Two if By Sea
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Two if By Sea

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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"PopMatters Review"

Baltimore’s Two If by Sea have more in common with bands across the big ocean than they do anyone in their own city. Rich, lush, epic, grandiose, and theatrical are just a few of the many adjectives justly applicable to the music these guys make, whether it is the string section accenting “Safety (A)” or the tight, quasi-angular rock heard on “Report from Damage Control”, which instantly shifts into a nifty hi-hat propelled dance-rock tune. Think of Franz Ferdinand if fronted by David Bowie and you would get the picture here. Lead singer Cris Cowan has a timbre that brings to mind Interpol in some instances, especially on the fine “High Water Mark” and the equally infectious “Million to One”, which retraces steps found on an earlier tune. The smooth quality to each number results in an album that seems to know when to shift gears, with the dramatic “White Zin on Ice” taking the mood into some melancholic territory before galloping off into a golden sunset. There is nary a horrid song here, but there are some really great ones, such as “Mont Blan(k)”, which could have been found on Sam’s Town. The only one that leaves a somewhat sour taste is the electro-rock-by-numbers style of “Summer Borne for Sleep”.

rating = 7/10
-by Jason MacNeil -

"Albuquerque Tribune CD Reviews"

On its sophomore release, this Baltimore quartet dares you to play spot the influences (Joy Division via Interpol is the most obvious as on "The Leaf Storm"; "Summer Borne For Sleep"; and "Sight To Sound"; not that that's a bad thing). This is post-punk rock to a disco beat, as the almost atonal vocals, with a faux-Brit affectation, duke it out with the angular guitar chime ("All The Reasons To Leave").

Included are Interpol meets Franz Ferdinand ("Report From Damage Control") and rather unironic the Killers from their "Hot Fuss" daze ("High Water Mark"). These guys have the courage of their musical convictions, which is all one can ask for or expect. "Million To One" is guitar-driven New Wave, while "White Zin On-Ice" offers uplifting gloom.

There is a jarring disconnect between the vocals and music (especially on "Mont Blan(k)"), yet somehow it works beautifully.

Two If By Sea makes a landing at Burt's Tiki Lounge, 313 Gold Ave. S.W., for a free show at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The Booty Green and Empty Speech Bubble open the show. Call Burt's at 247-2878. - Albuquerque Tribune

" hey this is awesome!"

It's been two years since Baltimore's Two if by Sea released debut Translations, and the quartet are back with a darker dance-rock full-length, Safety (out Oct. 31). That album's "Million To One" highlights the band's affinity for stylishly foreboding dancehall anthems the Editors would likely approve of. Beginning with a heavily rumbling intro before erupting with catchy guitar lines resounding like synths, the song is as brooding as it is sugary. -

"Baltimore City Paper CD Review"

by J. Bowers

Much has changed for Two if by Sea in the three years since releasing Translations, the band’s debut album. Keyboardist Yuri Zietz has been dropped, and the band has gained a nervier, angrier sound, driven by vocalist/guitarist Cris Cowan’s confrontational baritone wail. Formerly tentative bassist John Jorde has mastered his instrument, joining drummer Chuck Cole to create a solid rhythmic backbone, something the group sorely lacked in the past. It’s also abandoned local indie label Speedbump in favor of Washington’s Silverthree, adding a two-piece string section on a few tracks, and eliminated the hissy technical shortcomings of the debut.

These drastic changes aside, Safety finds the band continuing to mine a particular vein of moody-yet-danceable, wish-we-were-British, Morrissey-meets-Factory Records post-postpunk. This time the debut’s disco shimmer is replaced with more emphasis on lead guitarist David Hardy, who frequently explores how the Edge might play guitar if he were being tortured in the seventh circle of Hell. "Million to One" is essentially one long chorus, with Cowan joyously crowing, "We are machines that make machines, we build machines to make machines," before collapsing into a delightfully fuck-off litany of "la-la-la-la-la-la." The whole song clocks in at just over two minutes, a welcome change from the band’s old tendency to overstay its welcome by just a few bars of looped keyboard.

An occasional derivative melody aside, Safety represents a major evolutionary step for Two if by Sea. This is most evident on the woefully bisected title track that bookends the album, a piece that proves that the band’s had more on its collective mind than pogoing crowds. Over sparse strings, acoustic guitar, and a chugging sample of a train, a curiously tender and melodic Cowan begins by admonishing anyone who says they’d rather "sleep when they’re dead," reminding us that "dreaming is the best part of sleeping." The closing half features the simple repeated refrain "I’m never going to die, someday." This is the futile, defiant, half-choked cry of a man who knows damn well that he’s going to die--and a smart and surprising move by a band that’s made its name by making people dance. - Baltimore City Paper

"Found in Translations"

The members of Two if by Sea hold secret band meetings and have forged a binding, lifelong pact. They're not trying to establish their own inner-sanctum cabal, however; this circle of five reminds you more of a boys' club riding bikes around the neighborhood searching for scrap wood to build tree houses. The meetings are usually about finding cheap places to meet and rehearse; the pact a promise among close friends rather than a blood-oath initiation. And three years into this promise Two if by Sea has smelted Translations, the band's Speedbump Records debut, a thickly layered, metric rock endeavor that builds on sounds the quintet remembers from its childhood.
"We made a pact," guitarist and vocalist Chris Cowan says between swigs of beer in the backyard of the Hampden duplex he shares with drummer Chuck Cole. "We all decided to do this until it's done, whatever that means."

