It's easy to listen Red Sea's debut EP, Weird Problem, way too much. At work. In the van on tour. In friends' rooms. On the road in strangers' living rooms when they ask "what's good coming out of Atlanta?" Their songs are riddles, ones not easily unraveled, and below are some images and words from a walk I took with three of them - Stephen Luscre, Mick Mayer, and Kyle Sherrill - through a splendid afternoon in Little Five Points. Skip around, choose your own adventure and go see them soon.
Moreland Avenue - dodging traffic and talking coffee shops. Starbucks has a public bathroom, and Patrick, the one Red Sea member not present, has to clean it. I live the scary surprise of cleaning a bathroom in L5P once a week. It poses questions I don't want the answers to: How did we go through two mega rolls of toilet paper but only 15 paper towels? What position does a person stand in to make that end up there? When we're not determining the anti-gravity properties of a Lil' 5 number 2, we're up front at Aurora Coffee, listening to Weird Problems wiggle through the speakers and trying to figure out how they put together this record we like so much.
Waves of green grass in Freedom Park and a sea of pillow-fighting goofballs. Mick starts chatting, "We've got ideas Kyle has been talking about," as Kyle brings out The Changing of the Avant Garde, an oversized book with what looks like an '80s swimming pool floating over a mountain range on its cover. "We got it from Kudzu," Kyle says as pages turn and images of buildings juxtaposed on top of each other sprawl out from between the covers. I've never been to Kudzu. Steven says it has good records. Kyle lets me know it's full of Mom knickknack B.S.
Red Sea has perfect hair, flowing across the park. That has nothing to do with music, but you can picture them on a boat in Middle-Earth floating their way toward an epic adventure. Guitars in hand, they sing songs that feel timeless and present. Steven's hair is the longest and he is the most silent, more elf than hobbit. Stream "Middle Name" and imagine a secret door on the side of a mountain slowly opening.
Kyle moves the pages, and he and Mick talk. "It has ideas that parallel what we're working with, playing with guitars in opposed time signatures. The idea of a re-ruined, deconstructed building. They would take pictures of old buildings and paint over them to make progressive architecture ... If you see a piece by itself, it doesn't make sense ... we want you to hear a guitar piece by itself and it doesn't make sense - together they make a new listening experience each time. You can't just passively listen to it." Mick pauses Kyle, page mid-turn, "Well ... you can ..."
Between the hundreds of people now hitting each other with pillows (it was International Pillow Fight Day in Freedom Park) and the old man slowly twirling a sword 20 feet away from us, I can't focus. And then I see a page with buildings watercolored on top of a photo of a downtown city, and it all falls together, like a Red Sea song. All the angular, confusing pieces come together to make something unique and certain.
I name drop Gordon Matta Clark to try and sound hip about buildings and people who deconstruct them to make something new, but it's too late, I'm out-hipped. Mick starts turning pages, Steven keeps smiling and Kyle keeps talking. "I think of cutting buildings down the center and watching them not fall apart, but separate into a new whole. Architecture, you see it all around you and it makes you question your surroundings. A lot of their ideas were never realized [the images in the book], but their intentions have a lot of similarities to our parts."
Musically, their intention is to combine guitar, bass, and drum lines to rework pop songs. Rough edges and seams that seem out of place on their own fit together, just right in context. We leave the park as police break up the pillow fight. Red Bull girls run around with blueberry energy drinks. We actually use a crosswalk in Little Five. Images overlapping, sounds colliding. Red Sea make music you want to delve into - to understand. Riddles unfolding in real time. Post-punk dance music. Kyle expands on the architects. "A lot of their philosophy was based on catastrophic events. Out of that, you make a Utopia."
Out of the rubble and discord of Atlanta's scene is a band making music for our weird future. Make sense of it yourself this Sunday at the Earl, and enjoy the confusion and pleasure of being forced to think about a song over and over and over and over again.
Red Sea plays the Earl on Sun., April 14 with Beach Fossils and Gold-Bears. $10. 8 p.m. 488 Flat Shoals Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 404-522-3950.
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