Miles Seaton, co-founder of experimental folk-rock band Akron/Family, dies aged 41

Miles Seaton of Akron/Family performs on stage at Brudenell Social Club on July 23, 2013 in Leeds, England
(Image credit: Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images)

Miles Seaton, a founding member of and multi-instrumentalist with experimental rock band Akron/Family, has died aged 41. The cause of death is currently unknown.

Record label Dead Oceans, which released several Akron/Family albums, confirmed the news via Twitter.

“Music and memories are so intertwined for me,” the post by Dean Oceans cofounder Phil Waldorf began. “Being part of Dead Oceans means so many great artists have enriched me, not just through their music, but through getting to know them as people. As family. Today we found out that we lost Miles Seaton, one-third of Akron/Family."

Waldorf continued by recounting various memories of Seaton and the band.

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“I remember hearing River recorded for the first time and knowing we were working with something special. I still stand by the 1-2 punch of Everyone is Guilty into River from Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free as one of the all-time great openings of any album, ever."

He continued, “But it’s not just watching shows and listening to their music that underscores the relationship with Miles. It’s spending time eating BBQ in Lockhart TX. It is the time spent talking about weird jazz and hardcore records with your friend.

“It’s listening and learning from someone you feel lucky to be in the presence of, and even luckier they trust you to put out such important records into the world. Miles was one of a kind person, in a one of a kind band. It’s a rush of emotions.”

Seaton helped to found Akron/Family in the early 2000s, with the band playing a central role in the indie rock scene burgeoning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their sound was characterized by an experimental approach to folk (then dubbed “freak folk”), as well as the three members’ penchant for trading off on instruments and vocals.

Akron/Family’s self-titled debut album was released in 2005 via Michael Gira’s Young God Records, and several more releases followed, including the 2005 split with Angels of Light, 2006’ Meek Warrior and 2007’s Love Is Simple.

The band released three subsequent records on the Dead Oceans label: 2009’s Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free, 2011’s Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shiniju TNT and 2013’s Sub Verses.

Following the Sub Verses tour the band members went their separate ways to focus on other projects. Seaton continued to record music under his own name, as heard on albums like 2013’s Notes from the Interior and 2015’s Functional Music Vols. 1 & 2. His most recent release was 2017’s Phases in Exile.

Seaton outlined his approach to music in an interview he gave around the release of Akron/Family II: “The reality is that there are a lot of people that make great music for generations, so at a certain point, we have to try to expand our parameters,” he told Interview magazine. “We have to consider all the aspects of what expression is. It is intellectual, but it also has a lot to do with intention, heart, where that music and that sonic expression comes from.

“One classic example for me is with jazz. If you look at John Coltrane, he’s this radical expresser. Just brilliant. Then he meets Albert Ayler, and Ayler is just on fire. John Coltrane is like, 'I’ve been practicing this and devoted to this instrument my whole life, and here I see Ayler, and he’s free.'

“So what I’m looking for when I’m making music is that energy. It doesn’t have to be just like Albert Ayler, fierce and on fire all the time, but it’s that vulnerability. Just expressing it on that broad, basic, primal level.

“When you can connect the two and travel back and forth is when you’re really winning.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.