UTG INTERVIEW: The Sunless Sea Discusses ‘No Ghosts’

the sunless sea

South Carolina’s The Sunless Sea—a solo project helmed by Witte Crosby—released a six-track EP titled No Ghosts in the first quarter of 2015. Packed with poppy electronics, elegant piano parts, surprising horns and more, Crosby’s influences are both diverse and recognizable as he melds elements of indie pop, pop-punk and alternative rock with invitingly familiar vocals into an easily digestible, 24-minute effort.

We recently had the chance to speak with Crosby about all things No Ghosts, the advantages of working alone, his musical roots and a few more topics. You can read through below to check out our conversation and listen through his newest release as The Sunless Sea.

When and why did you and music first cross paths? Do you remember your first interactions with music?

Well it always had a strong presence. Credit definitely goes to my mother, who was, intentionally or not, always filling my head with music. Everything from Van Morrison to Aerosmith to Third Eye Blind and everything in between.

Do you recall a specific moment when it clicked with you that you wanted to become a musician? What led to that for you?

My heroes always ended up being musicians; for whatever reason I looked up to them from a young age. I was pretty reserved when I was younger, and I think I latched onto that courage that came with that level of self-expression. I hadn’t really learned how to be myself yet, so the whole concept was really foreign and inspiring.

Our site is deeply rooted in emo, pop-punk, etc. There seems to be a lot of that influence in this newest EP. Who are some bands that you feel have had a profound effect on you over the years? Any in particular who you feel might show up in your sound?

It’s funny, I listen to so much music, but I open my mouth and it’s pretty obvious where my roots lie. Bands like Fall Out Boy and Coheed & Cambria really jumped out at me when I was younger—these bands that had these blatant ‘emo/pop-punk/whatever it’s called these days’ roots, but really started to blur the lines of the genre as they grew into their own sounds.

What can you tell me about the process for No Ghosts? How old are these songs? What was the recording process like, and did everything come out exactly as you envisioned?

No Ghosts very much began as an attempt to get out of my comfort zone in terms of instrumentation; I had always been a guitar guy before switching to the whole one-man band, so I made the conscious decision to keep the guitar on record pretty sparse and choosy. I had never taken the reins on a project so heavily, but working independently definitely has its perks. A band is full of opinions, and at some point you’re going to butt heads. It’s a huge part of the writing process for a group, but there’s something to locking yourself in a room and really trusting yourself. You question yourself, and there’s no one there to say, “Stop worrying, you nailed it three takes ago.” I was writing for myself more than ever, and that was pretty rewarding. While one or two songs have roots in older demos or riffs, the majority of the album was written last fall.

I tried not to be too concerned with nailing a vision to the tee, initially for the sake of keeping the album unique to itself, but also because I would probably lose my mind in the process. Sometimes, Manny (who produced the record), would send me two versions of a track to review, and eventually I learned to just go with my gut instinct instead of getting too wrapped up in what the ‘right’ version was.

What do you think inspired the tone and lyrics on this album?

Tonally, I was trying to combine these different sounds that were all so appealing to me. I love horn sections, giant guitar solos, and hip-hop beats, and I never really thought about dodging really any of them. The album uses a lot of big sounds, but I think it still feels pretty small and personal, and that was definitely a decision made early on.

Lyrically, loss is definitely a central theme of the album, but I think it’s usually resolved with a positive spin. The term ‘No Ghosts’ itself is meant to be taken at least partially sarcastically, and it almost became this personal rally cry in my head. Everyone has something looming over their head, even if you don’t see it, even if they don’t always see it. You yourself are the cumulative whole of [all] experiences you’ve ever been through, but you choose how those experiences define you. When I wrote that lyric, the intent was to look forward, not to the past.

I really love the album cover. Who did the work on that and why did you choose that to visually represent your work?

Thank you! I took the picture myself actually. I found the two figures in a thrift store while working on the album and immediately knew they captured what I was going for. Stylistically I think they were the perfect representation of that love/loss dichotomy I was going for on the record.

sunless sea album

I know it’s typically hard to choose but do you have a personal favorite track from the record? Maybe one you have the deepest personal connection to or that you feel the most proud of?

“Void.” I think I really nailed what I was going for one that one, and it’s up there with the most personal tracks on the album.

What new releases have you been listening to the most so far this year?

Bad Luck’s new EP Noise In Your Head has been a wonderful follow-up to an already criminally underrated debut. New CHVRCHES is beautiful, and the Dear Hunter’s Act IV has been in heavy rotation since its release. Not sure if Casey Crescenzo knows how to write a bad song.

Sounds like our year end lists would likely be very similar. What’s the first concert you ever attended by choice and what was the highlight of the show?

Robert Plant. He was playing a lot of his solo work, but made sure to wrap the set up with some Zeppelin classics.

With 2015 nearing its end, what’s on the foreseeable horizon for TSS?

There are a lot of demos and half-finished tracks floating around, and I would love to have some more music out soon, but I’m not sure if within the year is realistic. There are definitely plans in the works, I just need to hold my tongue for a little while longer before I pretend anything is too finite yet.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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