Though they've been around since 2009, this is the first time Sea of Shit have appeared on No Echo. The Chicago hardcore outfit will be releasing a new record in March, so let's get you up to date on their history.
"Josh and I, the two original members that are still in the band today, were roommates at the time," vocalist Robert Komen told me recently while discussing the Sea of Shit story. "I met Josh a few years prior because I ran a show space in Chicago around 2006 called People Projects and a few of his bands played gigs there. We wrote a 6-song demo with our friend Mike Serrano (who was in a few bands with Josh beforehand) on guitar and bass, me on vocals, and Josh on drums/backup vocals.
"We recorded the demo with our friend Niko Zaglaras who ended up joining on bass since we needed someone. He wrote three songs with us which became the material for the split 7-inch with Socially Retarded, then bowed out gracefully to pursue other projects. After that, Aaron Gutierrez (who also had played in bands with Josh and Mike) joined on bass and that was the core lineup for a while. More member changes happened over the years, even a game of instrument musical chairs in terms of Josh moving from drums to guitar, and Aaron from bass to drums (sounds insane but that's what really happened)."
Robert continued: "A few more shifts happened and we eventually landed on the lineup we have today. Mike Golen played bass for awhile until he switched over to noise and this is where I jokingly like to say we stole half of Sick/Tired as Kirk Syrek (bass) and Adam Tomlinson (drums) finished out the line up.
"It's been a wild ride of constant lineup changes for a band I never thought would make it past a demo or a 7-inch but here we are 14 years later. Anyone who's ever been in the band was usually a friend of ours just from growing up in the Chicago area and gravitating towards the same shows/music scene, etc."
As you read above, the voyage on the Sea of Shit hasn't always been a smooth one (sorry), but they've always managed to deliver the kind of music people who long for the days when labels like Slap a Ham and Sound Pollution were still around. Speaking of which, what would be some of the group's influences? "Oy, this is a hard question to answer about oneself," said Robert.
"I'm personally into material under the umbrella of classic power violence (Man Is the Bastard/Crossed Out/Suppression/No Comment, etc.), but I'm also into noise-rock-influenced punk/hardcore like Drunks with Guns or No Trend. Other than that, I'd say Dystopia is my biggest influence personally in terms of Sea of Shit; that final self-titled record they put out, that's gotta be one of my all-time favorites.
"I guess one could apply those influences to Sea of Shit however they wish, but it gets far deeper when you factor in every other member's tastes too. We're all generally on the same page in terms of what we want out of our sound, and there's never really a wrong answer or strict formula we adhere to."
You'll be able to hear their abrasive approach on their forthcoming self-titled LP. "Matt Russell from Chicago recorded it at Altered States. It's his own studio and he did a great job; we are really happy with how it turned out."
I asked Robert about his lyrical process in Sea of Shit. "I've been writing all the lyrics for this band since day one. When you've been doing that for 10+ years straight in the same band it starts to get difficult to reinvent the wheel every record without getting redundant/stale in your themes. I try to avoid a lot of the cliché power violence tropes as best I can these days, but my general disdain is pretty genuine at times with the subjects I touch on so it's not insincere or anything if I slip into a trope.
"This particular record I kept steering towards the topic of a sickness/plague/societal downfall theme and that was all written before the pandemic actually came around. It was just a giant coincidence (or maybe I'm just a shitty prophet of sorts). I had other random themes as well, just whatever came out of me on whatever given day I felt inspired, but I have always made sure I'm actually invested in whatever material I'm writing so it's actually genuine.
"If it feels contrived to me in any way, I just scrap it and move on...that's just a personal standard I have for myself. I don't want to phone that shit in at all, and would rather push myself to do it proper so there is something to be proud of instead of just going through the motions for the sake of completing a track."
A fellow veteran of the '90s hardcore scene, bassist Kirk Syrek (MK Ultra, Sick/Tired), also chatted with me about the band and new record. "Being a huge fan of Sea of Shit for years, and then being able to join, has been a great experience for me. At first, it was like playing a full set of 'cover songs' and just being so stoked when playing live, being able to perform all the songs I grew to love if that makes any sense.
"Once Adam and I joined we had to make sure that our song writing didn't affect the overall sound of the band which was very challenging. Because I loved the band so much, I didn't want to ruin it or change it too much, but still bring my own ideas. The way we have written the LP was very organic and everyone would participate in writing every track. In all the bands Ive been in previously, someone shows up to practice with a song that is 80% finished and shows it to the other members.
"For Sea of Shit it would be just one riff that someone had and we would craft the entire song over the course of multiple practices, all participating and calling out parts that suck or don't fit. Everyone was really honest, open and didn't get their feelings hurt if someone didn't agree. We just kept on doing that song after song. It was a really gratifying, creative experience and it kept everyone in check to ensure there was no filler.
"I think if the pandemic didn't stop the band for a year and a half we would've had a couple more short, fast songs, but I'm just really glad we were able to finish it."
The Sea of Shit LP will be out on March 3rd via Nerve Altar Records.
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