His four band mates, sitting around the yard's koi pond, heartily concur. "We've all made a personal promise to do this band properly until it's finished," guitarist David Hardy says. "We practice a lot and have all sacrificed jobs and relationships to do this. We don't want to ride it out like a death march, but until that day comes we all know what's expected, and what we need to give up or postpone in order to make it work."

Despite the commitment to the band, describing the Two if by Sea sound proves elusive for the group. They note comparisons to the recent spate of Factory Records clones--Interpol, the Rapture, Radio 4 --and quickly dismiss them. "Our influences are spread over a broad spectrum," Hardy says. "But apparently they get narrowed down to [the] Factory Records output by a select few. Still, our intention is not to be a revival band of any sort. The fact that we pull influences from the Reagan era is due to our age and actually being around to listen to that stuff. I think five or six years can make a big difference. Kids who are coming of age now can't relate to that time musically in the same way that we do."

The group formed in late 2001, initially without Cowan or Zietz. Cole, Jorde, Hardy, and then-keyboard player Rob Nelson held surreptitious practices late nights at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County TV studio, but they didn't have a vocalist. Cowan entered after answering an ad in City Paper.

"We had over a hundred calls that I could tell right away didn't even warrant a personal meeting," Hardy says. "We were stoked the first practice with Cris."

At first, Cowan only sang. But he quickly added his guitar to the band's mix. "We weren't sure about his vocals at first," Cole says. "But when he showed up the first time I thought, Oh, he's got a van. We wanted someone who sounded like we wanted to at the time, but we've grown into working with Cris."

Zietz's arrival also encouraged the band to play out more frequently and hone its live sound, which has earned the group a loyal local following. "There's so much energy in the right crowd," Cowan says. "You can feel it coming right off the floor. You can almost make them dance. The record is called Translations because it's an interpretation of our live sound. The energy is still there, but we've embellished quite a bit. Records are pure, but live is raw."

Translations offers up a combo platter of sounds. While the drum, bass, and keyboards dance on top of 16th-note high-hat beats and tarantella footwork, the layered guitar work and the vocals achieve a sort of serenity in the center of the whirling. Cowan's baritone croons manic stanzas at the forefront of tightly wound accompaniment.

"There's been a lot of goth response," Cowan admits. "But maybe that's just because of my vocal style. I get compared to Peter Murphy a lot. The funny part is that the lyrics are anything but depressing."

The music steers a clear path around the goth theatricality of the Cleopatra Records stable, but black-nail-polish wearers could easily be fooled by the band's borrowings from early-'80s vocalists such as the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler or U2's Bono, two bands for which Two if by Sea admits admiration. Still, it's rare to hear an indie-rock band focus so tightly on emotionally vocalizing and complex material and still get fans to do more than pocket-tap and shoe-gaze. Two if by Sea's energetic songs leave little room for audience apathy, or ruffled cuffs and collars.

"What we're doing is ours," Cowan says. "We're going to take it to its logical conclusion."
by Ryan Boddy - Baltimore City Paper

"Featured Music Preview"

“Why must you put on / records that I know all the words to / it’s so easy for you to be comfortable,” sings Cris Cowan on “One Hundred Days,” and I know exactly what he means. It seems so easy for so many people: being comfortable, in their clothes and shoes, their homes and lives, their social circles. Comfort is both the goal and the enemy of Cowan and his Baltimore-based electro-rock band Two If By Sea, just as it was for the band’s immediate (and somewhat obvious) predecessors -- New Order, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Talk Talk. And while those are all records we know all the words too, so is Two If By Sea’s Translations, whether or not you’ve ever heard the band over the course of its two-year existence.

Because Translations is exactly as its title implies. These songs aren’t exactly unoriginal, packed as they are with melodic intensity and the new-wave equivalent of fist-pumping energy (like if the Scorpions had worn black eyeliner and written “Depress Me Like a Hurricane”). But after a few minutes of immersion, the words begin to translate easily: that rumbling hi-hat and electro-triggered snare drum, the stage-light-soaked vocal tics of a hundred gritty northern Englishmen’s angst, the anti-anthems of New Order and, more obscurely but accurately, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. But, like their big-name peers The Rapture, Two If By Sea has youthful vigor rather than Cure-reunion ho-hum, and the kids can’t get enough of danceable angst -- maybe a few old-timers will remember what made keyboards and guitars their teenaged chocolate and peanut butter, too.

