Formed in the fall of 2012 after combining forces with members of Unsparing Sea, the up-and-coming Seafair is an orchestral six-piece led by the siren song of Chayla Hope that consists of guitars, keys, and unexpected classical touches of cello and violin. Combining the, at times, warbly sea-shany element of the Decemberists, Seafair dabbles in quirky indie-pop seen on “Textbook Holiday” and then seemlessly explorers the cinematic in the darker, noir tones of “72.8%” and in the seductiveness of “Take Me On”.
While they’re busy recording their first EP, Paintings, the band has focused on developing the dynamics of their multi-instrumental live show. “There’s so many different people doing so many different things it’s hard to focus on one individual person,” says drummer Ryan Kelly. “Everyone else has their own style so they can incorporate that into their live show. People can experience one instrument at a time while the whole thing comes together pretty nice.”
The Paintings EP is expected to be released this summer, with a second EP, Pictures, planned for later this year.
Brite Winter called up Ryan Kelly to talk more about how the band got together, some of their favorite shows they’ve played in the early stages, and what to look forward to with their new EPs.
The band was actually originally started by Chayla Hope (vocals/keys) and Josh Riehl (guitar). I was looking to start something. I had just moved back after playing for a long time in Colorado and was playing with this band,Unsparing Sea, with Tara Hanish (cello). That ended when our vocalist was leaving and I had heard the demos Chayla and Josh put together and I really enjoyed them. So I called them and hooked up with them. I ended up bring Tara from Unsparing Sea with me and it was the four of us. Then we brought in a guitar player, Mike Flaherty, who has a solo musician doing his own thing. Then we added a violin player, Andrea Belding, that Tara had been working with previously on classical projects. We started writing and now we’re getting our first EP finished up at Bad Racket and we hope to have it out by the summer.
How has adding Mike and Andrea expanded your sound? Especially since you mentioned Tara and Andrea had a background in classical.
Andrea and Tara are classically trained, they went to school for their respective instruments. They’ve added something different. In Unsparing Sea we had the cello and it was easy to kind of plug that in, where as in Seafair there’s a little more focus on the cello and the violin to where they float on top of the music and change the dynamic of it. Mike is just a fantastic guitar player, and he’s been writing his own songs for awhile, so to have him incorporate his style into what we’re doing makes things a little heavier. Which is cool — I was a punk drummer and playing fast stuff until Unsparing Sea and then I slowed down. This is right in the middle of that.
Your taste personally tends to sometimes lean a little on the heavier side. How is it playing in a project like Seafair?
I’m all over the board. I grew up listening to hip-hop and skate-punk and that’s all we used to listen to. As I got older my taste spread out, but I still love listening to all that and I still try to incorporate some element of that. I wanted to play something I hadn’t before and I wanted to explore playing different kinds of styles and see what fit the best. And so far, this has fit really well. I still have the freedom to make things fast or slow, it all mixes together well with what we’re trying to do. People add certain parts and everyone’s style is pretty different, which makes our entire style different.
You’re currently working on your first EP. How are things going with recording?
What we’re doing is two EPs this year, hopefully. We decided not to do a full length. With the way the industry is these days, and people’s attention spans, you could put a full record and people may not listen to all your songs. They might pick two or three and you lost the songs in the shuffle. So we decided to do two EPs and space them out over a year. The first one will be called Paintings and the second will be called Photographs and both will be five songs. We’re still working out the details on when they’ll be released but it’s been an experience and we’re having a lot of fun recording. We’re really looking forward to getting this out there and then getting right back to writing new material again.
The five songs we have done. Mike just joined the band late last year so the six of us have been writing since September. We had a few songs before Mike joined and we’ve written one new song with him that’s going to be on the EP and then we have one more written for the next EP so far. So as soon as we’re done with the recording process of Paintings then we’ll get to work on the rest of the songs for that. But we have three or four skeletons of songs we’re going to work with for Pictures.
We have a show we’re planning on doing between Brite Winter and our EP release party, which we’re hoping will be in late April or early May. Instead of doing a Kickstarter we decided to have kind of a benefit show at Mahall’s with the six songs we have and we’re also going to mix in seven to nine cover songs of everything across the board from Cloud Cult to INXS to Pat Benetar.
Can you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?
Shayla write the majority of the lyrics and she writes about what she know. She’s got one of the best voices I’ve ever heard and her vocal capability was one of the first reasons I was drawn to the band. We don’t want to be a band that sings about sadness. We try to make it as upbeat as possible. It’s a song-by-song basis.
Having six members in your band, how does that translate to your live performance?
Getting six people on the same page – six people that work full time, that also do performances – it’s not the easiest thing in the world to pull together. But we make it work and that’s why we don’t play out as often. We try to play one show a month. Our live shows are fun because there’s so many different people doing so many different things it’s hard to focus on one individual person. It’s hard not to focus on Chayla’s voice – it’s amazing – but everyone else has their own style so they can incorporate that into their live show. And it makes for a really interesting show because people can experience one instrument at a time while the whole thing comes together pretty nice.
And it’s nice to see more bands incorporating that orchestral sound with instruments you wouldn’t expect.
We have a few demos online but the new versions are twice as impressive as the demos in our eyes. They’re much more layered now and the girls put time in to creating the proper orchestral float with them. What you hear on the demos is one thing, but now the sound has grown a lot.
Have you had any stand out shows since you started playing out?
We played the Bad Racket show at the Beachland and we had a really good response, more than we could have ever expected. And we played first too so we weren’t expecting the crowd we ended up having so we were really pleased.
Our first show we ended up opening up for Megachurch, also at the Beachland. It was going to be our first show and then the Beachland asked if we could share the bill. And I said ‘Absolutely, it’ll be great.’ And it sold out. We didn’t expect the Megachurch audience to be into us but we had a nice little crowd and it ended up going really well. Every show we’ve played we’ve had a beyond expected response.
Do you think you’ll start to play out more once the EP is released?
As of right now, for six people, the course we’re on is almost necessary. Until it gets to point where we have to start switching gears — and everyone’s prepared for that. I guess the only answer to that will be that time will tell.
Seafair plays at 7 p.m. at the Loren Naji Studio Gallery. Keep up with them on Facebook.