Uncle Seth: Biography
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From its inception in 1999, Uncle Seth hasn't stopped performing its "exuberant and accomplished mix of pop, rock, acoustic folk, twisty grooves, tender ballads, and pretty melodies, topped off by rousing vocals" (PIC Press , Kingston).
The 2005 EP Forgive & Forget, Volume One captures their distinctive sound with three live next to three studio-produced songs. Melodic songwriting, inspired lyrics, adventurous instrumentation, and lively vocals make this band a stand-out, which is why they were named Dose Magazine 's Artist of the Week in April 2005.
Uncle Seth has honed its spirited live performance to "a show , as opposed to playing a list of songs". Forging a relationship with the audience is key to Uncle Seth's success as a live band. "I like that we try to get the audience to engage," says lead singer Amaya Thompson. "A lot of what we do is really relatable." And when halfway through a set the band dons acoustic instruments and parades through the crowd, encouraging them to sing along, they do. And they dance. And they laugh. And when the show culminates in a climactic finish, the audience always leaves grinning.
But the changing music industry has inspired Uncle Seth to be innovative in its approach to releasing recorded music. "MP3 devices have changed the way people listen to music," they explain. "People are downloading, concentrating on songs rather than albums. A big internet trend is podcasting."
So Uncle Seth recorded a brilliant, bouncy cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" - available on iTunes and the band's web site - and released it online. The single has garnered attention from podcasts and online shows, inspiring Uncle Seth to continue releasing both covers and originals on the internet. This has certainly given the band more of a reach: "We're providing music in a format where the most people can get it the easiest and the most cost-effectively."
Uncle Seth's growing audience, evolving stage show, considerable creative output, and new online method of delivering music signals an exciting and intriguing future for the band. The members are all committed to Uncle Seth's growth and will continue to "write and perform new music, and broaden our following of people who want to hear us."
Uncle Seth is Amaya Thompson on lead vocals, Jay Moonah on bass and harmonica, and Chris Patheiger on drums and percussion.
Amaya Thompson's "rousing vocals" bring a powerful, clear voice to the band, and her honest delivery has been described as "a breath of fresh air" (Andy Creeggan of Barenaked Ladies and Brothers Creeggan ). Although she joined the band two years after it began, Amaya immediately felt right at home. "We are really good friends," she says, "and you don't often see that - people who can still stand each other after seven years of being in a band together. I see these guys as my family." This family dynamic, along with Amaya 's charm and quick wit on stage make Uncle Seth's live performances not to be missed.
Amaya began singing at a young age, mostly to show up her brothers. "My brother would stand on a chair singing with his Michael Jackson microphone that played through the radio," she recalls. "I would push him off the chair, grab the mic, and sing the Strawberry Shortcake theme song." Amaya 's natural talent shone through and her grandmother soon landed her gigs singing at Legion parties.
Although she is a classically trained trumpet player and in fact began songwriting as a way to pass time during breaks from playing trumpet, Amaya's voice has always been her most precious instrument: she studied singing in school, took private vocal lessons, sang with choirs and in musicals, and was conductor of the York Region Children's Chorus.
Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, the Eagles, Bob Dylan, and Bob Marley are all influences. With a CD collection so broad it includes ABBA, 60s rock, and ragtime, Amaya enthuses that if someone is throwing away a CD, she will gladly take it.
A founding member of Uncle Seth, Jay Moonah 's "superb harmonica styling" (Independent Weekly ), self-empowering lyrics, and boundless energy on stage are a vital part of the Uncle Seth formula.
Jay started playing guitar and organ at a young age and put his first bands together in elementary school. His father bought him a harmonica when Jay was seven, and he's been a magnet for musical instruments ever since, adding accordion, harmonium, keyboard sitar, melodica, and bass to his repertoire. "Basically anything that gets thrust in front of me I can figure out well enough to play," says Jay.
Attributing his musical foundation to organ lessons, Jay says, "If you can learn how three musical parts go together and play them all with two hands and a foot, then you can figure out a lot of music."
His songwriting has evolved over the years, and he cites influences such as Blues Traveler, Bruce Springsteen, and Rush. "The bands I aspire to and am inspired by are those that write good songs, play really well, and sound great live. That's the pinnacle for me."
Chris Patheiger brings his extensive education and performance experience to the band as drummer and percussionist. While Chris is the newest official member of Uncle Seth, he played with them as a sub for a number of years and contributed to two cuts on Lame Suburban Poetry.
Chris started playing drums because he knew a bass player, a guitarist, a singer, and a keyboard player in high school who wanted to start a band, but nobody could find a drummer. "So I bought a set of drums," he says.
From such unassuming beginnings, Chris went on to Humber College for drum kit, but quickly became interested in Afro-Cuban percussion and hand-drumming. "I just knew I could really stand out as a percussionist," he says.
Getting his roots from songwriting bands and artists like Peter Gabriel ("a god"), Genesis, Billy Joel, Sting and the Police, Chris says, "I gravitate towards good songwriting, good performance execution, and good drumming." Non-discriminatory in his musical tastes, Chris will listen to anything from country to hip-hop to disco, as long as it has these qualities.
To contact Uncle Seth, please send email to uncleseth [at] musicface.com.