Some by Sea will be returning to town tonight to play Rock Coffee. And for many of the growing number of fans, this return represents a moment of celebration. But for someone like myself, someone drowning in the omnipresence of so much cute-sounding rock, I'm at a complete loss. Sure, genre categories can be meaningless. Sure, the categories tend to collapse upon themselves, especially when musicians feel the labels are incomplete or inaccurate. So what better way for an under-informed buffoon like myself to learn anything about this band than to go right to the source. Singer/guitarist Chris Du Bray was kind enough to indulge my foolishness.
I'm a complete neophyte when it comes to your band. But I do hear many similarities to Death Cab for Cutie, most specifically, and early Decemberists from time to time. How do you see yourselves with respect to these bands?
I think that all of us have enjoyed both of these bands at some point. It's true that we have seen a lot of comparisons to mainly Death Cab for Cutie, but I feel like a lot of those comparisons are at face value. They are both bands that are somewhat explosive in the music scene right now, so it's natural to want to compare to what is current. It's happened before, it will happen always. I hope that people that hear our music find something in it that makes them want to dig deeper and find some way to relate to it.
How do you see your sound as challenging to the ubiquitous nature of emo-rock?
If you look at music right now, both mainstream and underground, you can see that a lot of genres and 'styles' have to be thrown out because so many artists are trying different things every time they record. With the advancement of recording quality and how easy it's become to be a home studio wizard, artists are piling on more and more layers to their music, organic and electronic. I think the reason that we are largely different from "emo-rock" or whatever you want to call it is because what you hear on the record is what you are going to get at a live show too. We didn't add strings on top of everything we recorded -- the strings are a regular part of the group. We are always looking at different ways to arrange our songs using different instrumentation. I think it's that experimentation that separates us some.
I've been listening to On Fire! a great deal in the last week and the expansiveness of the tracks definitely stands out. What kinds of experimentation do these longer songs offer? What specific interests, if any, were you consciously exploring?
I'm not sure we were consciously exploring anything. The album, truthfully, is made up of a number of happy accidents. Going into the recording sessions, I know we wanted to document how we felt at the time, which is a big reason some of the songs are a lot heavier than our previous record. At its heart, Igloo is a pretty frustrated album. As far as experimentation, we had a lot of opportunity to take songs that were pretty basic to begin with and sort of destroy them and build them back up into something a little more epic, which is always a lot of fun.
I particularly enjoy "Only One Bullet" and its hypnotic repetition that accounts for most of the last seven minutes. Since it is so different from the rest of the album, would you care to speak to this indulgence?
Honestly, we used to play that song at rehearsals for over 20 minutes! When it came time to record it, we all felt like we were getting away with something bad by playing this 12-minute song that only has two chords. "Only One Bullet" is kind of a release for us. It sort of became an anthem for us, which is funny since it most likely started as a joke.
Rock Coffee is an extremely intimate venue. How can the band best use this to its advantage?
This will be our third show at Rock Coffee and it's definitely one of our favorite places to play. I'm not a huge fan of being up on a stage that looks down over people. It's always been more fun and rewarding with me to be at the same level as the crowd. It makes interacting with people a lot easier as well. I don't want people to be afraid of us. Rock Coffee is very comforting in that respect. We are all big fans of the food and drinks as well.
A boring question just to dumb things down a bit: Pabst or Olympia?
Pabst Blue Ribbon, no question.
And there's no question that the final question was answered, if not correctly, with a great deal of panache. Had he answered otherwise, I might have been willing to completely dismiss everything he said otherwise. That aside, Some by Sea certainly understands where they stand with regard to the current musical trends happening around them. Equally clear, the band knows what they must do in order to remain as fresh and exciting as possible so that they will not be dumped into the kinds of categories that both limit and defeat less-driven musicians. Stop by Rock Coffee this evening and make the assessment for yourself.
Some by Sea at Rock Coffee with Seaweed Jack, Smile Line Spark and Mark Ward on Thursday, May 11, at 8 pm. Tickets: $4. Visit myspace.com/rockcoffee or call 838-1864.