The enchanting aesthetic of Seasaw

By Joey Grihalva

Last month I attended my first concert at Milwaukee’s Back Room @ Colectivo while the cafe was still open. I learned that the Back Room is setup as such that you can hear the music if you’re just hanging out in the cafe. However, what you miss by not being in the Back Room is an intimate atmosphere with great acoustics.

Madison based folk-pop duo Seasaw opened the show that night. Had I just been hanging out in the cafe I would’ve missed the joyful and endearing looks that Seasaw’s Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz shared while playing.

I would’ve also missed the beautiful, sparkling, multi-colored sequin top worn by Wilczewski. Not to mention, I would’ve missed the duo’s impressive Autoharp skills. All told, Seasaw delivered a spirited set before Indianapolis sister act Lily & Madeleine took the stage.

The chemistry between Wilczewski and Golz is so tight that you might think they’re actually sisters. In fact, the ladies have been creating music together for more than six years now. However, for most of that time they were living in different cities.

In the summer of 2015, Wilczewski and Golz united in Madison. Seasaw has since become a premier Wisconsin indie act, particularly with the 2016 release of their album Too Much of a Good Thing.

Eve Wilczewski at the Back Room (Photo by Melissa Miller)

Eve Wilczewski grew up in Oak Park, a western suburb of Chicago. She began playing violin in the second grade and took part in orchestra programs through high school. Her parents were big supporters of the arts and avid music fans. They brought Wilczewski to concerts by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Who and Fleetwood Mac.

“My mom would take me to a music lesson that was 45 minutes away every single week. She put in that time to make sure I had a quality instructor. Without that support, I don’t think I would’ve gone as far as I did with violin,” says Wilczewski.

Wilczewski’s father made her cassette tapes and would often play them in the car. She remembers the first few being all Beach Boys, with others including music by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. For “Show and Tell” Wilczewski brought in the song “Lola” by The Kinks, a controversial track at the time, especially for a second grader.

While in middle school, Wilczewski and her mother moved out to the small town of Freeport, Illinois. This is where Meg Golz grew up, but the ladies didn’t meet until after high school.

Meg Golz at the Back Room (Photo by Melissa Miller)

Meg Golz’s house was full of music. Her mother is a classically-trained opera musician and singer, while her father plays piano. Golz tried many different instruments in her youth, from cello to percussion to guitar to choir. She utilizes this variety in her performances with Seasaw.

“When I was a kid I remember hearing lots of Paul Simon and Billy Joel. And the Top Gun soundtrack for some reason. I remember having a blow up air guitar and dancing around to that soundtrack like all the time,” says Golz.

Golz and Wilczewski first became friends while working together at an Italian restaurant in Freeport. As Wilczewski puts it, she was “bullied” into playing music by Golz, who had previously been in a band called The Westerlies with her brother.

Shortly after they met, Golz moved to Madison to attend the Madison Media Institute, where she received a degree in audio engineering.

“We were long distance for that whole time when we were starting the band,” says Wilczewski.

“Then when I moved to Madison in the summer of 2015, it just so happened that I moved into a house that had a partial recording studio in the basement. We were going to record the album anyways, so it was just very serendipitous,” adds Wilczewski.

‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ album art

Golz and Wilczewski mainly write songs independently and then bring them to each other to arrange and craft them into a final piece. Their infectious 2016 album — Too Much of a Good Thing — is a testament to their growth and abilities as songwriters.

Seasaw’s performance at the Back Room was their fifth time performing in Milwaukee. However, there were a few more shows in the works.

“Three times in a row we had to cancel in Milwaukee. There were either weather problems or sickness or car trouble,” says Golz.

These unfortunate events yielded an uncanny result Seasaw ended up playing their first ever Milwaukee show at Summerfest 2016. The duo took part in the Emerging Artist Series on the Johnson Controls World Stage. Seasaw won the fan favorite vote, awarding them gear that they now use in their live performance.

Since their memorable Milwaukee debut they’ve played Club Garibaldi, the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Fest, and Riverwest FemFest. A few years back they even played opening night of Mile of Music at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Wilczewski and Golz’s endearing onstage banter was was well-suited for a performance at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre opening for comedian Paul Reiser. In their young career, Seasaw has shared the stage with Lucius, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Run River North and Dead Horses.

