Way back in the early-to-mid 1990s, Newark, Delaware had a ton of bands. Some were good, some were spotty, some were crap. They’d pop up and go away, rise and fall. There’d be CD releases, followed by CD disappearances. Obviously, this is how it worked in college towns across America. Those years are experimental for students, and just as experimental for musicians.
Of all the groups from the era, one stands out: Love Seed Mama Jump. First, they seemed to be playing somewhere, everywhere. Second, they were regulars at the Stone Balloon, Newark’s cornerstone music venue. Third, their debut CD, Drunk at the Stone Balloon, was fantastic and cool and a must-have.
Anyhow, here’s the amazing thing. Love Seed still exists. And thrives. The Stone Balloon is long gone, but the band continues to play across the region. It’s, quite frankly, startling.
Hence, Love Seed lead singer Rick Arzt comes to the Quaz to talk Balloons, Idol, Miami Marlins uniforms and how the f^&* a band lasts beyond two decades. I view this as my personal Quaz gift to all the Hens out there.
Rick Arzt, welcome to Quazland …
JEFF PEARLMAN: Most bands last, what, two years? Three, max? Yet you’re the lead singer of Love Seed Mama Jump, and have been the lead singer of Love Seed Mama Jump for 21 years. How in God’s name have y’all lasted so long?
RICK ARZT: The reason we have lasted for 21 years is because we were all good friends who for the most part grew up together at the beach long before we had a band together. Yes, we fight and don’t always agree but there is an underlying friendship that goes way beyond our professional relationship. The other and most important reason is because people still enjoy coming to see us play and continue to make us relevant. Without loyal friends and fans there is no band.
J.P.: Here’s what I know of Love Seed: I was a student at the University of Delaware in the early 1990s, you guys played the Stone Balloon all the time and people dug you. In other words, I know nothing. So please tell—how did the band begin? How did y’all know one another? And, personally, what’s your musical background?
R.A.: Love Seed really began as a bunch of dudes hangin’ together at the beach, playing acoustic guitars, looking for free beer and hoping to meet some girls. We really had a lot of fun and never expected to make this a career. We all have different musical backgrounds and tastes but that just makes it more interesting and diverse .Some of the guys are true consummate musicians who have been playing instruments their whole lives. I was always a person who played lots of sports, sang in choir and musicals and loved to perform on the stage in any capacity. I do play guitar well enough to occasionally write some songs but I wouldn’t consider myself a musician like my band-mates.
J.P.: There’s a cliche, “Rock Star” narrative that seems to go along with most bands. Namely, they start off believing they’ll be the next Beatles or Stones, then they eventually wind up doing covers. Not that there’s anything wrong with such a journey—work is work. But is that, in any way, Love Seed’s story? Did you begin thinking, “We’re gonna be a huge national group”?
R.A.: LSMJ was never ever silly enough to think we could be the next Stones or Beatles. Through much of our career we actually tried very hard not to take it all too seriously. That is why many of our songs are purposely funny and very tongue in cheek. That said,we did eventually realize we had something special and out of that came some lofty goals and aspirations. The band did have some dreams of sold out stadiums and limos.We made five records, and sold over 170,000 copies ourselves. We signed with Sony Records in the 90s and Artemis Records in 2000. Although we didn’t become huge rock stars we got very close a few times and had a taste of that lifestyle. The record industry is a brutal, coldhearted bitch of a business at times so at this point we are honestly just very grateful to still play rock and roll and have people dig what we play. We had our shot. No regrets.
J.P.: What’s your greatest singular moment in music? Your lowest?
R.A.: That is a very tough question. Over a span of 20-plus years Love Seed had many wonderful highs and several crappy lows. Hard to point to just one or two.
J.P.: I always ask musicians this, because it fascinates me. I’m sure you’ve played “Take Me Home, Country Roads” oh, 865,532 times as a band. So when you play it for the 865,533rd time, what will be going through your mind? Can you still possibly get something out of playing the same song over and over? Do you think about your grocery shopping? Your dentist? The Simpsons? Literally, what goes through your head?
