Two if By Sea
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Two if By Sea

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The best kept secret in music


"Two If By Sea making a mark."

The new-wave / post-punk revival is all the rage and Baltimore's Two If By Sea produces the same type of dance-oriented rock that has made pop culture media swoon for the likes of The Rapture, The Killers and Franz Ferdinand.

The melodies, guitars and vocals will occasionally remind you of Interpol or Joy Division, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Don't mistake this for a band that can only mimic their influences, however. Two If By Sea will ultimately leave an impression on you because they add their own dimension to a sound that still captures the mood or ambience of their apparent influences.

With one full-length CD already in their discography, "Translations" on Speedbump Records, the band is planning to release another come late 2004/early 2005. It will be interesting to see exactly how this band evolves. - Crave Online

"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."

All five, ranging in age from the mid-20s to early 30s, share this certainty about their musical future, less so about their current day jobs. Cowan is a sous chef at Vespa in Federal Hill, Hardy is a freelance graphic designer, bassist John Jorde works at a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, keyboardist Yuri Zietz also works in restaurants, and drummer Cole works in graphic design, too.

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."

In October of 2003 Nelson left the band, and Two if by Sea continued as a quartet before enlisting Zietz. "He had been in a band called the Dolly Sods," Hardy says. "We played one show as a four-piece at the Ottobar back in October with the Black Keys, and then Yuri [Zietz] was in. He picked it up quick, too, which allowed us to keep writing without having to revert back too far."

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 emotio - Baltimore City Paper

"Two If By Sea / Sparks Fly From A Kiss Two if by Sea / Comfortably Numb"

“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. - Pittsburgh city Paper

"LIVE THIS WEEK / Two if by Sea"

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. Regulars on the Baltimore and D.C. circuits, the group is on their first real, in-depth tour in support of the album, to be released this spring on Speedbump Records.

Local group Bleeder also conjures the sound of 1980s new wave and pop-rock bands. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Felmley sings with a unique inflection, sometimes with a quivering emphasis on certain lyrics, sometimes with a soft falsetto and at other times with a deep bellow that carries the melody with a strong resonance. They're currently in the midst of recording a full-length album at Mr. Small's, but tonight marks the release of a four-song EP that serves as an appropriate introduction to a band we're bound to hear a lot from in the near future.

-- CINDY YOGMAS - PULP (pittsburgh)


AWESOME throwback to 80s new wave. I normally hate that stuff, but these guys do the New Order thing pretty well, modernizing it with some toe-tapping dance punk. Very nice mix of electro drums, deep low vocals, and crisp guitar. Check out the disco-y "Contract" (Speedbump) -

"Two if by Sea, Oxford Collapse, Bible Study"

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: The alternative newsweekly of New York's Capital Region


2005-EP-'Post Surgery'


Feeling a bit camera shy


Two if by Sea prowl through the musical darkness of passion and desire...the small places and shadows that stir the intellect and make you want to move. The live show is where it's at, just ask some of the bands we've shared the stage with: the Secret Machines, OK GO, IMA Robot, Elkland, and Action Action to name a few...we bring it hard and always set the bar.