Aaron Stauffer
Aaron Stauffer

Riding lush waves of psychedelia: inside the mind of Aaron Stauffer (ex-SEAWEED)

9 mins read

Aaron Stauffer, the creative force behind Seaweed, Gardener, The Blue Dot, Ghost Work, Major Treasure, and his solo DIY alt psychgaze project, navigates the world of music with an approach as unconventional as his soundscapes. “I write a song music-wise and then compose the lyrics while I record them… never writing them down,” Stauffer explains, capturing the essence of his spontaneous process. This method ensures that if he can’t remember the lyrics, they aren’t yet fit for the song—a testament to his commitment to raw, unfiltered expression.

His latest track, “Inbetween Contants,” released on May 23, 2024, is a fine addition to his extensive discography. Steeped in personal experiences and introspection, his work reflects his life as an ER nurse and a devoted surfer. The track is part of a collection available on Bandcamp, where fans can immerse themselves in his unique blend of alternative grungegaze, indie pop, and psychedelic rock.

Collaboration plays a crucial role in Stauffer’s creative process. He often sends his initial recordings to Bryan Garfinkel, who re-records most of the instrumental parts.

“Bryan is my most-of-the-time collaborator. He calls the Aaron Stauffer project ‘stauff and the staufftones’ because he really is ‘the band’ and ‘the guts’ of the project,” Stauffer shares. This partnership is a cornerstone of his offerings, with Garfinkel’s contributions shaping the final sound of many tracks.

Bryan Garfinkel
Bryan Garfinkel

Inbetween Contants” emerged amidst the grief of losing a colleague to a car wreck.

Stauffer’s reflections on life and death frequently find their way into his music. His earlier song, “Gales of Distraction,” was inspired by a friend’s battle with terminal cancer, blending his personal and professional experiences into a tapestry of sound and emotion. The lyrics of “Inbetween Contants”—a meditation on loss and memory—mirror the transient nature of existence and the scars left behind by loved ones who have passed.

Stauffer’s career spans nearly four decades, a journey marked by constant evolution and experimentation. His early days with SEAWEED, a band known for its raw energy and punk ethos, laid the groundwork for his future endeavors.

Reflecting on SEAWEED’s legacy, Stauffer notes, “Our last tour was really fun; it was 2 weeks in Brazil and we covered a fair amount of the southern part of Brazil.” This sense of adventure and camaraderie continues to fuel his musical pursuits.

For SEAWEEK, there are no future plans beyond Sub Pop releasing everything on vinyl with new artwork for “Despised.”

In addition to his work with Garfinkel, Stauffer has collaborated with Sean Husick in GHOST WORK.

Their synergy is evident in tracks like “Complex of Lows” and “Outer Limit,” where Husick’s guitar work complements Stauffer’s vocal delivery. “My favorite song we worked together on with GHOST WORK is ‘Godspeed on the Trail.’ I love his guitar playing; it is a perfect combo of shoegazer and emo but is also very rock at the same time,” Stauffer remarks.

Aaron Stauffer

Surfing, another passion of Stauffer’s, deeply influences his music. The rhythm and energy of the ocean find their way into songs like “Compulsion” and “Over the Falls.” Stauffer, who took up surfing at 27, finds parallels between the unpredictability of the waves and the creative process.

“Surfing always influences my music, and it is less the rhythm rather the intense energy of the vast and powerful ocean,” he explains.

Looking ahead, Stauffer aims to reach the milestone of 100 songs, a goal driven by his intrinsic connection to music. “I feel like music is always there with me. I don’t necessarily require an instrument; I just write songs in my mind,” he says. His journey is one of continuous discovery, as he balances his roles as a musician, nurse, surfer, and gardener.

Stauffer’s narrative is a good example of the interplay of life and art, where each experience feeds into his music. Today, we uncover some of his secrets and is story is one of resilience, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of authenticity in an ever-changing world.

Aaron, you’ve got this unique way of writing songs where you never jot down the lyrics beforehand. How does that on-the-fly approach shape the final track? Do you think it helps capture the raw emotion of the moment?.

It means if I can’t sing it from memory then it’s not right yet. I definitely think this style makes the lyrics stronger and more a song rather than a sung poem. Plus i like to do new things and change the way to do things; this system is only like 2-3 years old.

Your songs touch on some pretty personal themes. How do you balance sharing your stories with keeping your privacy? Are there topics you find too personal to write about?

With my favorite kind of lyrics, unless you tell the story no one can truly tell what you’re writing about, so it’s free range- one can write about anything and it could be about anything.

I often like to change topics line to line just to keep it interesting; so when I say this song is about whatever is likely one portion of the song, let’s say the chorus is about said thing whereas each verse could be about something completely different. So I think i could write about anything if I had the mind to do it.

Sounds like you and Bryan Garfinkle have a solid creative partnership. Got any cool stories or tough challenges you two have faced during recording sessions?

On this last track (in between constants), the lowery organ Bryan was recording his keys with was located in a garage and it actually had a family of mice living within the organs housing.

Bryan ended up tearing the whole Lowery organ apart and selling some of its guts online. so this song was actually the swan song for this lowery organ. which bryan had drove deep into the oregon countryside to a town called sweet home to purchase.

My shitty methods of recording always challenge Bryan, i try but i am not a natural engineer . I feel lucky to have Bryan as both my band and basically my producer. He is a fantastic drummer as well as piano/organ player.

You and Bryan have been making music together for over 25 years. How has your musical chemistry evolved? Any songs that you think perfectly capture your teamwork?

I think if one listens to the early songs compared to the later ones there is a marked evolution. The song Time and Place is a very good example of our meshed sounds. I sing and play the lead guitar and Bryan’s all the rest. It’s a song recorded on my 50th birthday.

