The self-recording Asheville, North Carolina songwriter experiments more than before with “Fake Blood.”
“I’ve been preparing for this other gig I’ve got tonight. We’re playing a lot of Cuban and African music from the ‘50s,” says Seth Kauffman, the man behind retro-blues project Floating Action. Since Kauffman’s international travels was initial inspiration for Floating Action’s sound, these kinds of occasional gigs come as no surprise from the singer-songwriter who writes, records, and produces Floating Action’s records singlehandedly. It also explains the ease with which he blends old-school R&B rhythms and contemporary pop noises, dreamworld Sigur Rós-esque synth sounds with lo-fi guitar. Floating Action plays Circle Bar on Saturday night.
Kauffman began recording music in the ‘90s as a part of his quest for sounds that he says recording studios weren’t finding success with. “If you went to a recording studio and said, ‘Record this,’ it would sound horrible,” he says. “Nobody was getting cool sounds. The quest for cool sounds back then meant figuring it out yourself. I started out by trying to dig for that.”
Recording from home has its own list of pros and cons and though the obvious ‘pro’ might be the ability to go at your own pace, Kauffman says that even he is rethinking this. “I’m starting to hate that,” he says. “The very reason that home is good is that you can still multi-task. You can run errands and do interviews and answer emails. But you end up getting distracted.”
Still, Kauffman can’t give up his ‘Tropical Disease Mobile,’ the name he’s given to his portable home studio. “If I move, it’s still the same set-up,” he says. “It’s all of my amps and microphones and recording gear. I’ve used all of the same microphones and everything for the albums, but I think that there’s been three different houses that the studio’s been set up in.”
Kauffman utilizes the home studio as his private, creative space and continues to make Floating Action records on his own for this reason. “A lot of ideas, if you’re with other people, you’d be embarrassed to suggest that idea,” he says. “It might get voted down or never make it past the finish line. You can catch yourself by surprise really well at home. You make it a song on the spot and it has that newness, that magic that comes when you haven’t rehearsed it or analyzed it a million times yet. Fake Blood is heavy on that philosophy.”
Fake Blood’s experimentations can be heard on tracks like “Silent Partner,” where clean, twangy guitar allows room for grittier tones after one minute in. Kauffman’s high-register harmonies make even the slowest, dreamiest songs on Fake Blood move along. But the album isn’t something Kauffman could pull off in a live setting alone. For this, he has enlisted a band of friends, musicians he has known for years from the Asheville, North Carolina area. “They might say otherwise, but it doesn’t seem weird at all that I do everything on the albums,” Kauffman says. “That’s just what it is. It’s whole separate unique thing. I record the songs and that’s semi-written in stone. When we rehearse, we do them a little different.”
Live shows allow Kauffman to experience a song’s strength when put into the hands of several individuals, entirely different from the studio and equally valuable. “I love when you’re on the road, and everything gets muscular and strong,” he says. “My songs are intimate, personal things. When you’re singing them in your head, you’re in this zone, thinking about the words. The band I have right now amplifies it all.”