The Washington Post

School of Rock: Willoughby

PAUL SIMON ONCE SANG about wasting his time learning “crap” in high school. But Gus Seyffert didn’t have to spend too much time worrying about history and the like. His alma mater just happened to have the musical tools that led him to becoming a sought-after sideman and, eventually, a recording artist. His musical education is paying off now that he’s on tour with his band Willoughby and opening for The Bird and the Bee — with whom he also performs as an auxiliary member.

“I went to an arts magnet school in Kansas City,” explains the affable songwriting bassist. “The government was running an experiment on us. They had a recording studio class and they had this little eight-track recorder called the Tascam 388.”

That was all it took to launch Seyffert on a musical journey. He left the heartland for Los Angeles, where he studied under jazz bass legend Charlie Hayden. Soon, he was playing as part of the touring band of iconoclastic Australian singer-songwriter Sia, where it was all wild times and getting “really silly.”

More recently, he co-wrote songs with jazz-folkie Priscilla Ahn. Then there’s his debut CD, “I Know What You’re Up To,” recorded mostly as a one-man effort while he was putting Willoughby together (a few members chime in). It’s filled with melodic, jazz-tinged pop so low-key it makes Jack Johnson seem like Jack Black. The pensive “Frankenstein” has received airplay on several Los Angeles indie stations.

“I wrote the tunes on my own and recorded them at my house and I put the band together playing shows live,” Seyffert explains. “But by the time the record was done, a lot of the guys had played on it — bits and pieces here and there.”

Seyffert is now confident enough about his success that he’s gone political, supporting Barack Obama at a benefit concert and on his MySpace page: “My girlfriend, who is Nicole Morier of the band Electrocute, brought up the idea and I thought it was great.”

Hm. Letting the girlfriend call the shots. Now there’s something every guy learned about in high school.

» Jammin’ Java, 227 Maple Avenue E., Vienna; with The Bird and the Bee, Fri., Oct. 3, 8 p.m., $17; 703-255-1566.
» Rams Head On Stage, 33 West St., Annapolis; with The Bird and the Bee, Sat. Oct. 4, 9 p.m., $15; 410-268-4545.

Written by Express contributor Tony Sclafani

Photo courtesy Force Field PR



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