Seeker Lover Keeper
I had never seen Sally Seltmann live before last year's Meredith. It was the last day of the festival and many had already packed up their tents and left, having had enough of the typical torrential rain that had bombarded much of the weekend. We stood at the stage in our ponchos, drizzle sprinkling on our hoods, next to a few fallen over bins which were now being pounded on by some coming-downer like tribal drums. As the sound of Sally's tinkling piano wove through the battering of plastic, I remember thinking how wrong the atmosphere was for the kind of music that belongs on a sun drenched, dreamy day. I envisioned the crowd around the amphitheatre sitting cross-legged on patches of grass or blankets, adorned with sunglasses, listening attentively to the soft, sweeping melodies that soothed their hangovers.
It seemed like a waste of beauty and talent. But when I heard that the collaborative troupe of Seeker Lover Keeper were playing their second concert in churches and cathedrals, somehow my frustration with that last day of Meredith was ameliorated. I guess it was a relief to know that the universe wasn't conspiring to quash the spirit of live music - it was probably just a bad day. I couldn't think of a better setting for the combined ethereal sounds and harmonies of Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann - the band that released their self-titled debut in June this year and have already nearly sold out shows for their second tour.
"Basically we were looking to do something a bit different for this tour," says Throsby about the idea of playing in churches. "It was good timing cause there are some people in New Zealand who run these tours of churches and cathedrals and they happened to approach us at the time we were looking to do another tour and suggested that we try it out in Australia."
"I think we played so many places around Australia and it's nice to do something different and maybe it suits the style of the music," adds Blasko who grew up in a Christian family and used to sing in in various churches alongside her mother. "I really love the look and the feel of churches. Recently I did [a gig] at a festival in London in an Anglican church. It's a really beautiful place to play because you can't help but get a bit influenced by the beautiful look of the building and the sense of history and stuff like that."
When asked if they are religious, there's a pause before Seltmann doubtfully answers, "No not really," and then definitely adds, "Holly and I, not at all." The three women burst into laughter. "That's an official statement of belief," jokes Seltmann.
Seltmann was the one who came up with their band name. "I just really liked how those three words sounded and thought it was a good fit for the three of us," Seltmann explains. She means it's a good fit because there is a hint that perhaps each of the words belong the one of them. "We chop and change."
But there is a more practical element to the name, because in way, it guided the songwriting of the three women and united the record. Each song speaks of a seeking for a love, and of the joys and torments of being in love.
Throsby admits that there was a guidance coming from the words, however unconscious it may have been. "Because we had the name very early on and I think it is interesting whether it was conscious or not, when I listen to the record, all three of us had those kinds of themes run throughout all the songs and unite the record in a thematic way. I only noticed it when we finished the record."
Of course one of the songs that Blasko wrote specifically to fit in with their name was Theme 1 - the theme song.
"I just want you to know, wherever you go, it follows like a ghost. The burden's not just your own if you're a seeker lover keeper," Blasko sings in her nostalgic and bewitching manner. She's singing of birth, death and lost loves - life. "You thought that you would learn to survive, to make your way along in this life." There's a sadness to the words but one that ends in comfort, which in some ways is reflective of the band's name where the "keeper" implies a maturity and steadiness that holds together the fleetingness of the two words before it.
The words in every song are so rich, they could each be given the kind of insightful interpretation that is awarded to a 19th century poem in literature class. And unlike many bands which harbour a lone lyricist, each of the women took turns writing songs which others would sing. It was both a scary and fascinating experience for each of the singers.
"I think it is kind of scary because you're bearing yourself quite a bit with people who do something similar to you that you really respect and it's kind of a normal fear to feel a little bit nervous about that," says Blasko.
"I agree with Sarah," says Seltmann. "I feel like there were times where I felt really confident with songs that I was bringing to the group or the way I was performing them or recording and then times where I really doubted myself and felt like things I was bringing to the group were no good. So it was kind of an up and down feeling."
"I think it's really amazing and fascinating to see how someone interprets someone else's songs." adds Blasko. "When I heard Sally sing On My Own, it really made sense the way that she sings it in her way - it's so Sally."
As the three original solo artists are working on their own projects on the side, it's rightful to ponder as to whether this collaboration was a crossing of paths before they each go their separate ways again, or whether it is a project they will continue with.
"I think that with this project, we wanted to take it as it came," says Throsby. "For example doing this second tour was something we hadn't actually planned on doing but the first tour was so much fun and went really well and we thought, 'Let's do another tour.' So at this point we don't have any firm plans to make another record and we're all working on our own records but I think we have that attitude about it where we all feel positive about it and feel if the time comes around again, we'll find ourselves back in the studio."