Bon Iver's Sean Carey on Hoyas and why he didn't get a Grammy
Sean Carey has been a key component of Bon Iver's live presence for years. In addition to being the drummer and backing vocalist for Justin Vernon's band, the Eau Claire-based artist has grown a solid solo career in the past few years as S. Carey.
The project yielded a full-length collection of folk-inspired songs titled All We Grow in 2010, and today marks the release of the experimental electronic EP Hoyas. Over 18 minutes, these songs blast a rocket filled with the emotional tension of Carey's previous work into the sonic universe of Kanye West's 808's and Heartbreak.
Gimme Noise caught up with Sean Carey at his home in Eau Claire where his current project is assisting his sister in recording a new folk project called Luray. We discussed the mood that fed into Hoyas, and why he didn't get a Grammy statue.
Gimme Noise: So is Hoyas a reference to the Georgetown University mascot?
Sean Carey: Not really. The background story of the EP is that my friend Ben Lester and I just started passing more electronic ideas back and forth. We came up with a bunch of ideas. Some of them sucked and some of them stuck. These four songs developed into things that I thought could be S. Carey songs. In that process, we started calling the project "Hoyas" -- just as some weird band name. It doesn't have much more of a story than that, except that we like the name of that mascot. We're not Georgetown fans or anything.
We started applying it to anything -- imagining it as anyone's mascot. My wife is from Bayfield, and we'd call the team the Bayfield Hoyas, even though it's not their mascot. Just kind of stupid stuff. Instead of having the band name be Hoyas, we decided to name the album Hoyas to commemorate our fake band name.
GN: Because of the vocal treatments and experimental nature of the songs, this is definitely a project that gets into a mood more than latching onto the individual songs.
Totally. We never thought of it as "this is my best song I've ever written." There's nothing precious about it. It's more experimental. I just wanted to share that mood, and not have a ton of weight on it.
GN: How would you describe the mood?
SC: What I kept coming back to after it was done, and I was really thinking about the songs, was the mood of... it's a little nostalgic. When I was in college, we had this group of friends where one of our main hobbies was just driving around at night and going to weird places. It was before we could get into bars. Just stargazing or taking cameras and doing long exposures of stars or lights. That's where I always go back to with the songs. You feel like you're free to do whatever, and you're exploring. We would go swimming or trespass. I don't know.
Stream the entire EP at Stereogum.
GN: What was your impression of your side-project weekend with Justin Vernon, Astronautalis, and Ryan Olson?
SC: It was definitely super spur-of-the-moment. I went over there because I thought, like Justin said, "Yeah, me and Olson are gonna be screwing around with some new gear, you want to come out?" I'm just getting into recording, so I don't know much. And I like hanging out with those guys. Then it was like, "You know this guy Astronautalis?" It just kind of unfolded. It seemed like Justin and Ryan had schemed this up beforehand, but I know they didn't. Once the momentum was going, those guys get into the zone. It was super liberating in a way for me. It didn't matter if I screwed up, because you can't screw up. The way Ryan records is "go with your instinct" and then he picks out ideas. I tapped into some areas -- especially with drumming -- that I hadn't been to in a while. More visceral and more confident somehow.
GN: Do you have Grammy hardware now?
SC: I actually don't. It's not a big deal for me. It's definitely awesome that we won. It's crazy. I never expected that or dreamed of that. Just Justin has the actual physical Grammy.
GN: I assumed they'd make one for every band member.
SC: I've heard two different things. One: There's a way that we can get 'em. Two: You have to fill out paperwork, and when they did that they just put Justin down. It's his band. Just some technical stuff.
GN: What's the strangest thing that has come out of winning Grammys?
SC: I guess we gained a different fan base. More moms know about us [laughs]. But hey, that's fine. They buy merch.
GN: Speaking of merch, are you doing S. Carey live performances soon?
SC: No, because of Bon Iver touring. We're on and off this whole year. I made a decision a while ago that I didn't want to tour around this EP. Just to keep my sanity and spend enough time at home and not burn out. It would be cool, and I plan on playing some of the songs in the future. I look forward to figuring out how to do that.
S. Carey's Hoyas is out today via Jagjaguwar. Purchase it here.
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