The Pier caught up with two of the three founders of Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds for an Exclusive Interview. The Pier had a long and intimate conversation with Moises “Moi” Juarez (lead vocals) and Sean “Chaps” Chapman (guitar and vocals) to discuss the latest with the band. For those that need a refresher, the three founders of TBS (Moi, Chaps, and Matthew “Mets” McEwan) switched things up a bit after the June 2012 release of their third album, The Great Escape, that received mixed reviews, as TBS transitioned into a new band called LIFE in a completely different genre.
As with most TBS fans, the biggest questions we had were about the change-up to LIFE, their last studio record, The Great Escape, and now the reformation of TBS. During the conversation, we found out about the band’s family life, the evolving definition of the band name, side-projects LIFE and SmashUp, and their connections with Hurley International which led to some powerful advice from Mike Dirnt of Green Day.
The Pier also probed into the band’s upcoming plans, which includes a tour this spring with Common Kings from February 12 – March 19th as they play direct support to the Common Kings on their Hits and Mrs. Tour. Their new single, “War Letter” is set to drop while on tour on March 4th, 2016 as a prelude to a new album. We asked about producers and studios, and their newest unofficial band-mate on the record playing drums with Marshall “Ras MG” Goodman (of Sublime).
Interview: Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds
Q: How do you feel about Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds these days?
I’m super excited. When we started our other project, Life, I was a little taken aback because the people we were working with at the time then were wanting us to make the crossover into Hollywood. And we’re right here [Hermosa Beach], you know, I get it. I’ve tried the Hollywood scene before and I like it. But TBS is my baby, that’s my love, that’s what I started. TBS is the first band I’ve ever been in. Now I’m in a couple bands, some cover bands with some buddies and we do some stuff around here too. But TBS is my love. The name always kind of threw people for a loop but for me, TBS means the statistic that wasn’t supposed to happen. Like we’re the ones that come from broken homes, single moms, single fathers; we come from blended families. So I want to convey a message that even if you’ve got it bad, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it good. We might be called Bad Seeds but I think our music is pretty good.
Q: So has the meaning of the name, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, changed over the years? Especially with the latest changes from TBS to LIFE and back to TBS?
Yeah, it’s always meant the statistic that wasn’t supposed to make it, but now it’s more like, I don’t want to pretend like I’m someone else. For a minute we started to get people from major labels try to talk to us and other people trying to invest money. When that happens, they have rules and regulations for how they’re going to spend money on you. Now, I’m happy to let that go, and now we’re doing our own thing; getting it back to our roots kind of thing.
Q: Chaps, what would you say made you guys decide to start LIFE?
We’ve been a band, initially, since 2003 and released our first record in 2007. That was kind of our introduction to the world, to the people actually having a piece of music out for people to hear as TBS. We went on and toured, got on some really good tours and got some really good opportunities. We have just been grinding and having such a good time. After our 3rd Warped Tour in a row, we were real tired; this also includes 250 dates out of the year of touring. We were feeling like we needed to creatively re-inspire ourselves. Recently, Moi and I were playing acoustic at Bob Hurley’s house, the owner of Hurley International, and Mike Dirnt (the bass player from Green Day) was there and was like: ‘You guys are real tight, you’re great. Do you do any other projects with the same guys?’ And we were like, ‘That’s funny, we just did that!’ Mike then said ‘It’s good for bands to go and try other things that make you kind of understand that music is music, that music is supposed to be fun. As much as it is a project and a product, it has to be fun.’
It wasn’t really like stopping Bad Seeds, we were just messing around with this new project and having some fun with it. We got some real good responses from a song we did and just ran with it for a year or so. So Life was just us going off and having fun and playing different styles and playing with some amazing musicians, and coming back with an arsenal of knowledge outside of the reggae-rock scene as well as an arsenal of songs which we were writing the whole time that TBS was “on hiatus.” We are back in full force. Because of the Life project, we got scouted by Marshall “Ras MG” Goodman of Sublime who loved the Life stuff and wanted to produce a Bad Seeds record. So he’s coming in and producing our record now and we all of sudden, in a matter of months, have seen an amazing team come on and really believe in the TBS re-ignition to forward push.
Q: Moi, anything to add on the formation of LIFE?
