The Southern Sea
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The Southern Sea

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"SIDE ONE: TRACK ONE"

In a veritable sea of indie-rock bands vying for a table scraps from online press with gimmicky nonsense that’s as short-lived as a blog post, it can be difficult to produce material that takes advantage of modern music but remains true to the craft of songwriting. And to gain attention for that hard work can be near impossible. Nonetheless, bands like Southern Sea, whose debut album (the follow-up to an EP) is the work of years of intense writing, recording and producing, push forward with smart genuine tunes that buck the trend of pop music towards fleeting bullshit.

Much like Austin’s Lovely Sparrows, The Southern Sea use a breathtaking variety of instruments and styles to create dense crafty songs that truly deserve the label of "Fine Art," both for its immediate likeability and the obvious commitment to practiced songwriting that conceived these songs in the first place. Like a good novel, each song allows its roots to naturally sprawl into lifelike backdrops but recoils into tight climactic melodies before things begin to fall apart. Lyrical themes capture both natural and domestic (and on-stage) anxiety, at times as expertly as the musical arrangements but sometimes appear too prosy than the band’s artistic style warrants. Ultimately, it’s difficult to definitively describe what the band have managed to create without either analyzing the parts, or grouping it into the tiresome "indie" genre, so I would implore you to click play below and draw your own conclusions.
- SIDE ONE: TRACK ONE


"Dallas Observer"

In a sly turn of self-deprecation, Greenville's The Southern Sea launches its first full-length with a track called "These Things Always End Badly," which lyrically bemoans the faulty set-ups of a local stage while the band admits that, as the crowd wants punk rock, "We play quietly/Our set's too short and we lack energy/No lead guitar, no jumping or Flying V's." There's a subtle humor to the song, though, given the optimistically lush sonic soundscape its deft instrumentation and arrangement paints. And this duality—subtly optimistic takes on somber themes—is actually the common thread that strings this delightful indie-pop disc together.

Honestly, No. isn't without flaws, though: The Southern Sea relies a little too heavily on a combination of Modest Mouse's Good News for People Who Love Bad News and Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism—two great records, yes, but two records whose directions have been followed to death just a few years after their release. Still, unlike so many others before it, The Southern Sea is able to capably blend these influences into a somewhat unique, off-kilter patchwork.


There are two sides to this fence: Fans of the genre will predictably champion this effort; detractors of it will no doubt naysay its too-obvious direction. But this much should be inarguable: On its first full-length release, Greenville's best-kept secret firmly establishes itself, quite capably, among the premiere indie-pop outfits in the region. - Dallas Observer


"Bona Fide Darling - Blog"

Down By The Southern Sea

A friend of mine introduced me to The Southern Sea a couple of months ago and I was instantly smitten. They have a sound that reminds me of folk versions of either A) The Flaming Lips or B) The Uglysuit. So basically, if Wayne put down the crazy home made double neck guitar and picked up a banjo you would almost have the sound of The Southern Sea.


Their awesomely titled Theoretically, yes. Honestly, no. is out now and I highly suggest you pick it up... here. - Bona Fide Darling


"Best Of Texas Blog"

The Southern Sea– If there is one band in this entire list that needs to be playing to packed houses, it’s The Southern Sea. If you live in the DFW area and are familiar with the local scene, imagine if Voot Cha Index had bothered to have the maturity to get along, add a touch of Bridges and Blinking Lights and Pilotdrift and you’ve got The Southern Sea. Otherwise, think the youthfulness of the Decemberists, the whimsy and artistry of Ladybug Transistor, a touch of Flotation Toy Warning, the dreaminess of Math & Physics Club and add a dash of Kermit the Frog banjo goodness and you have a band that should be making a lot of other Metroplex bands very, very nervous. - Best Of Texas Blog


"Babysue® LMNOP"

The Southern Sea - Theoretically, Yes. Honestly, No. (CD, Old House, Progressive pop)
In 2005 the folks in The Southern Sea released their debut disc...an EP titled Simple Machines for Complex Problems. The EP was well-received. Since that time, the band obviously took their time writing songs and recording this, their debut full-length album. It was worth the wait. Theoretically, Yes. Honestly, No. is an extremely intricate and well-crafted album full of wonderfully cool modern progressive pop tunes. The best frame of reference would probably be to compare these songs to The Flaming Lips. But unlike other bands whose music fits in such a category, the folks in this band do not sound like copycats. The smooth, smart tunes on this album rely heavily on studio technology...but the vocal melodies are never buried underneath too many messy layers of crap. These songs are not predictable and yet...they are extremely easy on the ears (and mind). Smooth and just slightly different...Theoretically, Yes. Honestly, No. hits the bull's eye dead on. Cool tracks include "These Things Always End Badly," "Quarks Chasing a Hypochondriac," and "I Bought A Used Camera From a Website" (gotta love them song titles). A super nice album from start to finish...really nice warm sound quality courtesy of producer T. W. Walsh. Recommended. (Rating: 5++) - Babysue® LMNOP


