Trains Across the Sea
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Trains Across the Sea

Columbus, Ohio, United States | SELF

Columbus, Ohio, United States | SELF
Band Folk Americana

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"Trains Across the Sea - Thanks For Coming Out Tonight"

By Abbey Miller

Sometimes, a musician comes along that just connects with your soul. Every epic song and every timeless lyric speak to you in the most moving way. Its like they’ve read your diary and wrote songs based on your experiences. When that happens, its like the clouds part and the great power above has guided you to that particular artist at just the right time in your life to remind you you’re not alone. Then again, sometimes a musician comes along who connects to you in a less epic, but equally relevant way.

Andy came directly to our office on his fixed speed, braving the harsh weather and downtown traffic to drop off one of his CDs. The least I could do was give it a listen right? I pop it in, not really expecting too much (not because of Andy, just because of the general feeling of disappointment I get from most local music.) I was blown away. Every track was dripping with sarcasm and undeniable truths about life for all the starving artists and broke college kids in C-Bus. If Jimmy Buffet had an illegitimate love child with Bob Dylan, he’d probably strive to sound like Andy.

Most of the tracks sound like live recordings, or perhaps they were recorded in a bathroom on a cassette tape, but it actually adds to the listening experience rather than detract. It somehow makes it more sincere. My favorite track, Wheat Bread is basically an outline of my daily life. Like going to parties where I don’t know the host, but commandeer the kitchen anyway and take all the beer I can, or sitting next to the window for free Wi-Fi. And how about those kids who tie their bikes on the no parking signs- you know they do that for the irony. Its nice to know I’m not the only one who chuckles about that. He really takes the experience of life of a broke ass artist and/or college kid, puts it to a tune and lets the honesty flow.

Holiday[s] reminds me of Christmas when my distant cousins decide to drop in- running through the motions, pretending to care, but as Andy says “faking it is better than a holiday alone.” So if you are into folky, acoustic, poorly organized honesty check get on your bike and check out Trains Across The Sea. - Melt Magazine


"Everyone Aboard"

By David S. Lewis

(Original Article)

Glance at the clock to uncross your eyes, dry from hours of staring at your computer screen . . . time passing at horribly subsonic speeds. Sit in dead-stop traffic on the freeway, filled with violent thoughts for the other motorists. Get home and yank your lawnmower out of the shed and shove it up and down your yard, constant mortal combat with the strange forces of suburban nature, and convince yourself that this, in fact, is what you would rather be doing . . . this, instead of sailing a boat around the Caribbean like a pirate, or flying a kite, or a helicopter, or a homemade rocket ship.

Learn to enjoy the grind, and forget your childish dreams of freedom.

Or quit your job, and go start a folk band.

At least, that worked for Andy Gallagher.

The 26-year-old former engineer said that, after two years working in the oil and gas industry in Dublin, he quit his high-paying job, paid off his debts, and dedicated his life to playing music. All he had to do was learn how.
Lynsay Bensman, 28, worked with Gallagher at the engineering firm he left.

“He was a really good engineer, but that just wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life,” she said in an interview. “Everyone at work loved him. Even the VPs and the bosses thought it was great, that he was following his passion.”

Genesis of a folk hero

Gallagher had been playing guitar and harmonica for some time, but he claims Dave Casto, who runs karaoke “10 days a week at various venues,” taught him how to sing.

“He allowed a space, a venue, a moment, where you are allowed to walk in, piss drunk, amplify yourself, and scream your favorite songs in the world,” he said. “Just the opportunity to do that on a regular basis, that’s how someone teaches you to sing. He was like, ‘Well, we aren’t going to kick him out of the bar, I guess.’”

Gallagher spent the next year or so mapping out a project, a concept band called Trains Across the Sea, a reference to a song by indie band Silver Jews.

“I had an entire year of this being my sole focus,” he said.

“And that’s exactly why I started this band,” reads the band’s website. “It’s not that music is powerless to undo the crimes [of corrupt lobbyists and others] of this country, but that music is essential to developing the good and right foundation in those who will inevitably replace them.”

Not many bands have a mission statement. The ones that do tend to sound preachy and are then not quite as entertaining. If Trains Across the Sea has an agenda, it is endemic, not overt; though some songs are clearly possessed of a message (Bikes are cheaper than cars . . . bikes, they are cheaper than cars, the slightly political refrain of “I Just Want to Get Paid,” for example), they remain entertaining and largely light-hearted.

