10Qs with Dan Capaldi of Sea Level

Dan Capaldi is best known in Portland’s music scene as a drummer, having worked with Dean Ford, Shashasha, Joe Gallant, and others.  In addition to his drumming, he can be seen playing a number of instruments for Spencer Albee, and working as producer for artists like Lady Zen, among others.  His solo project, Sea Level, ranges from an sound to electronic/triphop and was featured in Big Band Syndrome Vol. 2.

DC_02Where were you born?
Springfield, Massachusetts, but grew up in Falmouth, Maine.

What keeps you in Portland?
Portland is not the easiest place to find steady employment when you’re a music composer. As an artist, most of Portland’s value comes down to it’s extensive network of musicians and artists most of which are unwilling to compromise their art for money. Most everyone plays nicely together and associates with each other because they want to be a part of something they believe in. Portland artists sacrifice so much in the name of genuine passion… What more could I ask for?

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
All music, baby.

What was your most memorable gig?
Unfortunately my goldfish-esque memory doesn’t allow me to dig too deeply into the past… but I’d have to say the sold out London show on the most recent tour with my UK band Soft Bullets last November was pretty awesome.

What was your worst gig?
Okay, all pickup bar gigs aside… it would have to be the first time I ever performed as Sea Level. In preparation for my actual first show at Atomic Trash’s “America the boobiful” 4th of July burlesque show, I was added to an event where performers were projected out of an apartment window into the streets of Portland. Apparently the crew didn’t get the memo that I was coming. Not only was I treated like a nuisance, no one bothered to put my guitar in the mix… Needless to say my debut was a cappella.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
So many to credit. Most obvious would be film composer Danny Elfman. Not to sound cliché, but possibly the biggest turning point in my life was when I first saw The Nightmare Before Christmas (when I was 21 or so). From that point, I developed an extreme drive to become a film composer as well as an intentionally theatrical stage persona. A beautiful sound has so much more potential to leave a lasting impression on the mind when connected to a beautiful visual (film, dance. album art…) or vice versa.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
Easily my Gretsch G6118t Anniversary Jr. guitar. I love it to a somewhat unhealthy extreme.

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Okay… first of all, understand there are an infinite number of reasons why people make music, and that is a beautiful thing. Some gain pleasure and sense of accomplishment from the sheer craft of learning an instrument. Others experience emotion when performing for a crowd they don’t get a chance to experience anywhere else in their life. Some people can only identify true happiness as it results from digging something out of them they never knew was there. Some dudes want chicks. Some chicks want dudes. Some dudes want dudes… you get the point. DO NOT fall victim to pressure. DO NOT compromise your intentions, your morals or your values. DO NOT try to be something you’re not. Only you can do what you do. Even if you’re playing a cover song… if you’re genuine, it is YOUR SONG. Not to mention it’s probably no less original than most of the statistically influenced bull*#@$ coming out these days… Oh, and always bring a sleeping bag.

What’s the origin behind your name/band name?
Sea Level has always had an aesthetic appeal. I was looking for something that was a nice mix of navy blue and lime green but could become a bit darker if necessary. I picture it existing within a fictional time of day that’s a perfect mix of noon and midnight. My original idea was “January Sunshine” which despite a similar color scheme was just a bit too bright for my liking. Sea Level spirals downward which I like, but also in a literal sense suggests a point separating two very different worlds. Most of my stories revolve around this concept.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Dean Ford.

Stephen Quirk

Prior to landing his dream job at Automattic, Stephen served as Associate Director of a Boston-based non-profit overseeing the organization's technology, visual design, social networking, and event planning. For twelve years, he worked in the Technology Department at his alma mater, Maine College or Art.

Additionally, Stephen has exhibited his photography in Portland, Maine, Boston, and California. He lives just outside of Portland with his wife, Megan, and daughter, Kate.