy metal. In fact, when I was in high school I was mostly attending hardcore shows and getting my ass kicked in the moshpits. But I always had an appreciation for the softer stuff. I even covered a couple of my friends metal songs on an acoustic guitar and people seemed to like it. Despite getting some positive feedback, I never felt like the reception to my music was the same as my metal head friends. But I’m not really into it for the reception, more for the expression of it. I was really into Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket when I started writing music. So these artists definitely helped shape the sound I eventually developed.

Lately I’ve been writing for the full band so some of the softer, more subtle acoustic elements are falling by the wayside. This new album is inspired a lot by the oldies, The Kinks, The Beatles, even some punk stuff like the Dead Kennedies, along with some contemporary acts I’ve really been digging such as Cass Mccombs and Fleet Foxes. My goal is to capture some of the raw energy of older musicians, before everything was easily altered by digital mediums.

There’s definitely a looseness to the album which i’m really into. It captures hanging out with the band – in all the raw moments of improvisational glory (this especially being true about the tracks with my saxophonist). At the same time, I definitely use my knowledge of modern recording technology to help me in capturing that full raw sound.

Totally agree that digitization of music sometimes can overpower the actual sound – it’s a good skill being able to find that “sweet spot”. What genre would you bucket your music into?

Genre has always been something tough to pinpoint for me. For my older stuff I’d call it Alt/Folk. It’s got some elements of psychedelia, experimental, and world music in there too. Some fans have called our new stuff “Modern Classic Rock”. I guess what I would call it is like Folk-Rock meets Shoegaze.

That’s a lot of what it feels like to me, but of course a lot of the decision of what we sound like really comes down to the listener. What does it remind them of? Why? That’s really interesting to me. Because an artist is always going to say their music sounds like their idols, but what ends up coming out of a musician a lot of times is much different than what they set out to achieve. I think in that way genres can be kind of tough for an artists, and they can in a lot of way put people into musical cages they can’t get out of.

I was curious what you’d say! It’s really hard to pinpoint genre sometimes, because music is all so different and unique. Is there a story behind the title “who the fuck is Seldomo”?

I think that album title really came from a frustrated feeling I had with my music at the time. I was playing out at open mics and venues in Brooklyn, and a lot of the hosts would have a hard time saying my name, or just look at me like I had 3 heads every time I would introduce myself as Seldomo. I think a lot of people thought that I was a magician or something. So that album title was a bit tongue in cheek, like “who the fuck does this guy think he is?” ” who the fuck is seldomo?”

Since I put out that EP i’ve gotten a lot of support, and I’m feeling much more confident in the name. I still think that EP accurately represents the time which i spent writing it, which is really the goal in the end. I later found out that some other artists like the Mick Jagger and the Arctic Monkeys have used “WTF is…” album titles. I wonder if they were based on similar feelings.

What’s the writing process like?

My writing process changes every song I write. sometimes I’ll start with a chord progression, sometimes it’s a riff, and sometimes I’ll be inspired to write a song about a story. Just a weird experience, or maybe a strange person that I meet out in the city.

There are a lot of stories going on in new york constantly. So many in fact that a lot of them go undocumented and unnoticed. I like to pull some of those experiences into my songs, whether they are my experiences or someone elses. My last EP “Seldomo’s Saturday Morning” was a lot of songs about my town and the places I see in Brooklyn playing shows. It sort of goes over the birds, the homeless people, the lavish churches, trains, and bodegas (small delis) around the city. I was trying to capture that feeling that encompasses all of it. I guess it’s sort of an echo of the things I see and feel.

The actual chord arrangement and notes and stuff – all of that is there to serve the bigger purpose of expressing the feeling. That’s why it’s such a great feeling when i have a chord progression written down and I find that story or feeling that fits. Then i just pull the strings together and refine it until it feels complete. “Feeling complete” can be a difficult thing and hard to quantify – so i end up spending a LOT of time in the ending stages of a song, until i finally give in and say “yep thats done”.

Have you always lived in NYC?

I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I’m glad to live here because it’s given me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, and I can experience little bits of culture from all over the world. I think living here has shaped my personality and music in a really great way.

Do you have a favorite song you’ve written and is there a story behind it?

