Jody Seabody & the Whirls: Death In an Alt-Rock Band
Losing a band member can't ever be an especially pleasant experience, but the sudden death of one of your musical comrades, someone you've been playing with since high school, is almost unfathomable. But that's what happened to Katy alt-rockers Jody Seabody & the Whirls last fall, when bassist Matt Johnston passed away in November at only age 23.
Photos courtesy of Jody Seabody & the Whirls Note: "Jody Seabody" is a fictional person.
Johnston left a wife and two young children behind, and also Summer Us, the album of '90s-leaning guitar rock (Oasis, RHCP, Nirvana) the Whirls had recently finished recording. After some consideration they decided to go ahead and put it out, and recruited another old friend, Dylan Thompson, to play bass. Saturday night, the Whirls play a release show at Fitzgerald's (downstairs) with Art Institute, Kyle Hubbard and Jon Black; it's free, but donations go to Johnston's family.
Rocks Off talked with the Whirls, mostly guitarist/singer Bryce Perkins, via email earlier this week.
RO: Without giving too much away, what exactly happened to Matt?
Bryce Perkins: He was born with a heart condition, I don't remember what it's called, and it turned out to be more serious than anyone thought. It finally just caught up with him.
RO: Had he been sick, or was this out of the blue?
BP: Well, he had that condition, but it was still out of the blue considering he was so young.
RO: In terms of personalities and musical interests, where did Matt fit into the Whirls?
BP: Matt was the backbone musically, in my opinion. Everytime we got together to jam, or anytime we needed to jam at a show, we would just tell him to start up a bass line and the rest of us would follow.
Personality-wise, he was always more quiet and shy with crowds, so onstage he would act as the backbone in that respect as well because the three of us would all be going nuts and he would just be standing in place, nodding his head, playing his bass. It was an extremely comforting thing.
As far as his musical influence, he supplied the soul. He was into everything bass. He is still the only person that I know that would only listen to music for the bass, and because of that, he was into things like The Brothers Johnson, James Brown, anything Bootsy Collins did, etc., so he was full of ideas on how to appraoch his instrument that he was constantly working into our music.
BP: I don't think it ever fully sinks in. We all deal with it our own way. In general though, we don't like to dwell on it. We pay our respects while moving forward.
We don't have any regrets with Matt, so it's not like some pity party or anything. Sometimes when people grieve they wallow, and we're just not about that. We love him and remember him and now our goal is to make awesome music because that would make him happy, and it makes us happy.
RO: How seriously did the surviving members consider calling it a day?
BP: We came close, for sure.
RO: What made you decide to keep going?
BP: There were multiple factors, but the main one was the cliche. Cliches are cliches for a reason, and no one is immune to them. I could spell it out for everyone, but that's no fun.