Concert preview: Saintseneca still exploring big ideas on groove-driven Such Things
Such Things, the latest from folk-rock collective Saintseneca, might've surfaced just a year after its predecessor,Dark Arc, but the album is far from a rush job, with some songs taking as long as four years to complete.
"People were like, 'Oh wow, this record must've been made really fast, and that kind of incensed me to some extent, because I probably put more work into this record than anything else we've done," said singer/songwriter Zac Little, who joins bandmates Maryn Jones (All Dogs, Yowler), Steve Ciolek (Sidekicks), Matt O'Conke (Tin Armor) and Jon Meador for a concert at Newport Music Hall on Friday, Dec. 4. "The songs really do span a wide spectrum in terms of how quickly they were written and how long ago they were written. I don't really have a rule; a song's generally done when it feels intuitively right, or something like that."
OnSuch Things, this divide spans from the stripped-down, lullaby-esque "How Many Blankets Are in the World?," which Little cobbled together in 20 minutes, to "Sleeper Hold," which the singer nearly scrapped on multiple occasions during the four-plus years he spent laboring over myriad sonic and lyrical details.
"I always liked [the song], and it in some ways planted the seed for the conceptual framework of the record being about physics and consciousness and things like that, but I just couldn't get it," said Little, who finally came around on the tune after he ceded lead vocals to Jones. "Hearing her sing on it helped settle some of those things for me. I guess sometimes the song is just resilient enough to where it's like, 'OK, I'll give it another chance.'"
Though conceptually dense - Little has a fondness for outsized ideas better suited to textbooks or spiritual tomes than three-to-four-minute pop-rock songs - the music onSuch Things maintains a degree of simplicity, building around O'Conke's propulsive drums, various stringed instruments (guitars to sitars, and everything in between) and the bandmates' effortless vocal harmonies.
"I definitely wanted to write more songs that had a groove, considering previous releases do have that non-linear, meandering quality," said Little, who composed full, elaborate demos of every song before regrouping with his bandmates to rerecord the material with producer Mike Mogis during five weeks of spring sessions at his Omaha studio. "Yeah, I think this record does rock just a little bit more."
Throughout, Little utilizes this more streamlined backdrop to delve into knottier inquiries - "Who am I to ask the question? Who am I at all?" he asks on "Estuary" - an extension of a natural curiosity he's actively cultivated from childhood.
"Everything you learn opens up a huge void of more and more questions," Little said. "But I think that's a good place to be: To be confronted with the fact there's a lot of mystery."
Newport Music Hall
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4
1722 N. High St., Campus
ALSO PLAYING: Mary Lynn, Didi