SEIMS has evolved from a one-man studio project into an epic Australian experimental Post Rock outfit led by multi-instrumentalist Simone Bartholomew. He’s written and produced the new album Four that follows the likes of 3 and 3.1, and also features contributions from Plini drummer Chris Allison, Kat Hunter & Susie Bishop on violins & Tangents/FourPlay member Peter Hollo on cellos.
Welcome to Simeon who joins us At The Barrier to tell us all about why he loves American post Rockers, Tortoise.
I actually hated Tortoise. A lot.
It all started in 2002. I was 17 years old, in my final year of high school. My teenage punk band consisted of us playing Millencolin and Green Day covers (poorly) at 50bpm faster because “faster is better” and we didn’t know how else to use our newly discovered testosterone. I had just had my eyes opened to Mudvayne’s LD50, and being a bassist, I thought this was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard because “more notes is better” (to be fair, it was a great album.). My entire musicianship in my early years revolved around playing as many notes as you can as fast as you can.
My stoner singer at the time loved referring new music to me, and younger me wasn’t very open-minded. He handed me the CD for Tortoise’s TNT – and I didn’t even listen to it.
I literally judged this book by its cover. It had a lacklustre doodle of a person smoking a spliff(?) The aesthetic was so unappealing to me that I couldn’t even give it a shot.
Over the next 3-4 years, my music tastes shifted pretty quickly as I was maturing in my musicianship. Green Day was swapped for Giraffes? Giraffes!, Limp Bizkit for Lightning Bolt, and Blink 182 for Battles. Whenever people asked me what math-rock and post-rock was, the two bands that always came up were, “Oh! like Tortoise and Boards of Canada?” The pigeonholing of Tortoise with the “uneducated” trying to understand and connect further distanced me from the band that I never gave a chance.
What an elitist idiot I was.
It’s now 2016, and as I stroll past the local record store on King St, I see a giant poster of this awkward, pale man. His shirt collar is messy and undone. His smile looks like a composite of three different smiles from previous takes poorly Photoshopped together. His hair is oily. The wallpaper behind him was this drab, blue, flowery print.
I was so engaged with this unflattering photo. I walked in and asked the clerk, and they said “Oh, it’s a band called The Catastrophist.”
I go home and jump onto Bandcamp, and search for ‘The Catastrophist’, and instantly spot the cover art. I scrub the first song and immediately love the soundscape. I click play on another random song from the album and again, am intrigued immediately. I stop listening and purchase it without hesitation, and cue it up for my next trip to the office. “Oh how funny…” I say to myself. “The album’s called Tortoise because old mate on the cover looks a bit like a tortoise.”
What an ignorant idiot I was.
I play the album through and fall in love with everything that is happening. The arrangements are so on point and off-kilter. They’re musically lax yet the music never drags. The composition let everyone speak simultaneously without overshadowing. A few weeks later, I’ve listened to this album explicitly whenever I’ve had headphones on. I’m obsessed. And then it hits me that I’ve confused the artist name for the album name. I’m listening to Tortoise, and you know what I’ve realised over the past month?
I love Tortoise. A lot.
As the universe would have it – not long after, Tortoise announce their 2016 Australian tour. I actually have a chance to see my new favourite band in the flesh down the road from my apartment. As the universe would further have it, 4 weeks before the gig, I get an email offering us the main support slot.
Of course, by this point, I’ve gone through their entire back catalogue acutely, discovering these “fresh new albums” 15 years late to the party. What other great, life-changing albums had I missed because of my naivety and arrogance?
One thing’s for sure – I’ve absolutely stopped judging books by their cover.
Our grateful thanks to Simeon for taking the time to share his thoughts.
Here’s The Mountain’s Scream from the new SEIMS album:
Check our Why I Love archive here.