R.A.: Good question. There does come a time when you are known for a particular set of songs, be it our originals or our funny re-arranged covers (that one does get sick of). I think it would really suck if I didn’t love the songs from the beginning. Even though we do get sick of some particular songs we never had to learn and play tunes we didn’t originally love to play. That helps a ton. That is also why we always liked to rearrange and mess with most of our cover tunes to make it more fun and interesting. Personally, I always try to remember it isn’t about me. We love to play music and make people happy so if the crowd is rockin’ and lovin it than I am rockin’ and lovin’ it. However, yes occasionally I do think about The Simpsons.
J.P.: You’re sorta known as the official band of the Washington Redskins. You even play at FedEx Field after every home game. How did this happen? And, after so many years of shit football, are you sure you want this on your resume?
R.A.: Yes, we have been the official rock band of the Washington Redskins for over 12 grueling seasons. We got the job because I am a huge fan and because we had a very good friend in the front office by the name of Mike Dillow who threw us into the ring when Mr. Snyder decided to have a rock band after every game. I grew up in Rockville, Maryland until I moved to the beach at age 15. I am a fan—win or lose. It can be extremely frustrating, as all sports fans know, but that is the deal when you choose your team. They won three Super Bowls through my childhood days with the first Joe Gibbs era and I never realized until much later in life that those moments of glory as a sports fan could be so incredibly rare. The Skins have been struggling for a long time but I do believe, that unlike a lot of franchises, they spend lots of money and they keep trying to get it right every year. Eventually all of this pain will pay off. I hope.
J.P.: Does this business keep you young or make you feel old? What I mean is, while I can imagine it feels great to jam in front of an audience, I’m guessing either: A. The audiences are getting older, and the smell of Ben Gay has replaced the smell of, say, pot; or B. The audiences are still young—so young that they’re sorta near the age of your kids, and you can’t help but think, “Damn, I’m old.”
R.A.: Ha! Yes on all counts. We have many old-school peeps that have continued to come out and support the band through many years and we’ve always managed to pick up several new and younger people as well. I think its very cool. I hate to be repetitive but again I am very grateful. It’s funny because there are many times, particularly when we still play college bars, when I look around and think, “Damn I’m old!” or “Wow … how did these girls get into this bar? They look like they’re 12-years old!” It all just makes me laugh and appreciate it that much more. We certainly never expected to be together for this length of time. I find it amazing.
J.P.: Your CD, Drunk At the Stone Balloon, was required material for anyone who attended UD in the 90s. Hell, you sold 25,000 copies off of stages. What went into making that disc? What do you recall about the experience? Are you aware of its place in UD lore? And how did you feel about the closing of the Balloon?
R.A.: Well, that’s like five questions in one. First of all, don’t sell us short, pal. We’ve sold about 75,000 copies of Drunk at the Stone Balloon. This was possible through the support of many fans and record stores and hustling our asses off every night. What went into making that disc was a ton of energy and very little thought process. We just took what we did every night onstage and recorded it. There was no rehearsal. There are guitars out of tune and some singing off pitch but that is what made it very cool and very real. It is a fabulous tiny moment of time frozen forever. I like to think of that record as a great representation of the good, the bad and the ugly that was The University of Delaware and the Stone Balloon back in the glory days. We were all a bit bummed when they closed the Balloon. It was a killer venue for live music of all flavors for many years. It makes me a little sad for the current students who don’t get to enjoy that classic Delaware experience. That said, life goes on. Music goes on. There are other great venues. Nothing lasts forever and any other cliches you’d like to insert?
As far as our place in University of Delaware lore? I really have no idea. I’m honored you even asked the question to be perfectly honest.
J.P.: You once took the entire horn section of Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening” and turned it into a kazoo solo. A. What the fuck? B. Are you ever concerned about taking all-time, all-time great songs and mashing them?
R.A.: No. Not concerned. Don’t give a crap. In fact, I hope we did offend some people. In a way, that was the point. At least it was something different and we would get a reaction from people one way or another. We learned these songs and messed with them because we truly loved the songs and the artists. What is the point of trying to sound exactly like the record? Just buy/download the friggin’ record and stay at home.