It’s tough to pick favorites from the songs I’ve written because I’m pretty fond of all of them. But I can pick a few that have stories behind them that come to mind.

“Patron Song” – off of WTFISeldomo is about a night I spent at a pool hall in Queens. We were all 17-18 years old and this particular pool hall allowed kids to bring beers in and drink despite being under-aged. So I was outside the place on a balcony just hanging out, and some punks started calling one of my friends names (that will not be repeated due to the ignorance of their word choice). I’m not the type of person to get in fights over name calling – ya know… sticks and stones or whatever. My friend, on the other hand, was pretty drunk and had a fragile ego. He went downstairs to fight the kids that were talking smack. Once he went downstairs he was outnumbered. Two kids were holding his arms down and a third was doing a bruce-lee style fighting stance and dancing back and forth – taking pot-shots at every opportunity. Seeing my friend in danger I ran down to help him out. “That’s fucked up!” I shouted and pulled the two kids off of him. He started swinging and I tried to get out of there, but before I knew it I saw a flash of white light and I was soaking wet. It took me a second of standing still screaming like Frankenstein to realize that I had gotten a 40oz bottle of beer smashed over my head. “Patron Song” goes into the relationship I had with this kid before the fight, and some of the fight. The overall moral of that story and the song is that these types of fights are stupid and we should choose our friends wisely. “The gutters running with my blood these nights, rain don’t wash that right – the streets remember every fight…”

Another song off of the new record that has a great story behind it is “Bloodhunting.” Not to look like a total psychopath, but when I was really young I used to kill bugs for fun. I wrote this song about the many mornings i spent at my grandma’s house torturing the little buggers without much reason. Looking back on those days, I wanted to explore why we as humans feel remorse for killing certain ainmals, but we’re totally cool with murdering bugs. It’s like because they have a different physiology it’s totally ok to exterminate them. I mean in context it makes sense – they spread disease and are generally our competitors as far as nutrition goes. So the song “Bloodhunting” begins talking about “catching wild creatures crawling” – being specifically vague so that the listener thinks we’re talking about something cute and cuddly. Looking at the faces of people in the crowd when I play that song, I think that line makes people kind of uncomfortable. But later in the song it’s revealed that I’m talking about bugs, and people generally seem to chill out, and maybe even start dancing along.

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With the full band release, you mentioned the sound will be a little different (in a good way, of course) – Who else is part of this “full band”?

The sound on this new album is bigger – there’s more variety to the instrumentation and sounds. In my past albums generally I would stick to one sound – be it a folky, singer-songwriter style or an all out electro-pop track. For this record I tried to incorporate all of my past work, as well as bring in the styles that my friends play.

Justin Baer is playing drums on the album. Pretty much since we met we hit it off, and it’s great because i feel like i can totally trust him to come up with drum parts to my songs – it takes some heat off of my as a songwriter and brings some of his influences into the sound. He’s really into hip-hop and actually raps as well.

We’ve got a revolving door of live bassists, all bringing something different to the songs. Ray Andreason plays Bass on the majority of the new album, bringing in some cool jazzy energy. Along with Ray, Sam Yannotti also plays bass on the title track “Probably Cool.” Sam helps me record and mix my albums, along with playing in another band with me called Concrete Waves. He brings an upbeat complexity to the bass lines which adds something truly unique.

The other player on this album is Eric Lahti. Eric has helped me mix down albums in the past as well, and he plays saxophone on 2 tracks on this album. Eric brings in this uncontrollable energy that flies free while still living in the sonic domain we all inhabit. He’s a great addition that I think introduces some great variety into the album.

Are there any new or overarching themes in this new album?

The overarching theme of this album is optimism in the face of adversity. The album title Probably Cool is meant to represent the struggle we all face between planning and execution. Probably Cool is the most healthy mentality to have after preparing for something. It admits that things can go wrong, but still remains optimistic. Living in the world we do today, it can be easy to get swept up in negative emotions such as fear or anxiety. As hard as it seems though, it’s probably cool.

 

Give “Superman” a listen below and be sure to stay tuned for Seldomo’s upcoming full length album, Probably Cool, out October 15th.

 

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