Thursday, May 27, 2004

Sea Ray...Revealed! 

i recently chatted w/ sea ray's keyboardist jeff sheinkopf to discuss their current tour, the state of the band, & future plans. unlike other ficticious posts i've made, this one is actually real. their tour w/ metric & the stills hits detroit thurs 5/27 at st andrews, then chicago on fri 5/28 at the metro. if you haven't caught any of these bands before, i highly recommend. i know i've been writing about this alot lately but it's w/ good reason. seldomly does a tour w/ this good of a bill hit a town near you, where tix are inexpensive too.

Damore- 3 weeks ago, Stars At Noon's 'Revelry' was featured on the WB's teen drama show 'One Tree Hill'. Being on a smaller label, how did that opportunity present itself, & have you seen any effect on the age demographic at your latest shows as a result?

Jeff- It's funny, we've heard a lot of comments from people at shows about hearing the music in the background while their moms watched the show...so we're actually waiting a few months until the moms of America start to show up en masse at our shows. I'm imagining some sort of elaborate carpool system at some point. We got a call one day from the music supervisor at the show who wanted to use the music, and
it's hard to turn down an opportunity that will so quickly get the music into the ears of millions of kids (& moms).

Damore- Maybe I should be embarassed to watch that show. So many soccer moms indeed. After 7 years, why do think it's taken people so long to finally catch on to Sea Ray? Do you feel that the nyc/detroit garage/retro rock buzz overshadowed you a bit? W/ that fad fading out now, do you feel you're finally getting some long over-due exposure?

Jeff- We've never really been too caught up in whatever buzz is going on in the music world, though we're obviously aware of what's happening around us. Unfortunately, fads like those do tend to overshadow a lot of great music -- particularly for the fans who aren't willing to do the work of exploring on their own. We're also a different band now than when we started, so it makes sense that it's taken a long time for folks to catch-on to what we're doing. People are getting it now, though, & that makes us happy.

Damore- Your current tour w/ Metric/The Stills is your 2nd major national tour this year, the 1st being supporting The Church. Last year The Stills broke through by opening for Interpol, Echo & The Bunnymen, Ryan Adams, & are now headlining their own national tour. Do you see the same progression happening currently for Sea Ray?

Jeff- It's a pretty typical pattern for bands to follow--build up a fan base across the country by playing to full houses & hopefully win those crowds over. That's definitely the idea we have as to why we keep going out as a support band. Our day will come.

Damore- Since Sea Ray's 1997 self-titled debut, you've been added to line-up on keyboards, Anne Brewster has been added on cello, & Colin Brooks took over on drums. As a result, your sound has really filled out (in a good way). How did the 3 of you come to join the band & are you all happy w/ your special brand of atmospheric brand of symph pop space rock?

Jeff- We all had mutual friends in New York, & the band was looking for a couple new people a few years ago. I wanted to be the drummer, but Mr. Brooks showed up at the same time, & if I had to compare our drumming abilities to trucks, I'd be a Tonka and he'd be a Mack. Luckily I found the Rhodes & it all fell into place. We're all thrilled w/ how it's all going.

Damore- There was a dramatic sound change from your 1st to 2nd album, what's the current vision for your next album? I know 'Stars' was released only last October, but are you working on new material or mainly concentrating on touring/promoting 'Stars' now?

Jeff- The band is actually fairly evenly divided between those who want to keep touring & those who want to hole up in the studio to work on the new record. We're playing several new songs in our set these days, & have a few more ready to go. The problem is that we're all pretty insane about the writing process, & tend to spend way too long working on them after they're already "finished".

Hopefully it won't take as long to get the next album out, but that all depends on what ends up happening on the label front. To me, at least, there's sometimes a drastic change in the sound from one song to the next, so of course, there's going to be a pretty big change from this album to the next.

damore- What does the band do while on tour to avoid boredom? I know you & greg are FOW's (friends of whatevs) & frequent whatevsdotorg. Do you find yourselves on the internet at hotels checking for the latest piping hot content during down-time?

Jeff- Here's the part where I should make up some good stories to make us sound cooler than we are. The truth is that we're mostly big nerds who either read or listen to music. Luckily we lost our travel Scrabble game that we had several tours back, so we can't claim to play that. Indeed, some of us are online all the time, even in the van. It's a welcome distraction from the highways and truck stops across this land.

