Photos courtesy of Brian Squillace.
Brian Squillace led me down a dimly-lit hallway, rounded a corner and climbed up a creaky set of dark wood stairs. There was a Burrito Gallery menu on a step. He glided through a small walkway through a big room full of well, stuff. It looked and smelled like a messy antique store.
He entered an open room lit by the glow of string lights and two lamps. Guitar cases, amps, drums and fans littered the floor. Graffiti covered the walls, in places so thick it was intelligible. A canvas that almost touched the ceiling was painted with grey and blue swirling lines. A brown mandala tapestry hung on the wall next to a Mogwai poster.
It’s Sea Cycles’ do-it-yourself practice space. There, in the center of it all, was a drum kit, a synthesizer, mics and guitar pedals. It was a typical Tuesday for the local band, who practice twice a week.
Sea Cycles is Brian Squillace, guitar, auxiliary drums and synth; Landon Paul, guitar and bass; Josh Wessolowski, drums; and Colin Adkins, guitar, bass and lead vocals. The band itself has had varying members since 2011 and the current lineup since 2015. It’s always been about good friends making music together.
They come from different places in the United States, but found their homes in Jacksonville. Brian and Landon are originally from North Carolina and have been playing music together since they were teenagers. Colin, a Lakeland native, used to play in a different local band with Wisconsin native Josh.
All in their 30s, they’ve all been involved in one project or another in Jacksonville’s music scene for the past five years. All four of them being in a band together had always been a joke among them. They get along great, having had a group chat for about two years. So one day, they thought, “Well, why not?”
At their practice that night, they each warmed up in their own way. Colin hummed, Landon strummed, Joshi hit the pedal for the kick drum and Brian messed with his computer. Then they started to play.
The ambient synth pop enveloped the room. A projector cast cut-up videos of waves, trees and people to the beat of the music. They played hard. In each of the songs, they let one of the instruments speak for themselves. Whether it be a drum crescendo, a guitar riff or a harmonized lyric, it had its time to reverberate through the room.
The set ended and they laughed together, making notes about small edits they wanted to make to the songs. It sounded like noisy gibberish, but to them, it’s the language they understand best.
Right now, they’re putting their all into making a new album.
“It’s a weird time for us right now,” Brian said. Colin joined after the recording of their debut album, “Ground & Air,” and has more of a connection with the songs he’s had a hand in writing.
The band members are experiencing a dichotomy between the band they used to be, which had a more instrumental direction and cryptic lyrics, and the band they are now, which they want to have more lyrical direction.
“You can convey ideas a lot easier with a songwriter in the band and lyrics,” said Landon.
Colin is the main man behind the band’s current songwriting. Each member raved about their new addition’s lyrical prowess and “angel voice.” He basically mumbles a melody and accepts collaboration from the other band members to fit his mumbling.
But when creating a new song, they have a “loop-based process,” according to Josh.
“We’re so wrapped up in trying to come up with new songs for the record, so the writing process comes from all of us trying to bring ideas to the table, and as soon as the ideas come to the table, we interpret them in our own voices and try to figure out how to make them fit our sound,” he said.
Josh brought the idea for a new song, “You Say” to the table. The vocal melodies, parts of the drum beat and the bass line were in the song, and each member worked until they figured out which part they would play, adding layers until it became a whole song.
They’re a very technology-driven band. They record every practice, listen to it all week, and come back the next week to discuss the changes they need to make. Everything is about collaboration.
They aim to be sustainable as a band. You can hear them play once or twice a month at places like Raindogs and Nighthawks. Right now, they’re on a bit of a hiatus though–they want to completely focus on their new album.
“We just want to be getting better and still enjoy it,” Landon said.