When you think of State College bands, your minds may easily drift to bar bands jamming at The Phyrst or Cafe 210. Though the likes of My Hero Zero and Lenina Crowne are classics at Penn State and supply an amazing atmosphere, there’s a softer, indie folk sound on the rise in Happy Valley.
You may remember Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora, the musicians behind Tapestries, an indie folk duo who performed for local house shows in the area. After re-branding under the new name “Sea Offs”, the duo went off on their own musical endeavor. Since then, they’ve been busy touring the East Coast and producing their own full length album.
The album, “What’s The Point,” is getting airtime on radio stations across the country. It entered the NACC charts at #172 last week, which accounts for releases from many major artists. The pair was even higher than Alt J’s new single at one point (impressive, considering Alt J has toured and performed for major music festivals and opened for Kings of Leon). Sea Offs growing popularity doesn’t stop there — two of its song, “Leave” and “Unfound,” were featured on the Mostly Strings YouTube page where they collectively garnered over 215,000 views.
Arora and Price worked with a group of friends on different instruments to create the nine-track masterpiece. Sea Offs were recently featured on WXPN’s The Key, a radio station dedicated to Philadelphia’s music scene. “Yearning songs punctuated by washes of synthesizer ambience, stately flugelhorn and dreamlike guitar expanses,” John Vetesse of WXPN writes. “If you dig Beth Orton, Ida, Land of Talk or Laura Marling, you will find lots to love here.”
We caught up Sea Offs about the new album, its time in State College, and the future of the band.
Onward State: Describe your experience producing this album as a band tied to a small town like State College, a destination not necessarily on the forefront of the music or production scene. Did you find yourselves working in cities like Philadelphia?
Rashmit: “Well, State College is where this project was born, so it’s always going to hold a special place in our hearts. That being said, it is a small community, and that makes it easy for artists to reach a saturation point relatively quickly. We’ve tried to stray away from that; we’re constantly pushing our music across avenues beyond the boundaries of Centre county and PA. Olivia lives in Philadelphia now, so that’s starting to become kind of a hub for us. I still live in State College because I work for Penn State, so State College won’t be out of the equation for the foreseeable future.”
Olivia: “What’s great about making music in a small, musically-unrecognized town is that there are so many resources available to you. Not only is there a studio on-campus, but, between all of the different music groups affiliated with Penn State, you pretty much have every instrument at your disposal. As far as our tie to Philly, that exists really only because I live there. We play shows there every so often, but I’d venture to say that the heart and soul of Sea Offs is in State College.”
OS: Where did you connect with everyone involved with the album/collaboration?
Rashmit: “Producing this record was such a learning experience for me because I got to work and create with this remarkably talented group of individuals. Almost every musician that played on the record is a friend that went to Penn State with us — a big advantage of living in a college town like State College. For instance, Sebastian Goodridge, who played drums and aux percussion on the record, works in the same studio as I do, and was in Olivia’s undergraduate class — he was kind of our default choice when we decided to add rhythm to our music (because he’s a stellar drummer). He had a strong voice in molding the sound of this record, as did all the other musicians that played on it. The remaining musicians that feature on the record also joined the project through similar musical connections, and we’re so incredibly grateful to all of them.”
Olivia: “Most of the people who are featured on the album are in jazz band or the orchestra, so they were thrilled to be able to contribute their talents in a more nontraditional way. You kinda wind up growing as musicians together in the process.”
OS: Describe this album’s sound in your own words and what it means to you. What is the meaning behind “What’s The Point?” What do you want your listeners to feel or take away from your piece?
Rashmit: “It’s a bigger, fuller, more dynamic sound, as compared to our first EP. The instrumentation is more diverse. The songwriting is a bit more complex. And it’s lyrically honest and relevant – the aspect to our music I am, personally, most proud of.
I think Olivia might give a different answer to this, but to me, the question ‘What’s the Point?’ really struck a chord, given where I was in my life when we were naming this album. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stay in this country beyond May, and I didn’t know what I was going to do if I went back to India, so I was asking this question an awful lot about everything I was doing — even regarding this album, because nothing seemed to hold any ultimate purpose, and the uncertainty was deafening. But even beyond my own experience, I feel like it’s a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves over the past few months. It seems to be in the climate. It reflects in the album artwork too, which was depicted beautifully by a State High student — Sofi Skidgel.“
Olivia: “If I had to choose a genre, I’d say we’re Emotional Alt-folk! I think Rashmit and I have a really great dynamic. I write really personal, emotionally-charged lyrics & Rashmit does a spectacular job of translating those words into sounds. We both love songs that make you feel something; those songs that suck you in and fill you with warmth and solace. That’s the kind of music that sticks with you. And all I’ve ever wanted to do in music is to provide an outlet and source of comfort for another person.“
OS: Where do you hope to see Sea Offs in the future? Do you envision your band staying on the east coast and making a bigger presence in Philly? Do you think your experiences at Penn State and State College have influenced your sound or perspective on music in an artistic sense?
Rashmit: “Opening for some neat indie folk band, I guess? Who knows. I’d definitely like to travel beyond the east coast though.“
Olivia: “Ah, yeah, good question! When we first started working on this album, we both were kind of thinking this was our last chance because Rashmit was originally planning on going back to Mumbai. Now that he’s doing the grad school thing, we have at least another year and a half! I’ve been in a lot of musical projects since high school, and I know in my gut that the kind of writing chemistry we have is rare. It’s something you just readily can’t let go of because of inconvenience/distance. We rarely see each other, but we make it work. We’re both so passionate about this music and are really set on giving it our all. This isn’t a hobby for us; this is everything we’ve ever wanted, as horribly cheesy and scripted as that sounds.”