‘A place of invention’: An interview with The Seshen

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Brittany Powers/Courtesy

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So far, 2021 has been a year of reopening. For many, this mainly refers to the physical: beloved movie theaters selling tickets once again, restaurants allowing indoor conversation and schools slowly rolling back in session. But the world is not just concrete; many can feel an emotional reopening beginning as well.

For San Francisco’s The Seshen, a six-piece band experimenting with every musical genre from R&B to krautrock, this reopening means much more than relearning how to flag down a bartender or interact with co-workers in person once again.

“It’s a year of possibilities, a year of shifts, a year of what can happen differently moving forward — so I’m definitely in a place of invention and rethinking things,” lead singer Lalin St. Juste said in an interview with The Daily Californian.

The frontwoman, originally from Pasadena, is currently living and breathing out of Oakland. St. Juste has lived in the Bay Area for 15 years now, and her band members mostly grew up around the Richmond and El Cerrito areas. Bassist Akiyoshi Ehara and St. Juste met while studying abroad in Ghana, Ehara having attended UCLA and St. Juste UC Santa Cruz. 

“There’s been lots of life changes,” St. Juste said. “We’re maturing, and we’re just getting wiser and trying to do things, learn from what we’ve done before and move forward with intention.”

First coming together through a series of college jam sessions and Craigslist searches, The Seshen has spent the last decade in an ebb and flow of creativity.

“We started off very differently sonically, and we’ve just been honing in on our sound ever since,” St. Juste said. “Each album is different and has its own perspective, but also a lot of the songs — even within the albums — are very eclectic.” 

The vocalist initially began singing in her youth as a way to cope with the passing of her maternal grandmother. Although she is a self-labeled “quiet and shy person,” she began performing in her adulthood and discovered a passion for live music, despite the occasional battle with stage fright that she still experiences today.

“Even though there’s some certain aspects of me that are reserved, being onstage allows for my whole expansiveness to be experienced,” St. Juste said. “We’re all these multifaceted people, and so it’s a way for that aspect to just shine, even if I get really nervous.”

St. Juste said that the feeling of discomfort, having to be so vulnerably seen and heard, influenced how she feels about performing in front of crowds — something foreign to most artists for at least the last year and a half. And once the world shifted gears in early 2020, so did her creative engine. 

“Things slowed down for me a little bit,” St. Juste admitted. “I wasn’t as creative as I thought I was going to be. … I really want to utilize the time that I have to continue to push my own boundaries and reimagine the world that I want to live in and create art for the world that I want to live in.”

The Seshen released its third full-length record, CYAN, on Feb. 28, 2020. Inspired by water, St. Juste spent much of her pre-pandemic time sitting on San Francisco waterfronts to find a muse in the ocean. Unable to tour once the COVID-19 pandemic halted any sort of travel plans, the vocalist is now ready to be able to share her songs with live crowds after such a dry spell. 

“Everything stopped right before we were gonna go on tour with the album and do this whole thing,” St. Juste said. “It almost felt like it happened, but didn’t happen. You know, we released this record and then that’s it. So it feels nice to get back to sharing it with people.”

After finally returning to the stage at Stern Grove Festival’s Juneteenth celebration June 20, St. Juste expressed how relieving it feels to be getting back “to such an important piece” of the band’s lives. 

“Everyone was in good vibes — everyone was happy to be out playing music and experiencing music,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was gonna feel; it had been like 15 months since I’d been onstage. I was nervous; I was excited; I was ready to just feel those feelings again. I was on a high all day from it.”

The past year has been particularly dismal for musicians everywhere due to live shows being indefinitely postponed. On July 17, however, The Seshen is going to be playing its first indoor show since the start of the pandemic last year. Hosted at San Francisco’s The Independent, attendees can almost certainly expect a room full of dancing to the band’s beat-driven sound.

“It’ll feel pretty surreal. I think it’s a full capacity show, you know… inside. It’s pretty wild,” St. Juste said with a laugh. “Coming back into that kind of intimacy will be interesting, but I’m ready to see people dancing and getting a little sweaty.”

The Seshen will be performing at The Independent in San Francisco on July 17.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.