There’s no ambiguity in SeepeopleS’ “New American Dream” music video. From its lyrics, “I wanna be the president and kill everyone / I wanna be the president / and play with all the big bombs,” to imagery of infamous world leaders throwing nuclear bombs at each other—of course, Donald Trump’s is plated gold—”New American Dream” is less of a critique on politics than on our society’s obsession with power.
“We definitely wanted it to not be subtle,” lead singer Will Bradford says. “It’s a pretty tongue-in-cheek song, but I think most people who know us as band know we don’t want to be president and kill anyone [laughs]. . . . The song is actually an old SeepeopleS’ song. It was written the year Bush invaded Iraq over a decade ago. So, it’s actually a really old song that seemed relevant again!”
Formerly based in Asheville before moving to Portland, Maine, fans still think of SeepeopleS as a NC band. As they continue to tour across the country and make their way back home, SeepeopleS will play at Wilmington’s The Whiskey on Sunday, Dec. 3.
Their resurrected “New American Dream” comes with a pretty damning animated video by Pete List (MTV’s “Celebrity Deathmatch”), which portrays Donald Trump screaming at flocks of Twitter birds alongside the likes of Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin (riding a bear) and Bashar al-Assad. However, other U.S. presidents, like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama, are presented with their contributions to war as well.
“It was meant to elicit a response,” Bradford clarifies. “And my Facebook messenger is full almost daily [as a result].” Some include death threats from folks donning “Make America Great Again” hats, posing in pictures with their machine guns, noting “can’t wait to see your show.”
“Some of that is even more horrifying than what’s been going on,” Bradford notes, “to see people defend [Trump’s power] and even worshipping it, quite frankly.”
Trump’s 2016 campaign was impetus for bringing back the relatively dormant tune. In fact, SeepeopleS kept “bumping into his campaign” throughout their tour last year.
“I got kicked out of one of his rallies,” Bradford remembers with a chuckle. “But we really saw it happening all over the country, it was unsettling. . . . People from dark corners felt liberated—we definitely saw some swastika flags fly free.”
The song itself has not changed since it was penned 10 years ago. The common thread, which spans many generations, is a lust for power. Though, with the addition of Lists’ video, it does seem to lean more toward the anarchist side of SeepeopleS, which, to some degree, has always been present in their music.
“I hate to throw [‘anarchist’] out there, but I love to,” Bradford quips. “It has a lot of connotations, there’s no doubt, but the main thing [with ‘New American Dream’] was looking at Trump’s rise to power and sort of more of a society as a whole and the environment we have that would allow someone like Trump to rise to power. We have a culture right now that certainly worships the idea of power. And I think the lesson of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is sort of lost these days.”
Bradford thought Donald Trump’s story and his ultimate gain of the highest office in the land represented one that many Americans might aspire or relate to these days, but also it’s a history lesson. Like many others 10 years ago, Bradford didn’t think things could get much worse. Trump is his reminder that they can and usually do . . . again and again and again.
While “New American Dream” has punkish qualities, SeepeopleS isn’t a punk band—or maybe they are just a little bit, sometimes. Often referred to as “anti-genre,” Bradford thinks they’re embracive of multiple genres in reality. SeepeopleS is in the middle of a three-part EP series, “Love,” “Hate,” “Live.” The first two are out and the latter will be a live album released sometime in February or March of 2018.
“That’s when we’ll release the whole thing,” Bradford divulges. “There were some tracks that didn’t make it on the first two EPs.”
Many songs were written around the same time frame, so, lyrically, they have common themes and threads. They were going to be recorded onto one album—originally Bradford’s attempt at writing more “love songs.”
“I realized I was writing more spiteful, regretful songs,” he quips. “So, I decided to split them up. And then we always wanted to do a live album, so that led to ‘love, hate, live.’ . . . I still can’t write love songs [laughs].”
Recorded on on their own imprint, RascalZRecordZ, the point of “Love” (December 2016) was to dig into what love is versus just singing about it. In the same vein, “Hate” (April 2017) is not a hateful record, per se, but more about what society hates to hate and emotions that lead to hate. “Live” is going to include songs from “Love” and “Hate,” as well as tunes from their past five full-lengths. The biggest hold up at this stage is deciding which songs to include.
“I’m actually amazed we never got to do a live record,” Brandford observes. “SeepeopleS always deal with some pretty heavy stuff. I’ve been stupid enough for long enough, oftentimes creating a lot of intense drama for myself and for our band—which, I think, always comes around to making pretty good songs; at least with subject matter that isn’t trivial.”
“Live” also will serve as a reminder that SeepeopleS shows are pretty upbeat and happy. It’s still a pure escape experience, with some thought-provoking and dynamically conscious music.