Rising from the depths of the blue ocean and landing with an aquatic bang on the roiling waves of the information superhighway, Seapunk (or #seapunk, if you prefer) is a movement that continues to grow and spread like the turquoise liquid it so devoutly idolizes. With ever increasing coverage, including a write up in the New York Times, Seapunk and its font, the label Coral Records Internazionale, seems primed to leave it’s tropical mark on 2012 (a year that, as you’ll see, is quite important to Seapunk for other reasons).
Though participated in by many artists, the undeniable current heads of Seapunk, and co-founders of Coral Records are Albert Redwine and Shan Beaste AKA Ultrademon (Fire For Effect) and Zombelle, respectively. In town for some shows, the two were nice enough to swing by the 350 Broadway store, and then run over to Trophy Bar across the street to sit down with me and talk about topics as varied as Polish trend setters, the impending apocalypse and it’s possibly positive implications, the drama of Witch House, yacht parties, and much more.
Whole Milk: So let’s start with the name: Seapunk was Julian (Lil’ Internet) right?
Albert Redwine: He coined the term.
Shan Beaste: He had a dream. A dream of a Seapunk on the shore with a leather jacket studded with barnacles.
I’m surprised no one has come up with a conflicting origin story for Seapunk.
SB: It’s so well documented. That guy has so many followers. And Bridget (Lil’ Government), actually, apparently she tweeted it first. She tweeted his dream and then later he tweeted it so I guess technically she was the first.
So did you guys know him IRL before then?
AR: Yeah I knew him a couple of years ago. We were throwing warehouse parties in the city. Me and my friend Phillip (Beretta), we brought Julian out for a party that was actually really crazy. There were people literally hanging off the rafters and right before Julian went on the cops showed up, like twenty cop cars, so it was kind of a bummer. Did a bunch of ketamine. Didn’t really see him for a couple of years, then I guess we started talking online again.
Do you guys try to seek out the people you meet online IRL a lot?
SB: It depends, there are some people that you hang out with on the internet as much as you would with an IRL friend, so you wanna seek those people out. People seek you out, you seek them out. At the party the other night, there were so many kids from the internet coming up to us like “I know you on Twitter or Tumblr” so it works both ways. But I have an online group on Facebook called the Rave Cave, so there’s about a hundred people in that group and everybody is some sort of artist in some way like audio, visual. There’s a couple dump.fm kids and stuff like that, so you wanna meet those people. So we have video chat parties or people will DJ or watch anime together on Netflix. Weird stuff. Some of those people I hang out with.
Do you guys consider Seapunk – I know you mentioned Dump.fm - to be a part of that new media art scene, or is it a musical genre apart from that?
SB: I think theres a lot of confusion, because the actual term Seapunk was more something that was able to give people a word to define something that was already happening, with like a universal consciousness on the internet. A lot of people were kind of feeling the same vibe and producing similar content, but there’s definitely a separating point between tropical art on Tumblr and Seapunk, but people are mixing it together.
AR: I think mostly when Seapunk comes up people’s default thing that they think of is definitely like tumblr searching “seapunk” and a bunch of teens making stuff, which I think is really weird. I dunno. Seapunk is an idea embodying this sort of cyberpunk lifestyle with this modern aqueous texture – or meta-texture if you will – that applies to everything. As far as Ryder Ripps and that whole crew, we don’t have anything to do with them. I’m a musician, and that’s my job. I produce and I try to make money off of it.
So you have big plans for Coral Records Internazionale in 2012?
AR: I’d say there’s a plan. We want to expand into doing some cool merch, like limited run collectible stuff. And I definitely want to move to vinyl and get away from CDs and all that. But it’s like everything we’ve done so far is building up to that, and it’s working out. The releases are getting more deep now I think, or whatever you call it – textured or something.
Was the choice to do limited run CDs, was that a financial thing or is there an allure to the idea that “there’s only a hundred of these.”
AR: I mean, CD-Rs aren’t that expensive, but there is a control thing.
