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Basement to big stage, Saintseneca to be Next@Wex

Zac Little (left), Jon Meador, Steve Ciolek and Maryn Jones of Saintseneca. The indie-folk band is set to play at the Wexner Center’s Performance Space April 19. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Zac Little (left), Jon Meador, Steve Ciolek and Maryn Jones of Saintseneca. The indie-folk band is set to play at the Wexner Center’s Performance Space April 19.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

The transition folk-rock band Saintseneca made from playing Columbus basements years ago to large-scale settings now — like a set at Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival this summer — has not been a difficult one to cope with, said the band’s singer and multi-instrumentalist Zac Little.

“It’s a fuzzy kind of transition. It’s more of a continuum,” Little said. “It’s less of two discrete worlds unto themselves. To me it all feels kind of connected.”

Little mentioned that Saintseneca still plays basement shows on occasion, but its upcoming release show for its most recent album, “Dark Arc,” at the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Performance Space Saturday is a departure from that. The space is one where Little said he “always wanted to play” since moving from southeastern Ohio to Columbus to study art at Ohio State sometime in 2007.

“Dark Arc,” released April 1, was the first from the band on label ANTI-, a label that also is home to groups like Neko Case and Wilco. An earlier version of “Dark Arc,” however, was actually recorded in 10 months’ time in Columbus in 2012 and finished up just before being picked up by ANTI- in the fall of that year.

Once ANTI- was backing Saintseneca, Little said he and his band were given the opportunity last spring to reopen the record and delve into it deeper in a more sophisticated studio, with help from producer and Bright Eyes guitarist Mike Mogis in Omaha, Neb. The “Dark Arc” released earlier this month ended up being a “hybrid” between the Columbus recording and the production work done in Omaha.

“I really admire (Mogis’) work, so I was excited to be out there,” Little said. “It was such a cool opportunity to be able to go and work there. It wasn’t something that was about throwing all of the work that we did out the window … It was really more about finding an even more realized presentation of that work.”

Though “Dark Arc” is the first Saintseneca release for ANTI-, the record is preceded by “six or seven years” of recording experience, Little explained. “Last,” released in 2011, was the first full-length album made by the band, but that came out among a series of EP and smaller releases.

Since the first incarnation of Saintseneca came to be in 2008, Little’s approach to songwriting has shifted, even if slightly. Previously, Saintseneca focused on largely acoustic instrumentation (Little plays a variety of stringed instruments, including banjo, mandolin and dulcimer, among others). But for “Dark Arc,” electric guitars and bass with effects, as well as synths and piano became a part of the mix for the first time, and “became a big part of writing,” Little said.

“I was playing only these acoustic instruments and it was kind of like rigid in that way, but really I would play anything,” Little said. “So I think for ‘Dark Arc,’ it was something where that sort of spirit or philosophy of ‘oh I can play whatever I want’ was maybe even taken a step further.”

The Wexner Center’s marketing and media assistant Jennifer Wray said she’s noticed the changes Saintseneca has made with “Dark Arc” herself, and that they make a more intriguing listen.

“I’ve gotten to hear ‘Dark Arc’ now, which I think people will be excited to hear,” Wray said. “Dark Arc,” Wray continued, has acoustic songs Saintseneca is known for, but also adds electronic sounds for more of a “hard-hitting sound.”

The band lineup of Saintseneca has been nebulous since the beginning, though the current lineup has managed to maintain a four-piece set up (which includes Maryn Jones of local band All Dogs and Steve Ciolek of the Sidekicks) playing various instruments, along with a touring drummer.

The indie-folk band “with a punk rock influence” comes to the Wexner Center as part of its Next@Wex series, dedicated to bringing “young indie scene innovators,” Wray said. “They’ve been a band on the rise, and they’re really stepping out locally and nationally.”

Being added to the ANTI- lineup and facing more national attention from music outlets, as Little mentioned, has been a part of a continuum faced as Saintseneca burgeons. Little, who grew up on a farm in “the middle of nowhere” doesn’t have much anxiety about the future, either.

“I don’t really find it overwhelming,” Little said. “If anything, the more opportunity (we get), the more excited I get about it.”

Tickets for Saturday’s show are sold out. Way Yes and Old Hundred are set to open.

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