"Music is my crack!":
catching up with Seymour Glass of Miss Black America and Open Mouth

by Ben Yates, August 2006


Today, is an important day for me: I’m meeting Seymour Glass – vocalist and guitarist for Miss Black America, and most recently, Open Mouth. You see, as those that know me will testify, I love Miss Black America. This is the band that I’ve felt a connection with – be it a shared sense of disapproval with the town we live in, or a concerted drive to be somebody, regardless of academic success. This is the band that has made the hour-and-a-half on the bus each day that little bit more bearable – listening to the quiet warmth of ‘Reborn’ or the punk-rock fury of ‘Dot Dot Dot’ was always a pleasure during those endless winter mornings. Perhaps most importantly, this is the band that got me into writing, thus enabling me to conduct the interview.

Upon entering one of the numerous small pubs in Bury St Edmunds, Seymour Glass – sporting a badge-laden jacket and trend-setting ‘emo’ haircut – explains to me about Miss Black America’s popularity: “We’re the only Bury (St Edmunds) band since Jacob’s Mouse to get any recognition anywhere! We only really get recognised by people in Cambridge though, as that’s where we’ve always played.” The band, who are currently on hiatus, exploded into peoples consciousness in 2002, with everyone from the critics to your mate down the pub claiming Miss Black America were the best band in the world. After increasing tension within the band, Miss Black America disbanded, but it was only after an angry letter from a fan that Seymour decided to reform the band.

By Victoria Smith

The last couple of years have been a rough ride for Miss Black America. The band hasn’t been able to hold down a full time bassist and drummer, and certain sections of the press decided they’d have nothing to do with the band. “When the album (‘Terminal’) came out last year I bumped into the NME, and they basically told me that if we didn’t change the name of the band, then they wouldn’t write about us ever again”. To change the name of the band for certain sections of the press would be pointless, as Seymour explains:

“If I changed the name, it would be saying that I was wrong and that I never believed in anything we’ve done. Why give a fuck what they think! I care about the band so much that I wouldn’t change the name anyway, and even if we did decide to, they still might not like us.”

Touring, by Seymour’s own admission, is hard. Even though Miss Black America are a “great live band”, life on the road can be hard: “The problem with going on tour is that if anyone doesn’t get on, then being in the back of the van can be really stressful. There’s no going home, or to your bedroom, and little wars break out if people don’t like each other. I can get really ill on tour. Everything happens very quickly. I become angry, and I can be really difficult. Last year we came halfway through a tour, and I had a total mental breakdown, and went missing for a week.” He continues: “I’m just not strong enough to do it”.

Despite the problems that have plagued the band over the years, Seymour has no regrets, and is proud of his artistic accomplishment. “I really think ‘Terminal’ is fucking amazing. I’m still surprised though to find out people are buying the album”. ‘Terminal’ – released last year via R*E*P*E*A*T and Ruby Slippers Records – was an aesthetic success, building on all the qualities of their debut, and adopting a mature attitude to song writing. The album sold out in its initial run, and critics hailed it as a success. “The album came together so quickly”, explains Seymour. "Music is my crack - I'm addicted to it. I just keep coming back for more."

Mat & Seymour, Ipswich Manor Ballroom, March 2005 by Victoria Smith

John Peel, the legendary radio DJ who championed the band many moons ago, passed away last year, much to the sadness of Seymour and the band: "I couldn’t go to John Peel’s funeral, because the people at work didn’t believe that I knew him. I took it really bad, and it’s not as though he was my best mate or anything, but he had this incredible influence on everything, and he genuinely loved music. Nothing that has ever happened to Miss Black America, would have happened if it wasn’t for John Peel. He played our first single, and after that everything started to happen for the band. I just sat at home crying when I found out.”

So, what does the future hold for Miss Black America? Seymour is adamant that the quartet are not splitting up, and that the band will carry on sometime soon. “Once I get all the acoustic songs out of my system with Open Mouth, we’ll return. It would be good to make an album that captures how we sound live. It would be nice to come back with a blinding pop record.”

Open Mouth is the musical venture that Seymour is pursuing while Miss Black America take time off. The songs recorded for the Open Mouth demo were originally intended as MBA b-sides, but after the “nightmare” that the band were in last November, Seymour decided to use them for his solo-project. “The songs came out so well”, Seymour explains, “I though I might as well make a solo record”. A quick glance at Open Mouth’s MySpace page implies that Seymour intends to make two solo records, so it’d be a good idea if you trundled off there now to check it out.

Open Mouth creates music detached from the rock histrionics that featured heavily in Miss Black America’s sound, yet still intrinsically linked to the music of Semour’s former band – in structure, and sheer emotion that is encapsulated in every melancholic lyric. The intensity in Seymour’s music is a salient feature - prepared by resonant guitar tones and a fulminating musical build up, regularly finished off by waves of sonic guitar feedback, it knowingly sets the heart racing. Juxtapose this with the music created in MBA, and it becomes clear that both projects bear a striking musical resemblance to each other, in their build-up, sound, and the vehement storm that arises in your heart when listening to the songs. Open Mouth is a project that dabbles in the murky waters of the singer/songwriter genre. But while the artists generally associated with singer songwriters these days purvey a bland, impassive sound, the songs are aberrations to the norm – sonically exciting, emotionally charged music, with manipulations of sound and structural progressions proving that Seymour Glass is pushing at the boundaries of the singer/songwriter genre.

"With Open Mouth, my three biggest influences are Carina Round, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. I’m a big woman at heart”, jokes Seymour. Perhaps he’s right, but these artists are prolific enough to directly influence the way he thinks about music, and although his falsetto isn’t dangerously high, you can definitely hear the music of these artists in Open Mouth. The four track demo that I’ve heard, is really exciting, as it just bodes so well for the future.

By Emma Farrer

Seymour Glass seems to have diligently observed what makes the quieter moments of Miss Black America so special - the tenderness in his vocal patterns, the textural build up before the storm, and the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be fast or heavy to convey emotions. Incorporated into the predominately acoustic world of his new project, the characteristics expel an aura of musical prowess, knowledge of song writing, and distinctive lyrical charm. Read between the lines, if you wish: Open Mouth looks set to be an awesome venture. Whatever happens in the future, whether it is the eventual reformation of Miss Black America, or a successful solo career, life is looking good for Seymour Glass - so he can hold is head up high knowing that the future looks bright. If you do one thing today, forget the troubled past Seymour’s been lumped with, and take note of what’s happening now – Open Mouth.

Ben Yates


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