Upstate New York folk poppers The Sea The Sea are currently working on a new album, with a slightly new sound… Although it’s looking like that won’t likely drop until 2018… However, the band are currently nearing the end of a string of live dates, which will have them headlining the upstairs of our very own World Café Live tonight. The band, originally conceived of as a duo comprised of Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa, put out their debut LP, Love We Are We Love, in 2014, and followed it up with a 2016 EP. The releases received praise from the likes of NPR, No Depression, and Apple Music. However, for their upcoming full-length, they have brought vocalist Cara May Gorman and percussionist Stephen Struss into the mix, who are performing with the band on this batch of dates. The band also recently released a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep it with Mine,” featuring their current formation. They recently took some time to tell me about the band’s recent evolution of sorts, in addition to some of their favorite things.
Izzy Cihak: Not to start with a huge question, but what have been some of the personal highlights of the band for you over the past few years?
The Sea The Sea: There have been some exciting bucket list items we’ve been able to check off in the last couple years – like getting to play Mountain Stage and some moments of recognition – like when the music video we made with Zachary Johnson got picked up by the international TED conference. Beyond those sorts of things, the personal highlights at this point for us have really just been continuing to realize a more evolved and complete vision of what it was that we first believed in when we started playing together, getting better as a band and putting on the best show we possibly can. Those are things that you just have to grow from the seed – and when you see them coming to fruition, they feel like real creative and personal achievements.
Izzy: How would you characterize your process of writing and recording together… if there even is a process? Or is it different for each song?
The Sea The Sea: A little bit of all those things! We’re both writers. We sometimes start writing separately and sometimes start songs together. It really just depends on the song. We think some of our best songs come from our best conversations, so a lot of times we’ll just talk about whatever idea we have to try to crystallize and capture the thought as best we can. The way we arrange songs feels like a big part of the writing process too – so a lot of times we’ll just bring the “bones” of a song to each other and build it together. Recording is similar – we approach it differently depending on the song. Sometimes it’s live all in a room together, sometimes built piece by piece.
Izzy: What would you currently consider to be your most significant influences, both musical and non-musical? I’m assuming you’re named for the Iris Murdoch novel, so I would think you probably have quite a few significant non-musical influences.
The Sea The Sea: We listen to a lot of music – all different genres, eras – and all those things probably get filtered into our writing brains somehow, but we never set out to make our music sound like anything in particular – just whatever feels like it serves the song and the overall emotional thread. And sort of nodding back to the idea of songs coming from conversations – we try to write about the things we’re thinking about – life moments, things we and the people around us are experiencing, things happening in the world — things that feel relevant to life — and really trying to pay attention to those moments when maybe we feel like a song would be helpful for processing a particular feeling. If we’re feeling it, someone out there is probably feeling it too. Also, we’re always reading and looking at different poetic forms.
Yes, we first heard “the sea the sea” from Iris Murdoch’s incredible novel, but upon further investigation found that it’s a cry of joy from an Ancient Greek story – and that more joyful allusion felt like an appropriate fit.
Izzy: I know the band recently went through a transformation of sorts, both regarding personnel and sound, and that you’re working on a new album for next year. What can be expected of your future sounds? Was there anything you were trying for the first time?
The Sea The Sea: We’ve always wanted our music and our sound to grow organically and in whatever way that feels inspiring to us. At our core, we’ll always be a duo writing lyrically driven songs. We want to keep building an audience that is willing to go on the journey with us in exploring different sonic palettes and worlds the songs can live in. Within that, that may mean we still do acoustic duo tours and albums – right now we’re loving playing music with friends and having a more dynamic range to play with. But expect all of those things from us now and in the future. We love the idea that a song with many different instrumental layers can exist on the same album as one with a guitar and two voices — that’s what we’re drawn to and it keeps it interesting for us creatively and we think it does for our audience too.
Izzy: I also know that you’re currently on the road, so I’m curious how this batch of dates has been going so far. Any particular favorite cities or shows or just reactions to your new sounds?
The Sea The Sea: We’re playing a lot of different rooms on this tour, which is cool because it really requires us to be extra present in every situation — we’ve played clubs and some legendary listening rooms, old theaters and music halls, barns. And we’ve shaped this tour to come back to some of our favorite places and finally make it to some venues we’ve been hearing about for a while. I don’t think we could honestly pick a favorite – this has been a charmed string of dates. We’re calling this (unofficially) the “no duds” tour. Ha! People who have seen us before have been really excited about the new editions to our sound and we are too.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you play World Café Live?
The Sea The Sea: We craft our shows to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, we’re going to take you on the journey that we’d like someone to take us on. Expect some acoustic and electric guitars, drums, and two and three-part harmonies. And we’re excited to have Kacy and Clayton joining us for the night. They’ll just be coming off the road with Wilco and we’re looking forward to everything they’ve been working on.
Izzy: And in addition to work on your new album, what are you most excited for in the second half of 2017? Or is it just basically all about the album?
The Sea The Sea: We’re going back into the studio after we wrap up this tour to finish the album and we’ll be doing some more touring between now and the end of the year, but yes, all of that is going to be informed by the upcoming release – we also love digging into the artwork and other collaborations, etc. with things related to the release — it’s a busy but invigorating time.