Interview: SWMRS’ Seb Mueller Discusses Tour and Film Photography (w/ Photos)

All photos courtesy of Seb Mueller.

If you find yourself flipping through just about any music magazine these days, chances are, you’re going to come across SWMRS. The west coast band is making a name for themselves with their raw song-writing and catchy pop hooks, never sacrificing rock for melody. I got the chance to catch up with SWMRS’ bass-playing extraordinaire, Seb Mueller, who is taking the whirlwind in stride, all while touring the UK this summer and juggling his film photography at the same time.

In this exclusive interview, we get an insider’s view of some of Mueller’s personal favorite shots from his last tour in the UK and some insight into how and why he chose film photography as another expressive outlet. Read the full interview and check out the photos below the cut.

How has the recent UK tour treated you? Was there a city that you were particularly excited to play?

The UK was great. One of my favorite places to tour. Kids over there just have a different appreciation for rock & live music. I was excited to play London, but Manchester is also one of my favorite cities to play.

Many fans don’t know that when you’re not busy playing bass in SWMRS, you spend your free time as a film photographer. Who or what inspired your interest? While on tour in the UK, was there a city that you had the most fun shooting?

I took a film photography course in college before I left to start this album cycle. I got stoked learning and studying photography, and fell in love with it once I saw my first print developing in the darkroom. There was no particular city that was more fun than any others, it was just rad to be able to shoot all over the country.

Are there any photographers that you look to for inspiration? Any you admire for their style?

Carrie Mae Weems is a huge inspiration of mine. In particular her photo project, The Kitchen Table Series, has been a huge influence on how I shoot my photos. The series puts a very heavy importance on the subject and the framing of the photo. Even though all of the photos are staged portraits of Weems herself, she finds a way to make the photo series feel extremely natural and unplanned. She also creates a very powerful narrative from series thats easy for the viewer to find and reflect upon. I believe the idea of creating a narrative and story within a photo or body of work is extremely important. That is one lesson I have learned from viewing Weems’ works.

Your portrait photography tends to capture people in the whirlwind of the moment, never sacrificing grace for action. How do you gauge when it’s the right moment to snap a photo? How do you choose your subjects?

I like to wait for a natural uninhibited moment before shooting a portrait. I wait for a moment, framing and subject that I think will lead to a thought provoking portrait. I like to try to have my photos leave the viewer asking question of who, what, when and why. I think a powerful photo poses these questions that a viewer then tries to answer or understand. When taking a photo I think it’s very important to be cognizant of your subject and framing of the photo you are about to shoot. You need to be very conscious of how these different aspects are going to work together to compose your final photo in the way described above. When I feel that everything is working well together I snap the shutter.

Your still life photography emits an emphasis on contrast and shadow. Is this something that you pay special attention to when shooting or do you find that the natural lighting does all the work?

I think very hard about how my final photo is going to look. I try to picture in my head how the final composition is going to turn out. I like to play with shadows and contrast, I think they create a very interesting drama within a photo. Natural light is fun to shoot with, but I also enjoy seeing how a flash may effect the situation.

How would you describe your personal style of photography, and where do you think this style came from?

I really like to shoot spur of the moment unplanned photos. I like to try to make them dramatic, and thought provoking. I think street photography has also been huge stylistic influence on the photos I take. Specifically I have always really admired the work of Bruce Gilden. I think some of his work has helped to shape how I shoot mine.

Tell us a little bit about your Instagram account, EastBayFilm.

EastBayFilm is a film photography Instagram account I run. It features a lot of photos I take as well as photos from friends of mine who also shoot film. It’s in its baby stages right now, but I hope for it to become a bigger platform for people to share their film photos, or series, and the stories behind them. Anyone can submit, send some stuff to [email protected]

Do you find that your music inspires your photography or vice versa, or are the two completely separate creative projects?

I think music influences my photos. I see and experience a lot of different things while playing music and touring. I’d like to think these experience help to mold how and what I take photos of.

Do you find that you have to balance your musical career and your photography? Or do you feel as though you have the time to handle both?

Right now music is my passion, and it takes up most of my time. However; photography can follow very closely without much difficulty while being a musician. I can shoot a lot while on tour, and then develop and print whenever we get a little off time.

Emily’s Army had a more straightforward pop punk sound, while SWMRS’ Drive North defies genres, yet still remains very rock ‘n’ roll. Was this change in creative direction intentional, or was the evolution of sound more organic through getting in a room and jamming?

Different bands, different sounds.

SWMRS is quickly gaining recognition in the press. What keeps you grounded through it all?

I think its just important to remember there’s no room or reason for egos. It’s really important to be appreciative of where you are. Don’t be an ass.

Make sure you follow EastBayFilm on Instagram here. If you’re an aspiring film photographer, and you want an outlet to share some of your work, don’t hesitate to email some shots to Seb at the following email address: [email protected]

Check out SWMRS’ latest music video for their new track “Palm Trees” as well.

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