2 Minutes With ... Seth Olinsky, Composer and Founder at Consortium
Seth Olinsky is an American musician and composer and founder of the underground rock band Akron/Family. He is also known for his multi-band installation piece Band Dialogue, and 40 drum performances alongside his latest project Cy Dune. He is also a member of the L.A.-based, Grammy nominated experimental classical ensemble, WildUP. Seth also founded Consortium, a music production studio where he and his team have brought his high creative, high energy, post genre take on creating music for moving pictures to award winning projects for Netflix, Vice, HBO, Mercedes, Apple, Nike and more.
We spent two minutes with Seth to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.
Seth, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and currently live in Oceanside, CA, but have lived in a lot of places—Williamsburg Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and then some time in Portland, Tucson and Joshua Tree as well.
Your earliest musical memory.
That’s a hard one … I studied piano first, and I can recall a very early talent show where I played "Yellow Submarine" on piano. I switched to guitar in middle school and got my first Wayne's World signature Fender guitar, and then I was hooked on making music and off to the races. My passion grew quickly from rock n roll to jazz, from studying jazz performance and composition at Berklee, to moving to NYC to play free jazz and experimental music, and then forming my band Akron/ Family, which released records on Young God Records and Dead Oceans and toured all over from 2004-2014.
Your favorite bands/musicians today.
Wow, that's another hard one. I'm hyper-passionate about music and listen to a ton of different music. Today for example, I've been researching and listening to the score for Coppola's The Conversation, as well as Lalo Schifirn's scores to Bullitt and Dirty Harry, and Bernard Herrmann's score to Taxi Driver.
Musically, lately I’ve been diving into Sophie, classic mariachi music, Lil Yachty's latest, Steve Reich's composition "Drumming," Alice Coltrane's 1976 album Eternity, a favorite guitar deconstructionist Bill Orcutt, Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock and other early hip hop, a lot of Mozart, Floating Points and recently discovered a cool Carl Stone record that I'm into.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on.
In terms of a favorite artistic projects, Band Dialogue is a composition that I conceived and wrote the first version of about 10 years ago. It is a work for 20+ bands to perform simultaneously that I generally perform at music festivals. The first version was done at Hopscotch in N.C., and it's also been performed several times at Treefort Music Fest, as well as Sled Island. It is part musical piece, part social art/public art installation. It's a huge, very loud, visceral experience, but because of the public aspect of it, and the coming together of all the musicians and community, even though the music is technically more on the experimental side, through the scope, scale and spectacle of it it is a crowd pleaser. It reaches beyond the average music festival hipster, and kids and grandmas all stop and check it out as well and you get a really unique, community art experience that everyone is excited about. Tons of bands have been involved over the years including Built to Spill, Delicate Steve, Cy Dune, members of Godspeed You Black Emperor, The Mattson 2, Pontiak, Motrik, AU, Sun Blood Stories, Dana Buoy, Jamaican Queens, and more.
In terms of one my favorite commercial projects, I got a chance to write the music for the launch of VW's first electric car the ID.4 a few years ago. Directed by Sam Brown, edited by Sam Ostrove, and created by the awesome team at Johannes Leonardo of CD Kevin Watkins and EP Rebecca O'Niell along with copywriter Patrick Wells. Just a beautiful film that I got to compose some beautiful cinematic music for. I also got to feature my friend Paul Wiancko who plays with ACME ensemble and Kronos Quartet who is just a shredding, virtuoso cellist on this project.
A recent project you're proud of.
I've been lucky to work on some great projects with inspiring teams recently. I composed the music for this great American Express campaign with director Brian Beletic, editor Maury Loeb, and a super creative team at dentsu mcgarrybowen led by Julie Scelzo with super smart writing and direction by Christina Pitsinos. I've collaborated a lot with Brian over the years. He is hyper creative and always pushing the envelope. On these, we really got to dig into a unique process he and I have developed together. We start on music early in the process, ideating and creating the music along with the story, working from boards, exploring multiple ideas and influences for each character, and then scoring each story beat and micro-scene with a different type of music and mood. We go into the edit with tons of music approaches to each scene, and then imagine 70 minutes of film, with 15 scenes with 15 musical cues, then edit that down to 2 minutes and you get this super fun, super smart, highly entertaining film.
