Former Saugerties resident Seth Bulkin is a carpenter, bartender and bass guitarist for Brooklyn-based indie band Blackbells, Bulkin is no stranger to the stages of clubs all across New York City. Now, fresh off a triumphant appearance at De Luna Fest in Pensacola, Florida alongside Jane’s Addiction, Weezer and the Shins, Bulkin sat down with the Saugerties Times to talk about his life in music and answer some questions about life in general.
Bulkin took an interest in music at an early age thanks to family outings in the car.
“My brother and I would be in the back of our parents Malibu Classic listening to ABBA, Neil Diamond, the Beatles and lots of Tin Pan Alley stuff that my father liked to play while taking road trips to various historical sites,” Bulkin said. “I would find myself kind of drumming along to the different music, not caring what the style was. I think it was at that point that I knew I was going to explore what I was capable of within music.”
Though he eventually wound up favoring the sounds of the bass guitar, Bulkin first tried his hand at other instruments. Even early on, it was clear his perfectionism was apparent” he said. “Soon after I quit because I felt like no one cared about learning their parts and the sound of the orchestra was horrible. I still hate when dudes don’t have it together for a session or gig!”
In junior high, Bulkin moved into a more familiar realm.
“In the 9th grade I decided to play drums after falling in love with the rhythm sections of Black Sabbath (Bill Ward, Geezer Butler) and Led Zeppelin (John Bonham, John Paul Jones),” he said. “My mother wasn’t going have a kit in the house so asked if I could get a bass with a small amp and headphones, which she agreed to allow.”
Ever since, Bulkin has been in bands, sometimes supplementing his jones for playing music by teaching the bass guitar to young enthusiasts. And then came Blackbells.
“Blackbells came about after I was already in a band called Surefire with singer/guitarist/songwriter, Ben Rice,” he said. “We had been spending a great deal of time with Austin Schumacher (drums) and Anthony Stella (guitar), who were in another band together. Ben and Stella would hang out drinking till the wee hours playing guitars, bullshitting and writing songs for fun. Ben and I had been talking about forming a band of our own with Austin and Stella, so when we presented the idea, Blackbells just kind of happened. There was an obvious click from jump, and songs just started pouring out. We wrote and recorded our first EP within a month’s time.”
A second EP, IxI, followed this October, heralded by a raucous headlining show at Mercury Lounge in Manhattan, where the band tore through a set mared as much by pure, unbridled energy as impeccable songcraft and skill. The show served as a warmup for their De Luna Fest appearance, which was followed by both acoustic and electric sets for NYC’s annual industry showcase, the CMJ Music Festival.
What do you miss most about Saugerties?
The great roads for riding my motobike. NYC has the worst roads I’ve ever been on.
When a friend asks you to describe Saugerties, what do you say?
Picture a wealthy chick playing a banjo, riding a horse.
How did you end up doing what you do?
Stayed motivated and followed my passion.
What are the most important skills in your profession?
People skills by far. Being able to play your instrument is foundational, but you gotta be able to network and keep people interested.
Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
Umm… You’d be insane to. It’s a tough road, and you gotta love doing it. If you are really passionate about being a musician, then stick with it… You are going to want to quit along the way. Don’t.
Your favorite virtue?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What are your favorite color, flower and animal?
Black, orchid, cats of all types.
What’s your idea of the perfect Saturday?
70 degrees, sunny, loved ones, outdoor gig, glass of scotch.
Which qualities do you admire most in others?
Being true to who they are. Punctuality.
Do you have any heroes?
What’s your idea of happiness?
My wife’s smiling face.
What’s your idea of misery?
Listening to someone smack when they eat.
What talent do you wish you’d been given?
Ability to put my thoughts into words.
What’s your main fault?
I tend to be really hard on myself. I also expect too much of others.
For which fault do you have the most tolerance?
Your favorite motto?
Get two birds stoned at once. (Thanks Ricky)
What characters in history do you most dislike?
What is your present state of mind?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear St. Peter say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Wow Seth, this is the first time you’ve been late for anything! l