SB: We make them by hand, and a hundred is a lot to sit down and cut out and packaging and… we do everything by hand, so like it’s cool to have something rare that we don’t have to totally work our fingers to the bone like that. Moving to vinyl would be a relief. Maybe we should just buy a vinyl machine.
AR: Those are expensive. Like ten grand I think.
SB: But it would be cool!
AR: We want to do like swirled vinyls, like blue and white.
As far as the idea of handmade stuff – well, I know there’s a lot of reposting, retumbling, retweeting involved in Seapunk – but I think you guys have the luxury of being able to control your image really fastidiously. Is that a part you like: that you get to craft every aspect of it? Especially, y’know, since it’s bigger than just music and image and it’s almost like a world that is crafted?
AR: Definitely. Control is really important. Seeing the whole Witch House scene, how they were like really… they seemed to accept anybody to be a part of it, add their image, add their sound, and that’s kind of an internet based type of culture. With Seapunk we were thinking maybe do the opposite. Have like hyper control in some aspects, as far as having a really tight crew, and not just letting anybody contribute something and automatically be a part of it. Because we want to create really high quality content, so there’s a level of control. But it’s through a crew, its not like… a dictatorship?
SB: Exactly. In a way I think that holds true to, like, punk… in its really fucked up future way, because with everything as open as it is it can easily be tainted and like screwed over. So keeping it really close knit with people that you’re familiar with and who actually produce high quality content, it’s actually more punk I think in that aspect. Does that make any sense?
AR: Yeah! It’s a lot of midwestern kids. The people that were initially involved that were from the coasts, for the most part, have stopped being involved. And the people that have stayed tight are mainly from the midwest.
SB: And actually happen to be better producers too. Kids internationally, and then kids from midwest america-
AR: It’s like Russia and Kansas.
AR: Yeah, Curtis Vodka who’s… I think he used to tell people he was from Belgium, but he’s from Alaska.
Somehow more exotic I think.
Hit the jump for the rest!
Was Witch House somewhat of a cautionary tale for you guys a little bit?
SB: Witch house was like every day Halloween. It was cool being involved with that scene – because I did get involved with it – and kind of having a lot of fun with it, and hanging out with internet friends in that crew. Observing it was extremely entertaining. If you were in it, you know what I’m talking about. There was drama every fucking day. There was so much drama, there were all sorts of weird kids with weird monikers talking shit and lying about stuff all the time and all these kids that just didn’t know any better and would just follow all these people. There were all these lines drawn, and public fights, and it just had nothing to do with music. It got so out of control.
AR: It’s really funny to me that all the Witch House people for the most part, they don’t actually want to be identified as Witch House.
SB: Yeah, that’s because it was tainted, because it just went running rampant. There was no control whatsoever. It was just weird kids just doing whatever they wanted with upside down crosses. “Invert everything and you’re witch house!” I wouldn’t want to claim that if I was thrown in with a lot of dorks.
SB: I don’t care! It was a lot of dorks! There were some really cool people, but it was weird. I mean I think Travis (Pictureplane) coined that term originally, which makes sense from his perspective. Because he knew about all the occult stuff, and he was doing zines with witch stuff like a long long time ago, so it makes sense for him to make his music like a “witch house” thing. But it was totally misconstrued later on. I know Jack from Salem wants nothing to do with that term. When people are like “you’re so witch house!” almost everyone is like “don’t call me that.”
AR: But at the same time, like, “hi, your name is all symbols.”
Do you find a lot of people trying to claim Seapunk on their music?
SB: More recently, not so much earlier.
AR: There was a wave of that happening initially, and a lot of the people were just making jam tracks that were obviously really lazy and quickly done, and that nonsense kind of got phased out and they stopped doing it. But more recently there have been a lot of DJs and producers making stuff and calling it Seapunk, and it’s stuff that you can tell they spent a lot of time on. A lot of juke producers specifically are really getting into it. And Europeans for the most part.
