At times, it is easy for The Eastern Sea to forget that Austin, Texas is home. And for that reason, their self-titled record (in two parts) plays much like an anti-travelogue, a recollection of distant places that tend to mimic their own somehow foreign neighborhoods.
Musically, The Eastern Sea combines swelling post-rock-like percussion, energetic and melodic bass guitar, lofty wurlizter, synthesizer pads, and finger-picked guitar that can either float above the ground or come down like a ton of bricks.
As a band, The Eastern Sea tends to mimic their own musical aesthetic, sometimes swelling to a massive 11-piece collective featuring string and brass instruments, and sometimes distilling the sound to the core of singer/songwriter Matthew Hines.
The sound and unique sense of place heard on The Eastern Sea's two-part self-titled release also has much to do with the band's unique recording and music writing process. Having just graduated from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas as valedictorian of his senior class, Hines has had to work to create something special despite an often insane schedule.
As the band continues to grow on a regional and national level, what 90.5 KUT, Austin's nationally-renowned public radio, has said of the band certainly rings true.
"Austin and the rest of the indie-pop world will be hearing a lot from this act for awhile."
Matthew Philip Hines - Vocals, Guitar
Kevin Thomas - Trumpet
John Rawls - keyboards
Mike Dymowski - Drums
Chris D'anunzio - Bass Guitar
Shawn Jones - Guitar
Charley Seiss - Percussion
Lauryn Gould - flute
"The Eastern Sea EP" - released July 2008.
1. The Night
2. The Menu
3. The Floor
4. This is Holborn
Split 7" Vinyl Record w/ News on the March- released Spring 2009.
2. The Sea
"EPII" - Released November 2009.
1. The Mountain
2. The Sea
3. The Name
4. Your House
"Plague" - Debut LPTo Be Released in Feb. 2012
2. Wasn't For Love
3. So Long/Either Way
4. Santa Rosa
6. Say Yes
7. The Match
8. China Untitled 1
9. Central Cemetery
10. There You Are
11. A Lie
12. The Line
KUT 90.5 Texas Music Matters
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"Perhaps one of my favorite discoveries of the past year...if this tune [The Menu] (and the entire E..."Perhaps one of my favorite discoveries of the past year...if this tune [The Menu] (and the entire EP for that matter) is indicative of this band’s future, I think Austin and the rest of the indie-pop world will be hearing a lot from this homegrown act for a while."
"The variety and intricate layering of instrumentation in their songs conjures images of icebergs floating through the ocean with only the tips breaking the surface. Their songs are massive numbers but pleasantly restrained with plenty of room for the vocalists to paint a picture."
Daily Texan Weekend Feature
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Medley makes mastery: Folk band utilizes academic background for a depth of sound As I approach ...Medley makes mastery:
Folk band utilizes academic background for a depth of sound
As I approach the house of the band the eastern sea off Ben White Boulevard. I notice the single jack-o-lantern next to a pile of shoes on the front porch. I ring the doorbell and am greeted by front man and guitarist Matthew Hines and his roommate’s hyperactive boxer, Penny. Hines excuses the mess (they moved in two months ago), walks me back through the music room with various instruments splayed across the aged carpet and onto the screened-in back porch, streamed with red Christmas lights.
As we wait for roommate, bassist, percussionist and vocalist Tomas Olano to finish showering, we dive right into a discussion on politics and religion. Hines, a religious studies and English writing and rhetoric major who graduated with a 4.0 from St. Edwards University in May, is confident as he talks about how he believes politicians are heavily influenced by religion and the world’s governments not nearly as secular as people believe.
For a group that calls themselves minimalists, it is immediately apparent that The Eastern Sea is far more dynamic than they give themselves credit for — Olano said they are one of the dorkiest bands out there. They are comprised of five permanent members and four occasional contributors that create a gentle folk sound with instruments that range from guitar to trumpet, from organ to viola. Their lyrics are dripped in emotions that run far deeper than the layers of sound that seem to bleed off their songs.
Olano joins us on the porch as soon as the crickets begin their night shift on the lawn, and Hines transitions into how the impending apocalypse influences policy making. Olano chimes in with some melodramatic comic relief.
“We don’t just play guitar chords,” Olano said. “We also change lives — through slam poetry and coffee breaks.”
As a soon-to-be Spanish, Portuguese, literature and political science graduate of St. Edwards, Olano also has a repertoire that leaves little left to be desired. The son of Argentinean immigrants, he recalls his childhood in Argentina that broke down any existing social hierarchies and motivated him to pursue Latin American studies.
Olano interns at Caritas of Austin teaching life-skill classes to low-income residents and immigrants in the morning and working at the child-care program in the afternoons. He said that this is the “skim milk of it,” but having that perspective growing up and seeing the changes directly makes the experience especially rewarding. But, they don’t intend to sing their praises.
