Sonic Sea Turtles
Written by Bridget McMenomy
Minneapolis-based emo band Sonic Sea Turtles aren’t interested in playing by the rules, taking cues from both the older post-hardcore sound of Ice Nine Kills and pioneers of the emo revival such as Mom Jeans. They formed in 2018 as a trio, releasing the single “Dancing” in early 2019, and since then have settled into their current 4-piece lineup of guitar, drums, bass, and cello.
They released their first EP, Sound Pollution: Captain Spacey and His Search for a New Home, in late 2019, and were regulars on the Twin Cities house show circuit before the COVID-19 shutdown. They haven’t slowed down, however, even releasing a new single, “Bodies,” that was written and recorded completely from quarantine. I had the pleasure of interviewing the band over Zoom, talking with them about the effects of Coronavirus on their band and the ways they work to keep their fans engaged and wanting more.
Music Player Magazine (MPM): First thing’s first, who are Sonic Sea Turtles? How would you describe yourselves as a band?
Daniel: We’re basically frat friends with music. We’re a self-described emo band, so we write a lot about feelings and stuff like that. But ultimately we’re just a bunch of friends who like to kick back and make some music.
MPM: Last year you released your first EP, Sound Pollution: Captain Spacey and His Search for a New Home. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of making that?
Daniel: There was no real specific process for Captain Spacey. Most of the songs, like “Thinking of U,” were written long before Sonic Sea Turtles even became a band, so they have the emotions that come from high school and being in love as a teenager. And those songs evolved as we played them as a band. But other stuff was written for the EP. “Plastic Straws” was written by Grant and I in one night.
Grant: Yeah, we wrote it and recorded a demo with just guitar and bass in one night.
Olivia: I actually joined at about the beginning of the Captain Spacey EP, so a lot of the process was adding embellishments with my cello.
Daniel: But yeah, some of the songs, like “Captain Spacey,” were developed shortly before, while there are other songs we’ve been playing our entire time as a band. The EP’s really a collection of the band over time. When it came time to record it, we had Austin Brady, a really great local producer, to help us record and do it in the studio. I think we recorded over about five days.
Grant: Over finals week.
Daniel: Since we’ve been working on some of these songs for so long, it was really easy to kick back and do our thing.
Grant: And it turned out great, a phenomenal EP.
Daniel: Austin’s also produced all our other songs, including the new single.
Erin: I wasn’t actually on the EP. I’ve been in the band since our single “First Snowfall.”
Daniel: Yeah, Erin started as a temp fill-in for drums at a couple gigs. But then we all ended up clicking really well and she joining the band full-time.
MPM: Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, what was your band’s summer looking like?
Daniel: I have a list of gigs that we were supposed to do that were cancelled.
Grant: We were literally supposed to play on that Saturday and it was cancelled day of. It was devastating.
Daniel: We were going to be playing with so many great local bands – Careful Gaze, Atlantis Theorem.
Grant: We had so many solid shows lined up. What made it worse was that we’d had a sort of dry spell in January and February, but by March we really had some momentum going.
Daniel: April was loaded. But, you know, we’re making do with it.
Erin: That’s all you really can do.
MPM: You’ve been very active as a band on social media, doing guitar tutorials and livestreams. Can you talk a bit about some of your strategies for keeping fans engaged?
Daniel: The guitar tutorial for “Captain Spacey” was actually something that had been requested for a long time. I thought, “Well, might as well, since we have the time and people want content.” I’ll probably end up doing a few more, maybe for “Dancing.” The livestreams have been as individual band members so far, but we’re hoping to start doing some as a full band.
Grant: We’ve also been planning a big online strip set with some local bands like VIAL, Peeper Keep, and Allergen for the end of June.
Daniel: Yeah, with Pride being cancelled, we really wanted to do a big event to sort of fill that void with other LGBT bands. I know that for a lot of folks Pride being cancelled in particular is
devastating, and hopefully this big a set can help that.
Erin: I made the poster for it, and it’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made. We’re calling it Gay Cowboy Fest, and the poster’s got a cowboy riding a unicorn with rainbow sparkles in the
background. It’s amazing.
Grant: I’ve actually really liked interacting with everyone online. We can keep our fans engaged and keep the momentum going.
Daniel: The video for our new single “Bodies,” which dropped on May 22, was another huge part of that. It’s all fanmade. We have a lot of fans all around the country, so we wanted to reach out to everyone rather than just the local scene. We had people submit pieces about isolation and how it’s affecting people to not be able to interact with their communities or see their friends.
Grant: How many submissions are in that video?
Daniel: About 18, I think. We got more, and they were really cool, but they came in way after the deadline when it had all been finalized already.
MPM: What are the next steps for the Sonic Sea Turtles, both in the short-term and in the longer-term?
Daniel: Right now? Stay moving, don’t stop working. When we start practicing together again, we’ll be polishing up old stuff but also working on new material. I mean, we managed to make “Bodies” work completely separately, so if we can do that we can do anything.
Grant: For “Bodies” we didn’t even need the studio.
Daniel: Yeah, it was all self-recorded individually, then we sent the masters to be mixed. As far as the longer-term goes, we have some new material and songs ready to record within the next year or two. I actually got lucky during quarantine with creativity rather than writer’s block.
Erin: Yeah, you’re lucky.
Daniel: It’s more like I got a lot done in one week, and since then I’ve done nothing but watch Star Wars.
Erin: We also got a merch store up in mid-May, which was something that people had shown a lot of interest in but never happened up until now. So now people can buy that online and don’t have to wait for our shows.
Daniel: Obviously we’d rather be playing house shows and interacting with people in that way as well.
Erin: Yeah, of course. We love playing house shows.
Daniel: But we’re making the best of it and hoping that our fans enjoy the things we can do during quarantine.
Bridget is a graduate from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where she majored in English and minored in Theatre Arts. Her musical tastes range from Broadway musicals to anarcho-punk, and she has edited and helped run multiple zines and writing festivals. She is currently pursuing a career in editing and publishing.