Getting To Know... Sam & The Sea

Having spent the formative years of the band enveloped in the New Jersey hardcore punk scene during his youth, Sam & The Sea has now found refuge in a more mellow indie-rock guise as he delivers his stunning debut single 'The Light'.

Treading a line somewhere between LCD Soundsystem and Elliott Smith, the Queens-based frontman delivers a wonderfully warm and pulsing new offering. With a distinct influence of the post-punk sound, this haunting yet captivating new release looks set to see the artist begin a long and promising career ahead.

So with his new single firmly on our radar, we sat down with him to find out more about his earliest influences and what drives him in his newest pursuit.


What were the first instruments you fell in love with?

I have a clear memory of seeing a man on TV with a guitar and feeling a strong connection, I could have been 3 or 4 years old. I knew very early that music was important. At a certain point it occurred to me to ask for piano lessons, and I studied piano and then guitar. I also sang in the school choir, and played percussion, snare and timpani, in the orchestra. Guitar and drums have always fascinated me because there’s so many ways to play the same note. At some point I also picked up the bass because a band needed a bass player.

What has been the most prominent inspiration behind your music so far?

It’s really just a compulsion to make music at this point, having an idea of something I want to hear and trying to make it real. As a kid I had a CD of 50s rock like Buddy Holly that I listened to over and over. The first emotional connection I had to music was a tape of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s Soul Rebels, maybe at the end of elementary school. I was very inspired by a jazz band teacher I had in high school, Dr Biancasino—one of my classmates actually made a movie where he’s the inspiration for a character, but the bad guy, this movie called Whiplash, a real movie with JK Simmons as the Dr B character. It was crazy seeing that come out, I’m sure Dr B would have loved being in a movie no matter what—to me though he was not a bad guy, an intense guy but the first person who let me take myself seriously as a musician, very encouraging and demanding, in a way that elevated a lot of people into a deep relationship with music. Funny enough John Popper is an alumn of the same high school jazz band, he played a harmonica solo once with us over the phone. But it wasn’t until I started getting into electronic music and going to parties at clubs in NYC that I got addicted to the idea of making music, where it seemed like it was actually possible for one person to put together all these sounds and ideas and give people such an intense experience, and give meaning and value to other intense communal experiences where you could totally lose your ego, at least for a while.

What kind of music did you love as a teenager?

I was really all over the place. As a young teen I listened to a lot of heavy metal like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, then started getting into the local NJ punk scene which was heavily influenced by bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat—I snuck out and took the bus late at night to punk and hardcore shows in New Brunswick, a lot of bands, I remember especially liking the Degenerics. After high school graduation I got really into different kinds of dance music, deep house and drum n bass, and also into more lyrical music, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith. Top track of all time is still Bjork’s Hidden Place.

When you wake up in the morning, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

I listen to the radio in the morning, or I watch daytime TV. My brain feels fuzzy in the morning and I don’t usually intentionally consume music until night, when I’ll be like, oh I really want to hear Cannibal Ox or whatever.

How many of your songs have you written about people in your life?

I like some of the work of confessional poets like Robert Lowell, the way they take that material and find poetry in it without being like a diary. I’ve never written a song that was about like one person, but I may take a memory or whatever and put that in. But I’m trying to imagine the future, not record the present.

What have been the most memorable moments in your career so far?

The moment I first wrote a song, all at once, and knew I had something, that I could do this, was rewarding enough that I’m still at it after everything. Getting signed was very exciting and validating, as well as seeing the success of music I’ve produced for other artists, like Siv Disa. And I love playing shows—my favourite so far was a set I played at Rubulad in Bushwick—a great group of people, and a really fun night. I really can’t wait to play more, whenever that can happen again.

If you weren’t musicians, what other path do you think you might have taken?

Roboticist, drifter, depressed filing clerk.


Sam & The Sea's new single 'The Light' is available to stream and download now. Have a listen to it in the player below.