Do you love Fresno? Do you love art? If yes, the... Enter Now
Some topics come up very naturally during the course of an interview - like "What's your band's next big project?" or "What's it like hanging out with famous people?" But rarely does one get to rap in detail about Downtown Fresno divebars or Tower District hotspots with a bona fide rock star.
The "Are you from Fresno?" question rarely gets asked. Even rarer is when someone owns up to their "Fres-nicity". [ed. note - fres-nicity is a word I made up by combining the words Fresno and ethnicity into one big word]
Seth Rumsey, bass player for the Diamond Nights, is one of the few people who have lived in this town, moved away to a big city, and can still fondly reminisce about time spent in Fresno. The man deserves some sort of prize for that.
I was looking at your tour schedule and you've got quite a ride ahead of you. Los Angeles then San Francisco then Los Angeles again - then you fly to New York for two days! Did you guys plan this mayhem or did it just sort of fall together?
Our booking agent is out of California, and in New York we had residency at the Delancey, In the days before our residency 20 people would be a huge turnout for us, but with the help of our label and through our publicist we were able to drum up a pretty big family, Since our residency we haven't had problems filling clubs. It was our awakening in NYC.
How long ago was this residency at the Delancey?
That was January of this year. Before our residency, it was much more sporadic and we were getting shows at small clubs and on bills with different bands - it was a weird exercise of playing with a different crowd of people. At the Delancey we honed our live show. We were able to get used to one stage and one room and then change things. The audience was often the same core group. We tasted the reaction of the crowd. Because of that interaction, our live show is improving every day and everything is pretty tight and tuned. But if we don't practice or play it goes to shit. Being on the road is good for us.
So it is a plan! Sounds like a lot of work ... When did you actually join the band?
Tim [Traynor] and Morgan [Phalen] went to art school and played music and recorded songs and built a friendship and they both moved to New York same time. They started playing around town and then they took on Rob [Laakso] the lead guitar player. They had never had a bassist and they wanted to see how it would feel, so I started playing with them in 2004 about a year ago, a year and a half.
You guys have a record label, Kemado Records. How is it working with them?
They're based out of New York City, in Chelsea. They have a studio that we recorded at. It's all in this building, this huge enormous structure and it is a little strange because you end up running into all the people you know in the city at that building. It has an amazing view of the river and so does the studio. It has been nice to have an open recording schedule and also a curse. It slows things down because we're not watching the money meter roll. We've been really happy with Kemado, they've great benefactors to our music. We've run into other bands on this tour, on major labels, and they've been crammed into tiny vans ...
What are you guys rolling in?
A 15 passenger E350 Econoline with a trailer.
Wow! You guys can have a party in there.
The girls are a little afraid to come inside sometimes, but we do have parties.
I heard a story that you're actually from Fresno...
I grew up in North Carolina and went to school in Rhode Island and then joined the Navy. So I've lived all over the country, but my final station was in Lemoore. I remember looking on the map and finding Lemoore, California and then finding the largest orange area nearby. It was Fresno. I got a place in Fresno and made a 45 minute commute. It was nice being able to go to Los Angeles or San Francisco or go to the mountains and snowboard. I have such a great fondness for Fresno. It gets such a bad rap. Is Tokyo Garden still running?
Yep. It is still there.
I can't wait to have a bottle of hot sake. And inevitably spill it on myself later in the night. I saw some great shows there.
Your live show is supposed to be pretty great. I've heard it described as "super energy" onstage.
We've had varying criticisms. Some people have suggested we make our show more of a show and then we got a feedback that says the opposite. It's a live event and so we're always going to bring everything across the spectrum to the stage. We know each other very intuitively and when we play live we can jam things out and have creative moments. Our live show is spontaneous. And we like drinking a lot and playing as if we are to the same musical level as our intoxication. Which is pretty high.
How did you get started playing bass?
My brother got a guitar when I was nine. When he got that guitar I cried and cried and the next year my dad knew better than to suffer that tantrum again. I got a Harmony Electric guitar. I think the first songs I learned were Iron Man and Owner of a Lonely Heart. Then my guitar playing was developed by listening to David Gilmoure. I had a huge Pink Floyd infatuation, followed by a hippy-spacey phase, then later I awakened into metal and fast music and fast playing. Now it's a whole combination.
When did you make the switch from guitar to bass?
I joined the Navy and things sort of trailed off, but I bought a bass after I got out of Officer Candidate school, a bass and an 8 track, which was my lifeline to the world of music and I spent a lot of time recording personal music. It was intense. It saved me.
I guess picking up the bass turned out to be a pretty smart move in the long run.
The other thing was coming to Fresno. It was my last two years in the Navy and I found this amazing resource of musicians and artists in the Tower. Vini's was always my spot with their World Famous Porkchop, the [former] owner and I got a practice space. We both had a bunch of gear in our houses and we had to get it out. We found this place across from Fred's. We called it "Donkey Town" and we had a nice roll of recording.
It sounds like you were having a pretty rad time in Fresno. Why did you decide to leave?
I always had a plan to go to New York and I figured if I didn't leave Fresno right after the Navy I would never go. When I finally got there, these guys had told my friend they needed a bassist and I went over and played and it was explosive from the start. It was the culmination of a sound I had always been inspired by. It was so right fitting and I was so happy just to play bass cause Rob is such a speed machine. It was the right thing.
Seth Rumsey and the Diamond Nights will be performing Friday, July 8th at Club Fred.