Seth Kallen & The Reaction
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Seth Kallen & The Reaction

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Dec
28
Seth Kallen & The Reaction @ Milkboy Acoustic Cafe

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Nov
29
Seth Kallen & The Reaction @ The Khyber

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Nov
17
Seth Kallen & The Reaction @ Columbia University, Low Plaza

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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On his first solo studio effort, NYU music student and Philadelphia singer-songwriter Seth Kallen made a solid album of adolescent angst and suburban observations. The album's title was apt for the output of an anxious and talented seventeen-year-old from the Philly suburbs, simply "It Occured To Me." The songs on that album had a lilting and endearingly amateur quality that was very accessible but not truly engaging. Two years later, Kallen has enlisted a stellar backing band in "The Reaction" (formerly The Shambles) and released a record that is introspective and modern - a perfect soundtrack for NYU hipsters walking around the Village to fans of pop-rock genre who want a little Elliot Smith, Ryan Adams, and a hint of The Cars in their musical latte. Tracks like "Strange Man" and "No Ace" are hidden gems, with their weird folk-acid ambienence and sparse theatrics evoking a little bit of the blues and irrevent Kallen charm. They are classic pop - the hooks aren't obvious, but the melody is bursting with fresh guitar licks. Another highlight is "My Sweet Darling," a duet Kallen recorded with the smokey-voiced songstress Melody Gardot. For a suburban kid who's honed his craft in the dive bars around Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Washington DC, Kallen can undoubtedly go a bit Nashville. Kallen's country in the way Ryan Adams is - more interested in the stories and evocation. This album is all about ambition. Any listener has to be curious about what Kallen grew up listening to. "In The Bright Lights" has a bit of Gin Blossoms and 80's pop. Kallen's voice doesn't carry album - he has pretty good vocals chops, but nothing unique in the way a listener can pick up Eddie Vedder's tenor in a second. Very much like Duncan Sheik and Ben Folds, who Kallen has opened for before, his music has amazing potential in the NPR listening crowd. But, it has something more. "Exhibit A" is the start of something new. The music is entirely endearing and earnest. It captures "teen-spirit" in a a Nirvana like way, if Cobain was more into James Taylor instead of the Pixies. Here's a toast to "Exhibit B." Can't wait. - ND-TV


How does a musician know when he’s ‘arrived’? Is it that first CD release party? That first single to get radio play? That first duet with Ja Rule? There are many benchmarks to consider.
For singer-songwriter Seth Kallen, it just might have been getting sued.

“I was talking to my mom on Instant Messenger and she saod, ‘Honey, you got a package in the mail, do you want me to open it?” And I responded ‘No, no,’ when says, “No, it looks important. It’s from a lawyer...”

The time: roughly a year ago. Kallen had been gigging around greater Phila with his new backing band, The Shambles. A product of the prolific local open-mic scene, he’d cut his debut album, It Occurred to Me, at the tender age of 17. Airtime on XPN and shows at World Café Live and the late, great Point soon followed. He’d just begun his first semester at the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at NYU, learning the A to Z of music production from Grammy-award-winning producers. Suddenly, there was the cease-and-desist order at his doorstep, served by the legal representation for a San Diego band... named The Shambles.

“I thought, ‘You can’t do that-- I’m 19!’” Kallen says, laughing. It’s easier to chuckle about now, sitting in an East Village juice bar and straining to be heard over the violent whir of blenders and Europop. “We had a lawyer look at it, who said, ‘Ya can’t really do anything about it. You have to change the name. And then my roommate at school came up with the name The Reaction; it just sounded cool. We came up with a list of five names and it was the only one not copyrighted.” The name is far more apt than arbitrary, however: the band’s new album, Exhibit A, is itself so called in reference to-- a reaction to?-- the incident. “[The Cease-and-Desist] said ‘See Exhibit A’, and there was a picture of me with the band.”

Seth Kallen and the Reaction, you might say, have now arrived.