J.P.: So many artists complain about the state of music in 2012. CD sales are horrible, piracy is everywhere, iPods have reduced the communal experience of listening to a record. On and on. Do you agree? Are you happy where music is?
R.A.: I think for the most part that is a bunch of whining and BS. My parents complained about the “state” of music and their parents before them. Things change. When people get older they want everything to remain the same. Doesn’t work that way. I think iPods are awesome and incredibly convenient. I can carry around the equivalent of 1,000 CDs in my pocket. What’s not to like? If you wanna get communal then plug it into the speakers for everyone to hear. CD sales might be off but that’s just because people are downloading music and sharing music in a whole new way. There is more music being sold and shared than ever before. There are more kinds of music. There are so many more interesting ways to listen to music through the internet than ever before. I understand that music is a product and an art form. Artists do deserve to be paid for their hard work. I’m not a fan of piracy. However, the alternative is to go back to the stone ages when giant record companies and radio stations basically controlled almost everything you got to hear or may want to buy. Now there are 10,000 ways for a new artist to be heard. Before there were 10.Everything is a tradeoff in my opinion. As far as the actual “state” of the music itself these days? It always has been and always will be completely subjective to an individual’s taste.
• Explain the band name, please: My best friend and our original rhythm guitar player, Will Stack, made it up off the top of his head in 20 seconds.It was just a joke. The whole thing was just supposed to be a joke. In hindsight if we had any idea this was going to be our career perhaps we might have put some thought into the name.
• Rank in order: Blind Melon, Hall & Oates, Celine Dion, Tupac, Earth Wind & Fire, Jay-Z, Amy Winehouse, Kid ‘n’ Play, Sammy Davis Jr.: Hmm. Sammy Davis, Jr,Earth Wind and Fire, Hall & Oats, Jay-Z and Tupac are equal, Amy Winehouse, Blind Melon, Kid ‘n’ Play, Celine Dion.
• Five greatest albums of all time: Impossible question to answer! I’ll give you some of my all-time favorites: Beatles—Rubber Soul/Abbey Road; U2—Unforgettable Fire/Joshua Tree; Jimi Hendrix—Are You Experienced?; Neil Young—Decade/Harvest Moon; Tribe Called Quest—Low End Theory; The Jayhawks—Hollywood Town Hall; Beach Boys—Endless Summer. There are so many more it’s ridiculous!
• Celine Dion calls tomorrow and says, “I’ll pay you $2 million to tour with me, without the other Love Seed members—but only to sing on my new duet, “Delaware Blows.” Would you do it?: I’d do it tomorrow on cable TV wearing a diaper for two million clams. Delaware and I have a very long love affair. She’ll forgive me one day.
• Five reasons Dewey Beach is the best vacation spot in America: Here’s why I love it: It’s incredibly small so you never have to drive. Just walk anywhere you want to go. There is something for everybody there. The ocean, great food, tons of fun bars for people of all age groups (over 21) and a lot of killer live music venues. The people are laid back and chillin’. Lots of beautiful girls. Not too expensive. Not hard to get to and most importantly it’s home.
• Would you rather join an Air Supply tribute band or change your name to Dickhead Schmegma?: I gotta go with Dickhead Schmegma. Has a nice ring to it.
• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, memories, please: Nope I haven’t. Thought about throwing up many times but never thought I was gonna die. Until now, thank you very much.
• Worst movie you’ve ever seen: Tough call. I’ve seen five million movies. I love movies. Seen a ton of bad movies. Perhaps Sgt Bilco with Steve Martin, whom I love … but that movie sucked.
• Miami Marlins uniforms—your thoughts?: I have no thoughts on The Marlins or their uniforms. Don’t really consider Miami a “baseball” town. GO PHILLIES. Lived in Philly for 12 years while we were making records. I am a child of a few cities.
• American Idol—love or loathe? And why?: I do not watch Idol. I do not watch reality TV. I think it is all lame as hell and for the most part not real. I think some very talented people have come out of Idol but it’s all way to contrived and insulting to the intelligence.