I'm not sure anything really helps avoid boredom, though. One good aid is VH1 Classics whenever we have the chance. It's like a pacifier for the band. We just shut up and smile.

Damore- Your live shows incorporate a video projection backdrop on stage. As part of the crowd, it feels like the senses are over-taken by the music, the light show, & the video components. VERY FEW bands are able to pull that off so well, (the Flaming Lips come to mind), yet you guys make it look pretty easy. What was the thinking behind that & when did you add the film/video aspect, & who selects the footage to play?

Jeff- Our good friend Brandon Derman is the mastermind. The project started out with Brandon and a few other Brooklyn-based videographers each working on different songs--shooting the footage & editing it down
into mini-movies for each tune--but it's really turned into just Brandon. We've never told him what to do in that regard. He sees our songs in his camera and we respect what he does. & because he tours w/ us, he actually mixes the video live while we play, & I think that's a big reason as to why it works so well. We don't just start a tape when we get on stage and hope it fits with the music.

Damore- What bands/music are you currently listening to out while out on the road?

Jeff-I'm listening to a mix that has a bunch of Mogwai tunes, some new Squarepusher, Ratatat, an English band called Magnet, Cat Power, Dead Meadow, & friends of mine from Brookyln called The Double. There's always a lot of classic britpop stuff in there, too. I just took off
my headphones to hear what's on the van stereo & Anne is pumping some OMD. Other popular stuff in the van is Neil Young, Love, The Beach Boys & the like.

Damore- Other than your home-base of NYC, what cities have been your favorite (you definitely don't have to say Detroit) to play/visit? Where have you received the best & most surprising crowd responses?

Jeff- It's a cliche, but people really are extra nice in the south. We feel right at home in Charlotte, NC, for example. Some of the best response has come in Denver, Seattle, Cincinnati, & even Traverse City, MI.

Damore- I don't think i've met a nicer/more down-to-earth band than Sea Ray (obvs-why else would you be doing an interview w/ a D-list blog). The six of you appear to be pretty tight, no?

Jeff- For the most part, we're a tight & happy family. Of course, w/ that comes the occasional argument. But I'm surprised at how well we all get along, actually. I think it has something to do with the fact that we're not all vying for the spotlight, & that we actually have a lot of respect for each other - personally & professionally. It's only natural for us to have that same respect for the fans who have invested time & money into something we're so passionate about. It's hard to properly express how much we appreciate that.

Damore- What's been the weirdest/craziest thing you've seen while out on this tour?

Jeff- I watched a kid approach Anne just last night after our show in Cleveland. He told her he was so moved by the performance that he just had to give her his belt, & he proceeded to hand it right over. That was a little bizarre. We tend to stay out of trouble.

Damore- That ranks pretty high on the creepy scale, even for Cleveland. At a recent show, Colin had a a 103 degree temp & was very sick, yet you managed to go out & put on a flawless show.

Jeff- We all have bad nights, but that can't stop us from putting on the best show possible. Anything else would be unfair to everyone involved. And for the record, Colin w/ a 103 fever is still a better drummer than anyone else I know.

Damore- Sea Ray receives heavy 'word-of-mouth buzz' on blogs such as the real janelle, information leafblower, whatevs, chromewaves, etc etc etc. are these friends of yours', or simply fans connecting to the band both musically & personally, doing whatever they can to promote?

Jeff- We're all friends now. They all took it on themselves to promote the band on their sites, & we're grateful that they have. I keep in touch with a bunch of bloggers, and it's great when people come out to see us when we're in town. We're part of the first generation of bands who are meeting fans at shows that tell us about the blog where they discovered us.

Sea Ray is thinking of starting our own blog and we're
just going to hype the other bloggers.

Damore- What are the band's plans once the current Stills/Metric tour wraps up in July? Do you see a Coachella performance in the cards for next year?

Jeff- Even though it's just a month away, it's pretty tough to predict July plans...We may very well be back on the road at some point, though most likely we'll be home working on new stuff until we get the call to head back out. And hell yeah, I hope we make it out to Indio next year.

Damore- Jeff, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it. Cheers!

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