Behind The Vibe: An Interview with Seaway’s Ryan Locke

Seaway are known for two things: catchy pop punk bops and hilarious, personal but relatable lyrics. Yet their upcoming album, Big Vibe, sees them swap the reliable upbeat genre they’ve embedded themselves in over the last nine years, and explore the complexities of pop-orientated styles with more woeful topics. Speaking to the Canadian quartet’s frontman and vocalist Ryan Locke, we found out what lead to the big changes, and how lockdown could have brought us your new favourite Seaway song.

Related: Seaway - Big Vibe | Album Review

Claiming to take influence from 80's power pop (because what else?), Big Vibe takes every catchy pop hook from Seaway’s repertoire and amplifies them around huge sonic riffs and a new range of melodic vocals we’ve never seen before. “We’re inspired by some much, and every song has different inspiration […] everything from The Killers to Tom Petty to The Cars.” Locke begins. This range is made clear from the start, flowing from 00s indie rock in ‘Still Blue’, to indie pop in ‘Wild Things’, and the even more unexpected minor ‘Sick Puppy’. As guitarist Andrew Eichinger stated prior, “honestly, we just did whatever the hell we wanted”, Big Vibe is about proving themselves to be more than just jokey crowd-pleasers at this point.

The new album follows on from their chaotic fourth record Fresh Produce (2019), which was a diverse assortment to say the least. Featuring more classic, summer-ready hits ‘Pleasures’ and ‘Blur’, mixed with alternative versions of songs across their discography, a rerelease of their All In My Head EP (2014), and covers of The Cars, Alanis Morissette and The Chainsmokers tracks, it merely showed a glimpse of what Seaway are capable of when exploring new territory. “Fresh Produce is most definitely a bridge between Vacation and Big Vibe.” he says, hinting at the 2017 album’s extremely preppy pop punk tone. “We were able to experiment so much with different sounds on Fresh Produce and I think that helped us realize we can experiment on songs like ‘Wild Things’ and ‘Mrs. David’.”

“Life’s tough sometimes, and we’re feeling that now more than ever.”

Luckily, Big Vibe’s creation wasn’t affected by coronavirus as it was initially recorded across January and February, and Locke even goes on to say the unexpected. “It feels weird to say but, if anything, we benefited from the lockdown because we were able to add another song to the album.” This was the aforementioned Tom Petty-inspired ‘Mrs. David’, which Locke claims “We all agree that the album wouldn’t be the same without that song.” Sounding like a tribute to 'Stacy’s Mom', Locke is reluctant to reveal the true story behind lyrics such as “Mrs. David, know you hate it, don’t know why but I can’t help misbehaving”. Enveloped in newly tuned riffs, mellow verses and strong serious vocal tones that never usually grace Seaway songs, this is comes across as a genuine and heartfelt love song, only tarnished by the implication that she’s a teacher or a friend’s mother. The album’s sound conveys they’ve grown considerably, but lyrics and themes such as this prove they’re still the same light-hearted guys underneath.

Lyrically, however, Big Vibe features some of the most negative songs we’ve ever seen from the Toronto collective. Despite ‘Still Blue’s upbeat pace and preppy indie riffs, it speaks of pessimism and giving up, while sixth track ‘Pathetic’ is more predictable in the sense that it’s self-deprecating pop punk, reminiscent of ‘Goon’ or ‘Freak’ from their 2015 album Colour Blind. Speaking more specifically about ‘Pathetic’, Locke vaguely states “[it] comes from the overarching feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt. Sometimes they are more internal, other times they can be more grounded in truth”, hinting at the troubles that lie below Seaway’s usual humour. “We are usually quite optimistic as a band but I think it's impossible to always be. Life’s tough sometimes, and we’re feeling that now more than ever.” Closing track ‘Sick Puppy’ highlights that statement even further, and lets us experience a new level of emotion from them. Despite having a big poppy chorus, the rawness of Locke’s shouting vocals surrounded by deep riffs hits differently. Dark lyrics relying on the “friend of friend” narrative, including stark lines “I’ve been drowning in the tub” and “wouldn’t mind if they forgot my name”, reveal more than expected and is a heavy note to leave the record on.

"Our live shows are definitely a very energetic, give and take group effort”

Although they’re unable to tour or perform any of these new songs live for quite a while, Seaway are already looking into alternatives. Discussing their future plans, Locke muses “Maybe we’ll do an online stream performance, then hopefully real live shows next year. [It’s] so hard to tell right now what the future of live music looks like. It’s tough because our live shows are definitely a very energetic, give and take group effort so to try and capture that energy in a studio or empty club is tough, but we’ll work something out.” As anyone who’s ever been to a Seaway show can confirm, it will be interesting to see how they pull it off. However, as UK fans’ last opportunity to experience the real thing was now over a year ago at Slam Dunk festival, the simplest of streams would be appreciated regardless.

“It’s a funny time to be releasing new music [and] if we had the choice, I don’t think anyone wants to release a record during a time that you can’t tour but we decided it would be better to release it now versus sitting on it until next year.” He continues, with only days to go before the release on Friday 16th October. Yet, he takes another second to reflect that it really is all for the fans: “I think people need new music right now, whether it be a form of escapism or just entertainment.” And if that doesn’t sum up Seaway’s entire vibe then what does?

Big Vibe is out now via Pure Noise Records.

Purchase the record here.