While electronic music has always generated its fair share of one-man bands, over the last few years indie-rockers have entered the solo brigade. The New Folk aesthetic of the lo-fi bedroom “band” was cause for much celebration—and a lot of bad music. But Sea Saw’s Trevor Kampman takes his musical cues from the genre’s two most inspired bedchamber composers, Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow and Smog’s Bill Callahan. On the Arlingtonian’s second CD (though Kampman tours with his trio, he recorded alone), Magnétophone (Simple Machines), strong melodies presented on watery keyboards are harassed by fuzzy guitars, while Kampman’s achingly confessional lyrics elbow their way past the din. One thing that stands out about the new release when compared to previous Sea Saw recordings is Kampman’s crystalline voice, which, contrary to the typical New Folk sound, is audible. The improved production is due in part to the host of engineers contributing mixes, such as Geoff Turner (WGNS), Warren DeFever (of the band His Name is Alive), and Robert Salsbury (Evil Genius). In fact, Salsbury’s battery of computers literally saved one song. “The day I went in to mix the song called ‘Stereo,’ I erased all four tracks for a millisecond, but it was a big glitch,” explains Kampman. “We just mixed down anyway at Geoff Turner’s, and I gave it to Robert and he fixed it. I thought the song was long gone, and he saved it.”
In order to bust out of the bedroom, Kampman has been trying to put together a band for the past couple of years. “If I was going to have my dream band, someone would have to live with me and would have to be recording with me all the time, because I record incessantly. I do every day for hours a day,” he says. Currently Kampman is playing with keyboardist Danielle Wade and drummer Luther Gray, but it hasn’t been easy to find the right group. “I’m really finicky, I think. I want it to sound a certain way. And I’ve always clashed with people,” Kampman admits. He says Sea Saw was always more about solitary home recording, so all releases by the trio will be dubbed Magnétophone, and the Sea Saw tag will be put on mothballs. But Kampman is still the home recorder at heart, claiming, “I’m not really interested in playing live that much. I really want to do it because I’d love for people to hear it and buy the album. I’m gonna tour, and I’m gonna play out, but I really, really love just recording.