The Key Studio Sessions: Sea Offs

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Need a solid argument for turning up early to a long day of music? Two words: Sea Offs.

The dream-pop four-piece is one of the opening acts on the Saturday lineup of next weekend’s Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live — they play 3:10 p.m. on the upstairs stage — and their lucid, moving arrangements of intertwining electric guitars and emphatic drums are an invigorating entry point into the event’s eclectic bill of regional artists.

Sea Offs hail from Central Pennsylvania, in the most literal sense — songwriters and guitarists Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora met at State College, in the dead center of the state, and began writing and recording music in 2015 around the PSU / Happy Valley region. It’s a good place for creative companionship as well as creative isolation — the people who are indifferent about Nittany Lions football tend to stick together, but are nevertheless mutually distant from bigger creative hubs like Buffalo, NYC or Philly. Sea Offs’ debut single, “Colliding,” was a drifting and folky piece in the Nick Drake / Innocence Mission zone, a sound that bloomed into last year’s Sea the Blind EP, where ambient atmospheres were gradually worked into their palette.

And then, there was this year’s rhetorically-titled What’s The Point?, an immersive record and one of my favorites to catch my ear during the year-long Items Tagged Philadelphia project. As I wrote at the time:

Some records I can listen to a song or two, get a sense of what they’re all about, and bookmark them to revisit later. And some demand that I listen all the way through before anything else happens with my day, which totally happened this week with What’s the Point?, the debut album from Sea Offs. Based in Philly and State College … [Price and Arora] worked with a collective of multi-instrumental friends to create a nine-track masterwork: yearning songs punctuated by washes of synthesizer ambience, stately flugelhorn and dreamlike guitar expanses. If you dig Beth Orton, Ida, Land of Talk or Laura Marling, you will find lots to love here.

While I’m sad to say there was no flugelhorn on Sea Off’s Key Studio Session, there was a stunning performance, powerfully arranged for guitar, bass and drums. Three songs from their setlist hail from Point, and sit alongside a new one called “Will” — a beguiling title that works as a query, an adverb and a person’s name. Watch the band perform it live at WXPN Studios in the VuHaus video below.

Outside of Sea Offs, Price and Aroroa are both very active musicians. The latter also dabbles in jagged indierock with Palmlines, and two of his bandmates — bassist Jesse Wisch and drummer Sebastian Goodridge — make up the rhythm section of Sea Offs’ current live incarnation. Meanwhile, Price is one-fourth of Queue, a shimmering modern rock outfit that splits its time and membership between Philly and D.C.

But when they’re together, the sound is as special as the friendship and circumstances that birthed it. Listen to an archive of Sea Offs’ entire Key Studio Session below, and get more information on the band’s Philly Music Fest gig at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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