But is that the right word? ‘Arrival’ indicates a destination, an end, a halt at a particular spot. Seth & co. (guitarist Adam Samuels, bassist Dave Kasper, drummer Bill Delia, harmonica/saxophonist Mark Gallagher and keyboardist James LaFarge), are still very much evolving the band’s sound. Kallen, a genial fellow with a disarming ease in his own skin, talks frankly about the evolution of his songs from more traditional man’n’guitar arrangements to the stuff of Exhibit A.

“For a long time I was doing this kinda funky singer-songwriter thing, and every reviewer would be like, “Oh, it’s John Mayer”, or “Oh, it’s Jason Mraz”, “Oh, it’s-- whatever-- kinda jam-bandy, hippie-folk whatever, bullshit... When we stripped the songs down we really got to the core of making the music sound like music I’d actually want to listen to and love. [Producer] Tim [Sonnefeld, of the band Townhall] said to me, ‘I’m listening to your songs, and let me guess: everybody says you sound like that Jason Mraz guy.’ And I said, (sheepish) ‘Yeah...’ ‘But listening to your songs, you really like Wilco and Radiohead.’ And I was like, (pause) ‘I think we can work together.’”

Exhibit A is, well, a prime exhibit of the resulting sound. Kallen’s melodies and lyrics stay true to his pop-acoustic troubadour roots, but swirling around them are a stylistic mélange of harmonic effects. The hard-hitting “I Need to See the Night” boasts a raunchy funk beat and acrobatic bass line; others (notably the damn fine “No Ace”) favor naked, teeth-bared guitar hooks evocative of plugged-in Ben Harper. And then there’s the sunny side of the album: the bright, up-tempo Gin Blossoms sound of “It’s Been a Long Time”; the Norah Jonesian fairytale duet with Melody Gardot; the toe-tapper “Shake It Up” that lands somewhere between Everclear and the Soup Dragons, with a lick or two of Aerosmith. (Really!) Pick any song at random and you will inevitably find something in it that reminds you of something else... and something else that doesn’t.

In particular, Kallen credits guitarist Samuels with the vision to find points of insertion for seeming musical anomalies. In “I Need to See the Night”, he says: “The old version... has this Earth, Wind & Fire folk beat, and a Dave Matthews horn thing...” Samuels, a sonic experimentalist whose influences steer to Tool and Radiohead, insisted upon trying out “the freakout, Paranoid Android bridge” that slices into the song at its heart.

But the album-- and the band-- are more than just a vehicle for the “Name that Riff” party game. Perhaps the most surprising element of Exhibit A is that it pretty much hangs together. The aforementioned bridge, the numerous key and signature changes, the dynamic shifts between A, B, and C sections, all weave a more complex quilt than the simple afghan Kallen was knitting two years ago. Perhaps the best example of the record’s cohesiveness is its first track (and XPN single) “Shiver”. Fluid but dynamic, haunting but hopeful, Kallen names it the song that best encapsulates the sentiment of the album: a microcosm of the struggle to dig deeper than one’s comfort zone.

Samuels is going on hiatus till January to study abroad in Prague, and replacement Frankie Celenza will surely bring yet another element to the group dynamic. But Kallen is sanguine at this prospect. Because let’s face it: changing it up ain’t that crazy an idea. Most listeners, or at least those who write reviews, have a burning need for comparisons. It’s often easier to say “it sounds like two parts Gomez, one part Third Eye Blind with a dash of Dashboard Confessional” than it is to describe a record on its own terms. As we hear more from the Reaction, we will undoubtedly have less and less trouble saying, “They sound like themselves.”

And maybe that’s what they mean by ‘arrived’.

by Katie C Gray - Origivation Magazine


Clever pop tunes from a Philadelphia native. Kallen began performing and recording in his teens and his growth since then has been evident to his listeners. Compared to Ryan Adams, The Wallflowers, and Wilco is a lot to live up to, but Kallen shows off his musical prowess and has churned out an album of pop bliss that would put Jakob Dylan and The Wallflowers to shame. - CD Reviews.com


Wide eyed and talented beyond his years, Seth Kallen & The Reaction have succeeded in creating clever pop songs that transform with each listen. His latest efforts, off of his upcoming album Exhibit A, show Kallen's most sophisticated song writing. No longer straight faced, the songs delve into darker and more complicated territory without a hitch. It's a pleasant surprise to hear what this young performer has up his sleeves for the future.

