Grief pushes Roger Sellers to new ways of working
By Jeff McCord
Temporary Time is Roger Sellers’ third album under the Bayonne moniker, and the first he’s released in four years. While he says the title doesn’t contain any particular significance (“It just sounded good, honestly.” he admits), the making of the record did happen when time seemed to be standing still.
Things were unraveling in Roger’s family after his father’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death. And the backdrop for all of this was the frozen years of the pandemic.
Yet Sellers packed his grief and depression into his work. Did it somehow inspire his creativity?
“What else am I going to do, you know? It was kind of a balance. Working on the music definitely helped me through a lot of that. At some of my hardest points, it just made me feel like I needed to do something. It’s hard to explain.”
Roger is sitting down to talk with me after his Studio 1A session. He takes his time with his measured responses.
It’s clear that Temporary Time differed from other Bayonne releases. How?
“Of everything I’ve done so far, this is probably the most thoughtful record,” explains Roger. “I spent a lot of time refining my lyrics, I definitely spent more time than ever on the lyrics themselves. They have always been kind of a second, I focus much more on the music. But I felt I was growing older and it was therapeutic and introspective for me to really dig into them, you know?”
And while he made his previous records in solitude, this time he brought in collaborators.
“I think I just got kind of tired of doing it all by myself. It was just too much to bear, really. I was just getting a bit isolated within it. I’ve always had Matt [Toman, his drummer]. It was cool for us to go into an actual studio and have Danny Reisch do a bunch of the mixing and engineering – having a bit of extra production help when you get stuck on something. It’s something that I’ve always been scared of doing – or not scared, but uncomfortable handing my music over. But I learned so much from it, just even having Danny mix in. [And] I had this guy, Jon Joseph, who added some additional production for three tracks. It basically just made it easier and more enjoyable for me.”
The process differed, yet the album maintains all the melodicism and shimmering electronic drive of his previous work. And the music reaches higher. The track “Words” is an ambitious and free-associative suite. Seller recalls the single “Right Thing” being the last of his work he shared with his dad before he passed. Mixed into the chorus are actual samples from the Sellers family home movies.
Roger wasn’t always in the electronic music camp. He recalls being a huge Phil Collins fan, aping Ben Folds records to learn his keyboard moves. But at some point, all that changed.
“I got a looper pedal for the first time, and I started doing little shows, coffee shops, and stuff. I was listening to weirder music at that time. I got into Animal Collective and a lot of more psychedelic, bizarre stuff started getting more interesting.”
Loops bring in another dimension, creating music that is part composition and part construction. How does he begin to build?
“It starts with like one thing. I’ll have a loop of something. There’s no one equation of how I start something, but it’s usually just, let’s say it’s a small loop or a longer loop or it’s a part of a song that I just want to turn into something else. It’s the idea of something being simple and then building and building and building, interweaving between the layers and then creating space. I always loved repetition in music, you know, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, that kind of stuff.”
Yet electronic music has a reputation for being a bit removed, and artificial. At such an emotional time, when Sellers was looking to convey more lyrically, did he, I wondered, find the medium constraining?
“With electronic music, it all kind of happens naturally. I don’t really look at it as different. Everything is an instrument, right? Even the vocals, too. It wasn’t difficult for me just because I’ve spent time kind of diving into my own kind of world. And that’s always been a big part of it.”
Bayonne is taking his unique musical world on the road, wrapping up with a hometown record release show on June 28th at the Parish.
Album: Temporary Time (out May 26 on Nettwerk)
Roger Sellers: vocals, synths; Matt Toman: drums
Producer: Deidre Gott; Production Assistant: Confucius Jones, Stephanie Robinson; Audio Engineer: Jake Perlman; Rene Chavez; Audio Mix: Rene Chavez; Cameras: Michael Minasi; Patricia Lim; Edit: Micheal Minasi; Host: Laurie Gallardo