Bourdeaux-based Seeds of Mary deliver a grungey metal punch to the gut with their precise, aggressive and technical brand of music. The band’s guitarists, Julien and Raph speak with Pana Markides about their latest album, ‘Serendipity’.
By The Hard Baroquer
Assertive, aggressive and heavy are three words that sums up well the powerful brand of grunge and metal that comes from French hard rockers Seeds of Mary.
Formed in 2011, this band of closely-knit band has been hard at work to hone their music in terms of song writing and technique, while touring France extensively every year and thereby establishing themselves as an act worth following. The band’s blend of resonant and deep vocals combined with raging growls where needed, mixed with technically proficient guitar work, confident drumming and a tight bass section that holds everything together is exciting to hear and combined with a dedicated rehearsal routine, the five-piece is sure to deliver a precise and energetic live show that will captivate their audience.
With the release of Seeds of Mary’s third LP, Serendipity, earlier in 2020 founding member Julien Jolivet (guitars) and Raph Gatuingt (guitars and vocals) spoke to THB about staying gig fit through regular rehearsals, how therapeutic song writing is, and Julien’s dream of one day playing Wembley.
Tell our readers the story of Seeds of Mary so far…
Julien: I started the band in Bordeaux, France back in 2011 after I put an end to my former band. I wanted something edgier, both vintage and modern at the same time with a certain melancholic tone which grew bigger and bigger throughout the years. After finding most members thanks to ads online, we started writing and recording what would become our first self-titled EP released in 2013. At that time, we were somewhere between grunge and stoner and struggled to find our own sound. Influences were way too obvious, I guess. For us, everything remained to be learnt music wise and to become a better band. We are still walking on this path step by step.
Then after a first album (Choose Your Lie, 2015) and many line-up changes, we found what we consider now to be the best formula for the band today both musically and on the human side of things. We extensively toured anywhere we could to promote this first album and never stopped doing so until Covid-19 turned up… We considered playing anywhere where there was electricity all over France, for audiences of three people (for real!) or hundreds.
We kept going with a second album entitled The Blackbird and The Dying Sun in 2017 quickly followed by another EP (The Sun Sessions) in 2018. The Blackbird period took us to the next level musically speaking. Everything got tighter and more genuine from here. We got more peer recognition as well which is a great confidence booster when you sometimes raise doubts about the future of your band. Today, we are back with our third album: Serendipity which is the best thing we’ve accomplished so far.
Your music is really grungy in nature, and comparisons with Alice in Chains is one that I keep seeing being made… which other bands have inspired you the most and how do you bring in these elements to your music?
Raph: To be fair, we are a bit fed up with all these Alice In Chains comparisons… Nobody here will deny the great influence they had on us, we love them and they deserve all the respect in the world, but I feel like we have moved away from them musically-speaking. The main reason why this connection is still being made probably relies on our important use of vocal harmonies, but hey, The Beatles did it before any of us! We never decided to harmonise our voices in order to sound like them, it is just another way for us to convey emotions.
Now to go back to your initial question, we are five individuals in this band, and we all draw inspiration from very different places. I can safely say Bowie, Pink Floyd, Faith No More, The Ocean or Katatonia have always been major influences for the band. However, we also find inspiration in cinema, literature and basically all form of arts that move us. We just blend all these different emotions and ideas and try to take the best out of them to spice our music up.
Many bands have had their plans thrown out due to world events… has 2020 been a challenge for the band? What has the focus been for the year?
Raph: It depends on what you call ‘challenging’. I tend to think the five of us are lucky enough to all look in the same direction, we’re driven by a common passion, and we support and respect each other. I reckon it really fuels the band and gives us the will to overcome difficulties.
As you can imagine, we have been deprived of promoting our music on stage for over a year now; however, despite personal disappointment and frustration, nobody here lost faith nor motivation. So until we can eventually hit the road and play these new songs live, we try and do our best to give some kind of a ‘virtual life’ to Serendipity on social networks and through the media, and it is really amazing to witness such good response so far!
Outside of recording music or touring, is there a routine involved in making your music and what is that routine for you?
Julien: Apart from recording and touring we keep seeing each other at least once a week to rehearse. We are all very close to one another within the band. Before being band mates, we are great friends! That makes communication much easier within the band and we get to know each other much better that way. It simplifies a lot of things when you’re locked down inside your tiny and stinky touring vehicle for days or when you’ve got precise expectancies in the studio and want to avoid individual susceptibilities.
It seems like today we all know our qualities and flaws well enough that we can focus on what’s best for the band.
We also spend a lot of time promoting our music on social networks. That is almost an everyday routine!
Let’s talk about the new album, Serendipity. How do achieve that specific metal and grunge sound that runs throughout your music?
Julien: First, because we all partly grew up with those genres. Indeed, we are as much into rock as metal. And grunge has always seemed to me the missing link between both. It has the loose approach of rock and punk filled with melancholy and a sheer sense of melody combined to the tighter and heavier distorted vibe of metal. We do not want to choose; therefore, we create something of our own using all those elements.
What did you set out to achieve in writing the album? Was there a theme or idea that was in mind?
Julien: Actually, it is quite difficult to answer, it seems like the artistic direction for this album came to us quite genuinely and almost unconsciously. We didn’t need to discuss it or argue about the general tone of the record nor the aesthetics. The theme of ‘serendipity’ was obviously present in mind throughout the process.
Without putting into words per se, it seems like we all wanted to explore much further what was brighter and subtle in our music as well as our darker and heavier side. It is both bright and dark, some kind of balanced duality. Is there a word for that? It gave birth to an album that takes the listeners wandering between these contrasts and atmospheres we keep playing with.
