Artist Q&A: folk act Saintseneca

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Saintseneca is my favorite band. Period. With Zac Little’s songwriting, the gloriously raw delivery, and the catchiest refrains in this part of the cosmos, Saintseneca will blast you directly into the heart of the sun. Saintseneca’s most recent album, Last, was mostly recorded live. This record is a breathing thing. This album has absolutely no filler. This is one of those rare records on which you wouldn’t dare skip a song. Not one. From the first spindly chord progression in “Acid Rain” to the final second of the closing anthem “James,” Saintseneca inspires.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Zac Little about doubt, God, leaving home and constellations. Sadly, I don’t have the space to print the entirety of our conversation here. When the Cluster’s editorial staff finally gives in to my persistent requests to extend the Entertainment section to no less than 10,000 words, you might get to see the full conversation. I’ll share the more resonant moments with you.

One of the first things we talked about was religion. With religious imagery oozing through every seam, it was impossible not to bring it up early on.

Jonathan Popham: I’ve got a feeling of your band and your music. I’ve been going trying to pick out themes in your discography. There is an incredible amount of religious imagery in the songs that you have. It’s mostly Christian. What kind of role has religion played in your life?

Zac Little:It’s funny. I think that there are a lot of people who are keenly aware of that, but shy away from it. I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, for what they might get one way or the other. I’d say that it is obviously a pervading theme in the stuff I write. I guess in my own experiences it comes from a point of introspection. Saintseneca is certainly not a band out to proselytize music. Nothing like that. It is a sort of personal, cathartic means of introspection with all these issues I grapple with myself. It comes out in things that I write. I grew up deeply immersed in a [Christian] church background. When you “leave your parents nest” you enter into a process of reconciling what you have been exposed to by proximity for a long time. You are forced to reconcile that and say, ‘Well, what of these things actually feel resonate to me? What of these things actually feel important to me. What of these things don’t feel true or important?’ It’s an outlet for my own grappling with those things.

Today’s generation of 20-somethings is coming into the world in a unique time in history. I suppose every previous generation also thought that. But, with access to the greatest wealth of knowledge amassed in human history, we are limited by nothing but our imaginations. It seems like the more answers we come up with, the less we really understand. Through their empirical yet mystical questioning, Saintseneca could be a voice for my generation, “a voice for wandering yellow roman candles,” just waiting to explode “like spiders across the night sky.”

Little told me about how he hoped to finish recording the next album before summer, their tour of the Midwest, and their musical evolution. He then shared with me about the personal nature of his music.

JP: It’s an uneven thing for me or any other journalist to speak to a musician. Usually, [for interviews] I find people I really like– people I can identify with. By the time I finally talk to them, I’m intimately familiar with their entire catalogue of work. I already know what they are doing. I’ve looked into their soul. Relating to a stranger’s soul is serious, one-sided business.

ZL: That’s flattering to me. Especially since music just feels like something I have to do. The fact that people can ever connect to [my music] is the highest sort of honor to me. The fact that people take time to consider something that has taken your energy—there is no higher praise than that. 

So, when was the last time that you looked into your own soul?

Do me a favor. After the sun sets and the stars rise, go outside. Look up. Take a moment to assess your size in the universe. That great abyss is pockmarked with ageless pinpricks. It’s okay to make a habit out of it. I’ve no guarantee that you’ll find the Constellation of the Dog, but you might find what you are looking for in yourself. You might even find that you need to start looking.