Seasaw kicked off their latest tour in Madison earlier this month. The tour took them to the 2nd annual Daytrotter Downs festival in Davenport, a Paste Magazine live session, Union Hall in Brooklyn, and a dozen stops along the way.

During their Back Room set Seasaw performed a stirring cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” The ladies repertoire also includes “Dearly Departed” by Shakey Graves, “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy, “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin, and “Stone’s Throw From Heaven” by Madison freak-folk legend Josephine Foster.

Golz and Wilczewski so enjoy doing covers that they formed a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover band with Golz as her idol Karen O and a White Stripes cover band, which debuted last Halloween. They’re bringing back the Stripes band for a performance in Madison at the Crystal Corner Bar on Saturday, March 25.

“It’s a pretty friendly scene and people support each other,” says Wilczewski of the Madison music scene.

“There’s a lot going on. There are so many musicians in Madison,” adds Golz.

“And festivals to showcase the musicians. And when bigger names are coming into town they pull from the local talent, which is really nice. So you’re getting put on a bigger stage. There are a couple radio stations that are really supportive too,” says Wilczewski.

[ IN CONCERT ]

Thursday March 23, Seasaw will open for Mason Jennings & His Band at the Majestic in Madison. 

Saturday March 25, Seasaw will perform as ‘The Right Stripes’ (The White Stripes cover band) at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison, as part of ‘Tribute Night.’ 

[ FULL TRANSCRIPT ]

(I sat down with Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz after their performance at the Back Room @ Colectivo on February 16.)

WiG
I’ll be honest, I don’t know very much about you ladies. I know you played FemFest and did a Hear Here Presents, right?

EVE
Yes and before that we had played Summerfest, we were one of the Emerging Artists. We won the fan favorite vote, which was pretty awesome because we got a bunch of gear that we were actually using tonight. So Milwaukee has been so good to us.

WiG
I take it that wasn’t your first gig in Milwaukee, right?

EVE
We played Fringe Fest, but which was first?

MEG
Summerfest was first.

WiG
Wow. That was your first Milwaukee gig ever?

EVE
Yeah. That’s pretty badass.

MEG
We’ve tried to play Milwaukee before but there were either weather problems or sickness problems or car trouble. Three times in a row we had to cancel in Milwaukee.

EVE
We made some winter dates to come here but there was a blizzard both of the dates. Also we were sick so we just couldn’t make the drive.

WiG
And how long have you been playing as Seasaw?

MEG
Six years.

WiG
Madison based?

EVE
Yep.

WiG
Madison born?

MEG
Nope, I was born in Freeport, Illinois and…

EVE
I’m from Chicago.

MEG
We met in Freeport though working at an Italian restaurant. That kind of started the whole thing.

WiG
Did you go to Madison for school then?

MEG
I went to the Madison Media Institute. So I moved up here pretty much right after we met. And then Eve came up here…

EVE
In 2015.

MEG
So she’s been up here for about a year-and-a-half.

EVE
So we were long distance for that whole time when we were starting the band. And then when I moved to Madison in the summer of 2015, it just so happened that I moved into a house that had a partial recording studio in the basement. We were going to record the album anyways, so it was very serendipitous that there was this half finished part of the house. So we recorded the album pretty much right when I moved to Madison.

MEG
I have my degree in audio engineering so I did all of the engineering. And we had a friend mix it and a different friend master it.

WiG
Boom boom.

EVE
So Madison’s been good to us too.

WiG
I’m curious, tell me more about this trip to the Moose Lodge with your grandma that you mentioned during your set tonight.

EVE
So my grandma has this membership to a Moose Lodge. It’s odd to me because she goes there by herself, which is very awesome and sweet that she has the courage to just go to the Moose Lodge by herself. We always try and humor her and go to the Moose Lodge whenever we’re in town. For some reason she really enjoys this place.

