soulhead: Who are your artistic influences?
The Seal Breakers: We listen to many different styles of music so our influences are as wide as our musical tastes. We all grew up with the influence of gospel music so Mary Mary, Kim Burrell, J. Moss, and Tye Tribbett were early influences. In Hip Hop you had the legends like Notorious BIG, Jay Z, Fab and Kanye but then of course you have Drake, Kendrick Lamarr and J. Cole. Then we love artists like Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Imagine Dragons, The Roots, Maroon 5 and Robert Glasper so our influences are very diverse and we think our music reflects that.
sh: What does soul music mean to you?
TSB: Soul music gets at the heart of who we all are as human beings. It touches the heart, mind, body and soul. Some musical styles can only provide one emotional experience at a time but soul music can make you feel joy, pain, laughter, grief, worship, regret. Depending on when you hear the same song it can take you through a full range of emotions. Good soul music is so rooted in the experience of Black culture that you can swear you can smell your mothers food in the kitchen when you hear it.
sh: What do you bring to the modern music scene?
TSB: [Modern music] lacks a lot of the dynamic range that R&B soul brought to the industry. In recent years the music industry has taken a financial downturn so while there was always some level of signing artists that were seen as a road to guaranteed success that ideology has become so pervasive now that it often equates to only signing artists with the same sound and style. That may translate to more record sells but ultimately the music and the fans suffer for a lack of diversity.
sh: Given your history of being a band rooted in the community, can you talk about music as a tool for community engagement?
TSB: Music is such a pivotal part of youth culture today that any attempt to reach the next generation must appropriate the cultural importance of music. Black culture and hip hop in particular is driving fashion, music, art, television, film and everything in between. In Bedford Stuyvesant the racial and cultural landscape is changing so rapidly that virtually overnight we are now forced to engage our new neighbors in a way to embrace them but at the same time affirm our own history and culture that has been built since the white flight of the 50s and 60s. We have found out that many of our new neighbors are musicians themselves or have a deep appreciation for soul music so weve doing musical festivals in Bedford Stuyvesant and invite them to come in and participate. We come from different realms socially and culturally but through the medium of music we can find some common ground. Its just a small step but perhaps if we can learn to appreciate each other culturally we can better embrace each other socially and politically. That remains to be seen.
sh: Your home hood of Brooklyn Bed-Stuy to be exact is celebrated as a cultural den for hip-hop. How has it been for The Seal Breakers as a soul band to share space with such a heavy hip-hop influence?
Hip-Hop is the dominant musical form of our generation so its very easy for us. Hip-Hop is injected in our musical expression whether we are playing r&b, soul, gospel or jazz. The hip-hop motifs are always present. Its part of who we are.
sh: What is your hope for:
That it will not become outmoded or outdated and will hopefully be embraced by our generation in a bigger way.
Our hope for Brooklyn is that it will continue to be a musical and cultural mecca for artists throughout the world. We also hope that as the borough continues its new Renaissance it will not leave out the people who are the heart and soul of the communities that have made Brooklyn such a special place.
That we will continue to be the flavor, style and benchmark for music and culture in this country and around the world.