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The Arts / Interview

The Sea The Sea’s music ‘gets to the truth’

‘Songs are lenses through which we see the world, the things we are thinking about and experiencing,’ says Mira Costa, who, with husband, Chuck, will perform at Next Stage

PUTNEY—Chuck and Mira Costa (The Sea The Sea) will be performing on the double bill with Antje Duvekot (see interview with concert details, this issue). The Commons reached the indie folk-pop duo by phone recently, and they spoke about their upcoming concert, how they met Antje Duvekot, and how Covid has affected their songwriting and the audiences.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

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Victoria Chertok: Have you played with Antje before?

Chuck Costa: We’ve known Antje for a long, long time!

Mira Costa: I met Chuck and Antje on the exact same day. I was stage managing at the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and both Antje and Chuck were songwriting contestants.

We are fans of her work and have played some shows together over the years. Because of Covid — it’s like a time vortex where everything has been double as long now — so it’s been a little while since we’ve played together, and we’re really looking forward to it.

V.C.: Ha! I love your time vortex reference.

Speaking of Covid: How has it impacted your songwriting and performing career?

M.C.: It was an interesting time — the first year of lockdown and not touring was a lot of creating. We finished our record Stumbling Home in August of 2020 and also tried to get creative with videos and the many ways of performing through our computer screen.

During that whole process, we considered ourselves lucky that we are a couple and we live together, so we were able to continue creating together during that time.

We also built a studio space during the pandemic, which has allowed us to write and record more songs than we probably ever have since starting to play together. It meant we got a lot of time just playing in a room together, too.

And then once touring began again, all of a sudden it was an adjustment playing for actual people in the room instead of to a computer screen for two years, which was a funny thing. But I think we came out of that time evolved. That was a way we could honor that time — to dig in and grow.

V.C.: Have you noticed a difference in the audiences since you started performing live again?

M.C.: I think for audiences and performers alike there is a level of gratitude for what it means to be in a space together. You know, it’s just something that you almost didn’t know you were taking for granted before.

C.C.: There’s been a shift we’ve noticed in [audiences] buying advance tickets. I think we all dealt with so many cancellations in all parts of our lives throughout the pandemic that there’s still fear sometimes that the other shoe will drop.

There’s been more waiting up until the last minute to commit to going to shows, but that’s starting to change. It’s been an interesting dynamic for many touring artists.

V.C.: Where did the name of your group The Sea The Sea come from?

C.C.: The name is an ancient Greek cry of joy. It comes from a story in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Soldiers living on the sea had to fight a battle inland. To survive they had to fight their way back home and, when they finally reached a mountaintop and could see the ocean once again, they knew they had made it through and were home again. [The soldiers cried out, “Thálatta! Thálatta!” (“The sea, the sea!”)]

V.C.: What can the audience expect at your Next Stage show?

M.C.: If you like harmonies, you will find many harmonies in our set.

We describe ourselves as an indie folk duo — which to us means lyric-based songs that exist within a non-traditional sonic palette. There’s acoustic guitar, but we are a two-man band in many ways.

There is percussion, bass, and electric guitar, too — we like to push the boundaries of what you can do with two people. I play acoustic guitar, keys, percussion.

C.C.: I play electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, and bass guitar. Our style is a bit more eclectic. But our sound is rooted in the songs, the songwriting, and then our vocal harmonies that are the core of what we do.

V.C.: What inspires you to write songs?

C.C.: I think that I speak for both of us when I say we think in metaphors — that is how our brains work — so we look for metaphors that can be a visual we can use to feel some bigger universal idea.

As a broader theme, our songs often lean hopeful and positive. I think we tend to see the world in that way, and that comes through in our music.

M.C.: We think about songwriting as about sharing the human experience. Songs are lenses through which we see the world, the things we are thinking about and experiencing. We always try to get to the truth that we’re coming into contact with.

Our mission statement as a band is to remind each other that none of us is alone — we are all feeling and experiencing the same things, even if they are their own specific versions of that and we just believe in trying to get to the truth of what those things are so that it resonates with whoever is listening.

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For more information on The Sea The Sea, visit theseathesea.com.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #697 (Wednesday, January 11, 2023). This story appeared on page B4.

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