Cry of Joy: The Sea The Sea at The Ark
Sometimes the best way to describe a band is to let the musicians do it themselves.
"Indie folk/pop duo band! Harmony-based, lyric-driven, simple and true," the married couple Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa wrote in an email about their duo, The Sea The Sea. "But the best way for us to describe it is to just say, come to a show! We’d love to sing for you."
The ambiance and intimacy of the upstate New York couple's music evokes old-time folk, the mellow side of modern pop, and the technical precision of something not quite classical but not far from it. When you add in their thoughtful, intricate lyrics and their impeccably blended vocal harmonies, you’ve got music and musicians that are engaging on many levels.
I reached out to The Sea The Sea to ask them about the couple's union, the source of the band's name, and Stanley's time in Ann Arbor as a U-M student.
Q: How did the two of you begin playing together? Do either of you play much as solo artists, or with other bands?
A: Chuck was a solo artist when we met. He was actually in an emerging artist contest that I happened to be stage-managing the first time I heard him play. Everything about him as an artist and as a person resonated with me, and when I graduated from school and felt compelled to venture into the world of being a touring musician, I reached out to him. That moment in time intersected with a time when Chuck was seeking out collaborators, and as it turned out, working together was something that really inspired us -- so much so, that it’s informed every decision we’ve made in our lives together since!
Q: Am I correct that you are a couple? Are there any other musical couples that inspire you?
A: We are, and newly married! We’ve met so many incredible musical couples during our time together -- some performing as duos, some just making their music and supporting one another in their careers: Shovels & Rope, David Wax Museum, Birds of Chicago, Barnaby Bright, Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, Raina Rose, and Drew Pressman.
Q: I read that your name comes from Greek writer Xenophon’s most famous work, Anabasis; how did that name come to you? Were there others you tried out first?
A: We first heard “The Sea The Sea” as a title of an Iris Murdoch novel. It’s funny when you find a band name that feels right because … basically, it just feels right. That particular story felt a bit dark, though, and so we started looking into the origins of “The Sea The Sea” and found that it’s a cry of joy that comes from the Anabasis -- that felt really appropriate.
Q: Your lyrics and music are so fresh and original; do you both write lyrics and music equally?
A: Thank you, and yes! We don’t have one particular writing process. We both write lyrics and music, so, often we’ll bring songs to one another in various forms of being completed -- sometimes just a line or an idea and sometimes an almost completed song. For us, the arrangement process feels like a part of our writing process also, so whatever stage of completeness the song might be in, it feels fully collaborative by the time it’s all done.
Q: Do you find that you are influenced by the sound of certain musicians?
A: Yes and no. We listen to so many different styles of music, and it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint what it is that draws us to any particular artist or sound -- but basically, things that sound true, things that are melodic, with great lyrics. We make public playlists on Spotify from time to time to share what it is we’re listening to. For instance, two of our favorite albums from last year were from Big Thief and Frank Ocean. I think we’re inevitably influenced by what we listen to, all filtered through our own sensibilities and inclinations.
Q: Your voices blend so well together; did that happen right away, or did you need to mold your voices to fit with each other?
A: Yes and yes! The blend we first found with our voices was immediate and I think that’s one of the things that first drew us together -- it felt different to sing together. Singing together now for four or so years, we’ve grown as singers together, but we also know each other’s voices so well now, it’s become intuitive for the most part.
Q: How did you decide to make an animated music video for your song “Waiting” and what was it like working with Zachary Johnson, who did the oil paintings?
A: We knew we wanted to make some sort of an animated video, and so we reached out to our friends at the Made Shop (in Denver), to see if they knew of anyone who could do something like what we were looking for. Zach, who is part of the Made Shop, had just finished doing some animated trailers for the movie Looper and we thought they were incredible. We sent him the album to see if there was a particular song that inspired him. Hilariously -- and painstakingly! -- he chose the longest song, "Waiting." It took him months, but 4,000 oil paintings later, we had what felt like a beautiful collaboration and a real artistic accomplishment, so we were thrilled when it got the attention that it did.
Q: You seem to be on the road a fair amount; is more touring in the future once this tour wraps up?
A: Yes! We’re in the midst of making a new album, so we’ve been taking time for that as well, but we’re essentially always on tour in some way or another. We’ll be hitting the road again in the fall in the southeast, and we’re planning on some west coast dates as well in the coming months.
Q: I was fortunate enough to see you guys at the Ark a few years ago, and Mira, I read that you went to school in Ann Arbor. Are you excited to be back?
A: Yes! I graduated from U of M with a Theater Arts degree and also spent my last year in Ann Arbor working with the Botanical Gardens & Arboretum. Ann Arbor remains one of my favorite places, and I’m forever excited at any opportunity to come back.
Emily Slomovits is an Ann Arbor freelance musician, theater artist, and writer. She plays music with her father and uncle (aka Gemini) and others, is a member of Spinning Dot Theatre, and has performed with The Encore Musical Theatre Company, Performance Network, and Wild Swan Theater.
The Sea The Sea comes to The Ark on Wednesday, June 7, at 8 pm. Tickets are $15. More information can be found at theark.org.