Sun Seeker has already drawn attention and acclaim for their unhurried breed of Cosmic American Music and with BIDDEFORD (Third Man Records), their long awaited debut EP, the Nashville-based band more than affirm their protracted promise. Songs like “With Nothing (But Our Last Words)” and the yearning “Won’t Keep Me Up At Night” see the gifted young trio exploring nostalgia, melancholy, and emotional turmoil via laidback psychedelia pollinated with tight harmonies, classic folk songcraft, and country rock spirit, an ageless approach that is simultaneously archetypal and now utterly their own.
The “bunch of musical friends” at the core of Sun Seeker have been collaborating in some sense since eighth grade, united at the outset by a shared passion for live rock ‘n’ roll. Alex Benick (guitar, vocals) together with Nashville School of Arts besties Asher Horton (bass guitar) and Ben Parks (drums) were all enthralled by the then-burgeoning Nashville indie scene, hanging out at DIY house venues like Glenn Danzig’s House and The Other Basement and digging local combos like PUJOL and Lylas.
“We had an immediate connection,” Benick says. “I’d go to shows and see these two kids that were also 14 or 15. Early on we bonded over bands like The Band and Wilco and Buzzcocks. Even now my favorite music tends to circulate through the three of us.”
The teenaged trio made music together the very first time they met up outside of a gig, hitting the streets of Nashville to busk a setlist highlighted by approximately thirty renditions of Camper Van Beethoven’s college rock classic, “Take The Skinheads Bowling.” An aspiring songwriter with a taste for Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst, Benick soon showed his new friends one of his original tunes and a band was born.
“I had been listening to a lot of sad acoustic guitar music,” Benick says. "All of a sudden I had talented musicians interpreting my songs through their experience. The songs became a product of a group and less derivative of songwriters I grew up listening to."
The trio fashioned a loose collective of combos, playing together in each other’s bands, but Sun Seeker “quickly shot up to being the priority” for all. The band officially convened in January 2013 and then spent the rest of the year honing their material before finally playing their first live show in December. Sun Seeker played regularly around Nashville for the next two years, operating under the vanishing paradigm where a band earns word of mouth and a fervent fan following by simply gigging non-stop.
“It turned us into a really tight live band,” Benick says, “which at the time was definitely our focus. There was no record for people to listen to so they had to be impressed live.”
Sun Seeker in due course began recording with Nashville guitarist/producer Buddy Hughen, learning to fuse their electric live presence with sophisticated studio arrangements. Their confidence and craft were growing by leaps and bounds when Third Man Records invited them to join their prestigious roster.
“Third Man only wanted a single but we hit the studio pretty intensely and recorded a whole album’s worth of songs,” Benick says. “We basically gave them the first two that we finished and then kept going.”
Released in early 2016, “Georgia Dust” b/w “No One Knows” (TMR322) received national applause, instantly transforming Sun Seeker from local heroes to potential world-beaters. Though ready with go with close to twenty album-ready songs, the band ultimately decided to rein back and release an EP as their next offering.
“Your debut album is like the Holy Grail,” Benick says. “People are always going to look back at it as this grand introduction to the band and we wanted a little more time to build a foundation to support it when it does come out.”
Never ones to rush, Sun Seeker reunited with Hughen in October 2016 and re-recorded the six songs that make up BIDDEFORD. The EP sees Benick’s deeply reflective songwriting coming into full focus, unveiling intimate and introspective angles on his own upbringing. Written as Benick attended Nashville’s Hume-Fogg and then performed at his own graduation awards ceremony, “Won’t Keep Me Up At Night” expertly captures a teenager’s longing to leave town after high school, while “Biddeford,” the EP’s poignant title track, takes its name from the small industrial town where the young tunesmith spent his time after opting to work on a farm in southern Maine in lieu of college.
“They’re transitional songs,” Benick says. “Going from high school to working on a farm to being in a band. For example, ‘Churchill’ is about my mom getting us a dog so it’s like a window into my own childhood and into the mind of my mom. But at the same time, they’re not literal. I find it much more interesting to write through the eyes of another character.”
Though intricately constructed, songs like “Georgia Dust” and “Biddeford” were born as unaccompanied acoustic tracks, with Benick’s candid lyricism carried by equally stark and straightforward melodies. Like any great band, Sun Seeker takes their lead writer’s bare boned songs and put musical flesh on them, building out a sonic world to match their interior emotional scope.
“I go in thinking they’re these solo songs,” Benick says, “but then we work them out as a band and they just make so much more sense.”
Indeed, Sun Seeker’s musical capacity is growing more unique and adventurous with each passing day. Though the band is undeniably rooted in eternal rock sonics, Benick admits a personal fondness for Arianna Grande and that profoundly contemporaneous influence is surprisingly present in Sun Seeker’s brand of 21st century folk-pop.
“The songs are getting bigger,” he says. “We’re much more open to using technology now. At first we were determined to be very traditional and not use synthesizers or drum pads, things like that. But as we’ve grown, we’ve learned to appreciate how you can use those things for the greater good. That’s been huge for us.”
Sun Seeker will follow BIDDEFORD with intense national touring, not dissimilar to the approach they took in building a hometown following. The band plan to use the time between runs to record their now eagerly anticipated debut album, still determined to catch the on-stage energy of what Benick simply describes as “the sound of four people playing music together.” One thing is certain: Sun Seeker is going to keep venturing forward, developing and expanding the distinctive parameters of their own intrepid sound and vision.
“We don’t want to put out the same sounding record over and over again,” says Benick. “Sun Seeker is going to always grow and change.”