- Underrated Magazine


Seth Kallen figures he’s got plenty of time in his musical career to go the sensitive singer-songwriter root. For now the Yardely teen is having too much fun fronting a full blown rock and roll band. Kallen and his band The Reaction (formerly The Shambles) have completed an impressive new album “Exhibit A.” Unlike his engaging 2004 solo debut, “It Occurred to Me,” this is very much a collaborative effort. “Exhibit A” is harder, edgier, and more musically daring than its predecessor, but continues Kallen’s knack for writing smart, hook-rich pop-rock.


“I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out,” said Kallen, who will celebrate the CD’s release with a concert tonight at World Café Live in Philadelphia. Kallen, a 2005 graduate of George School in Newtown, has shifted his musicall operations to New York City, where he’s sharing an apartment with a friend. He’s studying at New York University’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, a small (26 kids), program that studies the music industry. But, he’s still a Philly guy. “I refuse to change my location on Myspace from Philly to New York,” he said.


It was while studying music in New York that Kallen, 19, began seeing the band as more of a collective unity, not just a group of backing musicians. The band, featuring Bucks County and Philly-area residents Adam Samuels (guitar), Dave Kasper (bass), Bill Delia (drums), Mark Gallagher (saxophone, harmonica) and James LeFarge (keyboards), took an active role in the recording process, and the new album is credited to Seth Kallen and the Reaction.

“I still wrote the songs, but there was a lot more collaboration once we got into the studio with (producer) Tim Sonnefeld and the whole band,” Kallen said. “It’s the first time I really let my guard down and let other people’s input influence what I did with a song. Some of these songs, if I played you them in their original version, you’d never believe they were the same song. We gutted them and totally changed their structure. That’s why now when we’re playing live, the rest of the band gets a lot more out of the music; they put a lot more into it to begin with.”
The other big change surrounding Kallen’s band is its name. They had called themselves The Shambles for the last few years before Kallen received and unexpected letter. “This band from California called The Shambles sent me a nice cease-and-desist order in the mail, saying they had trademarked the name,” Kallen said. “We wanted to change the name anyway for other reasons, so this was an extra push to just do it. In the end, it turned out to be good timing. I’m glad they sent the letter before we pressed 1,000 copies of the CD!”
Highlights of the new disc include the opening track, “Shiver” (already played on WXPN 88.5FM), the hard-edged “No Ace,” the gorgeous duet with Melody Gardot, “My Sweet Darling” and the infectious radio-friendly “In the Bright Lights.”
These are busy times for Kallen. He and the band have gigs scheduled next week in Virginia Beach and Washington DC. On July 22nd they’ll play WXPN’s prestigious All About the Music Festival at Wiggins Park in Camden, NJ. And then on Sunday, Kallen will perform in front of the biggest crowd of his life when he sings, “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch of the Phillies game at Citzens Bank Park. “I don’t usually get nervous about much, but I think I’ll be a little nervous about for that one,” he said. “That’s quite a crowd.”
- Bucks County Courier Times



Lower Makefield’s prolific young singer-songwriter Seth Kallen, who already has selfr-eleased two stellar studio albums before beginning his sophomore year at NYU, recently performed songs off his new disc "Exhibit A," which sounds like Ryan Adams meets the Old 97’s. He was joined with his backing band, The Reaction, at Philly’s venerable World Café Live for a sold-out show with Bucks County’s Alec Gross & The Districts and Jon Check. Berklee College of Music’s acoustic duo Danatalie also played, with a breezy set of lighthearted pop-acoustic melodies.

Kallen, 19, has had a positive run as of late, with acoustic performances on WXPN and concerts in Boston, New York and Baltimore and recently performed "God Bless America" at a recent Phillies game.

