Saintseneca comes to Birmingham on the heels of Dark Arc, a record and band deep in instrumentation and lyrical prowess. The band’s frontman, Zac Little, spoke to Weld about what to expect at the band’s show at the Bottletree this Friday.
Weld: How many instruments do you play during a live performance, and what are they?
Zac Little: Well, it depends on the show. Right now, on this tour, we are doing — there used to be a point where we would bring everything in. One show, we would have a guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, autoharp, dulcimer, all in the same show. But you know, that’s a lot of strings. So pretty quickly, we realized that — the intention is to make it a more exciting, compelling presentation of the songs, but if you have to spend all day shuffling around, maybe it detracts from that. So right now, we’ve rearranged some of the songs, reinterpreted some of those parts, to make it more streamlined. We’ve brought drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, some dulcimer things and bass. And we all kind of trade those around throughout the duration of the show.
Weld: So you all play every instrument?
ZL: With the exception of percussion right now. My friend Matt, he’s playing drums.
Weld: Are the new arrangements that you perform live drastically different than what we hear on Dark Arc?
ZL: It depends on the song. I think that — I tend to not worry too much about, “How do I recreate this thing in a literal fashion?” I tend to focus more on, “How do we take this and re-imagine that texture with something?”
Try to present in a way that feels like considered and something that’s specific to playing a live show. Some things are different, some things are the same. But sometimes it’s fun to make something that’s dramatically different and sometimes we kind of keep it pretty straight course. It really depends on the song.
Weld: The band considers the Columbus home, but you are from Appalachia. What part?
ZL: I grew up in Southeast Ohio. I didn’t really live in a town, per se.
Weld: What carried you to Columbus? School?
ZL: Yeah, I went up there for school. I studied culture, actually, at Ohio State.
Weld: What was the greatest thing you saw as a spectator at South by Southwest?
ZL: My favorite show was Moses Sumney. He played electric guitar and did a lot of vocal processing stuff, it was really great. He did a lot of interesting songwriting and it was a total surprise. I just went with my friend, and it was a pleasant surprise.
Weld: How has your recent inclusion on All Songs Considered impacted your 2014?
ZL: It was exciting. I feel like that’s a well curated show, so I was certainly flattered to be part of it.
Weld: Is this your first trip to Birmingham?
ZL: We’ve actually been there — I’m struggling to remember the name of the spot, but, it was an all-ages spot.
Weld: So it wasn’t Bottletree?
ZL: No, it wasn’t Bottletree. We ate lunch at the Bottletree.
Weld: The Forge?
ZL: That sounds right, yeah. That was, like, October of 2012, I think.
Weld: Every time I read something about you guys, someone tries to compare you to something. I want to know what you’re told you sound like the most and what you think you sound like.
ZL: I try to tune it out. I feel like it’d make me crazy if I indulge myself with what other people said we were like or trying to compare us to something else. It’s not really — if you’re the one making the music…the best thing you can do is just do what you believe in and not really worry about what it is from an analytical perspective.
Weld: You’re songwriting is unique — you work with abstract ideas. Where do you draw that from?
ZL: I don’t know that there’s a singular thing. I think that, just like life, I’ll find inspiration in all sorts of things. Sometimes, you’ll learn anecdotes about biology or physics or something like that, or it may be something that has to do with a broader more philosophical sort of thing. A metaphysical thing. Or just life experiences — having relationships with people. I don’t know that I have a singular source of inspiration. I just try to keep my eyes open wherever.
Weld: Who are the top five American rock bands of all time?
ZL: They have to be American?
Weld: That’s the tricky part.
ZL: Can I just say the Beatles for all five?
Weld: If that’s your answer, that’s your answer.