Sea Lions: Artist You Should Know

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From KCRW DJ Marion Hodges:

YAY! Records called itself “The Sound of Young Oxnard”. It was a cheeky nod to Glasgow’s Postcard Records (the first home of Orange Juice, and Aztec Camera) calling it’s bands “The Sound of Young Glasgow“, which was itself a cheeky nod to Motown – “The Sound of Young America.” Never underestimate the power of a good in joke.

While the heyday of “The Sound of Young Oxnard” has reached it’s end — YAY! Records is now defunct for one thing — its impact has turned Oxnard into a place that touring indie bands seek out. It also left us with two great bands that have landed on two of the strongest indiepop labels in the country right now. Catwalk on Captured Tracks, and Sea Lions on Slumberland. For the sake of this post, we’ll focus on Sea Lions.

I’ve seen Sea Lions go through various line-up changes. I also DJ-ed a Crystal Stilts show at a D.I.Y. venue where several Sea Lions lived, and I’ve been propositioned by at least two of them. The current line-up features 6 members, which seems like a lot based on what you hear from a cursory listen to the recordings. It seems about as straightforward as indiepop can get.

“Jangly,” is an overused term these days, but when it comes to Sea Lions, it’s really the only term for what they do.

The music is and always has been pure nervous energy, but what began as songs held together by each band members’ sheer will to reach the end has been replaced by a remarkable display of virtuosity. Lead singer Adrian Pillado plays fast, and intricate, and his Calvin Johnson-esque growl helps to mask the fact that he’s developed a band that is light years ahead of Johnson’s Beat Happening in terms of skill.

What Sea Lions have most of all is the dreaminess. The suburban quest for a knowledge of all things foreign and savy discovered for the most part from the comfort of home. “I Loved Her So Much/I Wish I was Lou Reed” is the perfect example of this. Just a kid, sitting in his bedroom, wishing to be one of the coolest, most influential figures in rock and roll. You know, like we all do from time to time.

Watching them play last week (opening for the Ladyug Transistor at the Satellite) I really felt the years of the band. To all who will hear their debut full length on Slumberland, they will be a brand new band. They will be young, fresh, and exciting, and they are all of those things.

Still, to those of us who have watched it all unfold, they are local mainstays who’ve finally hit their stride. Given that they’ve probably played almost as many shows in L.A. over their four years as a band as they have Oxnard, I feel like it’s more than fair to call them local.  The shows seem to get bigger too, where they were once coming to town almost exclusively for YAY! showcases at the Smell, they now seem to come to town to open for indie darlings like Craft Spells, and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

This is because what Sea Lions capture, where so many young bands try and fail, is not simply the sound of young Oxnard — it’s the sound of young everywhere. Bored, underemployed, and wishing your life was something else. If there is any justice in this world it will take them far.

Catch Sea Lions for yourself Sunday, September 25 at the Echoplex as they open for another one of my favorite bands of the moment, Veronica Falls.