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Akron/Family makes the world just a little bit safer for avant-folk sing-alongs 

For Miles Seaton, singer/songwriter and bassist for the experimental-psychedelic-folk-rock-sing-along Akron/Family, the only thing that might be more exciting than singing his band's songs with a few hundred shitfaced Norwegians is a gourmet cup of Norwegian coffee.

"We'll drink a bunch of really amazing coffee," says the happily caffeinated bassist. "There's a couple of roasters there. One's this guy Tim Wendelboe, you should Google him. He's a former champion barista, and he roasts these really amazing coffees. We'll get all blasted on espresso and come up with a million new ideas for our new record that we're recording in June."

The album will be their sixth effort as a band, and second as a trio since the departure of founding member Ryan Vanderhoof. There is the "Akron" half of the group (the three current members who have been with the band for all six albums), and then there is the perpetually changing "Family" (everybody from fellow guest musicians to drunken crowd members). Both, as the slash in the band's name implies, serve equally vital roles in the identity of the band and its music.

In preparation for their summer recording session, Akron/Family is playing a three-night run in Denver, where the group will show off and work through as-yet-unreleased material.

"We'll have these really great ideas that come about when we're playing with people from the audience, because some great sax player or some crazy drunk guy with a tin whistle plays something," Seaton says. "It gets excitement in us and then we go and get in the studio."

Akron/Family has even extended its psychedelic "Kumbaya" sensibility to the campfires of the World Wide Web. The band has an ongoing online project that allows Internet troubadours — from Boston and Seattle to Ravenna, Italy and Vila Real, Portugal — the opportunity to post their own home recordings of the band's B-side sing-along, "Woody Guthrie's America."

"His [Woody Guthrie's] songs kind of came from the universal mind," says Seaton. "The people sang the songs in Oklahoma and they sang the songs in the Catskills and up in the Blue Mountains, and it always sounded a little bit different. What the Woody Project highlights are the really awesome different colors and variations in these places that all these contributors come from, and the way that globalization has, in some ways, given way to a death of the regionalism that used to exist in America."

The band itself has become regionalized with two of its members now residing in Portland, Oregon, and one staying in New York City. The migration has turned the band's songwriting process into a melding of East and West.

"Seth [Olinsky] and Dana [Janssen] are official Westerners," says Seaton, the lone New Yorker of Akron/Family. "But all of us kind of go into our own little zone and then we get together and have show and tell. Everybody's like, 'How did you come up with that? What is that sound?' That's the most common thing heard in Akron/Family."

Being separated by thousands of miles may end up serving the band's live show well, making their infamous sing-along marathons even more special when the band gets the opportunity to join together.

"Our job is to raise the audience up as opposed to looking down on them," Seaton emphasizes. "It sounds and feels amazing to sing with a few hundred voices."

scene@csindy.com

  • 300 drunk Norwegians can't be wrong.

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