A little more than 2,000 years ago, a loose confederation of tribal seafaring wanderers, known simply as Sea Peoples, did a fair amount of hell-raising and resistance-minded work in Egypt and other spots around the Mediterranean.
The specifics of the Sea Peoples’ origins and history remain scant and largely mysterious to this day — but these maritime warriors (who absorbed members of varying tribes and sects to increase their numbers) fought with pharaohs and are thought to have facilitated the downfall of the once-powerful Hittite kingdom.
Most importantly, along the path of their wild-eyed adventures, the Sea Peoples spread art, culture and, ultimately, anarchy throughout their region: a wicked combination in any century.
Now, fast forward to 21st-century Asheville, and here you’ll find dug into the town’s dark underbelly a new tribe of SeepeopleS waging a different kind of war, but one that employs some similar tactics to those of their ancient counterparts.
Though certainly not violent like their predecessors, SeepeopleS color their anti-establishment campaign with a near-impossible-to-categorize brand of music — absorbing and emanating an enormous array of styles, including progressive hard rock, trance and an undeniable (though categorically unsound) eerie pop flavor. Their message of resistance, even anarchy, against corporate media, social oppression and other modern ailments shines through the thoughtful but often biting lyrics of Will Bradford, who pens a vast majority of their music as well.
“We’re definitely involved in the guerrilla warfare of music,” says Bradford about the band’s grassroots aesthetic, embodied by constant touring, self-released records, homespun PR and a meaty cache of all-original tunes. “I think we’re hardened to the point that it would almost feel wrong to ever let anybody get involved unless they were really passionate about the music.”
In many ways, Bradford is SeepeopleS all by himself. Though the now-quartet of drums/bass/keys, plus multi-instrumentalist Bradford, certainly is a band, it’s still mostly Bradford charting and strategizing their multi-faceted sonic mayhem.
SeepeopleS’ core threesome of Bradford, drummer Tim Haney and bassist Dan Ingenthron all hail from the now-deceased Boston band Cosmic Dilemma, and they continued working the New England circuit as SeepeopleS until 2002, when Bradford was left to carry SeepeopleS on his own.
He juggled various versions of the band over the next two years, and moved to Asheville, where the original crew reunited last fall shortly before the release of their poignant new record, The Corn Syrup Conspiracy. Conspiracy carries on the politically and socially fed-up vibe of their first record, 2002’s For the Good of the Nation. Both releases feature Morphine/Twinemen saxophonist Dana Colley — who adds his trademark deep baritone to a number of standout tracks from both records.
They’ve also recently added a full-time keyboardist to their touring roster, the noteworthy Peter Keys of the original Parliament.
While SeepeopleS has yet to make a huge local splash since relocating here, elsewhere on the East coast they’ve patiently built a rabidly dedicated following, turning heads with their layered, occasionally sample-happy rock at each new gig.
Despite polar influences peeping through the band’s music (think ambient Radiohead, dub reggae, Rage Against the Machine), they often return to a melodious, prog-flavored indie rock — one with just a whiff of jam sensibility.
Asked if the formula was rock ‘n’ roll first, and all the many diverse styles swirling beneath the surface second, Bradford reveals: “I never ever really think of it in those terms. When I play, I’m just thinking about what kind of sounds I want to create, what kind of palate I want to paint … “I’m more interested in combining sounds in a unique way,” he concludes.
And that overused adjective gains new life when applied to SeepeopleS — if nothing else, what’s unique is the increasing love bestowed upon them by the sprawling jam-band community.
Of course, that often happens to bands that don’t conveniently fit the mold elsewhere — but there’s more of an addictive edginess to SeepeopleS’ sound than most jam bands ever try, and fans of grittier groups and styles will find much to love in this particular tribe. While they may not facilitate total anarchy on the often neatly shelved offerings of the local scene, they can certainly give it a healthy push in that direction.
SeepeopleS plays The Emerald Lounge (112 N. Lexington Ave.) at 10 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17. 21-and-up. $5. 232-4372.