Feeling 'Fine'

South Africa's Seether at home in USA

Times Features Writer

The songs sound the same, but South African-born rock outfit Seether isn't the same band it was two years ago.

Living in America has transformed the neo-grunge act behind the breakout hit "Fine Again."

Formerly a trio, Seether will play a sold-out show at Chicago's Metro Tuesday as a half-American quartet.

The gritty-voiced Shaun Morgan still leads the band, pal Dale Stewart accompanying on bass. Gone is drummer Nick Oshiro. Stewart told The Times that the slender, dreadlocked Oshiro split for home a few months ago.

Philadelphia drummer Kevin Soffera replaced Oshiro three months ago. He was added at the suggestion of new guitarist Pat Callahan, also of Philadelphia.

Seether has been on a steady rise toward success since landing on this continent for the first time early last year. Heavy promotion from Wind-Up Records and a stint on the second stage at last year's Ozzfest helped the band become international rock stars.

The Nirvana worshippers were an anomaly in their native country, where pop and indigenous music rule the charts. Seether hasn't performed in South Africa for more than a year and has no plans to do so until December.

Apart from the frustration of incompatible electrical sockets and driving on the opposite side of the road, Stewart said, he and Morgan haven't had Oshiro's difficulty in adapting to the United States.

"To me, it feels like home," Stewart said. "We go home (to South Africa) and kind of feel like strangers."

Unless the tour bus counts, the South-African half of Seether doesn't yet have a permanent American residence. They simply haven't had time to settle down and are happy making new friends every day on tour.

"We're total road dogs," Stewart said.

He and Morgan document their party lifestyle online through pictures and web logs.

"Every day is kind of like a rock 'n' roll story," Stewart said.

A drunken Morgan shaves off his eyebrows in one of the latest tales to emerge from the tour.

"That was a Jager(meister)-induced four-o'clock-in-the-morning thing," Stewart said. "He looked like that guy from 'The Wall.' " Fans can see for themselves in the photo section of the band's Web site, www.seether.com.

Stewart said he hopes to start looking for housing in Philadelphia early next year.

Soffera and Callahan's connection to the city as well as its proximity to Wind-Up Records' base in New York overrule Stewart's reservations about the winters there.

"I don't really take too well to the cold," he said.

Stewart and Callahan - the two single guys in the band - will probably move in together.

Stewart said he would prefer to live with a bandmate rather than on his own.

"I guess we live together now as it is. I actually kinda feel weird when I'm away from my boys," he said.