The way LIFE came about was we had just gotten off of Warped Tour and we had met this guy named Michael Choy. He’s a very talented man from the UK and he was working with this kid T-Mills at the time. We were all on the same stage; we were on the House of Marley Stage. So he saw the talent in us and saw that we were seasoned but he had a problem with us. He kept trying to pitch us to his UK people and these Hollywood peeps, but they just weren’t digging the name, Tomorrows Bad Seeds. I was ready to just let it go, but we were talking to Mets at a writing session, him and Chaps got there before I did and started talking about it. I walked in and they asked ‘What do you think about Life?’ I said ‘I love Life, life is good and everybody loves life.’ They said, ‘Well, what do you think about naming our band Life?’ I asked ‘What do you mean? Changing our name from Bad Seeds?’ They replied ‘No, no, no… Let’s start a new project’
… After awhile with the LIFE project people started asking ‘When are you going to do another show?’ Then Saint Rocke called us and offered us a ridiculous amount of money to do a couple shows; it was in our backyard and it was back-to-back days, and we sold them out way ahead in advance. That sparked a nostalgia. Honestly, Sean was the one at first who said ‘Let’s try a new project. TBS isn’t getting the love we deserve like we used to so we don’t want to put these new songs out as TBS like we used to. So after TBS, what comes after the seed?’ And Mets said ‘Life.’ So we decided to do that and it was great but then once we played these two shows as TBS it sparked up a new fire in Sean again. He was like, ‘Wait, what are we doin? Why don’t we just go back to doing what we were doing before and just be underground and keep killin’ it in the local market like we used to?’ People started to find out that we were down to play shows again as TBS and then before you know it, we started getting other people really interested in some really good shows.
Q: Looking back at the third and last album from TBS, The Great Escape, what comes to mind from that time period? Did that album ultimately lead to the project that was LIFE?
It’s funny because people always ask and wonder why we did what we did. And people always want to talk about our third record and how it was this really different sounding record than all the previous ones. To be honest with you, I don’t have an answer. For me, music is art, and I think that everyone has a style. There’s artists that, in some rare form, have to stay true to their style, but at the same time it’s an outlet. It’s kind of like school. When you go to school you study algebra. If you want to stay in algebra than you can stay in algebra. But if you want to move up to trigonometry then you have to go open that book and play with it and read it and learn it. I think as musicians, we are all looking out at the libraries of music and we are all just listening to different types of music. I think maybe that people thought we were trying to go more “pop” or whatever but it’s not even so much that. It’s kind of like ‘what are these other formulas?’ and ‘that’s a cool sound, I want to play with that sound’ or feeling this and trying something different. You know, one thing that Bad Seeds had never really done was sit there say ‘We want to make THIS kind of song’ or ‘We want to make THAT kind of song.’
[Related: Review: Tomorrows Bad Seeds – The Great Escape]
I just don’t really have an answer for you on that. Things just happened the way they do. We did the album. I think it’s a great album. We enjoyed the album. I had fun making it with the guys. I know we enjoyed making it. There was a couple things in there that maybe skewed us which may have been working with a “pop” producer. Maybe he didn’t understand where we came from. Sometimes that can be a problem. I’m not blaming him for that at all, I’m just saying that you have to work with the right people. It was a learning experience and something that I think is just another piece of our story. I’ve heard a lot of core fans say ‘I hate that record’ and then I’ve had some other people say ‘I love that record’ and ‘I love this song on that record.’ It’s up to them, it’s their opinion anyway. We’re just going to keep making music. Whatever happens with the music is up to the fans and up to the people to rate it and listen to it and take in the lyrical content.
The Great Escape record was not the reason we did Life at all, but we were searching.
Q: Moi, What would you say, ultimately lead to the dissolution of LIFE and the reformation of TBS?
It was the fan reaction, the love that our fans showed that they missed us. This reggae scene, if I was to put a timeline on it, and I’m not talking the straight roots reggae scene, the Studio 1 back in Jamaica. I’m talking the fusion and the newness, like Bad Brains, people like that, the ones who did the fusion of those songs. So I would say that would be like the first wave. Then the second wave would be like Sublime, No Doubt, Ozomatli, bands like that. Then the third wave would be like Slightly Stoopid, Pepper, Beautiful Girls, John Brown’s Body. Then the fourth or fifth wave would be Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, The Expendables, Iration, Rebelution, Dirty Heads, and Ballyhoo! So being a part of the fifth wave already, it’s all already been done. It’s not like we’re creating something extra great and special. And then this new sixth and seventh wave have totally veered off completely from what is was and they’re all really trying to be like Bob Marley. And there will never be another Bob Marley. Never, no matter what. It just blows my mind to see the waves of how it’s come across and to see our fans ask for us again, and now I’m coming back into it, I guess, the eighth wave you’d say. And it’s like ‘Whoa!‘, we can’t forget that when this scene started again in our neighborhood, in Hermosa Beach, we were the only band like that. No Fortunate Youth or other bands from our area. No Pacific Dubs, no Gonzo. And I love all those kids. I know them and we all grew up in the same neighborhood, and I love them. But I think Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds had a big staple in our South Bay / Los Angeles reggae scene. Where I’m from, it’s all punk-rock, so I made a point to be like Sublime. But like the Sublime from Hermosa Beach, like where Pennywise is, I wanted to be the reggae-rock band known from being out of Hermosa Beach.
