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The Eastern Sea Explores New Territory


By Jessica Forbes

Austin-based The Eastern Sea is making its way to Mobile’s Soul Kitchen for the second time this year. Since their last tour ended in February, the self-described progressive pop band performed several shows at their hometown’s renowned South By Southwest Festival, and has been developing new material for an upcoming album.

“We’ve been doing a lot of writing for our new record, so that’s really the focus of this tour,” saidThe Eastern Sea’s Matt Hines, the band’s founder and lead singer.

In addition to material from its two previous full-length albums, the Eastern Sea plans to experiment with about six new songs at their stops across the eastern U.S. throughout August. “It’s going to represent about half of what we’ll have for our finished product, which we’ll work on the second half of it when we get back and then record in the winter time,” Hines anticipated a week before the band’s second tour of the year kicked off.

“Right now, we’re in writing, arranging, creating mode,” said Hines of he and the band’s current mindset. “It’s a fun time to go out and tour because that’s when you can test out all of your ideas.”

The Eastern Sea formed in 2005, and has gone through various combinations of members, recently landing on five as the ideal lineup for touring and their tour van. “There’s five of us packed into the van, going on a trip,” Hines said. “We’ve done tours with up to eight people, with different instrumentation but we’ve settled into this groove of five people: drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, and trumpet.”

Any combination of the terms “progressive,” “indie rock,” or “indie pop” could apply to The Eastern Sea, who have qualities reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie and Sufjan Stevens in several of their songs. With their new material, the band is moving to a bigger, more dance-y sound. “Our new music is a lot different; it’s a lot more rhythmic,” a development that Hines seems excited to explore. “Every record is a mystery when we start, so this time it’s going to be a wild run.”

“Plague,” the band’s second full-length album, was released in June 2012. The album took two years to complete, its recording process stalled by the City of Austin condemning the studio in which they began recording, which set them on a pilgrimage to locations throughout Texas to finish. Having toured consistently in late 2012 and early 2013, Hines looks forward to having additional material to work with on the road, “It’s a feeling of being rested in that it’s refreshing to be doing new things now.”

Current tour mates Roadkill Ghost Choir are from DeLand, Fla., something Hines is excited about. “All of the dates in the South are going to be really cool because both bands have played those places a number of times and it’s our home turf to be in the South,” he said.

The Eastern Sea met Roadkill Ghost Choir through a shared booking agent and toured with them briefly in 2012. “I fell in love with their band, and both bands get along really well,” Hines remembered. “It doesn’t happen all of the time, you don’t always love the people you play with. It’s special when it does happen.”

Looking forward to the band’s Mobile stop, Hines said, “We’ve made a lot of friends in the last two trips. It’s definitely a good spot for us, we like it a lot.” Even in light of the band’s increasing festival appearances, Soul Kitchen is a venue that appeals to Hines. “I like the intimacy of being in front of people that are close to me, and also getting to know people in different cities because every city has a different culture,” he said.

In 2012, months of playing small bands throughout the country culminated with the band’s performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. “Bigger festival shows are really amazing,” said Hines of the pros and cons of playing to a large crowd. “You’re playing to a lot of people in one place. There’s a little bit more pressure in the sense that how you perform in that one, maybe 30-minute set is really going to stick out in a lot of people’s minds.”

Though he appreciates the festival experience, Hines recognizes that there are still dues to pay. “Realistically our future lies in that reliable club presence, being at smaller venues and working our way up that way,” he said. “It takes doing that to be able to have opportunities like playing at larger festivals.”

For the foreseeable future, Hines would like Mobile to stay on the Eastern Sea’s tour circuit, and hopes to play another combination bill there later this year. In case they get too busy for a third tour this year, however, it’s worth a trip to Mobile next Tuesday to check out this phase of the Eastern Sea’s musical journey.

THE EASTERN SEA
WHEN: 9 p.m. (Doors at 8 p.m.) Tuesday, August 6
WHERE: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala.
COST: $10
DETAILS: 18 +; advance tickets available at (866) 468-7630 or soulkitchenmobile.com; theeasternsea.com