Kallen’s live chops have improved demonstrably since his days leading the quirky teen band Black Light Special a few years ago, and his new music plays well to the adult-alternative crowd and the young hipsters. Check out "Shiver," the first single off "Exhibit A," at http://www.sethkallen.com/ - www.phillyburbs.com


Clever and creatively poignant lyrics straight from an everyman's perspective. Most everyone will be able to pick apart Seth's music and easily apply it to one or more phases of their own life. In combination with a soulful and heartfelt voice, who's going to say no to Seth Kallen & The Reaction? I sure won't. - Liberated Matter


Philadelphia native and composer extraordinaire Seth Kallen, along with his newfound backing band the Reaction, is out to steal your little indie hearts. With a slight sweetness akin to that of the Gin Blossoms, Kallen pens pop-perfect tunes that still retain a delicious edge. Exhibit A, the full group's debut (and Kallen's second release) is surprisingly solid as a whole. Pleasingly crunchy guitars chug below Kallen's soul-lite vocals, which, in the case of "She's Got a Way with Words" recall the vocal qualities of a certain someone from Maroon 5.

In any case, the radio-friendliness certainly does the band's melodic mastery justice, as in the standout track "In the Bright Lights": a song with indisputable sing-along potential. Just as the album seems to drift off into its own realm of pleasurable pop, both "No Ace" and "Strange Man" lift influences from bluesy Americana and give Exhibit A some roots.

Remarkably listenable, Kallen and the Reaction's debut collaborative effort provides us with a pop-rock sound that is certainly less of a guilty pleasure than anything mainstream today. While the group has yet to take musical risks, Exhibit A contains so many ear-pleasing tracks that experimentation is rendered unnecessary.

- Gabrielle Goodbar - The Owl Magazine


Discography

2004: "It Occurred to Me"
2006: "Exhibit A"
2008: working on new EP

Photos

Bio

Singer-songwriter Seth Kallen is no newbie to the Northeast music scene. At the age of 17 he released his debut album It Occurred to Me, and shortly after began selling out shows at venues around the area (including at such renown spots World Café Live, The Point, and more around Philadelphia, plus packing shows in NYC) Quickly local Philadelphia renown AAA radio station WXPN caught on to the buzz, and after a performance following Philadelphia local Amos Lee’s record release party, was contacted by the station to have his song “Losing Control” featured on the air. This garnered a buzz surrounding his music, snowballing into many college radio stations playing the record, and that enabled Kallen to share the stage with such acts as Duncan Sheik, Blue Merle, Citizen Cope, Amos Lee, and Anna Nalick.

During this time, Kallen put together his backing band The Reaction, featuring Adam Samuels (guitar), Dave Kasper (bass), Bill Delia (drums), Mark Gallagher (saxophone, harmonica), and Frank Celenza (guitar). But with Kallen’s move to NYC in 2005 (at the age of 19) to study at NYU’s Clive Davis Dept. of Recorded Music, he began to see The Reaction as much more than just a backup band, but truly an exciting collection of talent, energy, and collaboration. The group entered the studio with producer Tim Sonnefeld, and has come out with the new album Exhibit A, which explores a much more matured, refined, adventurous sound. And with this new adventurous sound, the band has become one of the most exciting live acts to see on the East Coast. The band has gained comparisons to such artists as Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Wilco, (early) Radiohead, Gin Blossoms, The Wallflowers, and Matthew Sweet. Seth Kallen & The Reaction make edgy pop-rock with a touch of American roots music and experimental Britpop. Look for Seth Kallen & The Reaction on tour in support of the new album!

VENUES:

Philadelphia: World Cafe Live (numerous sell-outs), The Point, The Tin Angel, The Khyber, North Star Bar, Milkboy Coffee, WXPN's All About the Music Festival, Triumph Brewery, Grape Street Pub, The Fire, Steel City Coffee House, Commerce Bank Amphitheater

New York: CMJ Music Marathon, Joe's Pub, The Lion's Den, The Bitter End, The Canal Room, Bowery Poetry Club, Crash Mansion, Piano's, Rockwood Music Hall, Tribeca Rock Club, The Alphabet Lounge

Washington, DC: Jammin' Java, DC9, IOTA

Boston: Middle East, Emerson Hall

Other: The Space (CT), The Saint (NJ), Citizen's Bank Park (singing "God Bless America", Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Game)

Colleges/Universities: George Washington University, Syracuse University, New York University