“I don’t mean to come off as a knight in shining armor,” Olano said. “I think we can all do more in a million regards. But, yeah, we work on our transitions in each of our stages and go from there.”
“You just have to prevent yourself from being a dumb, uncreative American — that is what I learned in soccer when I was a kid,” Hines added. “We can’t do it all, but we can try a little, you know, you can’t just…”
“It’s got to be honest,” Olano insightfully interrupted.
“… You can’t sit around and eat burgers all day,” Hines said.
Transitions have played a major role in the development of the band. All five members “met in the scene” in high school while playing in different groups in Houston. Hines created The Eastern Sea as a solo project in summer of 2005 before he attended college.
“I spent three years writing. All the time,” he said while he snapped, snapped, snapped in unison with his words. “Recording. All the time. Playing new stuff because no one really cared what I played because no one was listening to it.”
But after two years of playing on stage alone, he solicited the help of Olano, Zach Duran (percussion), Jess Graves (organ, piano, vocals) and Kevin Thomas (bass and trumpet). They dove straight into recording their first album, a self-titled EP in spring 2008 and released it that July. But, the recording process led to a disconnect when they heard the final product.
“What is really interesting is we had a basic idea of arrangement and recorded that really fast,” Olano said. “But we kept on getting better and better, right? And we were like ‘Fuck, we already have that recorded,’ so we kind of grew upon those recordings that were already there, and it came out really well. But it was weird at the same time to realize that these songs had transformed by the time we actually released it. It wasn’t the same, I mean, at all.”
This drastic transformation is representative of the members’ musical backgrounds and their current medley of sounds that focus on mood and tone that drench their music. Hines said that he came from a “very set-up and very, very structured” place and Olano came out of a “thrown-together, collaged kind of thing.”
This musical collaboration of contradictions from all members contributed to their success around Austin — The Austin Chronicle voted them One of the Nine Locals to Watch in 2009. They also performed at the Houston Free Press Summerfest in August and were recently invited to headline at the Westheimer Block Party in the spring. Their success, however, has not settled with them yet.
“We are playing with Japanther and Dead Prez, and that makes no sense,” Olano said. “I am just waiting for Dave Chappelle to show up and introduce the show. We are super happy about it.”
With their second EP — EP II, due out in November — they tried to tether a string of similarity to their previous work and its success. Even before their second EP is released, they are already working on a future full-length album but still want to “do justice” to their previous work.
“You owe those old songs something good,” Hines said. “You owe those old songs — you owe them some duty to follow up.”
“I think they are like a stepping block,” Olano added.
Throughout the conversation, members Zach Duran and Kevin Thomas joined us as talk turned to personal theme parks, waffles versus pancakes, what would be the ultimate food for a pool filling and, finally, a brief discussion on porn that ultimately led back to their academic roots and spurred commentary on women’s rights — further evidence of the group’s intellectual stamina.
The conversation ended exactly where it began. As I sat around the table with four of the members of The Eastern Sea on their back porch, cigarette smoke swirling in the red lights, Hines profoundly summed up the entire evening.
“[Mystery is] a dual feeling … you feel at the same time empowered by the fact that you are not constrained by anything, but also very little in the fact that you are a spec of dust in a giant universe,” Hines said.
“So you have this hope that there is stuff out there that, I don’t know, there’s new things to see, there’s always more to do. But also, there’s unlimited opportunity. And this is my musical philosophy. Because there is an unlimited opportunity to do anything, but you have to make a choice. There is ultimate mystery and then there is defying ultimate mystery — by creating something concrete.”
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"Wistful and hauntingly beautiful, The Eastern Sea transcends the listener to a completely different..."Wistful and hauntingly beautiful, The Eastern Sea transcends the listener to a completely different era of music."
"One of the 'Nine Locals to Watch in 2009'."
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"thoughtfully written lyrics and a passion that formed as profusely as the thousands of beads of swe..."thoughtfully written lyrics and a passion that formed as profusely as the thousands of beads of sweat that splashed onto the stage... a step above other indie artists working to be heard in the folk rock type of genre. It’s not necessarily something you’ve heard all over town, and appealing in it’s individuality."
"Their recently released self-titled debut EP is beautifully subtle but rich in harmonies and delicate unwinding textures, with touches of Iron and Wine or Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens."
Space City Rock Review
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"once the ringing in my head had died down, I absolutely couldn't find the words -- all I could t...
"once the ringing in my head had died down, I absolutely couldn't find the words -- all I could think to say was, "that was fucking perfect." And it was. I've only seen a handful of shows over the years that have really hit the mark, and this was one of 'em. If there was a wrong note, a wrong moment, anywhere in there, I couldn't find it."
30-45 Minute Set:
This is Holborn
There are no upcoming dates at this time.