Speaking of juke, how did you guys end up in Chicago?
SB: I mean we travel a lot.
AR: We tried Los Angeles and it was a little weird. A couple of our friends lived in Chicago, like Johnny (Deathface) wanted to move back and we wanted to try a new city and so we all thought “let’s just move to Chicago and we can just take it over and throw parties.” He used to throw parties a few years ago called The Jerk Store, and I guess they used to do really well, when he was in Guns & Bombs. I wasn’t there, but I hear it was pretty good.
SB: We actually do have a lot of friends out there though. It’s kind of like a medium place from where we were to New York so it seemed realistic to kind of do that for a while, and try to be stationary and do something in one place for a while. Zain from Teen Witch does CULT and I support what he does, he works really hard and makes really good content and it’s cool to be in the same city and support each other with what we’re doing. Mollysoda, Claireypear, Elle from TOP8 is out there, Johnny Love is really cool – it’s a pretty good crew. It seems everything we’ve already begun there has been successful, just from having those other people in the city to support it.
AR: We were there for like a couple weeks and the Chicago reader wanted to interview us.
SB: Actually it was the first night we moved, and we played at CULT, and this guy was like “we want to interview you guys” then the next week it came out, and it just got bigger.
Do you see a lot of kids with the seafoam hair on the street?
SB: The week after, we saw these girls with the turquoise hair. Oh, and then there’s this group of girls that were tweeting at us and then they came to our weekly and they had the green hair y’know? And then they came the next week and their girlfriends who had blonde hair now had turquoise hair and they were all sporting tropical patterns on their clothes and stuff and… it was cool. It feels good. And it looks good!
I feel like a lot of the Seapunk aesthetic has sort of split off in a way? There’s a lot of people who have the aesthetic but – well I guess they’re aware of the music – but it seems like it’s taken on two different lives. Do you feel that at all?
AR: Yeah. I’m kinda glad it’s splitting off. You don’t have to really worry about it as much. The whole point from the beginning was it was supposed to be something that encompasses a bunch of different things like fashion and music and even philosophy. But, there’s been a lot of fashion stuff going on recently, more so than before.
SB: Because it’s not a genre, so it makes sense for it to move in that direction. Because people are interested in different things: some are into fashion. Some are into music or art. So it’s obvious that it would branch out, and unlike Witch House it shouldn’t all be this same thing – like in this black box – so I’m glad it opened up and got reinvented in different ways.
Do you think the philosophy and aesthetic of Seapunk was a response to music getting really dark for a while?
AR: No, I’ve had a lot of those ideas for years. It’s just kind of synchronistic that it happened to come out at that time.
SB: I kind of felt like a pressure from the 2012 thing. I listen to way too much Coast To Coast and Art Bell podcasts and you know the whole universal consciousness or hive mind – like all of people’s anxieties, be it subconscious or some sort of awareness or paranoia of impending doom, and like moving towards this dark vibe like “we’re accepting our fate by being dark” – it’s obvious that that would eventually shift over in some way to positivity. If an apocalypse is impending, if you shift the universal consciousness to positivity then you have the outlook of apocalypse being a rebirth instead of an ending.
Like that guy Daniel Pinchbeck, he talks a lot about how people are misinterpreting “apocalypse.”
So is there a big December party planned then?
AR: Yeah. Well I think in September actually, September 21st. I think Terence McKenna in Timewave Zero said there’s gonna be one kinda boom in September then another in December. I never thought of 2012 as something that was gonna be horrible. I just felt like everyone was going to be “leveled up” in the awareness factor. And a lot of people’s eyes will be opened up to stuff they didn’t want to deal with and now they will. Like a “transformation” is what Travis said at one point, but I just say heightened awareness.
Is that stuff you think about a lot when making music, or is there kind of a separate philosophical side Seapunk and then there’s also the music?