The band instead uses positive energy as a tool of conversion with an overwhelming message: Do what you want to do, and not what you think you are supposed to do.

“I was asked last week, ‘What’s the best part about being in Trains?’” Gallagher told me at the Taj Mahal open mic night, the musical farm from which he mines future members. “I told him, ‘There’s no longer a difference between what I want to do and what I am doing,”‘ he said. “That’s the best part.”

“I think there’s something very intentionally captivating, that there’s this guy on stage who has ‘Be The Change’ written on his guitar, who quit his job, who’s trying to play music in front of people – that’s all very intentionally designed,” he said. “Are you where you want to be? Man, I hope that what you are doing is what you want to do. Do what you want to do,” he said, restating the idea emphatically.

That sentiment, presented by the wrong kind of guy, could be an infuriating and cocky one, but the affable Gallagher seems so earnest, so caring, that you have to consider the question. The kid’s handsome and open, boisterous and jovial . . . and could have been rich as hell, parking a Beemer in front of a McMansion with a trophy lady and a herd of talking purebreds.

Instead, when I arrived at his campus-area house, we drank beer on the porch in the dark, presumably because the bulb had burned out. His comfy furnishings are undeniably modest, and the real action there occurs in the basement, as the normally acoustic act transitions into a plugged-in legit band, with keyboardist Sharon Udoh (aka Counterfeit Madison) on the keys, Adrian Jusdanis on violin, and Joe Gilliland on the electric guitar, with plans to add a drummer later this summer.

Evolution

Trains Across the Sea truly is more an idea than an actual band, as evidenced by its constantly revolving door. The incarnation that played last year’s ComFest was entirely revamped only a few months later. Recently, audiences have been treated to an all-acoustic version of the band, with only Gallagher’s guitar and Jusdanis’ violin roaming the center of the crowd, lyrics often roughly shouted over furious strumming and searing violin solos.

“It reduces the boundary between the audience and whoever is on stage,” said Gallagher enthusiastically. (That’s how he says most things.) “Also, it makes it immediately timeless,” he continued. “The technology of the guitar and the fiddle have existed for a long, long time, and so you are digesting it the same way it was heard like 500 years ago.”

As Jusdanis transitions now out of Trains to focus on his other band, Arlo and the Otter, the project’s lineup has changed again. With the relatively recent additions of Sharon’s keys and Joe’s electric guitar, Gallagher has found it necessary to abandon the all-acoustic set in order to be heard. His bandmates are talented and thoughtful, artfully augmenting Gallagher’s songwriting, gracing the slow ones with melodic phrases and harmony singing and imbuing the faster songs with the force of a semi truck careening across the open highway, leaving plenty of space in the music, giving it an open and honest quality that is currently rather rare.

Despite the formidable talent of the current band, Gallagher sees Trains as a constant evolution of music and musicians.

“The reunion show for Trains will have, like, a thousand people,” he laughed. “Who are all phenomenal, which is really weird, because when I started, I was really new, and when you see the talent on this board – it’s just incredible.”

The music lends itself well to both the mission and the presentation of the band. Gallagher relies on a definition of folk music from Bonnie Prince Billy’s Will Oldham:

“Folk music is any music that you get together and play and sing with your friends,” he said. “Anything you all know is folk music.”

“And that’s what we are trying to do with Trains,” he said. “You know: we want a community, for a moment, for an evening, for a set . . .” - 614 Magazine


"Trains Across the Sea - Local Roundup"

By Chris Deville

A couple of years back, Trains Across the Sea mastermind Andy Gallagher quit his job as an engineer to pursue creative endeavors full time. Philosophically, it was an admirable move. From a practical standpoint, I worried that Gallagher’s music wasn’t good enough to justify pouring his life into it.

Plenty of amazing bands have worked their asses off only to toil in obscurity. Then again, lots of bands that fall short of amazing hit it big, often by keeping their nose to the grindstone, Gallagher-style.

It’s a crapshoot. But after seeing Trains Across the Sea last Wednesday at Rumba Cafe, I’m a lot less concerned about Gallagher’s life direction.

One gripe with the frontman before was that it seemed like he was trying too hard, blowing up his enthusiastic showman persona to an obnoxious extent. When your band is just you and maybe one sidekick and your goal is to rock, you have to get hyped. Unless your songs absolutely kill, though, the result can be a performance that’s all exclamation point, no sentence.

