The Coast draws much more than waves into its open arms, and artists, poets, and musicians alike have been lured to California’s sunny shores for a multitude of fascinations. Retro pop-rock marauders A B & The Sea are a fresh continuation in that long legacy of creatives minds called to the Golden State. Currently residing in San Francisco, the group has made amazing leaps and bounds in a relatively short amount of time. With their new EP Run Run Run, they have created a whirlwind of buzz around their dreamy surf pop and swoon-worthy style.
How did the new EP come about? Did you say “Now it’s time for new songs to be put out” or was it a process that was built from the ground up?
Koley: We’re really, really lucky with our studio situation. We’re good friends with the owner, and we’re always there hanging out. The owner will have the intern let us demo our stuff. We started demoing, and realized we had all these new songs. We felt we needed to get them out, not because you can’t write a song that lives longer than that, but mostly just because when you have that much music it’s nice to get it out. I don’t want to be that band that only puts out one thing a year.
Troy: This EP also shows a different side of our musical abilities. Some of our other songs are a little bit different. We wanted to show our audience a different side of the band too.
You guys get the “Beach Sound” comparison quite a bit, but there is also a very strong British Invasion sound in your music as well, which I feel seems to get often overlooked by the press. How do you guys pull those influences into the band?
David: I think those bands being a part of our music is a very natural thing. Bands like The Kinks or The Zombies. It’s what we love, so it’s there.
Koley: Really, I think the thing we try to get into our music is the vocal harmonies. There is always that one lead singer doing the melody, along with the whole gang there doing the background “aaaahhhsss.”
Specifically for the song “In And Out” I hear a new sound coming on. It is very reminiscent of Pet Sounds, but at the same time it’s also very different in its tonal structure.
Koley: Yeah, that song is strange. It’s really not a pop song structure at all really. How that song came about was that I was at a BART stop, and there was a man playing the Banjo. He was playing an A Major chord over, and over, and over. I kind of just started humming this melody and I heard this melody over and over again afterwards. I started writing lyrics about this homeless guy playing banjo non-stop and the flow of the BART station. It eventually becomes a song about life, and a lot of different things.
Are there any bands that have come out recently that you really like?
Troy: Dale Earnheart Jr. Jr.
Joe: A band we all found out about recently that we really like are called Foster the People.
Koley: This band isn’t that new, but I’d definitely say the Mystery Jets.
Speaking of the Mystery Jets, do you find yourselves listening to a lot more foreign music?
Koley: We all sort of have our own little roles when it comes to keeping up with music. Troy is always down with the new local music scene. Joe is really, really into Top 40 shit. It’s all different. We all love pop music, and we have no shame in that. We all listen to old records around the house, probably more than anything, but on top of that we all like new music.
Joe: Dave is really into Jazz, and the blues. It creates a really interesting dynamic.
So on that topic, you guys do have a very retro-60’s feel to your music. Did this just happen out of the blue, or was it built out of your passion for older music?
Koley: It didn’t really start off like that.
Joe: We sounded really different when we started out, back when we first met.
Koley: Joe and I started by ourselves, because we didn’t have a full band. The point of the band was to be a little more simple, and less produced than a lot of the stuff that was going on, hence “A B & The Sea”. People thought we had a somewhat “beachy” vibe, but it was just two acoustic guitars. We started meeting more people, and I began to write little vocal harmonies. It really became this thing where I was saying “Lets add this, and add this! And add this!” It was really not at all what the point of the band was when we started, but it turned into this homage, to all the music that we love, but also keeping it alive in a new way that still makes sense and is relevant.
It’s funny that you say that, because you guys have a cover song of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”. That’s a very modern song. Explain a little bit about why you chose that track?
Joe: When the song came out, my girlfriend had showed it to me. I just instantly loved it. At the time, we were listening to a lot of Beach Boys. We tossed around the idea of covering it but kept saying “Oh, it’s just going to be too cheesy.” But then someone said “Well, what if we did it, but just added a Beach Boys twist onto it” to make it more our style.
Koley: We also did it because we’re all into different things, and we wanted to show people that even though we love this vintage style of music, we’re still fans of pop music. It has a great melody, it’s a song about California, and we’re a very California sounding band. Lets do it man!
Troy: We’re “Hip Popsters.”
At the same time, you guys also did a cover of The Zombies! Did you guys go into that cover wanting it to be pure and simple, or did you also want to try some new stuff with it?
Koley: That was a weird one. It just happened. We were recording for the new EP, and I was sitting at the piano. The engineer Patrick said “Alright, we’re rolling. You gonna do that cover song?” I said ok! So I laid down the piano and then we began adding stuff to it.
What are some of the difficulties of pursuing music full-time?
Koley: I think the hardest thing is that being a band is a catch-22. You do it because you love it, and it doesn’t necessarily matter about the money, but in order to keep going you need the money to fund your band. So in order to make that money, do you play high-paying gigs? Do you get your music onto a movie with a synch or licensing deal? You try to dedicate as much time to the band as you can, but in the down time you give your time to your job to have money, but then you don’t have time for the band.
Do you ever find yourself doing that? Working more than playing music just to stay afloat?
Joe: We kind of luck out. We all live together. We’re all invested together in the same project. It makes it easier. We help each other out.
Do you guys see yourselves being somewhere else musically in the future? Are there new places you’d like to go musically?
Koley: We have so much music right now, and there is some stuff that we’d like to put out, but would honestly scare the shit out of our fans. I think we’d like to put out a folkie album to show off some of our more country and folk sounds that we’re really into. A lot of the music that Dave writes is different too.
David: Yeah, just a lot of different time signatures, and things of that nature.
Koley: We really try to throw in as much stuff as we can get away with. Maybe that’s an interesting time signature that doesn’t scare the listener.
David: If it’s all done well, you don’t even notice it completely.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
Troy: My joint rolling abilities.
David: I guess it’s more individual *laughs*
Joe: We try really hard to focus on making a great piece of music. Even down to how we sequence the music on the album, there is a lot of thought that goes into that. Making great music is really our goal.
Koley: We strive really hard at not writing a song that is a trend. We try to write songs that can fit in with songs that we wrote ten years ago, and maybe songs ten years from now.
Interview by Nikolaus Bartunek
Photos by Jayne Liu