Friday, April 19 2024

Today, we have the pleasure of delving into the musical universe of Sink to the Sea, an ambient, experimental, post-rock trio hailing from the artistic enclave of Santa Barbara, California. Comprising Marc Bobro (Crying For Kafka), James Van Arsdale (The Coral Sea, Heavy Cosmic Kinetic), and Noah Whatoff, Sink to the Sea’s self-titled album is a mesmerising blend of post-rock, experimental, ambient, and Krautrock/Kosmische/Space Rock-inspired elements. Buckle up for a journey through moody soundscapes, musical exploration, and meditations that transcend the boundaries of traditional rock forms.

Hey guys, thanks for joining us. How did the diverse backgrounds and musical influences of the band members contribute to the unique sound of Sink to the Sea’s self-titled album?

Noah and Marc were in high school and college band and orchestra, but especially relevant were the marching bands they were in, including drum and bugle corps. Movement and playing live still resonate with us. Regarding sound itself, Noah worked in record stores for nearly 20 years, and as a result learned a lot about many different genres at a young age and to this day pieces those textures into his drumming. Marc grew up listening only to Eastern European folk music, Herb Alpert, Marty Robbins, and church hymns. Without TV, he never even heard of the Beatles until his late teens. His first instruments were brass (trumpet, baritone, tuba, even french horn) and after he picked up the electric bass, played in punk and goth bands for decades. James has a long history of performing highly improvisational music, and his love of 1970s German progressive music inspires his playing approach which then gets combined with ’80s / ’90s influences like shoegaze, dream pop, and goth.

Sink to the Sea Band

The band mentions rejecting traditional rock song form in favour of fluid arrangements. How does this unconventional approach impact the listener’s experience, and what does it add to the overall musical journey?

It enriches the potential listening experience with layers, transitions, textures. The long form has the ability to truly transport the listener, and each time the story changes a bit—we are responding to the unique particularities of that moment and place in time. Listening through our tracks for the first time can be a unique experience. And even subsequent listens can feel surprising, not only since we generally reject the standard rock/pop structure of intro, verse, chorus, outro, but also because of the length of our songs. A key concept that drives many of our tracks is that of transformation—to begin in one place but to end up somewhere else, somewhere not predicted. We believe that many listeners want to experience a journey to a new destination and have the attention span to do so. 

(Noah) I make it a point to observe the audience while playing so as to feel their level of engagement, given the nature of what we play. I have gotten good at dropping out of a song when I feel it should be winding down. As an avid concert-goer, I love our style of raising and lowering dynamics. There is nothing more powerful and emotional. 

Sink to the Sea

The use of varied instruments such as Moog, Mellotron, Vermona, synthesizers, and unconventional choices like euphonium and theremin creates a rich and textured sound. Can you elaborate on how these instruments contributes to the atmospheric and meditative quality of Sink to the Sea’s compositions?

All of these instruments have such variety that you really feel the contrast between them when they are overlaid. We love the analog sound of an old synth for example, and it may bring with it a nostalgic feeling, but then we combine it with newer sounds and in an experimental framework and then all of these things provide many layers of aural interest, and creates a situation where repeat listens bring out new things. It may not be evident, but what you hear in the recordings is what is played live. On the album, the few overdubs we did were not to add instruments, but just to get a better take. Each of us often handles several instruments at the same time. For instance, James will tape down a note on his Minimoog before playing his guitar, then loop the guitar and then move to the Mellotron. Noah will trigger samples and then play acoustic drums which are also triggering electronic drum sounds. Marc will play bass, euphonium, or theremin over a couple of synths that he has sequenced. 

It is not only the quantity of instruments that contributes so much to our sound design, but also the quality of each individual sound. We struggle to find just the right sounds. The sound of the euphonium, for instance, cannot be duplicated with analog synthesizers. So of course if we want to have such a sound, we will use a euphonium. But, if one instrument works to sustain a song, why add another? So that is why sections of our songs can be incredibly simple. Just one drone, for instance. 

The band draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including nature, kinetic sculpture, and horror movie soundtracks. How do these influences manifest in the music, and how do they contribute to the creation of your soundscapes?

In some ways it dictates the pacing of a piece—the build-up, tense active moments, and meditative moments. Our songs are like objects, more or less layered sensuous objects moving through time and space. 

Sink to the Sea Band Image

Sink to the Sea emphasises the overlap between analog and digital technology, excluding the use of computers in their performances. How does this choice contribute to the authenticity and uniqueness of their sound, and what challenges or advantages does it pose?

It can be challenging for us, as it makes us more responsible for every note played—it is harder to execute. But not having the computer being so involved in the process is freeing and beneficial ultimately, as it can often impose itself in ways that could make it feel like the music loses its human quality.

Most of our equipment does not even use presets, so we have to really pay attention to instrument settings, especially on synths with many knobs. We take photographs of our settings. This means that we are often “on the edge” live. Another challenge going dawless is that we never sound the same way twice. But that can be an advantage as well. It makes a live performance all the more interesting and rewarding, both for us and the audience. However, some of our sounds and melodies are structured in advance. It is important that we have some organisation and continuity from performance to performance. Marc, for instance, uses Elektron sequencers to inject some control on the proceedings. 

What innovative directions or experiments does Sink to the Sea envision exploring in future musical endeavours?

On our next album, we are expanding our sound palette. The plan is to add a bass trumpet and the theremin will be featured more. In fact, for live performances, Marc will simultaneously play the theremin while also playing the bass. As far as we know, this has never been done before. Noah is experimenting further with new bass drum/snare drum sounds triggered as well as any samples that mesh well with our songs. He has also been studying displaced beats, jazz, latin rhythms, and even double bass drum for when we rock out. 

Sink to the Sea

Amd, finally, For fun… If Sink to the Sea were to organise a whimsical dinner party with musicians, artists, and historical figures as guests, who would be on the guest list, and how might the eclectic mix of personalities contribute to a lively and unconventional evening?

James: If we can include those who have passed away, then I would invite Frank Zappa—such an immensely creative and unique personality who dared to create music unlike any other. Perhaps also Laurie Anderson for her development of unique instrumentation and innovation in combining art and music.

Noah: If we’re strictly speaking of those relevant to our sound, there are a few of whom I would love to know their opinions of our music. Peter Gabriel, Jonsi (of Sigur Rós), Wagner and Bach, and Danny Carey and John Bonham would be on my guest list, given carte blanche, all-time. 

Marc: I would want to invite someone accomplished in both music and philosophy. So I would invite Friedrich Nietzsche who died in 1900. Not only did he offer so many interesting insights about humanity, but also he made some radical predictions about the future. What would he think about the music of today?

Thanks so much guys for allowing us a glimpse into the creative processes and concepts behind ‘Sink to the Sea.’ From rejecting conventional song structures to the richness of instrumentation, the music is a testament to the fusion of diverse influences and a commitment to analog authenticity. As Sink to the Sea continue to explore new sounds and innovative directions, we eagerly anticipate more. Stay tuned for their upcoming news by keeping an eye on their social channels.

Until next time, embrace the unconventional and let the music carry you to uncharted waters.

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About Author

Matt Warren

Matt Warren is a Cheshire based musician who studied contemporary music and composition. When not writing for The Indie Grid he enjoys watching 'Breaking Bad' on continuous loop and going to gigs. Since a youngster his fave band have been 'The Beatles' (with 'Cardiacs' in at a close second)... and this still applies to this day.

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