Trains’ latest lineup solves that problem. Gallagher is now backed by the DewDroppers, a ragtag crew whose sound traipses drunkenly between Tin Pan Alley and the local saloon.

His songs feel completely different in their hands – more relaxed and natural, though certainly still rambunctious when they ought to be. Any step away from the nasal naivete of folk-punk acts like Ghost Mice is a step in the right direction.

Gallagher’s not writing emo songs, after all, so the tempered yet rollicking “Like a Rolling Stone” vibe conjured by his new players fits better with the reflective lyrics he’s been spouting from the beginning.

Words have always been his strength. With simple observations, he captures freewheeling twentysomething life in all its glory (“Let’s go stealing girlfriends from the boyfriends we don’t know”) and its shame (“If we sit by the window, the internet’s free”).

I still find his vocal affectations a little off-putting – is he Johnny Cash? Elvis Presley? – but considering how much Gallagher has improved this operation over the past year, there’s a good chance he’ll get that sorted out too. - Columbus Alive


"Trains Across the Sea - Greetings From the Peach District"

My expectation when a band names itself after another band's song is that the new artist will closely resemble his source material. But considering Radiohead was named after a Talking Heads song, the association is sometimes rather loose.

Andy Gallagher named his band Trains Across the Sea after a shambling indie-rock classic by Silver Jews, and while that band's ghost hangs heavy over Gallagher's songwriting - particularly his lyrics - he shows himself to be more than a David Berman obsessive on his latest EP.

Gallagher has a knack for laid-back acoustic slacker jams that maintain a similar sensibility even as he seems to adopt a new persona for each song. The shifts can be jarring - consider his unpleasant Tom Waits/Cookie Monster grumble on "Wheat Bread" - but on the rousing, clever "Gods of Rock and Roll," his chameleon tricks work wonders.

No matter how he contorts his baritone drawl, Gallagher is usually saying something insightful about post-collegiate life. Abrasive vocals can't ruin "Wheat Bread," a relatable tale of stealing Wi-Fi and locking bikes to street signs, while "Holidays" presents old insights in a pleasing new way. And "The Cobbler's Blues" offers a relevant query in this day and age: "What were you doing the night they changed the sign from Larry's into Senor Buckeyes?" - Columbus Alive


"The hippie speedball - Trains Across the Sea"

For those who didn't go to a liberal arts school or camping with a friend with dread locks; a hippy speed ball is a hit of good weed followed by strong coffee. Simply a great way to start a weekend or a "sick day" when you are under 30. I bring this up because Trains Across the Sea remind me of great music for taking a day off school, work, or life in general. "Wheat Bread" sounds like Oscar the Grouch grabbed the mic at a happy hour in spring break and pulled it off, big time. It is fun, irreverent, and has a sense of humor that is purposeful enough to keep it fresh. It is a bit goofy, but, perfect for fans of John Hartford, Jerry Garcia's "not for kids only", and local to the Mid-west and Columbus; Eric Nassau. This music will be a groovy mothers little helper to remind you of sunny days doing some day drinking and walking with your shoes off. On the other hand, "Run away with Me"; is a bit more somber and demonstrates a gravitas that would be an appreciated foil of "Wheat Bread". However, even on a more somber number Trains Across the Sea still has a trickle of humor that keeps things light and refreshing. So take a listen to both of these fun folk goo balls and play a little boche ball on the lawn. Maybe life will always be this good. - Smoking Owl


Discography

Trains
Thanks for Coming Out Tonight (5 songs): August 2010 [multiple songs with radio airplay]
Greetings From the Peach District (6 songs): June 2009 [multiple songs with radio airplay]

Photos

Bio

Andy Gallagher started Trains Across the Sea in early 2007. His songs had a unique take on heartache and shed some optimistic light on darker corners of post-collegiate life ("sad songs are happy songs for when you're sad"). By 2010 and a few albums later, he finally found the musicians he had been looking for all along.

Now comprised of Cincinnati legend Sharon Udoh (The Newbees, Lines and Spaces), Toledo virtuosos Joe Gilliland and Adam Nedrow (The Red Bags), and multi-instrumentalist Mike Kohn, the band has created a respectable buzz for themselves in Columbus, OH with an exhilarating live show.