MusicMusic Features

Seanaldinho’s Optimistic Metal Serves as Stump Speech

A light in the darkness

Seanaldinho. (Photo by Catherine Smith)

Sean Smith may be the Queen City’s only doom-metal/crust-punk artist who has run for city council and worked for the US State Department.

Smith, who lost his bid for a seat on Charlotte City Council in the 2019 Democratic primary, acknowledges the apparent incongruity between his buttoned-up background in politics and his current music project, but insists there’s a throughline that threads it all together. 

“The common thread … is my desire to speak truth to power,” Smith says.

Smith, now a 34-year old product designer, husband and father with a second child on the way, says when he was younger he thought his best way to make an impact was in government or politics. So, while attending NC State University, Smith interned with the US Department of State. He was stationed at the US consulate in Italy.

Years later, he ran in the Charlotte City Council Democratic primary to represent District 1, losing to Larken Egleston. In both cases, Smith he hoped to make a positive impact on his community.

Seanaldinho stands in front of a fence lit in red
Seanaldinho. (Photo by Catherine Smith)

He found both experiences formative yet frustrating, however, and reassessed his efforts, eventually turning to music. 

“I wanted to do something that was going to help my town and society,” says Smith. “With music, it comes so easily to me, and no one can take that away from me.”

Smith performs now as Seanaldinho, under which name he released the sharp and impactful two-track single “Bastoni” on Dec. 15.

Released by Mindpower Records on Dec. 15, the track was released alongside “Road Rash.” Smith describes “Bastoni” as crust punk with a stoner-rock influence, but acknowledges that musical genres — particularly metal categories — are woefully inadequate when trying to describe music.

“I think of it more in terms of visuals,” Smith says. “It’s spicy, hot and melodic.”

Smith plays all instruments on each track, save for the drums which were recorded by a musician in Germany. Smith is particularly proud of the guitar tone he gets on the track, which he describes as the sound of black smoke.

On “Bastoni,” that billowing sooty cloud of sound surrounds Smiths growled lyrics, which are defiant, confident and life-affirming. 

“I’m Shaq in the center/ Mr. November/ Senna at the Autodrome / Desert heat is cool/ Watch me run the jewels/ Kickin’ down your goddamn door…” 

The song is solid and melodic, yet still suitably jagged alternative metal with a message.

“From where I sit, everything’s always optimistic,” Smith says. “Things can get dark, but we can get through it.”

Having released the five-track metal EP The New Dark Ages in 2022, followed by “Bastoni” in December 2023, Smith’s first musical memory is singing along with Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” while his father drove him to preschool in Westchester, New York.

By 1996, Smith’s family had moved to Concord, and in 1998 they bought a house in Charlotte. Smith got into metal in the eighth grade and became a loyal Queens of the Stone Age fan at NC State. There a friend took Smith to a High on Fire/Torche show in 2008. Smith’s mind was blown. 

“At that point I’d never heard anything quite like that,“ Smith says. “It was so underground and extraordinary. ”

The seeds of Seanaldinho were planted. 

Seanaldinho sits on some outdoor stairs in a black-and-white photo
Seanaldinho. (Photo by Catherine Smith)

Smith’s first band in the Queen City, however, was not metal. It was an alternative rock group called Kitchen, which launched in 2014. Playing jangle-pop with a Smiths/Morrissey vibe, Kitchen released a four-track self-titled  EP recorded on Smith’s laptop, and they played The Double Door Inn shortly before the venerable music venue closed for good.

The band broke up when singer/guitarist Adam Sandlin moved away. Smith, who played guitar in Kitchen, says Sandlin has recently moved back to the Queen City. Smith hopes he and Sandlin along with original members Michael Fink (bass) and David Catchpole (drums) can re-form in 2024

In the meantime, Smith tried to find other musicians wanting to play or record to no avail. Then in 2022, Smith went the one-man-band route. He adopted his childhood nickname Seanaldinho and spent the summer of 2022 recording his debut EP The New Dark Ages with engineer Al Jacob at Warrior Sound in Chapel Hill. 

The punchy blistering five-track EP expresses Smith’s frustrations with the ills of modern society, including intellectual dishonesty, growing separation from our humanity and an absence of truth.

“There’s a lot of irrational thinking, and it’s being lifted up and supported,” Smith says. “People see that and connect. Back in the middle ages, the town idiot was isolated, but now there are crazy ideas like, ‘Let’s storm the Capitol!’ and people show up. All the idiots in their respective towns connect now.”

Less overtly political than The New Dark Ages, Smith recorded “Bastoni” at his home studio. He had previously reached out to metal imprint Quiet Panic, a record label and music management company, to see if they would be interested in releasing The New Dark Ages. At the time, the label said they didn’t sign small, up-and-coming bands like Seanaldinho.

Seanaldinho stands in a red distorted curtain holding a guitar
Seanaldinho. (Photo by Catherine Smith)

When Smith finished “Bastoni,” he planned to self-release it like his previous EP. He was contacted, however, by Marc Maxey of Quiet Panic, who told Smith that the label was launching Mindpower, an imprint for up-and-coming artists.

Smith readily accepted the label’s offer to put “Bastoni” in its catalog. He says he’s honored to be on Mindpower. The only remaining item on Smith’s wish list is a chance to play Seanaldinho’s songs live.

I would love for people to see [Seanaldinho] play next year, wherever that may be,” Smith says.

In the meantime, Smith hopes Seanaldinho listeners will come away not with messages but exhortations — a veritable manifesto.

“Have confidence in yourself,“ Smith says. “Have hope that you will get through the dark times, because you will.“

He also urges people to believe in what they’re doing.

“Carve your own path; be confident in yourself and your choices,” Smith says. “If you think something is cool, it is.”

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