It’s only been a few weeks since the New York-based indie-folk outfit The Sea The Sea returned from their last tour, but Mira and Chuck Costa are already back on the road.
“No matter how long we’ve been out, it’s usually within a couple of weeks of getting home that we’re like, ‘We could go again,’” Chuck said with a laugh. “We both have a nomadic gene that I think keeps us wanting to move around.”
Following the release of their second full-length recording, “From the Light,” in 2018, Mira and Chuck toured with Cara May Gorman and Stephen Struss to help recreate the full-band sound of the album on the road. With the addition of Gorman and Struss, The Sea The Sea built their sound into complex arrangements that swing from indie-pop tunes like “Bang Bang Bang” and “Phototropic” to more delicate and powerful folk songs like “All Go Right” and “Take That.”
While the album was written with a band in mind, at the center of “From the Light” are Chuck and Mira’s voices and songwriting prowess, their soothing harmonies and lyrical imagery. The Sea The Sea’s current tour, which brings them to the Coconino Center for the Arts for a special Valentine’s Day performance, will see Mira and Chuck as they first started off — a duo.
“I think we feel most in our wheelhouse and most connected to each other and with the audience when we’re playing in duo form right now, which has made for some really exciting shows,” Mira said.
“When the two of us are real connected, that’s when we connect with the audience the most, and that’s why we do this, connecting with people,” added Chuck.
Before embarking on this tour, which will take them from Arizona to Massachusetts, Mira and Chuck, have been reimagining a few songs off of “From the Light” as duo pieces, as well as working on new material.
“Sometimes we discover in that deconstruction process a totally different groove, like slowing the song down or speeding it up,” Chuck said. “It’ll change the emphasis in a way that’s really cool. It’s like saying the same sentence in a different way.”
Take their song “Ricochet,” a song that sits on a bed of digital drums and pads and hits hard during its choruses. Rewriting it to fit the duo with just an acoustic guitar and sparse electrical guitar parts, the song is “smoothed over into something that becomes more conversational,” Chuck said.
“Since we’ve started, the songwriting has always been the core of what we do, and we’ve always felt the pull to let those songs live in different sonic spaces,” Mira added. “I think we’re having so much fun with all of the sound [of the band], but we’ve also been enjoying getting back to the core of the songs and letting maybe the lyrics come through in ways they haven’t always been in band arrangements.”
Mira and Chuck approach songwriting in multiple ways. In one, they’re looking at it as an audience member. Can the song entice a listener with its music, its surface level arrangements? Then, for someone who’s looking for something deeper or something to connect to, can the song capture a feeling without strictly dictating how one should feel? The Sea The Sea, in both their albums and their handful of EPs and singles, find a way to sift between the two modes of listening, capturing us with their harmonies and dramatic compositions then keeping us in their sonic landscape with lyrics that stir our imagination and allow us to see our own stories in their music.
The song “Waiting” from their 2014 debut album, “Love We Are We Love,” explores this duality.
“The leaves are falling/ the iron's rusting and I'm still waiting,” they sing. “The ground is frozen/ the faucet's leaking and I'm still waiting.”
From their lyrics to their album art to the music video for “Waiting,” which was animated using 3,453 oil paintings by Zachary Johnson, the visual component is as important as the sonic.
“Whenever we’re writing something, the goal is to be transported, for it to take you wherever that song is happening, that emotional space. And if you can paint the landscape around it, I think that helps,” Mira said.
What makes this Valentine’s Day performance even more special is Mira and Chuck’s history. Having met at a musical festival in West Virginia, what started as a potential musical collaborative project slowly evolved into a romantic relationship. Or was it the romantic interest first?
“It’s not the easiest question to answer because it sort of feels like it happened at the same time,” Chuck said. “When people ask us about songwriting, one of the questions is always, ‘Do you write the lyrics or the music first?’ The way that we answer is usually it happens at the same time. Chronologically it doesn’t always answer the question truthfully, because sometimes there’s music in the lyrics you’re making and vice versa. When we met, it felt like the musical connection and the personal connection was kind of immediate.”
“And I think that’s why we were so drawn to it,” Mira added. “It’s like finding a really good dance partner, somebody who feels like they support all of your inclinations and also sort of help bolster or lead you in places where it just feels very natural.”