SB: No, that’s a lifestyle decision. If you have that mindset then make a decision to have that outlook on things then that’s a lifestyle. Thats something you do every day. If you have any sort of zen mindset or spiritual awareness then that’s what you do every day. Positivity should have a lot to do with that and even just an awareness of positivity or positive people in your network can help people who are more negative look at things in a different way.
One of the things that intrigues me about Seapunk is the “everyday” nature of it. Like the hair, or the strong aesthetic, it’s something you take with you all the time. Like if you were a Witch House producer you can walk on the street and you basically just look normal, or like yourself. But I feel like Seapunk you’re sort of… living it all the time I guess?
SB: I’d say that’s accurate.
AR: It’s on my mind a good amount of the time.
SB: I like that it’s recognizable. Okay, I said this on twitter and I stand by this: “Seapunk is to 2012 what Marilyn Manson was to 1997.” Everybody wants to ostracize it and make fun of it and try to bring it down in some way but it is what it is, and it’s weird maybe. It’s like “outlandish” perhaps.
AR: It’s kind of tongue in cheek.
SB: Tongue in cheek for sure.
AR: We want people to get that it’s not just what you see it as. There’s something behind it.
I think a lot of people miss the humorous aspect or fun aspect behind it.
SB: There’s humor, or a sense of humor for sure. I don’t think it’s a joke as much as there’s definitely a tongue in cheek humor. Like Marilyn Manson could throw bags of cookies and bags of dog shit into a crowd and see who ate what. So we can throw plastic crabs out into the crowd and be dorks if we want to. Same thing.
Do you guys feel a lot of connection with 90s stuff? Sometimes it seems like there’s a similar feeling to the club kid atmosphere. It’s not as hedonistic, but maybe the PLUR aspect to it? Was that a big influence?
AR: Yeah, I mean PLUR is important, but I feel like I draw a lot from like electroclash to be honest. I like 90s house and stuff. 90s jungle, drum and bass. A lot of the club kid type stuff came from electroclash for me personally. But PLUR is important.
SB: Very important. PLUR is very good. I don’t know, the nostalgia thing is something people kinda grabbed from Tumblr. It has nothing to do with us, it has nothing to do with what we’re doing. Maybe some of the producers we’re involved with work on 90s nostalgia level, but personally I don’t think that we do.
Do you think people confuse nostalgia with just the fact that everything has precedent now?
SB: I mean we were alive in the 90s and we were influenced by it in some way, but there’s not an intentional attitude towards like “lets bring back the 90s!”
AR: Something like Steampunk is all about obsessing over culture or trying to hold on to something from the past, and I think people confuse us with that.
SB: More what we’re doing is letting everything from the past go and focusing on the future. Being more forward minded “the future is now kind of attitude.” 90s nostalgia? Not so much. But like the club kid thing, especially right now in Chicago with what we’re doing, there’s like a lot of like “dress up, be crazy.” The whole, what was that quote – “if you feel like a troll, be a troll.” Dress how you want to dress.
AR: I think TOP8 was a really big inspiration. I remember coming here like a year ago with Ssion at MoMa PS1, and I DJed a TOP8 and finally meeting them in person and seeing a kind of modern “club kid” thing going on was really uplifting. They were all really tight, and they were doing it. They all dressed like freaks and it was cool to find a family of freaks to be a part of there for a bit.
Are you still working on a lot of your own music, or do you find that curating Coral Records is taking up a lot of time?
SB: He works all the time.
AR: Yeah, I work on my own music. I’ve been talking to a couple of records labels about releases. I’ve been focusing on more minimal techno stuff. Not as much of the b-more sound or bass music sound.
So you’re definitely amenable to working with other labels beyond Coral?
SB: Oh yeah. It’s not so insular y’know. I feel like Coral Records is a way to like-
AR: It’s a platform-
SB: To bring really good producers who aren’t getting much attention into some sort of spotlight and be like “look, this is happening” because there’s not always an avenue to bring them out. For the midwest producers, a lot of people don’t know how to self promote.
