The five members of Seaweed are wrapping up band practice in a small south Tacoma garage. Even though the space isn't at all insulated to keep the racket from inundating the quiet neighborhood, the guys have their amps turned up about as loud as they'll go. Vocalist Aaron Stauffer, guitarists Wade Neal and Clint Werner, bassist John Atkins, and new drummer Jesse Fox (formerly of Polecat and Leuko) are completely enveloped in heavy bass, turbulent and melodic guitars, impassioned, guttural vocals—and lost in the dizzy thrill of finally playing these songs together again.
It's their first practice in seven years, and Seaweed is, quite literally, back where they started back in 1989. Only the conditions are different than before: Some members of Seaweed are fathers and husbands, one's an entertainment lawyer, one's the CEO of a nonprofit, one's a firefighter.
In the early '90s, the Tacoma garage band released material on both K Records and Sub Pop. After 1993's Four, major label Hollywood Records picked them off of Sub Pop's roster, part of the flurry of signings that followed Nirvana's breakout success. But 1995's Spanaway didn't live up to Hollywood's sales standards (despite the single "Start With" reaching number 38 on the Billboard charts), and the label dropped them.
The band survived the shake-up, gained a new drummer (Alan Cage, now of Quicksand), and released one more record, 1998's Actions & Indications, on Merge. Then, after one last U.S. tour and a quick jaunt to Brazil in 1999, the band decided to call it a day.
"People were living in other parts of the country and it just got too difficult to keep things together," explains Neal. "Alan was in New York, Clint was in San Francisco, Aaron was in northern California... If we were all in the same town we probably would've stayed together. We were all still friends, we still really liked the music we were making, and we could've kept schlepping along like we always had."
Though the band went their separate ways, Seaweed's music remained relevant in the hearts of fans. Case in point: Engineer Records recently announced plans to release a Seaweed tribute record early next year that will feature bands inspired by self-proclaimed "Ambassadors of Tacoma."
"That is very bizarre to me," Neal says with disbelief. "All these bands said really nice stuff about us, about how influential we were. It really made me feel good that we inspired that whole attitude to just get in the van and go."
That same attitude is what's driving Seaweed's reunion. With only three shows booked (Bumbershoot, a show at the High Dive on Labor Day Weekend, and then a performance at the Fest 6 in Florida), it's unclear how far the reunion will go. Right now they're just happy to be together again.
"To me Seaweed was always about friendship and brotherhood," Neal says. "At the time we didn't really realize how important that was."
Since Neal, Stauffer, Werner, Atkins, and one-time roadie Fox remained friends over the years, the men jumped at the opportunity to play together again once their schedules allowed it. The band has even managed to write some new material, and they're not opposed to the idea of touring.
"We have six or seven [new] songs total, and we're in the process of recording them at a local studio," says Neal. We're just gonna put the record together and see if anyone's interested, or we might even just put it out ourselves. We don't really care. We're just going into it, come what may.
"We really are just so excited to play again. In '99 we were a little bit burnt out." Neal pauses and grins, "But not anymore, man."
But can the reunited Seaweed live up to their past?
After about an hour of practice, as they're packing up their things and heading toward their cars, ears still ringing from the noise, the reactivated band receives their first review.
A lowered pickup pulls up and the driver says, "Hey, are you guys in the band?"
The five men exchange nervous glances.
"I have one complaint!" he shouts.
"It's not loud enough, duuude!"
And everyone laughs, relieved, as the truck pulls away.