The first time we played together was in the late 90’s Bryan played Keys ( hammond organ) in the band I fronted post seaweed gardener ( we have an album on sub pop) . He had to use a fake ID to play in a bar.

Aaron Stauffer

Being an ER nurse must give you some intense experiences. How does working in the ER impact your music and lyrics? Any particular events that have made it into your songs?

Music is definitely something that helps me get through my ER day. One song that comes to mind out of my collection is Anchor Bell. It basically recounts one of many conversations I have with an individual who in this case is having a heart attack. One takes part in and or observing a lot of incredible human interactions in a ER day.

You’ve written songs about death and loss, like “Gales of Distraction” and your latest track. How do you channel those heavy emotions into your music? Is it more of a therapeutic thing for you, or is it tough to put into words?

I try not to let writing lyrics be tough rather just let things flow.

I have always attempted to write about whatever is currently haunting me. When I listen to Gales of Distraction now, it sounds so very sad but It’s been years since that friend died; I do think time unravels our feelings and music and song is part of that. I imagine in a couple of years I will listen to In Between Constants and think it sounds sad, now it just sounds like now. like how I feel this spring.

Your music is pretty personal, drawing from your relationships and life experiences. How did your late friend, the CT tech, influence your life and music?

The thing is, sometimes with work friends , you dont realize how much you were actually just friends until they are gone. Our work is intense and we share alot of powerful moments ( all of us whom work in emergency medicine) I think alot of us dont see each other outside of work because, we like to put each day behind us. I never saw my friend outside of the walls of the hospital once but we spend alot of time together over the years. she was an amazing person, who was absolutely strong and genuine .

Ghost Work
Ghost Work

You’ve mentioned working with Sean Husick in GHOST WORK. What makes his songwriting click so well with your vocals? Any standout moments from your collabs?

My favorite song we worked together on with Ghost Work is Godspeed on the trail (which is the first song on the second album which came out at the beginning of 2024) I love is guitar playing, it is a perfect combo of shoegazer and emo but is also very rock at the same time.

Out of the 4 songs we did together in the Aaron Stauffer project ( where he plays all the rock instruments) the first one we did together Complex of lows is definitely my favorite but the last one we did together Outer Limit is a close second.

Surfing seems to be a big deal for you. How does the rhythm of surfing influence your music? Ever been inspired by the ocean for a specific track?

Oh man, surfing always influences my music, and it is less the rhythm rather the intense energy of the vast and powerful ocean. The songs most about surfing Compulsion, followed by Over the falls. Compulsion is about my terrible surfing form and my regrets that I havent spend more of my hours of life surfing.

I started late in life (when I was 27) because prior to that I didn’t live near the ocean.

They planted a flower for your late colleague at work. How do you feel about those kinds of gestures? Do they help you process grief and influence your music?

I love flowers. They are the best. Each one a total psychedelic journey. It’s so strange when your life becomes narrowed down to a flower in a garden and a bunch of grief and stories.

Aaron Stauffer

Hitting that 100-song mark is a big goal. What keeps you motivated and inspired to keep creating new music after nearly 40 years in the game?

I think I played my first show as a solo artist in 1987- so that is 36 years.

I feel like music is always there with me. I dont necessarily require an instrument, I just write songs in my mind. That is cool. It’s the only hobby I have like that. the songs are there, I just tune in and make the time to get them down. I may not make it to the 100 song mark but I am at 26 songs in basicly 4 years ( the first two song were long completed when I started putting songs up on bandcamp)- but this has been a slow year for me with this being my first song of the year however i am also working on a new one now…so we will see; better to aim high…I think i got 74 songs in me.

SEAWEED’s music is getting re-released on vinyl. How do you feel about revisiting that era of your musical career? Got any untold stories from your time with SEAWEED?

Our last tour was really fun; it was 2 weeks in Brazil and we covered a fair amount of the southern part of Brazil. afterwards I also got a couple days of surfing outside of Sao Paulo. It was a great swan song for Seaweed. We played one last show in the states as part of the 10 year merge anniversary celebration.

Then of course we did a short 13 show reunion stint in 2008 ish. I just enjoyed spending time all together again. I see Clint several times a year and we continue to be good friends as we were prior to seaweed. I also seem to see atkins at least once a year but that generally just a quick meal and walk. Atkins still plays music alot and currently plays with several bands including the band he’s fronted for near 20 years The Fucking Eagles.

When clint and I get together in a several day event with families and lots of playing this game we are all obsessed with Rhummikub.

I meet Bryan at a seaweed show in Virginia Beach at a club we played a few times around 93.

Looking ahead, are there any new artists or musical styles that excite or inspire you? How do you see your music evolving in the next few years?

I know he is exactly new but I love PATCHYMAN; his dubs are supreme!

I also really have been enjoying the music of Angle Olson as well as Goth Babe. I hope the Aaron Stauffer songs continue to become more psychedelic and lush with sound.

What’s life like outside of music and nursing for you? Describe a perfect day and how those experiences feed back into your creativity.

I surf, travel and garden (growing mostly garlic, greens, hot peppers, cucumbers, basil and lots and lots of tomatoes). I also ride my bike and hang out with friends and family.

Nursing is only 36 hours a week divided between 3 days , so I always have 4 days off a week so I dont feel work dominates my life.

My perfect day would be getting some really good surf; maybe I’m on vacation somewhere rural and warm where I might surf twice and eat simple homemade meals with my family.also maybe there would be a mellow part of the beach where my wife could swim. possibly some guitar and or rummikub on the poarch. go to sleep exhausted from surfing.

But today is pretty good. I surfed and got good waves, my daughter is home for a bit and we hung out this morning and plan to go see the new mad max movie tonight. No one is bombing me, my home is safe and I have access to clean running water and good food. Pretty amazing.


Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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