Bands on Bands is a recurring feature on the 35 Denton blog that will highlight musician interviews written by none other than our own local musicians. Throughout this series we aspire to help you learn more about some of your favorite musicians who have played the festival in the past as well as introduce you to new and upcoming acts.
Words by Daniel Folmer | Image by: Stanton Stephens
Michael Seman co-leads Shiny Around the Edges, a group who defies labels or genres. Along with his wife, Jennifer, and saxophone murderer Mike Forbes, their swirling canticles ebb and flow with an unmatched intensity.
Michael is also a senior research associate in economic development and research at the University of North Texas. He is a published writer on various topics including how a music scene can guide the socioeconomic progress of a community.
Michael shared some of his thoughts on North Texas’ cultural landscape and his musical history here. Don’t miss him with Shiny Around the Edges this coming Saturday June 6 for our first pre-sale show of the year – 35 Denton & Pan-Ector Present: New Girl Order.
DANIEL FOLMER: Who would you consider some of your present musical contemporaries in Denton?
Michael Seman: AV the Great – his drive and determination are inspiring, while he continues to be a super nice guy, an awesome performer, and community-minded. The Baptist Generals in a sort of parallel universe sort of way. Our good friend, Sarah Alexander and definitely the bands Terminator 2, Bludded Head, Cerulean Giallo, Bukkake Moms, Baby’s Blood, Plunge, Eat Avery’s Bones, New Science Projects, and * ~ ~.
Can you describe some first favorite Denton bands?
To this day, Mandarin is still one of my favorite bands of all time, Denton or otherwise. Lift to Experience made a big impression on us and Josh was very supportive of us when we moved here. I still listen to jetscreamer often. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I had way too much fun at Record Hop shows. Plus, Christian Teenage Runaways were pretty awesome.
What is your favorite music related memory in Denton?
Toughest question… too many. Honestly, every set I played with Mike Forbes on sax was transcendent to the point where the toughest part of the evening was often remembering where I was spatially on stage and where I was in the song due to drifting off with him sonically. Having Greg Ginn sit in with us was – and is – completely surreal. Pretty much any Dust Congress show or interaction with the band in general, like the time I was their hype man for Meredith Buie’s birthday show or when Jennifer yelled at them and threatened to beat them up for being late while we were on tour together in Chicago. They have never let me down.
Do you feel like festivals have changed the musical landscape of North Texas as a whole?
Absolutely. It has helped promote seeing live music and foster the bands making it – doesn’t matter if its Homegrown, Untapped, Spillover, 35 Denton, or something else. We’re Texas – an overwhelming amount of people love to play and experience music… it’s part of our heritage. The DFW region is finally offering a slate of festivals befitting its title as the fourth largest metropolitan region in the United States. Look around you when you are at any of the outdoor stages of 35 Denton. You will undoubtedly see a mix of age ranges passionate about the band on stage. Even better, note how many kids high school age or younger that are there watching as well. I would lay money on the fact that they are pretty excited to start a band with their friends in the near future. Now multiply that by the numerous festivals our vast region hosts.
What is your favorite venue in Denton – past or present?
Rubber Gloves and its theoretical mom, the Argo, whom I sadly never had the chance to meet.
What was Denton culture like when you arrived and how has it changed?
For us, it was confusing that Denton’s culture of being an eclectic community supportive of a thriving music scene wasn’t more widely known regionally, nationally, and internationally. Lift to Experience, the Baptist Generals, and Slobberbone had definitely brought that culture to light with their work and the Good/Bad art collective was infamous in broader art circles, but it wasn’t like now where people ask me pointed questions about Denton whenever I am giving talks across the country or how you can buy any number of Denton-themed t-shirts during an afternoon on the square. This is largely due to the enduring legacies of the aforementioned and the efforts of people like the members of Midlake, the artists at Pan-Ector, Councilman Kevin Roden, 35 Denton founder Chris Flemmons, and John Williams, who owns Oak Street Draft House. More and more, people like this who are passionate and creative are staying in Denton and celebrating their community.
What are your hopes for the cultural future of Denton?
That it continues to embrace and nurture the art students, filmmakers, musicians, designers, photographers, fashion students, writers, sound engineers, and other people who have an aesthetic vision that might not quite make sense to everyone yet, but is was more advanced than what others are contemplating across the country.
Can you tell me about Shiny Around the Edges? Where did it begin and what are your plans for the future?
My wife Jennifer and I started Shiny Around the Edges in Los Angeles. We played our first show in 2001, then moved to Denton in 2003. We’ve had many incredibly talented people play with us, most of whom remain like family members. We’ve released three albums, a bunch of CDRs, downloads, compilation tracks, etc. We’ve alternately been told we sound like the apocalypse, a warm bath, and the opening song by the Quicksilver Messenger Service during a set at Austin’s fabled Armadillo World Headquarters. We’ve had no grand plans in the past and none for the future. So far it’s worked out pretty well that way. We are working on a mixtape at the moment.
You have been researching the cultural landscape of Denton for years. Can you share some about your research and how it is applied in vivo?
For my dissertation in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington, I examined and illustrated how Denton’s music scene operates like Silicon Valley catalyzing economic development in the city. I also noticed that was not only the case in Denton, but across the country in places like Omaha, Indianapolis, Flint, Seattle, and internationally in places like Manchester, England and Reykjavik, Iceland. Basically, if you nurture a music scene it could potentially help brand your city, serve as an amenity attracting an educated, skilled workforce, spur urban redevelopment, and become an industry in its own right. Fortunately, my work caught the attention of representatives from the City of Denton who have since more fully embraced our scene with positive outcomes as well as policymakers, scene members, and media outlets across the country who immediately understood that I am only shedding light on what is already happening in their own backyards.
Daniel Rush Folmer is an artist from Denton, Texas. He has performed songs as Danny Rush and The Designated Drivers, most recently Danny Diamonds, as well as a touring member of Dallas-schizo-rock outfit thepAper chAse. This interview series focuses on the shifting cultural landscape of Denton and the effect it has had on the musical landscape.