The sounds of chatter and clinking glasses resonated around deep mahogany tables in what was once a principal’s office but is now a warm and dimly lit bar inside a renovated high school. Restaurant-goers seemed oblivious to the small table and speaker set-up in front of them, but the Colorado College students dispersed throughout the room surely knew what was about to happen as Gwen Wolfenbarger, also known as “Seal Eggs,” took to the modest stage.
On the first ethereal note, seemingly drawn out from the speaker itself, heads turned, and the audience stared on quizically as Seal Eggs took them on a journey through the looping of forlorn minor key harp sounds and echoing vocals drowning in reverb.
Wolfenbarger, a junior music major at CC, began her musical exploration with just one loop petal. She said that she has “evolved so much as a musician studying at Colorado College and studying music theory,” which has allowed her to explore more complicated forms of looping her voice.
Listening to her performance, it seemed impossible that she was able to recreate that many complex layers of sound in a live performance. However, with her eyes closed and body contorting to one side and then the other, Wolfenbarger appeared to be in another world of possibility.
Wolfenbarger’s musical lives are actually “pretty far apart.” She explained the separation between her personal music career and her school music major, indicating that the response to her performances at campus parties is often “lukewarm.” As a result, she doesn’t play on campus often. Rather, Wolfenbarger finds more agency in the DIY community of Colorado Springs. She got her start playing at venues such as Mountain Fold and Flux Capacitor.
Even though the metal and indie rock DIY scene in Colorado Springs is far different from the experimental looping sounds of Seal Eggs, Wolfenbarger still finds support, saying that she would be “nowhere without the Colorado Springs DIY community.” Although she has explored the more experimental DIY scene in Denver, she seems content in forging her own path here in the Springs.
Wolfenbarger would describe her sound as ambient pop, but she makes it clear that putting music into a thematic category really doesn’t mean anything; she tries to avoid describing her sound whenever possible. One common misconception of ambient music is that it should simply exist in the background, both of a scene and of one’s mind. Wolfenbarger, on the other hand, uses her music to elicit emotional reactions during her performances.
“Ambient music can be whatever you make of it, and it’s not necessarily something that has to exist in the subconscious,” Wolfenbarger said. “It can exist in the middle space between reality and subconscious. I believe you can listen to it, and you can definitely have an emotional response to it.”
Wolfenbarger explained that her desire to evoke emotions in her audiences stems from an experience that she had when she was 14 at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn. She was listening to Icelandic popstar Björk in the front row, and something stirred inside of her.
“There was something about the music, something about the bass, that really struck me,” she said. “And something about it wrenched tears from my eyes, and I was sobbing the entire time.”
By studying psychoacoustics, a branch of psychology concerned with the perception of sound and its physiological effects, Wolfenbarger hopes to create impactful music that elicits emotional responses unique to each listener.
There are big plans for Seal Eggs in the future. She is touring in the fall of 2018, during which she hopes to move past the limitations of sound looping and incorporate other musicians on synthesizer and guitar. Wolfenbarger also hopes to get an artist visa and move to Berlin after she graduates in order to explore the music scene abroad.
Check out sealeggsmusic.com to find out about upcoming tour dates and listen to the latest video release single, “Sublimation.”