"Music For Robots - Iowa Mountain Tour"

This song is everything texas isn't: it's quiet. It's graceful. It's small. It is, however, quite spacious, so in that regard it's quite like its home state. The Southern Sea are from a little town in Texas, and create delicate indie pop, sort of like American Analog Set, but with more emphasis on hymnal melodies. If that makes sense. The whole ep has the feel of a hand-holding sing-a-long, the sort of thing the Hoos would sing. I don't think the band is particularly religious, but they've certainly borrowed a few of their melodies from the choir. Each song is orchestrated with tiny bells, and delicate synth warbles alongside live strings and hushed voices -- it's a wonderful little thing.

The EP, titled Simple Machines for Complex Problems has actually been out since 2004, but this is the first I've heard of it. I actually stumbled on the bands myspace page and picked up their CD because it sounded so good. I don't really know much about the band, I just know that I love their songs. This song is a standout, as is the wonderful "There is a Fountain," which is just amazing.

I highly recommend tracking down a copy for yourself. As a matter of fact, you can order a copy direct from the band. Or, if you're into that whole digital thing, you can also download a copy from the always excellent AudioLunchBox.com. - Music For Robots - Iowa Mountain Tour


"Gorilla vs Bear"


I first heard about The Southern Sea from Mark of Music for Robots fame, which is really pathetic on my part, considering the fact that the band is from my hometown of Plano, Texas. The band's EP, Simple Machines for Complex Problems, is a gorgeous collection of "sixties-influenced sci-folk" (according to the band). The arrangements and amazing vocal harmonies remind me at times of my very favorite Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys songs, and that is one of the highest compliments I could give a band. - Gorilla vs Bear


Discography

NIna and the Wrong Note
Release date: January 2002
Label: Independent Release

Simple Machines for Complex Problems
Release date: January 2004
Label: Independent Release

Theoretically, Yes. Honestly, No.
Release date: January 2009
Label: Old House Records

Photos

Bio

Four years prior to this record The Southern Sea quietly released the six-song EP, "Simple Machines for Complex Problems"—a painstakingly intricate project that was completed by sheer will and a blood pact between the founding members. The positive response from an ever-growing fan base and some much-deserved attention from the far edges of the online universe justified the blood lost.

"Theoretically, yes. Honestly, No," the band's first full-length offering and first release for Texas-based, Old House Records, is less bloodletting and more of a joyous celebration of that which came before.

Two years after releasing "Simple Machines," one of the founding members, Billy Hale (Vocals/Guitar), left North America and headed for Cambodia. Before he left, the band got some more music down on tape. In the midst of an ice storm, holed up at IBC studios in Irving, Texas, with some engineering help from Michael J. Scheuchzer, five new songs were born. Over the course of the next two years, in various home studios throughout the state, four additional songs were birthed, cared for and nurtured into maturity.

With the new band line-up, Brad Wofford (Vocals/Guitar/Rhodes/Banjo), Marc Atkinson (Guitar/Theremin/Bells), Cory Phifer (Drums), Chad Spier (Bass/Vocals) and Samantha Spier (Vocals/Tambourine) and these nine new songs, plus a closer, that has been with the band ever since TSS's debut, "Nina and the Wrong Note", The Southern Sea were set to unveil their new record. Beginning four years after "Nina," and ending four years after "Simple Machines"... this record occupies time.

Continuing on themes familiar to TSS fans, the songs document family unrest, the fears of playing live and respect for the natural world. While references to Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys still apply, and the banjo, Theremin and bells still find their way to center stage now and again, this record is a step forward. There is now an urgency to the music and a feeling that this is no longer a "project", but is now a living, breathing band.

So, with another record crafted with loving hands, and some brilliant mixing from
T. W. Walsh (Pedro The Lion, Headphones, Soft Drugs), The Southern Sea offers "Theoretically, Yes. Honestly, No" as a blood pact between them and you.