And so that’s where our fans started showing me that. They started saying ‘Yo, we miss you guys! Won’t forget you guys, we went to this show 8 years ago.’ When people tell you they went to your show 8 years ago, do you know what that makes you feel like? We’ve been playing shows since 2003. Then we released our first record in 2007 and we like to count our beginning as 2007. But really, the beginning was 2003, and we brought that whole scene together. We were the first ones to bring The Expendables down from Santa Cruz to play with us, and they did vice versa to bring us up there. Same thing with Dirty Heads; we were all brothers in starting this new wave that is finally making a real spark in music.
That’s the one good thing that the internet has done for this scene. Because if you look at the scene in reality, and I’m just being completely fucking honest and my bandmates hate when I talk like this (they want me to sugar-coat everything) but I don’t give a shit. This whole scene, dude, in the big scheme of things when you look at the billboard and all that, it ain’t shit. They don’t acknowledge us. They just barely started to when SOJA was nominated for the Grammy and when Ziggy won the Grammy. And they’re barely starting to acknowledge and you want to know why? Because now they have to! We’ve made it a point with Cali Roots. So we made it a point and that was one of things I was trying to explain to my guys. When we quit Bad Seeds, I was down like I said because I love the challenge, but I was like ‘You guys, it’s all happening right now!’ You know how big Iration is right now? We could have been on that level but now we’re not; we’re starting all over again. Which is cool! I’ll climb to the top and get to my spot where I was, I’m not trippin. But at that point, when we decided to let go, was when this whole scene really started blowing up. The more bands that create this style of music, whether it’s ‘fakin Jamaican’ or whether it’s punk-rock infused or whatever, all they do is push the older bands that’s been doing it at a higher position. And it’s been making this scene grow huge. In my mind, this scene is going to be big 10 years from now, Huge! It already is but on a small scale. Because if you go to the Midwest, they don’t care about this shit. This is all bi-coastal. My next big thing is I want to attack South America. That’s my goal. That’s my people.
Q: You said the reggae-rock scene started to flourish when you pursued LIFE — Do you regret the decision to go to LIFE and stop TBS?
I don’t regret anything in life because the path that you choose and the decisions you make, make you who you are. So I don’t regret it…I love the Life thing that went on and definitely don’t have any regrets. We got to do radio tours through New York, we were featured on USA Today’s front page, People Magazine brought us in to do stuff because we had a lot of good PR people behind us and a good producer who knew a lot of people. And not to toot my own horn, but my band is filled with talented people. Mets is one of the most talented people I know. Sean is an amazing producer. And me, I just sing my ass off. So I definitely don’t regret it because it taught us where we are and where we need to be.
Q: We’ve heard about Moi working in the studio with Krooked Treez and talks about taking the lead with them prior to reforming TBS… What happened there? Any plans for a collaboration between Krooked Treez and the new TBS in the future?
So last year, through a mutual friend, they put Krooked Treez vocalist O. Brown in contact with me, and from the get go, I told O. Brown that if they wanted me to be a part of this, it was only a temporary thing. I will sing for you because you need a singer to do these shows and it’ll just be like I’m a studio musician. That’s another thing that sparked up TBS again because Sean saw that I was doing that in the scene again. I was like ‘What? I need money and these guys need a singer.’ I wasn’t going to be in the band for sure, but I did release a single with them. I did sing for them for about 6 months and then told them about 3 months before TBS started back up that I couldn’t do this for them anymore. We released one song together, it’s called Time Flies, and it’s a music video. I just stood in for them for the time being. So I did about 12 shows with them and became good friends with the guys. So I wound up telling them straight up, ‘I really appreciate you guys looking to me for help, but this is exactly what I told O. Brown, I was just going to sit-in.’ So that was it. I ended up not working for them anymore and we parted ways. But they found a great singer. He’s a good guy, a very talented guy and they’re killing it.
