For local duo The Sea The Sea, getting on stage for the first time since the pandemic began was surreal.
“Last week marked our first shows back beyond our computer screen, and I think we’re still processing how it all feels again within an even deeper appreciation for what it all means,” said Chuck and Mira Costa in an email interview. “That’s all mixed in with easing back into traveling again and still processing so much of what we’ve all experienced during this time. It feels so good to return to the real-time conversations that we have with our audiences through the songs, etc. It all feels wholly familiar and wholly new again.”
The indie-folk duo will perform on Saturday as part of the Caffè Lena @ SPAC festival. They’ll be joined on the Charles R. Wood Stage by The Lost Radio Rounders and the Jean Rohe Trio. The Rad Trads, The Kruger Brothers and Kiran Ahluwalia Trio will take the stage on Sunday.
During the last year and a half, the Costas have been busy, though not necessarily in the ways they expected to be. When the pandemic started, they were in the midst of creating their album “Stumbling Home,” which they worked on with Todd Sickafoose. On top of that, they had just gotten their first record deal.
“Any plan we were working towards was completely shifted on its head with the beginning of COVID and so we began to imagine what kind of process we could create together at a distance that made us feel like we’re in a room together. We worked with Todd to tease apart what parts of each demo already recorded that we wanted to keep, and what parts we wanted to refine/elevate/add to,” the Costas said.
Much of “Stumbling Home” was recorded at the Takk House in Troy, though some parts are from Sickafoose’s home studio in Oregon and Matthias Kunzli’s studio in California.
The album, which they released in August, is filled with delicate melodies. Chuck and Mira’s voices blend perfectly, making for a sometimes sweet, sometimes soulful sound. Glide Magazine dubbed the album “remarkably moving” and NPR spotlighted the title track on “All Songs Considered.”
“The process of releasing that record has felt new to us in many ways. It felt incredible to have the team at AntiFragile in addition to our own team to collaborate with. We felt supported and less isolated within a constantly shifting climate of uncertainty within the music industry [and the world], and ultimately landed on it feeling like an important time to release the collection of songs we’d created—for ourselves as a creative focus and for our community of listeners,” the Costas said.
In the ensuing months, they kept up the pace and released a holiday EP called “Stumbling Home [For The Holidays].” In some ways, the Costas said releasing those albums and working on all of the projects that came with it, including music videos, design work, livestreaming, etc., was more intense than touring.
“. . . but we had a constant source of inspiration, no shortage of new technology to learn [on all fronts], and deadlines to keep us moving. So we were grateful, and have continued to be grateful, as artists who have rarely spent more than a couple of weeks off the road in the last few years, to have had some guideposts from the album release to help create a structure and creative practice for ourselves being at home for such an extended time,” the Costas said.
They also had a chance to write and record more during those months, and livestream through a Patreon page.
Finally this month, they got back to playing live and in-person shows and they’re both excited to finally perform songs from their new album.
“There were only a few we’d played live prior to COVID and all we’ve played since in livestreams — but hearing those songs in a space outside of our headphones — hearing sounds move through the air outdoors — it’s like hearing them again for the first time in so many ways,” the Costas said.
They’re slated to perform from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Saturday during Caffè Lena @ SPAC festival.
The collaboration between the two arts venues started in 2017 and has taken on a few different iterations.
“We’ve done several editions of ‘Caffè Lena @ SPAC’ and it’s one of the most-requested events of the year. The audience gets to enjoy a couple regional favorites, and also discover some fresh new sounds from the national scene,” says Sarah Craig, executive director of Caffè Lena.
“Our theme this year is the roots of branches of global folk music.”
The Lost Radio Rounders will kick the festival off with American folk music from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Sea The Sea, who play from 1:30-2:30 p.m., and the Jean Rohe Trio, slated to perform from 3-4 p.m., merge rock and pop.
Then on Sunday, from noon to 1 p.m., the New York City-based Rad Trads will bring its blend of folk, jazz and pop to the stage. From 1:30-2:30 p.m. Grammy-nominated The Kruger Brothers bring bluegrass to the festival, followed from 3-4 p.m. by the Kiran Ahluwalia Trio, which merges folk traditions from Africa, India and North America.
Performances will take place rain or shine. Attendees can bring food, drink, blankets and lawn chairs. For more information visit spac.org or caffelena.org.
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