Floating Action Interview: Seth Kauffman

By Katy Wilkie and Kelli Raulerson

August 6, 2014

This Saturday, Floating Action, an indie-rock/folk band From Black Mountain, North Carolina will hit the stage at the Chop Shop, Noda for the God Save The Queen City festival presented by InkFloyd. Floating Action has been praised by the likes of Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket, this band is a must see. Clture had the chance to chat with Seth Kauffman, the mastermind behind Floating Action.

I’ve read that Floating Action is a type of drum pedal, what is the significance behind the bands moniker?

SK: Not much significance…It’s the kind of kick drum pedal I’ve always had/use..they’re from the 60’s & look really cool – the name is so cool – I kind of spur of the moment called myself Seth Kauffman, when I started making records, but always wanted to have a band name.. i was going to/did call the self-titled album ‘floating action’, then decided that was a good time to make the switch to calling it the band name too.

floating action weathervanemusic.org

You’re from Black Mountain, a little outside of Asheville, NC. In the past musicians felt the need to relocate to Nashville, California or New York City to seek success in the music industry. With musicians like yourself defining the music scene in Asheville – is it quickly becoming a destination for artists?

SK: I’m not defining the scene in Asheville- it’s all bluegrass and world music- nobody knows who we are here. I used to be anti-people moving to those big cities to make it in music; it’s just so standard-issue…it seems like if you have something unique to offer the world, you can do it from anywhere…but that’s not always the case. I like the idea of living somewhere because it’s a great place for your soul.. not because it might be good for your career.

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The albums released by Floating Action are all recorded solo by you and then the live shows include a live band, what was the decision behind recording individually instead of with a full band?

SK: That’s how it all started.. I also record with a lot of different people.. but i started playing all the instruments myself, just experimenting, & the results were pleasing.. people liked it, & something interesting happens musically, vibe-wise, when I play everything myself- something that just isn’t the same when anybody else plays it..it’s weird..but doing that is what makes the records what they are…so Floating Action is just my chance to do it myself to get that weird result. It’s just an interesting path to explore.

Floating Action was just featured on NPR as part of the World Cafe: Next podcast in support of the new single “Unrevenged” from the new album “Body Questions” which comes out at the end of the month on August 26th.. What’s the reception been like with the new the single “Unrevenged”?

SK: Kind of like the above answer:) People like it, it’s unique songwriting, arrangement, instrumentation, sick groove.. what else do you want in a song? People in Asheville who listen to NPR still don’t know who we are.. they were texting when NPR said we were from here:)

floating action world cafe
Sandlin Gaither

“Unrevenged” was also released on a limited pressing of vinyl.Vinyl has definitely started making it’s comeback within the past few year, what’s your take on that? Is there a desire to get back to a more raw recording or is it more nostalgia. Are there any plans to release the album on vinyl?

SK:All our albums are on vinyl, & yes, Body Questions will also be on vinyl. All my recordings have always been really raw, too raw…such that it held us back for many years. I’ve always listened to vinyl ever since i figured out how to work my parents’ record player in high school. To me, it’s not really a matter of nostalgia or retro-ness; it’s just maybe the most tangible way to connect and listen to recorded music. There’s all these unwritten, implied laws- where you get more out of the experience of listening to music, where you have to care about it enough to get up and flip the sides, etc; really caring about what you’re doing, and paying attention, you get a lot out of it spiritually & it’s kind of crazy how long they last, physically – we still play my wife’s mom’s beatles records from the 1960’s, w/ her maiden name written on the covers – & they still play perfectly:)

How does “Body Questions” differ from Floating Action’s previous releases? What can fans expect to hear on this album that hasn’t necessarily been showcased on past albums?

SK:I’m probably not the best person to ask.. because there’s all these weird aspects about all of them in my head that are different, that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. I think I trimmed more fat than past albums. And it’s kind of an evolution – gradually getting more refined, better ideas, making it greater than the sum of it’s parts, stiffer chassis, less weight, better mpg, quicker. I always try to make albums that are of such high quality and originality, that (hopefully) it’s undeniable.

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What was the writing process for the new album? Do you stay close to home or need to get out / get away to write? Where did you draw inspiration from?

SK: I think the best ideas come down from on high, usually while you’re preoccupied doing something else…manual labor, or mountain biking, or surviving in the woods, where your brain is in full survival mode – that’s when a pure new idea slips in..& the trick is to not forget it by the time you get back home to record it.. I forgot 90% of my best songs. They popped in, then escaped back into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again. If I’m at home, i can hopefully run & record an idea before i forget it.. Often times i just write the whole song in the original moment, start to finish, & record it for real start to finish in that same original moment. That’s another thing that makes Floating Action albums distinct – is that theme of songs where what you’re hearing on the record (vinyl:) is actually the very moment of conception…fresh cheese.

You’ve had the chance to work with great musicians including Band of Horses, The Black Keys and My Morning Jacket and they’re also some of your biggest fans. How do those experiences and relationships impact your work?

SK: Ummm…I guess it gives me confidence, that my methods of making records is ok.. because my methods are NOT up to ‘industry standard’, but i firmly believe in them; so it’s reassuring to see that these guys kind of use similar methods.. it’s like peeing in the shower – you feel horrible that you did it, but then find out other respectable people do it too, so it makes you think it’s ok.


There’s a lot of discussion right now around whether the term ‘genre’ is still relevant – in part because the internet has allowed listeners to be exposed to so many different types of music that is no longer being controlled by radio or big labels. Do you feel this enables musicians like yourself more freedom to create the sound they want as opposed to trying to appeal to a particular audience defined by a genre? How does this impact your process as an artist – or does it?

SK: That was one of my main setbacks at first – my first record, Ting, jumped all over the place genre-wise; and that was like 2004.. when everything revolved around what genre you were….& it didn’t fit anywhere. And it still hurts you to some degree, because let’s face it, it’s real easy to strap on a banjo & make mad cash playing festivals now..but i couldn’t live with myself if I purposely went that route. But yeah, you’re right, it’s kind of come a long way – it’s pretty irrelevant. The only genre distinction that needs to be made now is ‘banjo/stomp’ or ‘non-banjo/stomp’.

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What are your plans for the rest of the year? Are you going to be touring on the new album?

SK:We ARE going to be touring the new album – but, tying into the previous question.. we don’t have a booking agent, so it’s really hard to set up tours that make any sense.. but we’re working on it. The timing is horrible, but i’m also doing some recording and other projects this fall, that i can’t say what they are, but they’re really cool – too cool to pass up. Hopefully while that’s happening, people will get into Body Questions enough to where we can manifest a rhyme on the road!

Follow Floating Action on facebook and twitter.

Listen to the album Fake Blood by Floating Action

Listen to the self titled album by Floating Action (2009).

Catch Floating Action and several other great bands at God Save The Queen City this Saturday 8/9 at The Chop Shop.

gstqc poster

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