Can you talk about the process behind choosing the album’s name?
Julien: I suggested the title early during the pre-production phase. I’ve always liked this word which seemed a bit odd to me and for French speakers in general, I guess. I learnt it during literature classes in college. I couldn’t dissociate it from its artistic source.
Its sound and meaning seem to be perfectly fitting with each other. Then, the concept of Serendipity made perfect sense at that precise time within the band. Making art is by definition an act of serendipity. We all have an idea in mind regarding the result but in the end the process of creation takes you to a place you usually do not expect. As a band, we all fantasise the result when we are creating. Trying to stick to your fantasy as much as you’re willing to, might be a great source of frustration and disappointment when your creation comes to life. However, for this album, we accepted that element of surprise. We kind of let go and accepted where the creative process would take us. Everything seemed to fall into place quite easily with this album. We didn’t even argue about the track list! Isn’t that what we call maturity? (laughter)
Can you tell our readers about the creative process for your music?
Julien: I usually write the instrumentals for the songs influenced by my personal experiences and emotions. Usually the dark ones; there is something therapeutic in it, I guess. It might sound commonplace, but feelings have always been a good starter to write songs for Seeds of Mary. It can also be something I’ve read or seen. It is always very arousing to turn an emotion or an idea into art. It’s quite challenging and stimulating for me. Then, I bring in detailed structures and arrangements. Eventually, the rest of the band makes them their own to get the result sound more personal once everybody’s sensibility has blended with each other.
The determining element to decide whether a song is in or out is the vocals. In fact, vocal lines can change the overall vibe of a song. They will also determine transformations within the songs either for the structures or arrangements. We always try to develop vocal harmonies to serve our melodies. It has become a strong element of our sound. I could say the same for the guitar parts. Raph and I try to be as complementary as we can to deliver a richer and subtler result.
There are many technical elements to your music – how important is it for the band to be a technically masterful as possible and how do you achieve this?
Raph: Thank you for noticing it! This is one of the things I enjoy the most about Julien’s song writing, he allows the band to explore more technical dimensions but always keep that simple, straightforward rock n’ roll aspect. That is probably the reason why we ourselves are unable to put a clear label on our musical style. We are somewhere between rock and metal, and I love that. It is all about duality and balance.
Now to answer your question, it obviously takes a lot of work for all these elements to come together but it also requires subtlety and a bit of common-sense. I feel like we always try to push the boundaries of our skills as musicians and it is really exciting.
What can fans look forward to from you in the coming months?
Raph: We have been working a lot on technical live aspects lately and we never stopped rehearsing so that people find a band in perfect shape when we get back on stage. Meanwhile, we are currently thinking and working on new music videos. Also, I do not know if I should let you know about it, but we found out a lot of songs out of Serendipity would work great acoustic. I probably play my acoustic guitar more often than electric ones and I am always thinking of possible arrangements. So, who knows what could come out from that?
Many of our readers are aspiring musicians – what knowledge can you share for them about making music as a band?
Raph: I would definitely say it takes a huge amount of passion, work and dedication. No one should be afraid of failing if that means learning from it. Listen to shitloads of music, read, paint, watch movies, get inspired by inspiring people and do not give up because at the end of the day, passion is what makes you feel more alive.
What can fans expect at Seeds of Mary live show?
Raph: I would say our two main words regarding live performance are ‘precision’ and ‘energy’. First, we work hard vocally and instrumentally to make justice to the recordings and in my humble opinion, we managed throughout the years to become better and better. Then, we always have so much fun playing together live – no matter how big the audience is or is not – that we all work up a sweat on stage.
Jerem is as good a singer as a frontman, he has this entertainment fibre and he really helps us putting on a good show even though the live conditions are not optimal. I always feel like something special happens when the five of us walk on stage and I am pretty sure people will see it and enjoy it. Is it what you call ‘symbiosis’?
Tell our readers about the best gig Seeds of Mary has ever played.
Raph: Wow, we’ve played so much these last years it is almost impossible for me to pick a single gig!
Come to think of it, I remember clearly that night of 2018 in L’Isle-Bouzon, which is probably one of the tiniest French town ever. The venue was rather big and we were quite worrying about playing in front of an empty crowd. In the end, it turned out to be one of our greatest memory, people showed up enthusiastically and everything was great.
We also played a great gig in Limoges in a packed CCM John Lennon. Or I can also tell you about that concert last year in Bordeaux, our hometown, opening for Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons! I had gone through a break-up a couple of days before the show and I recall being torn between sorrow and joy of playing an almost sold-out venue, sharing the stage with such a legend. It will definitely stay etched in my memory! We had so many great times I could spend the whole day thinking about it!
Favourite gig/concert you’ve attended (as a fan)
Julien: Guns N’ Roses reunion show, Stade de France 2017.
Raph: Stone Sour at Brixton Academy 2012 or Parkway Drive at Hellfest 2018.
What is your album of the year?
Julien: Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos
Raph: Katatonia – City Burials
A piece of gear/equipment you couldn’t live without?
Julien: My Alpine White Gibson Les Paul!
Raph: I am in love with my cheap white Mexican Fender Telecaster.
What single venue would you love to perform at?
Julien: Is Wembley acceptable? (laughter)
Raph: I guess playing L’Olympia in Paris would be a pretty serious consecration.
Watch the video to Seeds of Mary’s track, “Rewind Me” below:
Seeds of Mary are:
Julien Jolivet – Guitar
Raph Gatuingt – Guitar / Vocals
Jérémy Dourneau – Vocals
Eliott Le solleu – Bass
Aaron Silvestre – Drums