Q: Will there be any future collaborations between you or TBS and Krooked Treez or O. Brown?
I’m going to get O. Brown on one of our songs and keep it like a family thing. I like doing things for the scene like that. And I’ll probably do another song with them or something. But even their old lead singer, BZ Bwai, whom I replaced, I actually ran into him a while ago outside of the music scene. I walked into the room and was like “Oh, what?! What’s up dude?” And he knew that I was the new singer of Krooked Treez but then we got to talking and I told him: “This is just a gig to me, don’t trip.”
I work a lot with Rico Estrada [of Ease Up], that’s my brother right there. Him and I play about 3 times a week, we have a cover band called Smash Up with Jason J from Guam.
Q: What are in the plans for TBS moving forward? What are your plans for a new album? What other producers and artists are you working with now?
Omar Hakim, JR Robinson [the most recorded drummer in history], Jose Pasillas [drummer of Incubus], there was a lot of cool people we were working with. I don’t like to sit here and drop names on stuff; it’s just all music and if anyone wants to play or have a good time and write, we’re into it. This process for this new record so far has been very low pressure and we haven’t been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.
Marshall Goodman, ‘Ras MG’ of Sublime, is producing our album and he’s being accompanied by an engineer, Kent Hertz. So we have a great team. We’ve also been working with some friends of ours on the side who write music and make beats and stuff. We took back home-ground like the way we did Early Prayers which was just very honest. We do a lot of storytelling and there’s a lot of things that go through that we write about. And then luckily we have a producer like Marshall who really gave us that formula of his contribution to Sublime. We’re really just doing it in studios all around the place in the hood, like Carson and we’re using the Common Kings studio in the hood. There’s no glits and glory. Hurley Recordings is also allowing us their studio from time to time. We have so many songs that we’ve been sitting on that we’ve been writing the past few years. We’re being very methodical about the way we’re approaching this album, how it’s going to sound as a whole, and how each song is going to sound authentic to it’s own. We’re just really getting back to the roots and if it sounds good with acoustic guitar and vocals or piano and vocals, then we know we have something.
Being an independent band and owning our own label makes us very resourceful. We will be using the “Lair” Studio (where Early Prayers was recorded) to do a lot of our recording once we have the songs chosen, demoed, rehearsed, and fully arranged and written. We will also be using our co-producer/engineer’s high-rise loft in Downtown LA for touch ups and some vocals. But overall, we have been home recording, writing with our equipment, and really putting some elbow grease and time into the song writing.
We will also be recording a lot of the album on our bus during the upcoming Hits & Mrs. Tour with Common Kings, so some of our Bad Seeds out there may make some story lines and will hear some new material live!
Q: So you’re planning to feature multiple drummers on the new album, any chance that Marshall contributes on drums?
We will be using a couple guest drummers and Marshall will be guiding the arrangements and playing on tracks that fit.
Q: Do you have any new singles coming out to follow up on “Throwback”?
We are releasing our single version on “War Letter” with a music video March 4th! We will be releasing the new album this summer.
Q: What are your current musical influences with the new TBS compared to the old TBS that released The Great Escape? What’s the same or different as before?
Influences have been raining all over the place but we are staying in a lane. TBS has always been a very mixed fusion type of band from day 1. I think the way that we’re doing it now, though, is that we’re taking parts of specific genres and styles and we’re mixing them in a way that it comes out subliminally through either melody or rifts. It’s going to be a heavy groove album, it’s going to have a lot of heavy grooves. Just listening to a lot of storytellers-type music so I’ve been listening to a lot of blues and country. The way that they write and transforming it into our own lifestyle which is what I think Sublime’s Brad Nowell did so well. But we’re also listening to a lot of old reggae, and old funk, and old pop-punk, and I’ll even throw down some old motown. So content-wise, this album will be very vulnerable.
My old influence was definitely Skrillex at the time. You know, the beats? That whole dubstep. Because I come from like a b-boy world, and people don’t know but if it wasn’t for break-dancing I wouldn’t even have had the confidence to step up on stage and sing in front of people. I used to be really shy. My mom’s an amazing singer and the only people she would sing for was us and each-other. But if I tried to sing when I was younger I would have to face the wall because I was so shy. But I was dancing and battling people and doing stuff like that. I competed for a number of years and I was really good at one point. But that’s what kind of gave me the confidence to step on stage and show my voice. What influences me a lot right now is old school underground hip hop, like Tupac and all that stuff I grew up on in ’99; WuTang Clan, Bus Driver, Dilated Peoples. That’s what I’ve been getting in to. I’ve been trying to be more lyrical. Because I used to be into melodies; I’m really good at love songs. Songs like ‘Warrior’ and ‘Regime’ and ‘Reflect’. Those are songs that are very lyrically conscious.