AR: And the visual part of it is so strong, it’s a really powerful tool. I’d say with each release there’s a lot of time put into just the visuals. And with a lot of dance record labels usually the visuals are just really minimal.
SB: The dude who does all the art for the label, Kevin Heckart, is also from Kansas. He’s amazing. I’d like to see him actually get more attention from the press, and be interviewed and stuff like that.
AR: He was in some Polish design book. As an trendsetter, last year. A lot of his images, they still pop up a lot. His artwork is the source of a lot of people trying to generate other content. You can tell they’re just basing off of his work, really directly. But most people don’t actually do 3D artwork. He actually is making real 3D images, other people are just sort of photoshopping stuff together.
SB: Kevin is starting to do videos too. There’s gonna be a lot more visual stuff happening. It’s amazing. We’re lucky that he works with us, because he’s fucking talented. It wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t doing that.
I imagine with the heavy internet presence you guys must get a lot of people coming to you all the time, is it overwhelming ever to have amount of accessibility?
SB: Yeah. IM’s popping off every time you log on. Yeah it’s weird. It can be overwhelming. I’ve had times where I won’t open my laptop for a week or two and I’ll just use my phone to tweet and just stay off of Facebook. But it’s cool I mean everyone’s nice. But yes, it can be overwhelming sometimes.
If you could only have one would you take Twitter or Tumblr?
AR: Definitely Twitter.
You guys get so associated with Tumblr…
AR: Yeah it’s too bad.
We can change that with this interview.
SB: Yeah! Down with Tumblr, up with Twitter.
AR: Twitter is more like augmented reality and Tumblr is like otaku or weeaboo culture. Although we are going to ACen. I want to DJ a nerd rave.
When you first started Seapunk did you feel like you were just throwing stuff out and hoping it would catch? Or since you had already been doing music were you more confident that people would hear it?
AR: I think having the record label was really what made it start really going.
SB: Because it was initially just a group of us shouting it out as something that we all understood, and it just blossomed out from there based on a fan base that was already existing and happened to be paying attention to what we were doing at the time. I think for you [she points to Albert] it was something we had felt previously like we were on the same wavelength so when it happened it was like there was already a consensus and understanding and a label for it.
AR: Plus when you make physical copies of something that definitely helps whatever it is. Like it’s meant to last. We’re making this for real, it’s not just something free floating out there that can get deleted whenever.
So you definitely envision Seapunk as something that – I mean with Witch House or other micro genres – I hate to use that term – but anyway the progenitors were really okay with it being a sort of momentary thing, they maybe wanted it to be transitory even. Do you picture Seapunk being a moniker or aesthetic that sticks or kind of evolves?
AR: I definitely think it should keep evolving. It’s gonna take time for people to get it.
SB: I think the only time that we’ve had a good review, or an accurate representation in print was the initial write up that Travis did for the Bloglin. Everybody else has totally missed the mark and kind of done interpretations of what is happening instead of the reality. It’s kind of fun to watch that, but at the same time hopefully it’ll evolve to a point where everyone kind of understands what’s actually happening and then can move forward with it.
Do you find the need to correct things that are getting it wrong or do you just let it float?
SB: I just kind of lol.
AR: I tried to initially, maybe one or two, but it’s just not going to do anything. It didn’t work. Once it gets posted its up. People see it, I mean what are you gonna have them edit it?
You seem to envision it getting bigger and bigger. Some people want to stay secretive or alternative but would you love it if Seapunk blew up massively?
SB: Yeah! We want to have yacht parties.
AR: that was in the works at one point. It’s still a possibility.
[Albert takes a drag on a glowing E-Cigarette] How’s that future cigarette treating you?
SB: They’re cool right? We want one that like lights up all crazy every time you drag it?
AR: There’s our new merch!
SB: The new Coral Records E cigarette. Buy now! Tastes like Ocean water!
AR: When you plug it in to charge it you get bonus tracks!
—–- Whole Milk