Justin Harris

There is something particularly upsetting about very, very tall people when they are sad. That being the case, there is an argument to be made that My Haunted, the mournful and lovely new solo album by the tallest man in indie rock—Menomena skin-beater Danny Seim—is the most arrestingly sad record of our time. Recorded by Seim at his Portland home between Menomena tours in the twilight months of 2007, My Haunted collects 13 disarmingly honest, profoundly gentle tracks composed of little more than a nylon-string guitar, remote rhythmic rumblings, and Seim's gossamer voice, invoking loss, religion, and geography. Seim and I discussed his solo work, always done under the nom-de-guitar Lackthereof, as he prepared for My Haunted's digital-and-vinyl-only release on March 1 through local label FILMguerrero.

How long have you been recording as Lackthereof?

Since 1997, I think. I was singing and playing guitar in another band at the time that was always trying to book studio time to make hit records. I was, and still am, terrified of the professional studio atmosphere because of these early experiences. I'm terrible under pressure. I bought a cassette four-track and fell in love with the isolated individual process. I still haven't learned any magic formula for nerdy stuff like making certain tones sound good, but I've learned to try to put more emphasis on the quality of the song rather than the quality of the recording. Recording has always been the central solo activity for me.

Much has been made of Menomena's computer-based, non-linear writing and recording methodology. How does writing for Lackthereof differ from writing for Menomena?

The Lackthereof process is much different. For starters, there were only a few loops used on this new album, which is an unusual thing for me. Also, all of the songs started out on an acoustic guitar instead of the usual Menomena rhythmic approach. I was intending not to play any drums on this album, but I didn't quite make it.

Compared to the grand scale of Menomena songs, the material on My Haunted seems to be almost in miniature, with vocals nearly whispered, and guitar strings lightly plucked. Are you a fan of intimate folk music? Do you consider My Haunted to fall in that tradition?

I didn't think I liked any folk music at all until I was introduced to Skip Spence via iTunes. (Thanks, iTunes!) And then I realized that most of the music I grew up loving was basically folk music. Like Beck and Pedro the Lion and Elliott Smith. I'm more drawn to the psychedelic folky stuff now, though. Not the "wacky-for-the-sake-of-being-wacky" psychedelic stuff. More like Lee Hazelwood or Cat Stevens. Ugh, name-dropping.

I don't know what "tradition" My Haunted falls into... Not because it's like super-genre-defying or anything. Just because I didn't think about it much while making it. All I knew is that I didn't want to have giant drums dominating everything, like usual. So I used this cheap classical guitar that this guy in Hillsboro once traded me for copies when I was working at Kinko's.