They have fish fry on Friday. So the song is called “Gone Fishin’” because we always had a fish fry and the idea appeared to me. The Moose Lodge is a totally weird place where there’s like this little tiny band and it’s mostly senior citizens, but a lot of little kids running around and screaming. There’s two different rooms with stages, like blue carpeting on the walls. Very bizarre. And of course there’s a huge moose.

WiG
Kind of like a Supper Club?

EVE
Yeah. At the time I was dating someone and it was brand new, so the song is one of the only genuinely happy songs I’ve ever written because I was just in the mood. I was so freshly dating this person and in my head I thought that it was such a great relationship. In retrospect it was probably the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

But at the time I was just so into it. I was “Gone fishin’ for fun and I caught a big one.” My sister always teased me that I was searching for fun all the time, so I just sarcastically wrote that into the song. We had fun for a little while, but then it fizzled.

WiG
Things fizzle.

EVE
It fish-zled.

MEG
Nice!

WiG
What instrument was that that you were both playing?

MEG
The Autoharp. It’s like a harp, but you push buttons, so it’s automatic.

WiG
What did you do to the tom, the drumhead?

MEG
There’s some fabric over it to dampen it and give it kind of like a more punchy sound.

WiG
Did you have some sort of block on top of it too?

MEG
It’s a washboard. We used to mic the washboard on a separate thing under my keyboard, but it’s just so much extra hardware around my body that we decided to just streamline it and put it right on the drum.

WiG
On the new album is it just you two doing all the instruments?

MEG
We had my brother help a little bit with some drums and some bass, and a little bit of guitar. We had one friend play slide guitar on a track…

EVE
He played a solo on one part, but we played almost 90 per cent of the instruments.  We have a couple of guest artists that played some additional stuff. On “Ex-Girlfriend” there’s someone playing slide guitar who’s one of our good friends. Then Evan plays electric on one of them. Meg’s on the drums most of the time except for where there’s symbols.

MEG
That means my brother played it.

EVE
Meg usually plays a different paired down drum kit.

WiG
I really enjoyed the Weezer cover tonight. What other covers are in your repertoire?

MEG
We love doing Shakey Graves “Dearly Departed,” and we do “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy.

EVE
We do Janis Joplin “Mercedes-Benz.” We do “Stone’s Throw”…

MEG
That’s by Josephine Foster. She’s a Madison kind of freak folk artist.

EVE
From like 10 years ago.

MEG
But she kind of had a successful career for a while and it’s cool that she’s from Madison.

EVE
Speaking of covers, Meg also started a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover band and she was Karen O in it and I played the keyboard. And we also do The White Stripes.

MEG
Yeah we do a White Stripes cover band.

EVE
Right after our tour we have another White Stripes show.

WiG
Is that a Madison specific project?

MEG
Yeah we did one on Halloween and it went over pretty well, so we’re doing it one more time.

WiG
Tell me about the Madison scene, I don’t know too much about it.

EVE
It’s a pretty friendly scene and people support each other.

MEG
There’s a lot going on. There are so many musicians in Madison.

EVE
And festivals to showcase the musicians. When bigger names are coming into town  they pull from the local talent, which is really nice. So you’re getting put on a bigger stage. There are a couple radio stations that are really supportive too.

MEG
WSUM the college station is sponsoring our tour kickoff show. We’re gonna be going to New York, so we’re playing 15 dates to New York and back. We’re going to be doing a Paste Magazine live session when we’re out there. We’re going to do a So Far session, we’re playing at Union Hall in Brooklyn, and a couple other cool spots in DC and New Jersey.

WiG
When does that kick off?

MEG
March 2nd is our show in Madison and we’ll be premiering the music video that was digitally animated by our friend Chad Smith. He animated it to be in 3D so you can watch it with the red-blue paper glasses. So we’re going to premiere it live.

WiG
Where is that going to be in Madison?

MEG
The Frequency. We’re excited for that and that will give us the upward push. Then we’re going to Davenport for Daytrotter Downs. They have this awesome festival  with some larger acts.

EVE
Like Gaelynn Lea is coming. She won Tiny Desk last year, she’s been touring like crazy this year.

