An Asheville resident from 2003-11, Will Bradford enjoyed being surrounded by the city’s rich artistic community. At the same time, he points to supply-and-demand issues with the local scene — specifically concertgoers with limited funds to support the industry — as playing a role in his eventual exodus.
But behind Bradford’s return to Portland, Maine (where his genre-defying band SeepeopleS moved soon after its late ’90s Boston formation), was a more powerful factor: his 13-year heroin addiction. Since becoming clean and sober, he’s been open about his struggles with drugs and his recovery; the latter he feels wouldn’t have been possible without disconnecting from his life in Asheville. “There’s a healthy element to flight, occasionally,” he says. “[My addiction was] something I kept secret for years. [It] started rearing its ugly head and becoming not-so-secret. You have to get peace and get above it.”
Four years after his departure, Bradford brings the new SeepeopleS to the Asheville Music Hall on Friday, March 13. Rounding out the band are old New England friends Brooke Binion (guitars/synths/vocals), Frank Hopkins (keyboards) and Tony Margaronis (bass), and more recent comrade Dan Capaldi (drums).
The five-piece is touring in support of SeepeopleS’ new double album The Dead Souls Sessions, out in June on the band’s imprint, RascalZ RecordZ. Bradford wrote and recorded 80-90 percent of the songs toward the end of his Asheville days at his now-demolished Boodog Studios. He amassed over 60 new tracks during that time. Roughly 30 will make it onto the album, with the rest going on a career-spanning box set that Bradford hopes will be ready in time for Christmas. Though he acknowledges that all of the songs created in that troubled period reflect his mindset, he also believes that sticking with music played a major role in him still being around today.
“It was probably my saving grace. Living an undisciplined life, luckily I kept a guitar and I kept recording,” Bradford says. “The new album will probably be a little darker because of it.”
Helping The Dead Souls Sessions sound its best is Will Holland, co-producer of each SeepeopleS album, with whom Bradford reconnected after moving back north. At Holland’s Chillhouse Studios in Boston, the two have been revisiting Bradford’s Boodog sessions. These, Bradford says, can “sometimes sound pretty foreign.” The result is a collection of songs that’s significantly influenced by Bradford’s work with Asheville hip-hop artists, but in keeping with SeepeopleS’ past releases, takes “every direction, every time, all the time.”
“If people prefer certain genres, this will not be for them,” Bradford says. “When you’re trying to make money out of your art, we’ve been told many times to try to home in on just one thing, so we’ve always defiantly been like ‘screw that.’ We just like everything.”
Bradford credits his melting pot musical tastes to friends from his youth who made him check out acts that he otherwise wouldn’t have pursued. As a result, he got into numerous seemingly disparate scenes, from the early/mid-’90s electronica movement (he saw The Chemical Brothers on their first U.S. tour) to multiple Grateful Dead shows. Blending those and other styles into a workable whole is what Bradford considers the essence of SeepeopleS. In the band’s openness to all of the above, he sees a direct kinship with some of his favorite artists.
“Every time a Radiohead record or every time a Flaming Lips record comes out, you just really don’t know what it’s going to be,” Bradford says. “When they get in the studio, they don’t know what it’s going to be. That’s why I love those bands — they just sort of let it be what it’s going to be.”
WHO: SeepeopleS with WorldLine and Soft Bullets
WHERE: Asheville Music Hall, ashevillemusichall.com
WHEN: Friday, March 13, at 9 p.m. $10 advance/$12 at the door