Sean Carey has been the drummer and supporting vocalist of Bon Iver from the very beginning. He has stepped out from behind the riser to release “All We Grow”, a hauntingly beautiful debut solo album. It was formed during infrequent Bon Iver tour breaks at home where Sean would patiently record these pieces, adding layers each time. Two years in the making, the parts converged to make the album.
I recently spoke to Sean to find out more about the release and to uncover the story behind him joining the band.
SoundsXP: Really like the new album, could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration and influences behind it?
Sean: I'm inspired by a lot of things: nature, love, friends, seeing other bands perform, listening to profound records, discovering artists that expose their insides. I'm influenced by simple, beautiful music, jazz, film scores, drummers. I think there are some really inspirational artists around at the minute like Halloween, Alaska, Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, Land of Talk, Menomen, The National, White Hinterland to name a few.
SoundsXP: Some of the songs on the record are quite lush and others are sparser, but they all sound complete. How do you know when a song is finished and doesn’t need anything more added to it?
Sean: That’s probably why it took such a long time! Eventually you just get to a point when you’re… I guess I just had to make a cut-off time. Last October is when we finished the tracking and started doing the mixing, but another friend of mine who does sound for Bon Iver was helping us finish up with recording, and he kind-of made a deadline. I just stopped adding stuff.
SoundsXP: Does that mean there were things you wanted to add still?
Sean: Not really, I’m pretty content. I like the balance of everything. Sometimes I knew before, like 'Move', that one was finished a while ago. 'Broken', that one came together really quickly and stuck around for the whole ride. It’s tempting though to add more when you have really good musicians.
SoundsXP: You have just finished touring with ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’, was that your first solo tour? How did it go? Was it strange being the front man?
Sean: Yeah, it was definitely different being the front man, but I'm getting more used to it. It's really exciting to play for a room full of people that probably don't know your music, it can be scary too, but you can feed off the energy of virgin ears, and when people are surprised by how much they like you, it can be flattering and exciting. The audiences became more and more responsive and supportive as the tour went on. It was definitely an amazing way to start touring.
SoundsXP: What has been your most memorable show so far?
Sean: Probably the 9:30 club in Washington D.C. or the Fillmore in San Francisco. The crowds really responded to the songs and the acoustics in both places are fantastic.
SoundsXP: You have played in Ireland with Bon Iver, any plans to return here as a solo artist?
Sean: Yes, we are hoping to get over there next spring. The Galway gig last year was amazing and it's always really fun to play in a truly music-loving country.
SoundsXP: Can you tell me a bit about how you joined Bon Iver?
Sean: Basically I learned all of the songs that were on myspace and approached Justin at his first show and told him I knew all the drum parts and a lot of the singing too. This blew him away, and we sang through a few songs before the show and realized our voices went really well together. Homework paid off!
SoundsXP: And finally, any advice for young bands starting out?
Sean: Pave your own path, go after a unique sound.
SoundsXP: Cheers, Sean!