Discover The Undiscovered: The Ross Sea Party
By Staff on March 4, 2011
The Ross Sea Party is a typically unusual Los Angeles family. Five friends who wanted to transcend the disconnected and nonsensical nature of life in the city and create something consequential, the band built a home with hollow-body guitars, well-tuned drums, and a glockenspiel. Like its namesake, a little known yet heroic wing of Ernest Shackleton's famed 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the band can be characterized by their easy navigation across an ever-changing atmosphere.
Raised on everything from the idiosyncratic guitar work of Neil Young and the irreverent pop of The Talking Heads to contemporaries Delta Spirit, Arcade Fire and The Dodos, the Ross Sea Party is constantly inspired. While paying homage to their influences, the band has simultaneously managed to create an unmistakable and unique sound. Characterized by spacious instrumentation and singer Brady Erickson's unique voice atop energetic and pervasive rhythms, the songs remain simple, catchy and melodic at their core. Erickson began The RSP in 2009 with fellow LA scene veterans Michael Baumer on drums and multi-instrumentalist Will VanderWyden, adding Atlanta transplant Mark Tillman on guitar and LA native Jacquelyn Thropay on keyboards and glockenspiel the following year.
Who are your main influences?
From a songwriting perspective, we're inspired by the classic American artists that have taken an often singular and deliberately simple approach to writing. The way that Buddy Holly and Minor Threat both found a way to infuse such a sense of personal character in very straightforward arrangements.
When it comes to instrumentation and aesthetic, though, the band tends to be very inspired by our immediate surroundings. We're all just as much fans of going to see live shows as we are listening to albums, and are very interested in the ways some of our contemporaries are pushing the boundaries of how a band can deliver a song. California bands like Castledoor, The Deadly Syndrome, and The Dodos are making incredible music that feels very right for this time and place. I think there's an important balance to find between respecting your elders and finding your own voice within part of a movement that's pushing the boundaries in interesting ways here and now. Much like visual artists have done successfully within movements like De Stijl or the Harlem Renaissance.
How did you meet?
Michael and I were the first to work together. Another musician we know actually brought the few of us together when I was idealistically dreaming up this new band. As it happened, Mike and I had this immediate rapport and edged that person out. We were those 2 friends you introduce who suddenly like each other more than they like you. Will was a musician who I'd been acquainted with for some time, but the idea of working together hadn't ever come up, probably because we knew we were both creative Alpha-types. I think the promise of how good we felt this band could be, though, made the idea of collaborating suddenly seem exciting. Will plays guitar, bass, drums -- the whole lot -- so from that point we had the liberty of just looking for other musicians we had a valid connection with, which is where Mark came into the picture. We pretty much immediately responded to his approach to building music; it's a bit different than what I can often fall into, and the musical equivalent of the painter's irreverent splash of color across a carefully drafted canvas that unlocks the whole piece. Jacquie originally booked the earliest incarnation of the band at an underground arts warehouse party, and quickly became a member of the family. It actually took a while before we found out that same girl was an astounding musician - there was no question, she was in.
What is your biggest achievement as a band to date?
Individually, the members of the band all brought a share of hefty achievements to the table - some albums on the shelf and shows that we tell each other about over and over. But being that The Ross Sea Party is a fairly new band, for us the biggest achievement has been finding this group of incredible musicians to work with, both within the band and the music community we've been immersed in. Over the last year, we've played some incredible live shows and I think being welcomed amidst other bands and crowds we have a genuine respect for has felt truly rewarding.
Where did the band name originate?
The Ross Sea itself is a body of water in Antarctica that's notorious for being one of the most unpredictable places on the planet. We named the band after a group of explorers that were amongst the first to navigate through that region, which felt like a perfect metaphor for the creative process.
A few of us have spent large amounts of time overseas and have an affinity for going a bit further out than we feel comfortable. Kenya, Syria, Cambodia… I think there's a common thread amongst us that's romanced by the idea of exploration, both literally and creatively. As it turned out, the name was really hard to enunciate into a mic and so, though we didn't want to be a band with the name painted on the bass drum, ultimately we decided that was the price to pay for a name we really liked.
Lately, everybody’s into The Walkmen, Delta Spirit, The Dodos, Edward Sharpe, Lykke Li, and Band Of Skulls.
Plans to Tour?
We’re getting things lined up now for a few shows at SXSW, and are in the midst of locking down early June dates from Los Angeles to Vancouver and back.
Plans for next release?
We’ve been writing like crazy and playing like crazy, and looking for that time to get back in the studio to track some new songs that really feel like the next level for the band. It looks like we’ll be recording in July, with a release shortly thereafter.