Do you like your indie rock nice and moody? Sea Knight is a San Francisco indie-rock band with a melancholy taste it builds into a swirling ocean of epic proportions. The band features the traditional guitar, bass and drums setup, enhanced by the addition of violin and the powerful vocals of Linda Sao, the band’s female singer. The instrumentation is relatively minimalist, but the four-piece builds it into an explosion of sound that will fill up your head and pull you into another dimension. It’s rock, but it’s also melodic, shoegazey, dream pop. The band’s sound builds slowly, with Sao’s calm lyrics melting over you like warm butter, but when it reaches the chorus, it’s all mournful wails shooting shivers up your spine.
Forming the band in 2013, the members of Sea Knight are relative newcomers to the San Francisco music scene, but as Sao said in an interview with The Daily Californian, “We’re quite a familial unit.” The group came together when Sao, who was a singer-songwriter at the time, decided to move from Santa Cruz to San Francisco to pursue music more seriously and started putting out feelers for other musicians to jam with. She and drummer Cory Aboud began as a duo, then expanded to a fuller sound with the addition of lead guitarist Patrick Andrews and bassist and violinist Sami Hiromi.
“Everyone has different backgrounds and different influences,” Sao explained. “And each band member contributes so much and is so talented in different ways that the sound will morph into something else the minute each instrument comes in.”
Sea Knight recently opened for Lady Lamb at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. The strength of this band is truly in its live performance, as its songs are very suited to the atmosphere of a dark venue lit only by the flashing stage lights. From the band’s first song, “Chasm” — which builds into super intense howling vocals backed by a huge cloud of percussion, violin and guitar — it was all goosebumps for those in the crowd. For Lady Lamb fans, Sea Knight was an unexpected highlight of the night: Instead of being a yawn-worthy opener, it held its own against the headliner. Sao spoke of the live experience with a kind of reverence.
“When you’re feeling a song honestly and emotionally, and you sense that someone else is also having that cathartic experience through that same song you’ve written, it’s such a gift,” she said.
Having played intimate, magical venues such as the Rickshaw Stop, the members of Sea Knight are thankful for the wonderful experiences they’ve had in the Bay Area music scene. Sao loves the diversity of venues in particular. “We can play quiet ballads and also louder, darker rock songs,” she explained. “There’s a lot of different styles of venues available to us to try stuff out on.”
In 2014, Sea Knight dropped its debut EP, Where Are You — a five-song album without a single dull moment, featuring the jaw-dropping “Chasm” among the band’s other live staples. Give it a listen on a rainy day when you’re feeling particularly moody, and let the mournful vocals and guitar lines wash over you, soaking you to the bone in your own moroseness.
But Sea Knight’s not all sad stuff. “Concrete” has hints of melancholy, especially in its lyrics, but the effect is much more upbeat and cheerful sounding, especially in the chipper “hey-hey’s” of the chorus — still far from a happy song, but not totally depressing.
Without naming any particular influences, Sao insists that instead of trying to emulate anyone, Sea Knight’s sound stems from a place of genuine feeling or, as she put it, “whatever soundscapes we’re feeling in that moment.” Furthermore, Sea Knight is fantastic at telling a story in very few words: Every lyric, every melody, every guitar riff is there for a reason. And it all blends together seamlessly into something incredibly beautiful. Be sure to keep an eye out for this small indie band with epic potential.
Madeline Wells writes the Friday blog series on Bay Area bands. Contact her at [email protected].