Seratones are creating legitimate, raw, rock/soul music that packs a hefty punch. Led by the vocal styling of their wondrous, powerhouse of a front woman, A.J. Haynes, Seratones will most assuredly leave even the most skeptical music connoisseur with no choice but to be enamored. Having just released their debut album Get Gone on Fat Possum Records, the band, which hails from Shreveport Louisiana, has ignited the indie rock arena ablaze with a fierce sound, full of depth and dynamism.
We got to interview A.J. on the eve of the band’s performance at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto Canada, on October 4th.
For starters, I want to know, how’s it going, what are Seratones cooking up in Canada?
AJ Haynes: We are playing Horseshoe Tavern, which is a really cool spot in Toronto. I’m very excited about that.
Right now, Seratones are on the tip of a lot of tongues. People are really connecting to your music. You’ve got a great buzz. I’d like to know, for you, what exactly does this moment feel like?
AJ: I’m a bit of a workaholic, and I don’t really exhale until everything is said and done. I’m sort of just riding that wave, ya know? Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I now try and practice yoga every day, because it’s the one time that I actually do exhale. I was a teacher for Christ’s sake, so I know what hard work is, and I can say this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. But it’s where I should be. If I sound less than enthused, that’s not by any means the case; it’s just that it hits me in these really random moments. It’s not always while performing, it’s in moments when we’re cramped in the van, running from place to place and I look around a realize I’m seeing things that I probably never would have, with some of my best friends. It’s those really tangible, not very sexy moments that make it cool for me. I can feel, I guess, the buzz; being on the tip of everyone’s tongues. It’s palpable. It just a really exciting series of events, you know?
I would imagine you’ve wanted this for a really long time, does any of it feel overwhelming?
AJ: Hell no! Bring it! Bring all of it!
That’s definitely the type of passion and energy any music lover would expect from the lead singer of this band.
AJ: I’m ‘bout that life, man! I signed up for this! That’s my only response. I’m ’bout that life! [laughs]
Do you feel like you’re at a place where people fully appreciate your sound or do you think you’re still introducing yourselves to new listeners?
AJ: I feel like everyone has their own way – and this is not to be overly diplomatic – for me performing and creating is about self-expression and done so with the mindfulness, that I hope to reach people, and let them make what they want out of it. I’m here to tell people how to process. I’m not going to tell people how to feel. I care, and if they appreciate it, great! I mean, it seems to be that way and we get messages; one of our favorite messages we got was from this guy in Texas and his girlfriend was or is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, I want to say maybe Seattle or Portland… He wrote that one of our songs, “Keep Me,” the one ballad, is their song and helps him get through hard times when he thinks about her, and it’s shit like that that makes me really excited! It’s like you never know who you’re going to reach. It’s chaos, its entropy, it’s synergy, it’s chance! This is a life that I’m really excited to have. So, I don’t know what people are going to make of it. I don’t know what people are going to write reviews about, but I can speak my truth and be honest with myself.
So, I’m sure this is as cliché a question as they come, but I’d like to know what some of your musical influences are?
AJ: It depends on the day of the week [laughs]. As of late, I’ve been really digging on a lot of sounds of soul, and a lot of music from Brazil, I don’t know what’s up with that, and I don’t speak Portuguese, so I don’t know the lyrics, but there’s something about the resonance, the feeling that’s just stuck with me, but as far as past influences, first of all, I grew up in the gospel, at church when I was a kid.
How much of your sound and styling would you say is indicative of your hometown of Shreveport?
AJ: Honestly, I’m a product of my environment. As The Stooges were to Detroit, you’re bound to have influences from your region, where you’re from. It’s what you make of that, that’s important. Shreveport is home, and we’re always going to have that – that bittersweet, sort of this question mark, right? Even when you think of great cities like New York, you have James Murphy, you know, “New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down.” It’s a question we’re asked frequently and one that I find myself taking a pretty dramatic pause before shooting myself headlong into a rant. Shreveport hasn’t reached musical history but there’s something that I love about that city. I feel like every story told from Shreveport, every song is told with a slant or a sneer and it’s something that I love. But there’s a way we play the game that speaks to how we survive in Shreveport. You’ve got to play the game a little bit. Like, for instance, I used to play in a cover band to pay for my books when I was working on my undergraduate degree in college. Same thing with my friend Connor, we all played that game and we would use that money to buy books or to buy whatever you know, we did that to keep ourselves alive and we’re now in a position where we get to create and not focus. But back to Shreveport, I love my city you know. It’s a complicated connection, but I love my city! If I catch anybody talking about my city, it’s a wrap. I can say whatever I want all day but if YOU say one word, it’s on! [laughs]
Can you describe your creative process?
AJ: Our creative process is mostly collaborative with this band. I mean, I write the lyrics, Connor writes his guitar parts, Jesse writes his drum parts, Adam writes his bass parts and we sort of bring it all together. We all give each other feedback and if something’s wrong we give each other suggestions. It’s very intuitive. We have songs that have taken months to write and have taken many different forms and sometimes you have songs that are years in the making and then there are times when you’ll have a song that just comes together in 15 minutes. It happens through passion. We’re open to experimentation and collaboration. We’re just getting started. I feel like we’ve been in this band because I’ve known these guys for that long but also, we’re still figuring shit out, just like anyone. That’s the way it should be. If you get to the point where it’s all figured out and there’s a formula, it becomes boring.
What about performing. Can describe how that feels?
AJ: I love performing. It’s the space that I feel the most comfortable in. I think I was supposed to be a performer. I don’t really think I even had a choice in the matter. The same way that taking a poem and reading it aloud breathes life into it, and adding cadence of your speech, and how you interpret it, you’re making it immediate for whomever you’re presenting your sound to. Whenever you’re performing you’re animating in space. That’s what exciting to me about performing, the immediacy of it. I kind of just throw myself out there and see what happens.
Which of your songs would you say is a full representation of Seratones?
AJ: I don’t know because we’re all four very different people, But I think “Don’t Need It,” just because it’s the first song that we wrote together. It’s almost the first time all our powers came together. Don’t need it is a cool song because you the grunge and then you have this too cool sound when the verse comes in, I’m so proud of that song. You’ve got to get outside of your body some time to relinquish control and become something bigger than yourself.
Last question, what’s next?
AJ: I want to make a second great record and a third great record. I want to make great art and if that brings success then so be it. I want to continue to make great art and share it with the world and do that with integrity. I want to end up falling in love with what I do every day, even if it’s hard, and to be kind to people.
Seratones will be at DC9 tonight. Get tickets here.