MEG
So yeah, there’s some bigger names but it’s really cool because it’s mostly Midwestern acts. So they really pay attention to their surroundings and help cultivate that, which is really great. And then we’re heading over to Cleveland and then it kind of continues from there. It’s going to be really fun.

WiG
What are some of your favorite venues to play in the Midwest?

MEG
We love playing the Daytrotter stage. It’s a brand new venue and it’s just beautiful.  The sound system is incredible.

EVE
The sound people there are very knowledgeable and make you sound amazing. If you have really good sound people it’s going to make any venue fun to play. And we’re friends with the sound guy too. He’s a good friend, so that always makes it more fun. We love High Noon Saloon in Madison.

MEG
It’s a lot of fun and the stage is great.

EVE
We had our release show there and we also premiered our “Ex-Girlfriend” video on the projector screen behind us which was fun. That’s an amazing venue that we love playing.

MEG
The Summerfest show was very cool.

WiG
What stage was that?

EVE
I think it’s the Johnson Controls World stage. We played a couple cool places in Iowa too. We played at the Des Moines Social Club, which has many levels of community involvement.

MEG
There’s like an arcade on one floor, a greenhouse on another, a gallery, kitchen classes on another.

EVE
Jazz club…

MEG
There’s a black box theater and yeah, an underground jazz club. There’s like three places you can watch music and there’s all these beautiful painted murals on the wall.

EVE
We played backstage at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay.

MEG
Yeah, we played at the regular theater and then we also played in a backstage venue which is like a 400 cap. The Meyer Theatre is huge. We opened for Paul Reiser, the comedian from Mad About You, which is kind of funny. It was like a short 20 minute thing.

WiG
How did that go over?

MEG
It was actually really great, it was pretty much sold out, so like a crowd of 800 people.

EVE
And at the PAC in Appleton.

MEG
That was beautiful.

EVE
For the Opening Ceremony at Mile of Music. They picked us as a headline artist to do the welcome show. That was awesome.

MEG
We’ve played there now three times at all different places and it’s been such a great time. They treat you really wonderful, it’s a lot of fun.

EVE
The PAC was cool. There’s this place Leo and Leona’s. It’s this beautiful barn in the middle of nowhere and it’s just a gorgeous stage. It’s up by La Crosse.

MEG
We just had a music video come out today if you want to link to that or whatever. The video is me doing a dance routine and Eve doesn’t know the dance routine and is trying to mimic my dancing. It’s on a stage with some great outfits and we’re giving it everything we got.

EVE
It was shot in one take so it’s like performance art where I literally don’t know the dance.

WiG
Cool, I’ll definitely include it. Thanks for taking the time ladies.

[I did a follow-up phone call interview a few weeks later while they were en route to Davenport, Iowa.]

WiG
How was the tour kickoff last night?

EVE
The show was awesome. We had such an attentive crowd that really was there supporting all three bands and stayed until the very end to participate in the 3D video premiere. It was a great crowd and they sang along to our cover of “Say It Ain’t So.”

We got a cool video of everyone with their red-blue 3D glasses on, just like staring in awe. It was pretty cute. We were pretty nervous to pull off all the separate pieces that were happening last night, it feels good to accomplish that. It was cool that Chad could be there too, he did the animation.

WiG
What song was the video for?

EVE
It’s for the track called “Light,” which is the last track on the album. It was written by Meg. The video is kind of like a 3D visualization of different light, landscapes, and different kinds of moods. This was just a sneak preview, the video has not premiered online yet.

WiG
Tell me how you got started playing music?

EVE
I started playing violin in second grade and I was in the orchestra program throughout elementary, middle and high school. I picked up the guitar in high school too. I was trained on the Suzuki method, so I played all classical music. I was really more interested in playing like gypsy-type melodies. And I was also more interested in bluegrass, so I kind of branched off and wanted to play the guitar. My mom and dad are big music fans. They’ve gone to festivals their whole life and have been really influential to me in that way. So even though they’re not musicians themselves, they’re really big supporters of the arts.

My mom, for example, would take me to a music lesson that was 45 minutes away every single week. And just put in the time to make sure that I had a quality instructor. If I didn’t have that support I wouldn’t have gone as far as I did with violin. Learning at that early age, second grade, was really great for me because it gave me that foundation so I could then try and pick up the guitar and it would be a little easier.

