Though Seim once aspired to make Lackthereof his "main gig," the success of Menomena—which culminated in last year's Friend and Foe—eclipsed his solo efforts. But, thanks to a partnership with high-profile Seattle indie label Barsuk Records (which struck it big with Death Cab for Cutie and released Friend and Foe), Seim's being thrust into the singer-songwriter spotlight with Lackthereof's ninth release, Your Anchor—on which he plays everything. The album features tracks ranging from upbeat, textured pop songs with plenty of percussive elements, repetitive mantras and clever lyrics ("I'm not gonna say the/ Say the/ Same thing twice today" on "Ask Permission") to brooding, dreamlike numbers (including a dissonant cover of the National's "Fake Empire").
While the Barsuk deal ensures a much larger audience for Lackthereof (most of its previous records were self-released on CD-Rs, with two on smaller-distribution Portland label FILMguerrero), it also leaves Seim, as he puts it, "feeling really vulnerable." "It's pretty horrifying. With Menomena, if it totally fails, there's two other guys to blame it on. Now, it's all on my shoulders."
But Seim, a 31-year-old Hawaii native who spent his formative years in Portland's suburbs playing Christian rock in a band called Bede (after "the Venerable") with future Menomena bandmate Justin Harris, had bigger obstacles to overcome than just stepping out from behind his kit. For years he struggled with the concept of being a secular musician. Raised Christian, Seim says his first encounters with pop music were associated with Satanism. "It was just so, so catchy. [I thought,] it's catchy because Satan is digging his claws into my brain; that's the only reason I'm being so pulled to this music. I didn't understand: Oh, it's a pop hook."
Nowadays, the excitable drummer (who screenprints onesies for Southeast Portland's Egg Press in an effort to "keep it real") is plenty comfortable crafting his own pop hooks. And he's recruited Matt Dabrowiak and Paul Alcott of Dat'r, as well as Boy Eats Drum Machine's Jonny Ragel, for live support. "It's pretty easy to be in front of the computer recording, 'cause you can sing 5 billion vocal parts," Seim explains. "It's the blessing and the curse of self-recording: 'Let's have 500 tracks! Let's have 10 guitars! Why not?' OK, now how are we gonna pull this off without hiring an orchestra?"
Seim is pulling it off, self-consciousness and all. And he's overcome many of his issues with leading an "evil" rock-star life: "I've went through so many periods of selling all my secular albums, then rebuying them, then selling them again. I'm definitely kind of hyper-aware and embarrassed.... [But], it's like, OK, this kind of made me who I am, for better or for worse." For better, I'd say.
SEE IT: Lackthereof plays Thursday, July 17, with Dykeritz and Alan Singley & Pants Machine at Holocene. 9 pm. $6. 21+. Listen to Your Anchor's "Last November" here.