the sea thieves
Chad Van Gaalen, Sparklehorse, Arcade Fire
Listening to music by The Sea Thieves has the gentle power to take you to a laid back place that almost feels like it's from another time. Using unique instruments, like the piano accordion, ukulele and a singing saw they build an atmosphere that creaks and bends like an old swing in your grandmother's garden. Blissful stuff.
Interview: 5 February 2007
Describe your music.
Our music is all about atmosphere. We combine old and new instruments with the hiss and pop of noisy samples to create a distinctive feel. Our song writing is a mix of old country soul and minor melodies delivered in a soothing and laid back way.
Who’s been a big musical influence for you? What inspires you?
Tom Waits is, without a doubt, our favourite muse. His take on modern music and his use of forgotten instruments blend seamlessly with a very old style of song writing. One of the best things about being influenced by someone like Tom is that you’ll never sound like him.
We are simply inspired by music that has soul. It might be the jangling pop melodies of the La’s or the orchestral wonder of the Arcade Fire, it just has to have that certain, indescribable something.
Tell us about the local music community you are part of.
Adelaide musicians support each other.
We own and run The Jade Monkey (a live music venue) and we have discovered that 90% of our punters are either in a band or play an instrument. Over the last four years we have witnessed and assisted the implosion of Adelaide musicians who are making noise around the country. Because of the camaraderie of this local community we have formed friendships and been involved purely on the strength of our recordings. A real effort is made in Adelaide to take the time to listen to each other’s music and to attend each other’s shows.
What’s the best thing about being in The Sea Thieves?
Having the freedom to take our time and tinker endlessly with our recordings till we’re satisfied.
The beauty of the sea thieves is that we are not relying on anyone to keep making music. We are open to any positive help that comes our way but not constricted to what the industry offers. We have seen too many bands pack it in because they needed that illusive contract to make it worthwhile. We are self sufficient in recording and writing and are determined to keep producing records for as long as our bodies and minds allow.
..and the worst?
Finding that fine line between taking your time and getting your act together.
You say "We like to use old sounds to create something new." What do you mean by this - can you give us some examples?
We have always loved the atmosphere created by old instruments and an older school of recording. We want to make records that have imperfections like an old 78”. Simplicity is the main goal, songs that can be sung around the campfire, but we don’t shy away from modern technology either.
On our debut record we have employed the use of timeless instruments like the piano accordion, an old German toy piano, a ukulele and a singing saw. We try to use these sounds in a contemporary way, to make them relevant but still retain their unique voices.
What have you got planned for the future?
We are going to keep making music.
The aim of the sea thieves is to get our music as far and wide as we possibly can. We currently have a debut album called “hiding in the shade” that’s going to be released in a couple of months at the Jade Monkey. We primarily want this record to be available in every state of Australia and then we’ll work from there.
Our hope in the long term is to play in small indie clubs around the globe, gigs where you are part of a small, but dedicated audience.
The shows where people really listen.
Australian music is…
Constantly re-defining where it can tread. We are proving ourselves to be a country of such musical diversity that almost nothing is untouchable anymore. There seems to be bright and positive streak in our artists and a belief that we can equal, if not better our peers all over the globe. Huzzah!