What makes a ‘local band’ into a headlining act? What’s the difference between the shitty band with the Metal Zone pedals you had to endure at the start of the show, and the band you actually dragged your lazy ass out of bed to see? How many rhetorical questions do I have to ask to establish the tone and theme of this article? Three feels like the right amount to serve as a “hook” to entice you to read the rest of this.
I can’t even remember the first time I saw Hamilton progressive metal band Seas Of Conflict - probably because I’ve seen them so many fucking times. I was always into them in a ‘stand in the corner, cross your arms and bob your head’ sort of way, but I can honestly say the last few times I saw them, they blew me away. It seems like ever since the release of their 2017 EP, Vestige, they’ve transcended the “local band” label and have grown into a band that people specifically want to watch instead of just seeing them by accident.
Their live performances are confident, polished, and tight. They consistently post and engage with fans on social media. Their merch is locally printed, and they sell it themselves at shows. They’re unsigned, self-managed, and uncommonly attractive - and I have no idea how they do it.
“We’ve made conscious decisions with the band’s future,” says guitarist Declan Storrie. “We’re rehearsing harder, putting in more time, effort, and money - as well as planning ahead and trying to make the right choices. We’re best friends, work well together as musicians, love the grind of writing /rehearsing/gigging, and all share the same ultimate vision.”
In any case, whatever they’re doing is paying off. In a music scene where attendance to shows is lower than ever, Seas seem to be flourishing.
It never ceases to amaze me that in our tiny scene, people are getting together, putting in some effort, and making art that reaches all the way past the cultural wasteland of Rototuna to the rest of the Aotearoa. There’s no promise of fame, or people being there to watch you perform, or being signed to a record label, or even getting paid gas money to play a show - but there are still those out there that do it for no other reason than that they love it. So what can we do to get more people through the door at gigs?
“We need to spend time finding the right venues, hiring soundies who are experienced, getting good lighting - if shows look and sound great, people will want to come back for more,” Declan says. “Some shows in Hamilton are amazing, but you never know what the turn out is gonna be like until the night. It’s a game of luck. When we were young, gigs were always packed, and nothing’s changed since then apart from people not going to shows. The bands are just as good as they were, and the venues are still great.”
I guess the secret to shaking the “local band”≈ label is just straight up putting in an effort, and making a real commitment to the music you create. There aren’t too many bands that I get genuinely excited to see—but Seas Of Conflict is one of those bands that leaves me inspired, hopeful for the future, and slightly depressed every time I see them.