Individually, Sheri Hupfer and Mark Schwaber are prolific artists. Paired together, they become Revenant Sea, an Easthampton-based duo with an enchanting sound. After reconnecting in 2018, the two began interweaving their individual talents to form a musical chemistry as strong as their friendship.
Sheri and Mark met in 2003. No matter what adventures they took, the friends stayed in touch.
“Our worlds overlapped largely because of death and a departure. We were orbiting electrons for some time but our connection was not fully consecrated until Mark stepped in to support me with this carnival-themed fundraiser I was helping to organize for a man too young to be dying of brain cancer. I left town shortly after and we’ve stayed in touch ever since,” Sheri explained.
Mark shared, “Sheri and I met in 2003 and although we never made music together we always had a distinct tie through our friendship and mutual admiration of the arts. Sheri moved away from the area shortly after that but we stayed in touch. She let me know that she was moving back to the area (from Austin, Texas) in the spring of 2018 and I proposed a writing collaboration. We picked up, as friends and artists, fifteen years later as if there was hardly any time missed.”
Both Sheri and Mark have an extensive background and deep passion of being involved in music.
Mark became an area musician in the 1980s, performing as part of hardcore bands. Mark then studied jazz in college and wrote songs that he described as “heavily influenced by the early 90’s indie rock scene.” His passion for travel has led him to tour the world with stops in 19 countries, frequently as a guitar player for Lloyd Cole. He has also played on records from artists such as Lou Barlow, Shadows Fall, and Mary Lou Lord. Mark has also released six albums of his own since 2003.
When Mark was twelve, something clicked, and he knew that his passion lied in music. “I was twelve when I knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Up until that point, there wasn’t anything that came close to blending what felt natural with a timeless love quite like playing music did for me. Vocationally, nothing much has approached that marker since. There are other things that I love doing, but music is intrinsic,” Mark said.
Sheri was inspired by observing her aunt play the piano, and knew it would influence her future. Sheri shared, “I learned my very first songs on the piano from my Auntie Joanne. I would watch her long fingers dance graceful and deliberate while the ash from her cigarette animated the space between her red lips and the black and white of the keys. I decided young that I would grow up to smoke cigarettes and play music.”
Sheri was at first hesitant to release her music to the public. “It took me a lot longer than I imagined to bring the music forward. I carried it around like a secret until about four years ago when I recorded my first album ‘Not the Sum of my Parts.’ Luckily, I kicked the ‘glamour of smoking’ much earlier.” Sheri said.
Sheri, whose geographical footprint extends across the map due to her unshakeable wanderlust, said her music has been influenced by some of the places she has been. “I spent some time in the area of Veracruz, Mexico among the community folk scene of Son Jarocho. I traveled to Portugal to wander the streets of Lisbon listening to Fado [music] pour out into the streets and straight into the depths of my heart in an attempt to stir the soul of singing with such force and emotion. And I have always loved jazz,” Sheri said.
Sheri personified what she believes the Revenant Sea sound could be described as. “The intention behind it and how it is received may be two very different things. I’d like to think that it’s somehow a blend of many [genres] not yet quite defined. Perhaps, a minor jazz resurrection meets a histrionic deluge, they have a conversation in a dim lit cellar bar and no one around them can tell what year they stepped out of,” Sheri explained.
Mark said, “It feels like intense, personal songwriting to me. I think that our sound together blends what we both do individually. Sheri has called her solo music ‘witchfolk’ while I’ve been often referred to as a dark singer/songwriter ala Elliott Smith. I feel like the one difference is there is more attention to adventurous guitar playing, which has been really fun and fulfilling for me,” Mark said.
When asked what makes Sheri and Mark a fantastic duo, each member of Revenant Sea’s response represents an undeniable bond.
“Mark is an incredibly skilled musical veteran. I’m mostly filled with feelings that translate into sound, color and texture when I’m in the comfort of my bathtub, my ears just below the water to create the illusion that no one else can hear me. I’ve been far too intimidated to play music with others because I don’t possess the language nor have I harbored the diligence for musical training. I can’t tell you what chord I’m playing or even what key we’re in at this point but I think that’s precisely why it works between Mark and I,” Sheri said.
Sheri continued, “We connect on a deep emotional level which allows us to often communicate without all the words. In playing with him there are extended moments when I lose sight of that story, the story that had kept me from believing that the feeling alone wasn’t enough to open my heart and just sing. He’s gotten me to crawl out of the bathtub, which means that our practices are often more like music therapy sessions to comfort the first out of water in me.”
Mark shared, “Friendship and a similar ethos of full immersion in what it is that we are creating, both together and independently. Sheri is an amazing singer, with a timeless voice, but her sense of artistry and focus makes for a really great collaboration. She is also a powerful lyricist and quite an accomplished guitar player (though she would never admit that part!) We are both people that don’t fear the truth, so our communication is crystal clear and intentional. When we play it feels as if we have been already doing it for all of those years that we lived apart.”
Sheri said she wouldn’t describe being a musician as her career. “I wouldn’t call this a career. More like a side dish to a career I still haven’t chosen. This is therapy for me,” Sheri explained.
The duo plans to spend 2019 recording songs they have written and planning a tour of the United States and Canada. Sheri said, “I would love for us to play in crowded silent cafes, amphitheaters with nature’s reverb, quaint house concerts and listening rooms all over the earth. I want for the listeners to feel the history in our songs and for it to bring them to the places that have inspired their creation.”
Sheri continued, “I have traveled all over the world to collect the songs and the stories of places. I see Revenant Sea as an accumulation of memories that we have gathered and stored in the watery places of our bodies. Our experiences are no different from others, so we offer this project as a conduit, one which may pave the way back to the old haunts within us without leaving our seats.”
To keep up with Revenant Sea, visit www.revenantsea.com. The band can also be found on social media at facebook.com/revenantsea/, twitter.com/RevenantSea, and instagram.com/revenantsea/. To listen to their music, visit soundcloud.com/user-125542825. Sheri also works as a maker, under the business name The Alchemy of Artemis. To view her products, visit www.thealchemyofartemis.com
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