Two philosophy students go sailing and end up making music (and love).
A kid from Arizona has a crazy dream: he wants to sail around the world. He studies books about tying knots and trimming sails, having never been in a boat before. In the meantime he goes to college in Colorado. In philosophy class he meets a girl. They fall into something. It’s not clear what it is. But he tells her that it isn’t likely to last long because he has an epic voyage in mind. The idea of adventure on the high seas makes her love him all the more.
The two innocents sell whatever worldly possessions they have, which isn’t much, to buy a boat. Their goal is to fully unplug from the world. Part of what they are after is to get away from the modern lifestyle in which every experience is mediated, interpreted, distorted by technology and a pervasive media. They are after experience in its most direct and undiluted form.
After their first night sleeping on the boat in the open ocean, the couple go ashore in Florida to share a single beer–money is very tight–to celebrate their accomplishment. On the jukebox is a collection of 1950s girl band hits that sets their minds racing. The music is so much simpler, purer, and more upbeat than the pop hits they had been listening to.
At that point the couple–Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore–made a discovery about each other. They had both tried and failed to make music in the past. Alaina had a trained voice and Patrick had a garage band. Both had given up on music. As Alaina later said, “I tried to write songs but felt this huge vacuum that I couldn’t fill.”
Inspired by the music in the bar the two set off on the rest of their eight-month sailing trip up and down the Eastern seaboard. The boat they had bought wasn’t big enough to sail around the ocean, nor was their nautical skills up to that task. But they began to keep a notebook about what the music would be like if they ever decided to make it together. They talked and wrote about exactly the sound and feel, the precise amplifiers they would use to reproduce the retro sound they had heard in the barn, and the kind of music they would make. It was all idle fantasy, despite the copious details, sketched out on the high seas.
Eventually they ran out of money and had to take a break from sailing. Back in Denver they had no worldly possessions. But they did start to write songs together. “Patrick would string together a couple chords and I would immediately be brought back to a very specific situation we had encountered on our trip,” Alaina recently reported on the Q show with Jian Ghomeshi, which I happened to be listening to late one night. “Within a couple hours we had a song written.”
They recorded a couple of songs just for fun and, unbeknownst to them, friends sent the demos to influential independent music blogs. The response was almost immediate. From an open sea adventure the two lovers became an overnight success with a sound that is both reminiscent of a lost style of music and a yearning for a happier present.
Now on their second album the two are married, have appeared on the Tonight Show, and toured all over the country. Their talent is magical in its simplicity and the story behind how it came into being.
Photos by Express Nightout