I’ve also been working on a great Jimmy John's campaign with the ever creative team over at Anomaly, including CDs Drew Burton and Connor Tobiason, EP Olivia Edgren, Adam Crouch, Kyle Chin, and CCO Josh Fell. They are awesome to work with, super smart, and I think the creative leadership over there really values and cultivates an environment of authentic creativity. This campaign has developed episodically, and is just getting crazier and crazier as Tony goes from angry to disturbed to full blown paranoid.
One thing about how the music world is evolving that you're excited about.
I've always been extremely passionate about all different types of music, how they are made, and the culture and philosophies behind them. In my musical career I have always explored exploding genre and recombining it in unique ways to create juxtaposition and a sort of meta-meaning that you can get when you layer and juxtapose different genres and musical associations together. These days, I've taken to calling that approach post genre, and I think this is a very of-the-times concept. Different sounds, timbres, melodies, rhythms, recording techniques, eras, etc. These all have conceptual, artistic, and emotional associations and when you can fluidly cut, weave, and interconnect these you can create new stories with new meanings, connect things that haven't necessarily been connected before, and explore new musical and cultural ideas.
I'm a deep student of music history, and there's a lot of things about the history of music making that I grew up with and love, the visceral experience of loud music with crowds of people for example, or the way people would passionately organize themselves into cultures around subgenres like regional punk scenes, the art scene of Soho in the '60s, or early NYC hip hop, but what I love about the modern, digital era is that the accessibility of information and access to tools allows for the combination of so many disparate things. There's a lot of room for genius, personal exploration, and unique combination here, and so you have this natural breaking down of genre barriers. You can see and hear it happening across all musics these days, from hip hop to classical music, with pop artists and jazz musicians.
Someone else's work, in music or beyond, that you admired lately.
Composing-wise, I'm a big fan of Daniel Pemberton's composing for films. Fun, smart, badass, effortlessly creative. I loved The Rescue, The Bad Guys, King Arthur, Steve Jobs … he just makes great films and music and always comes up with an interesting and creative approach to telling the story using music, sound, and genre.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I love to read. Musically, I just started reading The Come Up, which is pretty amazing. I loved Please Kill Me, and this is the same type of oral history approach to telling the story of hip hop. For some fun inspiration check out this video of the Cold Crush Brothers.
I also loved the Beastie Boys book too. That was such an amazing, creative time in NYC around the early development of hip hop and punk rock.
I’ve also been reading Dylan’s Philosophy of Modern Song which is delightfully obtuse, strange and prophetic, and just finished Steve Reich's Conversations which was great; Steve in conversation with other composers and artists like sculptor Richard Serra. In fact, I’m working on designing a t-shirt for Steve based on one of the conversations in the book.
I've also been revisiting David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish, which I get obsessed with every few years. About to start the 33 and a 1/3 on Switched on Bach as I'm working on a new artistic project with synthesis and classical music, and I just got my copy of my friend John Melillo's book The Poetics of Noise from Dada to Punk.
An artist you admire outside the world of music.
I think I have probably gone past two minutes so going to switch to shorter answers : ) John Baldessari.
Your favorite fictional character.
Someone worth following in social media.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative.
Passion for the creative process.
Your biggest weakness.
Passion for the creative process.
Something people would find surprising about you.
Loved Paddington 2.
One thing that always makes you happy.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Well, I try to keep it pretty positive ... bad red wine makes me kind of sleepy?
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music business.
This is a fun question. Probably curating large scale public art installations or trying to get a gig at Bridgewater.
2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.