Thank Pittsburgh’s latest jolt to the music scene, the Lovely Recordings umbrella grouping of indie-pop all-stars, for getting guitar pop as much as anyone has in a decade, and having the willpower to march through seas of swill to find the good stuff for you and bring it here. They celebrate their own energies with Two If By Sea and Sparks Fly From A Kiss at Lovely Showcase #2 -- the second in a series that will continue until the Red Bull wears off.
-by Justin Hopper
- Pittsburgh City Paper

"Fourplay - local review"

One of the great enigmas in the music world is why certain bands achieve massive success while others remain under the radar. It would have been quite reasonable for Baltimore’s Two if By Sea to break as big as the Bravery or the Killers, as their synth heavy retro sound could have just as easily appealed to the MTV2 masses. Add in the fact that Two if By Sea has been writing songs since 2001, and it becomes an even greater mystery why they have yet to reach a national audience. Even though they've recently lost their keyboard player, the band still recalls the best of groups such as Echo and the Bunnymen or the Church, with singer Cris Cowan’s powerful and unique vocal delivery sounding more Manchester than Baltimore.
-by Chris Connelly - On-Tap Magazine


Lately, the name Franz Ferdi-nand is often thrown around when describing Baltimore quintet Two if by Sea. So what exactly, if anything, do the well-dressed Marylanders have in common with their equally well-dressed Scottish counterparts? Besides the sharp suits and sharper haircuts, both bands pair the syncopated dance beats of early new wave with choppy guitars and smooth, disaffected vocals. But while the Scots tend to aim their rock at both the mind and body, Two if by Sea seem perfectly fine with providing the soundtrack for a sweaty, late-night bump-and-grind on the floor of a Manchester discotheque. The group currently are on tour with New York-based dance freaks Oxford Collapse. Art-rockers Bible Study will make a rare appearance to round out the bill. (Dec. 3, 9 PM, $5, 241 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 581-7090) - Metroland - New York

"Arts Live"

The first 12 seconds of "This Will Hurt Someone," the opener of Baltimore band Two If By Sea's forthcoming debut album Translations, lead into a pounding, disco-infused, rock-steady beat. It immediately touches on the post-punk revival sound best represented by groups like the Rapture and the Faint, but singer Cris Cowan's voice is also deep and dramatic, like Interpol's Paul Banks, who consequently sounds a lot like Ian Curtis, making the new wave/post-punk reference cycle complete. All comparisons aside, TIBS have their own dimensions, creating intense, surging dance rock that bounces and churns with theatrical elements and synth-driven melodies.
-by Cindy Yogmas - Pulp (pittsburgh)

"Nightlife Agenda"

If the post-punk revival stays strong into 2006, then Two If By Sea will be a name to remember. The Baltimore quintet, playing tonight at the Black Cat's backstage, can't be accused of jumping on a bandwagon, though. The group formed in 2001, when garage rock, not angular, dance-rock was all the rage. Over the years Two If By Sea has honed its sound, and if you heard a song like "100 Days" in between Interpol and The Rapture at (insert hip indie dance night), you likely wouldn't bat an eye. The four years together has also served to make the band a tight live unit.
By Fritz Hahn, Rhome Anderson and David Malitz Staff Writers -


"TRANSLATIONS" - 2004 / Speedbump Recs
•nine-track debut LP
•charted top-50 college radio lists
•college radio through AAM
•recieved high marks in print & web reviews

"SAFETY" - OCT 31st, 2006 / Silverthree Sound Recordings
•will feature 12 new tracks
•produced / engineered with J Robbins (of Jawbox, Burning Airlines fame; has produced the likes of: Against Me!, Jets to Brazil, The Promise Ring, Dismemberment Plan, Rahim, among others...)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Baltimore's Two if by Sea have been at the forefront of charm city's burgeoning rock scene for nearly five years now. Throughout this time they've honed their sound, progressing through two full-length albums & nonstop touring.

They've gained favorable comparisons to peers like Editors, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand, due to their dark yet melodic signature sound. At first glance these comparisons seem logical, even comfortable. Scratch the surface though, and Two if by Sea have an aesthetic that is all their own.

Expansive guitars work together to create ethereal soundscapes that can bring the coldest days to mind, but singer Cris Cowan's moody baritone has an air of familiarity that lures you toward the fire. Indeed, much of their new material owes as much to Godspeed or Sigur Rós as it does to anything released by Factory Records. Two if by Sea also possess an experimental nature that's not evident in their comparisons, choosing to bookend Safety (2006, Silverthree) with a title track featuring sparse strings and field recordings.

From their surreptitious beginnings rehearsing late nights in a college tv studio, Two if by Sea have been a mysterious animal. Never fully settling in a particular scene, they have chosen to mingle their way through several. They've often played with bands of a different genre, feeling as comfortable at evenings end as the patrons who showed that night expecting something else.

They've shared the stage with the likes of The Secret Machines, We are Scientists, and Ok Go, among others and have cris-crossed the country gathering fans along the way. Their most recent effort, Safety, was produced by J Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines), who helped them envision the next step in their progression.

In keeping up with their active schedule, Two if by Sea only promise to deliver more in the near future.