Quick Q and A with The Sea The Sea

The Sea The Sea is compelling.  It’s difficult to take your eyes off of them as they traverse the subtleties of each song they perform.  The way that Mira Stanley’s voice intertwines with Chuck E. Costa’s is definite ear candy.  Sweet.  Natural.  Very tasty.  No calories either.

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To learn more about The Sea The Sea, visit their website.

Here’s a good video that shows off their most excellent harmonies.

I’m always curious about how musical groups form and how they navigate the waters to find out who does what and how it can all come together for the best musical effect. Do you recall the first time that you sang together?  Could you tell that you had a “sound”?

We remember the first time we sang together very well! It was the day after we met at a festival in Shepherdstown, WV. We were sitting on a picnic table in the middle of a field, and decided to work on an arrangement of a song for the Sunday morning group sing that was happening the next day, and singing together, the feeling was immediate. If you can imagine singing and feeling like two voices were coming out of you, that’s what it felt like. Truly. We had an instant connection as people, and the singing felt like an extension of that. It’s almost difficult to talk about that moment without sounding overly-sentimental, but it was definitely an important moment for both of us. And then, in the most appropriately cinematic fashion, a huge wind blew through the field and an awesome storm rolled in. ha!

As far as our process for putting sound together, it’s still very much rooted in the way we first sang together. We try to let those raw creative, intuitive impulses be our guides, and do our best to not get in their way. That applies to our instrumentation as well. We are never afraid to pick up one of the instruments that we have around, even if it’s not our strongest, and let the arrangements sort of shape themselves. It’s very intuitive, and thankfully, we pretty much always agree on what is or is not working and, again, the songs end up, in a way, shaping themselves.

Your harmonies have hit a lot of people’s sweet spots. Fans and critics alike always come back to your voices.  Have you studied harmony or does it just come naturally?

Mira has a background in musical theatre and had quite a bit of experience singing in groups and with complicated vocal arrangements. Some of that definitely makes its way into our creative process. We use it as a reminder to be playful and curious in the way we put our voices together, but most of the time those are things that just emerge through experimentation — not in a planned out type of way. We never say “oh, you sing the 3rd here…” or anything like that, though we value those tools. But there is a sense you develop through singing with others for when a harmony is working or not — if you look at that technically, a lot of times you’d be looking at what’s called the “voicing” of the harmony — but that just comes down to playing with how close or far apart the notes we’re singing are, and finding what feels right.

What’s your writing regimen like?  Are you the kind of writer where a phrase comes to you and you can’t seem to let it go and the song comes together or you feel like you have a story to tell and work to say it in musical language?  Or some other way? 

All of the above for sure. We both have individual, ever-changing regimens, and sometimes non-regimens :) And in so many ways, our process of writing together never quite looks the same either. You know, the idea of the regimen, is the importance of showing up so that you are there to receive and find whatever the ideas are and keep yourself in practice, but then once they arrive, they’re like babies — they all sort of come into the world with their own personalities. We have written entire songs musically that are still waiting on lyrics, and vice versa. And then you have all the half-completed pieces of songs, and then those songs that show up like they wrote themselves. That’s part of what makes songwriting endlessly frustrating in some ways but also endlessly intriguing.

I understand that you’ve done some work with Sean Rowe.  How did that come about?  

That’s another sort of serendipitous story, but the short of it is that we have a mutual producer, Troy Pohl, who brought us all together, and now we have this beautiful Albany area musical collective family that’s emerged that we couldn’t be happier to be a part of.

How cool was it to be on stage with Sean — opening for Robert Plant recently?

It’s fun to be fans of your friends, and we’re definitely fans of Sean‘s. He’s an incredible writer and has one of our favorite voices ever, but one of the most compelling things about him is how tapped into each moment he seems when he’s performing. He’s one of those artists who seems to be channeling something, and that’s an infectious energy and a total joy to be a part of.

Robert Plantse was so great, and exactly what you’d hope for him to be. That show was at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY which holds a couple thousand people. Playing for that many people in an indoor setting is very different that at an outdoor festival, and is surprisingly intimate. Particularly in that scenario, where it’s all standing room only, so the first row of people are maybe ten feet away from you. It’s an incredible energy.

You’ve been on Mountain Stage.  That’s a pretty exciting gig.  What was that like?

It was amazing. Chuck, who grew up in NYC, remembers having a bootleg R.E.M CD performing live and would hear Michael Stipe say at the outset “It’s great to be here on Mountain Stage” and had NO idea what that was or even where West Virginia was for that matter! And through the years he understood what a prestigious venue it is and felt incredibly honored to be on that stage and share in its incredible history. Mira, on the other hand, grew up in Charleston, WV, where the show is based, and for her it was a bit of a homecoming. She has known many of the folks on the show since she was a baby. The people at Mountain Stage are incredible. They are some of the most professional and at the same time personable people on the planet.

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Have you received any good advice from other musicians you’ve met on the road?

Mira’s dad has been a career musician, writing and touring, for over forty years and has given us boatloads of good advice. Too much to mention here! But one thing that comes to mind, something that has really resonated with us, is when he said once, a few years back, that, “In a year or so, you won’t recognize yourselves as a band.” The comment came in the midst of a conversation about trying to grow as musicians and as a band and the frustrations that come along with navigating who you are as a writer and for us finding our honest voice as a duo. His comment really gave us perspective and reminds us that it may be hard to recognize on a day-to-day basis but if you’re working hard, know that the growth and development that you are hoping for IS happening and WILL come…it might not end up looking exactly as you pictured it… but it will happen.

Do you have any advice for songwriters and musicians who are struggling to get their songs heard?

We think the MOST important thing to remember when you’re starting out as a performing songwriter and are juggling all of the myriad job titles that the job entails (writer/singer/booking agent/publicist/manager/driver to name just a few) is to keep focused on the music and the songs. It sounds cliché, but can be so easy to get caught up in building your business (which is, no doubt, important) but in the process lose sight of the work itself. We truly believe that if the work (the music) is solid then the rest will follow. Which leads us to the second most important thing to remember which is to BE PATIENT :) We’ve been playing together for 4 years now and are just now feeling like we’re coming in to our own.

What’s next for The Sea The Sea?

We are heading into the studio tomorrow! We’ll be releasing a six-song EP in early 2016 (Jan/Feb). We’re very excited to get these new songs out to the world. Also, we’ve been playing with some new musician friends from the Albany-area who we plan on taking out on the road with us next year. So, keep an eye out for full band shows (bass and drums) in the coming months!