An email interview with Seth Davey, singer of the North Carolina post-hardcore band Attalus.
Start off by giving us your name and what you do in Attalus.
I’m Seth Davey and I am the singer/song-writer/keyboardist for Attalus.
Briefly, how did this band come together?
This is a band of brothers: myself and Ben (manager), Evan and Adam, and John and Chris. I was in a band with John back in high-school. Evan and I recorded music together during my years in college. But those two worlds never collided until the summer of 2010. Adam wanted to start a band, which meant that he and Evan were naturally in. After losing a bassist during the first month, we were left with two holes to fill: guitar and bass. John and Chris moved home from New York City and fortunately were able to answer that need.
And what is it you want to do as a band? (This is intentionally broad. Take it however you like!)
Broad indeed! Well in a previous interview I was asked whether or not we have a specific purpose or mission as a band and my answer was that while we all bring our own diverse ideas and ambitions to the table, we do share a common perspective. We love music; we love rocking out on stage; but our greatest desire it to share with people that there is hope in a world that sometimes seems void of it. While we are not a “Christian band”, we are all Christians. Yet we understand that because of hypocrisy in the Church and because of media portrayals, many people are turned off by that very word. So hopefully through our music and corresponding lifestyles listeners who would otherwise never step foot in church will find themselves giving Christianity a second look.
I have a few songs I want to talk about specifically. First is “The Rich and the Poor.” That song, to me, is just so creative and full of energy. How do you write something like that? And, more generally, how does Attalus write songs as a band?
First, thank you for the compliment! Secondly, the process is usually as follows: I’ll write a song on the piano – sometimes I have lyrics that I put to music; other times I come up with a melody and write lyrics to fit it – and then I play it for the band members. I played “The Rich and The Poor” for Chris and John at my house the day after I wrote it. Songs like that are essentially guitar-driven songs, so I merely show them the chords and progression (which sometimes changes) and then they add the stuff that really makes the song great in the end! My hope is that after our March 26 show at UNC Greensboro, we will all be able to go away for a weekend together and work on many of the songs that, as of yet, are waiting to be expounded.
There’s a pretty intense story told in “Message in a Bottle.” Can you explain that story and where the inspiration came from to write it?
Literally speaking, the story is of a sailor who suffers a shipwreck which he alone survives. The words are his reflections in looking back at himself and a crew of men whose arrogance and unbridled humanism led them to their own demise. “We were gods, so we thought; but we learned who we were then: only men.” After the sailor admonishes his audience to learn a lesson from the men who failed, he tells of how grace – a greater tide – saved his life. Metaphorically speaking, this song is a parable that gives the same old message that Jesus brought to the world two millennia ago: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The inspiration for the song comes from the fact that I, like the sailor in this story, once looked out at the world and saw a shipwreck. More than that, I looked at myself and saw the same thing. Like a sailor drifting alone on the high seas, I needed a lifeboat. I needed mercy. I needed forgiveness. And ultimately I’m alive today because God came to my rescue.
Also in reference to “Message in a Bottle,” are you a big fan of The Police, or what?
(laughing)! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever actually listened to them. And with the exception of perhaps Evan, no one else in the band listens to them either. So if anything we’ve written sounds like The Police, I can assure you it was purely accidental!
Haha, well, it’s not that you sound like them; it’s that they have a pretty well known song by the same name. I’m sure you’ve heard it before… go look it up on youtube.
Haha, ah… I see… sorry for my ignorance! I hadn’t heard their version until just now. So I hereby change the name of our song to “A Bottle with a Message in it.” I hope that clears up any confusion!
The closing track, “The Greater Tide,” was pretty profound for me. Tell us about the thoughts and feelings that went into writing and recording that song.
I’m really glad you asked this question. In brief, during my studies in Wales I began reading the “Church History” written by a fourth century scholar named Eusebius. In that book Eusebius gives numerous accounts of martyrs who bravely held fast their faith even amidst torture and death. While not all martyrs died in good faith – some wanted to escape guilt or taxes or the drudgery of life – some, however, revealed through their sacrifice that there is a kind of hope that is unbreakable. And it was upon reading the account these individuals, especially a particular youth who, though prominent in society and full of potential, chose to give his life for his faith, that I was moved to write “The Greater Tide.” While musicians, actors and politicians get all the acclaim here on earth… I believe heaven will forever sing the praise of these true heroes.
What are your future plans? Any foreseeable tours or full length albums?
After our “battle of the bands” show on March 26th, we will be facing a bit of a transitional period. Our drummer, Adam, is getting married and will be stepping down from Attalus and we’ll be sad to see him go. At that time Chris will take over on drums and we will be on the lookout for a new bassist. So we are anxiously awaiting that period and remaining prayerful that God will satisfy those needs if He wants us to continue on. With that being said, there are about 13 songs right now that we have yet to learn corporately, so my desire is to spend April and May focusing primarily on writing new music. After that, we will look at the possibility of recording a full-length album and touring the East Coast.
Is there anything else we should know about? Anything fun or interesting or thoughtful that you would like to tell us about Attalus?
Here’s a fun fact: Chris, John’s brother and our bassist, is really a drummer. But when we lost a bass player during the first month as a band, Chris asked if he could learn the bass and play with us. I was of course hesitant; but because he was a friend, we all decided to give him a shot. To my surprise, he became quite a good bassist over the course of time and I’ve learned a lot from his diligence along the way! So let that be an example to any of you out there who want to learn an instrument but feel like it’s too hard. Keep on going… it’ll pay off in the end!