I played guitar throughout college and then once I graduated that’s when I met Meg and she had already been in a band. I had never been in a band and I had never performed on my own at all, so that was brand new and that was all Meg peer pressuring me. She bullied me into doing it.

WiG
And where did you grow up?

EVE
I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, little suburb of Chicago. And then in middle school me and my mom moved out to Freeport and that’s where I stayed and then met Meg.

WiG
What were you listening to when you were a kid?

EVE
My dad would make me cassette tapes all the time and we’d listen to a bunch of music in the car. The first cassettes that he made me were all Beach Boys and my dad was a huge Rolling Stones fan. He took me to Stones concerts, so I had a lot of Rolling Stones at an early age, and a ton of Beatles.

Funny story, when I was in second grade, I think we had a Show and Tell day and I brought in my favorite song. It was “Lola” by The Kinks, which is kind of a provocative song for a second grader. But I had no idea what the song is about. And it’s probably like one of my top five favorite songs still today. My mom laughed about it cuz she didn’t know I was bringing in that song, she was kind of dumbfounded. Definitely one of the best songs ever written, so I’m proud of that second grade moment. I’ve been to a lot of shows with my parents. I’ve seen Paul Simon. I’ve seen Bob Dylan a few times. I saw Fleetwood Mac with them. They’ve taken me to all kinds of stuff. Also saw The Who.

[Eve hands the phone over to Meg.]

WiG
I’m just curious about how you got started playing music…

MEG
My mom and dad are both very musical people. My mother’s a classically-trained opera musician and opera singer. My dad plays the piano. So in my house we were always playing or singing music. I took a few piano lessons in grade school, then I started playing the cello in 5th grade. That’s kind of where I spend most of my time learning how to play an instrument. But I was never very good at it and it was discouraging to me, so I decided to join the choir instead my junior year in high school.

Then I auditioned for the varsity choir, which is like the show choir when I was a teenager in high school. I didn’t make it, but I needed that class to get out of gym. So then I decided to learn how to play the drums and I joined the drumline my senior year of high school. That’s where I learned percussion. And then in college I just picked up the guitar and started teaching myself that. In high school me and my brother had a band together.

WiG
And what were you listening to when you were a kid?

MEG
Lots of Paul Simon and lots of Billy Joel. That was on repeat at our house. And the Top Gun soundtrack for some reason. I remember having a blow up air guitar and dancing around loving that Top Gun soundtrack.

WiG
And you grew up in Freeport?

MEG
Yep.

WiG
What was the band with your brother?

MEG
We were called The Westerlies. We mostly did cover songs. We maybe wrote three original songs. But it was really just more for fun.

WiG
That’s a good sort of transition into my next question, which is, what is your songwriting process?

MEG
Usually we write the songs on our own and then we bring them to one another to kind of craft them into the final piece. So like Eve will write something on guitar and then we’ll arrange it and decide what instruments we want to add or play around with and I’ll come up with some harmonies or whatever. So it’s usually a separate process that we then bring together. We’ve written only two or three songs together.

WiG
I guess my last question is where do you want to take this thing, where would you like it to go?

MEG
I think we are trying to take this as far as we possibly can. For both of us it’s been an increasing commitment and passion as we keep throwing our skills and expanding our reach to new people. So if we could keep doing this forever and growing and keep getting ourselves in front of people, I think we would. Our goal is just to do this full-time forever.

EVE
I think for the first three years that me and Meg were making music together, I didn’t even really tell people that I was a musician. I just was like, “Oh I’m in this little band or whatever.” I didn’t really acknowledge it as a piece of my life. So I think now that we have committed so much of our energy and time and ideas to it, it feels really nice to be able to tell people that I’m a musician and we take ownership of that, because all of the pieces are in place. Before we didn’t have our website or social media or enough shows under our belt. It feels like we’ve put in a lot of work and effort and I feel like as a reward for that I get to call myself a musician now. We’re actually doing it. It feels good to be at this point.

WiG
Well, I think you have a really good thing going, best of luck.