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Friday, October 15, 2021

An interview with Willoughby’s Gus Seyffert

Gus Seyffert is a multi-talented presence in the music industry. He produces with his own label, Sargent Records, tours on the bass with Norah Jones and fronts Willoughby – the opener for Band of Horses that wowed concertgoers at Freeborn last Thursday.

Willoughby has been going strong for approximately three years and Seyffert has been touring with Jones for roughly six months. On top of that, Seyffert is putting out a free monthly song series called Sargent Singles in his recording studio in Los Angeles.

The Aggie had a chance to chat with Seyffert about his career and show with Band of Horses in Davis.

How did your musical career and Willoughby begin?

I’ve been playing music all my life. I started off playing jazz and moved out to LA. At some point I started writing songs. I formed a few different bands, but they were all pretty horrible – coming from trying to get over some jazz damage. Eventually I fell into the scene of the LA Eastside and the Salt Lake area, and then I met Inara George, Mike Andrews and some other people who really influenced me, and I started writing my own music. I did the record all by myself. I had a little eight-track reel-to-reel machine and threw it together, and then I got a band and we started playing around, put the record out and started touring. I’ve worked with a lot of different bands – I’ve worked The Bird & the Bee and right now I’m with Norah Jones. Whenever I have time I try to work on my own project; I’ve been trying to get this band off the ground forever.

Is it weird touring with Norah Jones and someone else’s vision and then coming back to your own band?

When it’s your thing, it’s your thing. I love playing music, so whenever I have a good gig I’m stoked. Norah’s really sweet and it’s a lot of fun. But when it’s your own thing it’s totally different. Right now, I’ve got these guys and they’re really great musicians and we’re all really into it. We’re just trying to get our music out there so yes, it’s a different feeling.

How would you describe Willoughby’s sound?

Somebody coined the term “spy rock” about a year ago, and I kind of like that. But I find it kind of hard to describe. Our first record is a little more folksy and down-tempo – it’s kind of a record [to listen to after a break-up] I guess – but now we’re getting more influenced by early punk stuff, psychedelic music from the ’60s and garage rock. We’re taking it in a different direction. I have a really hard time with that question. Just last night, I was at a bar and someone asked, “What does your music sound like?” You have no idea what turns people off and they don’t really understand how words represent bands. He’ll say “Band of Horses is like a folk band,” and I’ll be like, “what?”

You were a really good match to open for Band of Horses. How did you get that gig?

They kind of found us. I don’t really know how or exactly what happened, but a long time ago they sent us a Myspace message offering for us to open. I didn’t even really comprehend it. Then we just happened to be on tour and met their booking agent almost a year ago, and they called us out of the blue asking us to open a show way back when. Again, this show was last minute. Their agent called like two weeks ago asking us to do a couple last minute shows. And we were like, “Yeah! We’ll do it!”

So what’s in the future for you and Willoughby?

I’ve been writing a lot of music. Mostly everything we’re playing now is new material. I need to get into the studio, record it and put out another record. We’re getting in that mode, trying to make sure we have enough songs, trying to get a label behind us. I’ve done everything by myself so far and it’s really hard.

Have any labels shown interest?

Yeah, there have been some. When we were first shopping for our first record, we did talk to some labels, but there didn’t seem to be anything that was a good match for us. The record industry is in such a weird position right now; they honestly can’t afford to put money into something that they’re not sure they’re going to make their money back with. It’s really hard to get the label convinced of that – you sort of have to get to a certain point on your own. I think we’re getting there. We’ve got some fans, we’ve done some tours, people are starting to know who we are and like us. I think we’re getting into a better situation and I really want to focus on making a record and focus on this band. It’s what I love to do.

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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