Q: When you are not recording or touring, what do you guys like to do in your free time? What bands/shows do you go to when you are not on the ticket? What’s your favorite hobby outside of music?
Right now my main love is my son; spending time with my fiance and my son are my main things right now. But I like to get out and go surfing, skate, I go to the gym, I write. I don’t know if you know but I don’t just write the music I do with Bad Seeds but I write with a lot of people too. I don’t know if you know who DJ Irie is but he’s a cool producer who I work with and write all kinds of R&B songs and Hip Hop with, and have a whole arsenal of songs and little verses of stuff. I try to strictly stay around the arts and the things that I love.
Recently I got to go see Elvis Costello with my girl, which was really a treat. And I’m really a fan of that band, The Expanders. I went to see them recently too. Now for a band that is ripping off reggae the right way, that’s them. They’re the best out of all the rootsy reggae bands right now, besides Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad and Simpikin Project (they’re one of my favorites). But straight up, The Expanders are my favorite. They’re dope!
But getting back to the “fakin Jamaican” thing…that’s why I really love the Islanders, they’re really from the Caribbean. And I love other bands like The Steppas and Jimmy Weeks Project. Common Kings, that singer is one of my favorite singers.
Surfing is a huge thing and obviously a big lifestyle/culture in our band; surf, skate, dance, and art. Surfing for me is huge and skating is huge. Surf culture, skate culture, graffiti, b-boy culture is where we came from. We come from real tough upbringings and hard neighborhoods. But then on the other side we lived and hung out around the beach neighborhoods. So it was beach-meets-the-streets kind of salty ghetto thing. It’s rad and I feel fortunate for understanding both sides. I just saw the Misfits at The Roxy. I’m really into that punk-rock stuff. And I can speak for the boys, I know Moi is huge on Stevie Wonder and Sam Cook fan, and Mets is Bob Dylan fan. As far as new bands that we’re diggin… I know Gary Clark Jr’s favorite Leon Bridges and I’m liking Sam and Paula. I love No Doubt. You’ll catch me singing some Gwen in the car, I get busted sometimes. I love going to see my friends play, my friends from the scene and see them do their thing.
Q: What do you want to tell old and new TBS fans? What can they expect in the future out of the band? Our question is, is TBS here to stay?
TBS is a family. We never left, we’ve always been here for the public and releasing music. We will always do that, whether it’s now or once a year or once every two years. We will always be a family. We are an organism as humans, beyond a band. So I’m taking it a little deeper. We never left, as individuals and as a team.
But to be literal, TBS will be touring, we have a new record coming, we have a bunch of cool stuff coming out. We will be rocking it hard in 2016 and coming strong. We’re pumped, we’re excited, we’re re-inspired and we’re coming for it. We want to thank you guys, The Pier, our friends in the scene; all of our fans and friends around the United States and the world we haven’t met yet because we’re going to start going global as well. Whenever we get a comment or a like on a post, or someone saying they really enjoy our music, it just gives us a purpose as human beings to not only continue to play music, but to live. We’re really grateful to have what we have and we’re very thankful, and we’re really excited for 2016.
They can expect for us to definitely be around for a while. You know, it’s time to be selfless right now with everything going on in the world. And we want them to know that we are here for them. One thing that my fans don’t really know is that you leave me a message that’s heartfelt or something on Facebook or whatever, I almost always reply. Sometimes I get a lot of messages in my Facebook, depending on what’s going on. We’re here for each other. And this is a family, this is one big family. It’s one love always. And I just want them to know that we’re here for them and we hope they like our new music. And if they don’t, keep tuning in because we’re going to keep making music so there’s always something to like. I’m working on getting my son in the business too, so watch out!
Thanks again to Tomorrows Bad Seeds for making the time. Again, their new single “War Letter” comes out on March 4th, 2016. Catch them on tour Feb 12 through March 19th with Common Kings. For more about Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, their music or information about their tour dates, find the links below.
Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds Website
Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds Facebook
Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds Tour Dates
Interview By: Eric Schoep
Photos By: David Norris
WATCH: Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds – Throwback (ft. Garrett Douglas)
WATCH: Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds – Reflect (Live with The Pier Magazine – 2010)