San Francisco Bay Area guitar pop stalwart R.E. Seraphin returns with his EP Swingshift, a joint release via Mt. St. Mtn, Dandy Boy Records and Safe Suburban Homes. The seven-track home-recorded E.P., featuring both originals and inspired takes on songs by The Wipers and Television Personalities, finds Seraphin joined by colleagues Matt Bullimore (Mantles), Joel Cusumano (Cocktails), Yea-Ming Chen (Dreamdate, Yea-Ming Chen and the Rumours), Jasper Leach (Tony Molina) and guitarist Owen Kelley (Sleepy Sun).
With the onset of COVID lockdowns, Seraphin rapidly changed his approach to recording, tracking all basics on his iPhone and working with his collaborators via share networks. Rather than feeling constricted by the process, he found a new freedom. “Now, I could record whatever I wanted in my bedroom and send it to whoever I wanted, free of any intraband politics,” he says. “Recording something as I’m writing it has an immediacy that really works for me.” The resultant EP A Room Forever found wide acclaim in the online blog world, firmly establishing Seraphin as a dynamic, multifaceted new voice in independent music.
Seraphin returned to his room and trusty phone last spring to craft his most ambitious work yet in Swingshift. Densely layered, the EP’s sheen brings to mind The Replacements gone psychedelic, Cheap Trick gone to Mars, Cleaners from Venus if they bothered to mix their records. Looking to move on from the muted earth tones dominating much underground music today, he goaded producer Bullimore into piling on the synths, and guitarists Cusumano and Kelley into some surprising guitar acrobatics. “To get away from that sound,” explains R.E., “I pushed for Journey-style solos – a year ago, I would have never even allowed anything like that!” Inspired this round by Ultra Vivid Scene, Miracle Legion and current power-pop maverick Young Guv, Seraphin’s songwriting is delightfully economic, each tune briefly introducing a new sonic world and setting before moving onto the next.
“My songs tend to explore a more visceral perspective,” says R.E., “rather than any abstract declaration of love.” Opener “Playing House” explores “a 21st century Bonnie-and-Clyde scenario,” says Seraphin, “imagining starting a new life with someone that way.” Over a driving swagger that recalls original home recording heroes Shoes, he croons, “Skipped town with half a tank, got six bucks, baby in the bank/Red dog and blue light, we don’t sleep but we never fight.” “Stuck in Reno,” co-written with Flowertown’s Mikey Ramos, is a countrified travelogue that continues the on-the-road vibes – “I know all the flowers bloom/My heart is just high on fumes,” he and vocalist Hannah Kelley harmonize on the chorus. Laced with swirling synths and Petty-esque 12-string guitar, “Virtue of Being Wrong” explores a moment of tension between lovers – “They talk amongst themselves/their eyes burn like hell,” Seraphin and Yea-Ming Chen sing in unison.
Combining classic hooks, an adventurous sonic palette with an ever-distinctive voice, R.E. Seraphin’s Swingshift is yet another surprising turn for this emerging talent.