Tomorrows Bad Seeds play stoner music—the kind of palatable, surf-rock, ska-reggae hybrid that gets lazily drawled out of the mouth, compatible with acoustic guitars and Telecasters, and easily played with G-C-D-C chords made famous by Slightly Stoopid and Pepper.
Front man Moises Juarez has nothing against that label (“I’m really happy to make this music. We don’t mean for it to sound like anybody”), but doesn’t want smoking herb to be the main focus of their music. “People [can smoke pot] with anything. You watch Jack Johnson and All-American Rejects, and everyone’s smoking pot.” That, and he wants Tomorrows Bad Seeds to be taken seriously. “To me, [drugs] are just a waste of time. I don’t like to be desensitized to the music . . . I have a message to spread,” Juarez says. He adds, “We try to have a conscious message, do something with substance and have a good time with it as well.”
Ke$ha is the perfect antithesis of what Juarez want Tomorrows Bad Seeds music to be. “No disrespect, I think she’s talented and good looking, and she has a lot of power to influence young women—teenagers—who are growing up. But her lyrics are so demoralizing and have no substance. That ‘I want to wake up in the morning feeling like a black guy, drink Jack and brush my teeth with it’? You have to be fucking kidding me.”
The insistence on making music that inspires (and the struggle to stay clean instead of doing drugs) is well documented in their songs, and could even be perceived as naive. “Vices,” for example, is a ready-made, reggae-doused anthem for staying away from bad influences (“Wish I could get away from all these vices that’s got a hold on me/Be headstrong and never let my mind go astray”). It could easily be a soundtrack for after-school youth programs everywhere. “Reflect,” infused with reverb and crunchy guitar riffs, is a searing take on alcohol abuse (“The bottom of the bottle is not the answer/But the problem, you see”). Still, it works for Tomorrows Bad Seeds and their mission. Having chosen the slow-and-steady path to promoting their music, Juarez says, “We’re just where we’re supposed to be.
“I haven’t really worked in the past two years,” he says. “I’ve just been trying to focus on music. Let me tell you, I made way more money waiting on tables, because now we live paycheck-to-paycheck. But I get to live my life the way I want to. I can surf when I want to, go on vacation when I want to, see my family when I want to.”
Growing up in Hermosa Beach, Juarez, Sean Chapman (vocals/guitar), Mathew McEwan (vocals/guitar), Pat Salmon (drums) and Andre Davis (bass) were all part of a graffiti/break-dancing/hip-hop crew called Tomorrows Bad Seeds. When they started playing music together in 2003, they kept the name because “Everyone already knew who we were.” They signed with the record label, UrbanTone Records, and released their debut Early Prayers, in 2007. Slowly they built a following and gained local recognition. In 2009, they won Reggae Artist of the Year at the South Bay Music Awards.
Last May, they released Sacred for Sale. Without the backing of a major record label, the band relied on word of mouth and social networking to sell more than 150,000 downloads and earn a living as full-time musicians. On Nov. 18, the Los Angeles Music Awards gave them the Commercial Success Award. Tomorrows Bad Seeds do everything—from distributing their CDs for free while on vacation to blogging and writing newsletters to promote shows. “It’s all guerrilla marketing,” Juarez says. On Thursday, when Tomorrows Bad Seeds perform at the Coach House, they’re launching their acoustic EP. They’re also working on an album set for release in 2011.
The goal, he says, is to be around for the next 20 years. And why not? Their music, after all, has a something-for-everyone appeal. “A person who loves punk rock will come to our show and like it, or someone who likes R&B will come and see our show. It hits the whole spectrum. Old people like it. Goth people like it. Hip-hop kids like it. That’s the beautiful thing about it,” Juarez says.
For a band who want to be such a positive influence, the name Tomorrows Bad Seeds doesn’t really seem all that positive. “Weeell,” Juarez says, “that’s true. But it’s more like bad is good in this context.”
Like Michael Jackson bad?
Tomorrows Bad Seeds perform with Josh Fishel and Kat at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, 949-496-8930, www.thecoachhouse.com , Thurs., 8 p.m. $15. All ages.
This article appeared in print as “So Bad They’re Good: Tomorrows Bad Seeds play stoner music for non-stoners.”