Sansha Blue Builds Swirling Psychedelic Alt-Rock Soundscapes On New EP
Chris Paraggio might be young but he's got a gift. Born and bred in the clutches of suburban New York, the 17 year old multi-instrumentalist is off to pursue bigger dreams and hone his craft at NYU's esteemed Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Before he goes gallivanting off to burst onto the scene he deserves to be in, we want to spotlight his latest EP, The Grey Area, released under his moniker Sansha Blue, a dark alt-rock project he's been releasing music under for just about a year now.
The Grey Area opens with "Cellar Door / Beautiful Things," a looming and brooding seven and a half minute piece that acts as a beautifully in-your-face introduction to talent that is far beyond Chris' years. The first minute of the track features blooming bass warbles merging with abrupt, high-powered percussion, the arrangement swelling into this quick swirl of psychedelic flavor darkened by grunge rhythms. Chris' vocals come in then, an eerie vintage croon delivering abstract imagery (a major theme of his songwriting). The track continues in this way, toned down with lazy guitar and soft harmonies but exploding occasionally with erratic prog-rock breakdowns. There's so much going on here but it's all so good -- from the production to the layers of distorted multi-instrumentation to the ghostly drawl.
Following that dynamic introduction to The Grey Area is "Stuck," a seemingly bittersweet and subdued tale of melodrama that would be at home with your favorite 90s grunge tunes to rage to, but we're not raging here, we're languishing. We get a better sense of Chris' vocals -- strong when it needs to be but quivering -- and less of his instrumental prowess, though the song still boasts thick, fuzzy electric treatment and howling riffs.
"Widowed Afternoon" comes next, one of Chris' best efforts. His vocals are gorgeous, a cool croon tinged with an ache as he confesses his paranoia. The arrangement is relatively minimalist (at least compared to previous tracks), mostly built on subtle bass lines and some shimmering percussion, but what really elevates the piece is that buzzing string arrangement resounding in the background. The song is free of Sansha Blue's signature grunge treatment, transformed this time by elegant touches and new sonic details that test out a soft acoustic take.
Next is "Dig," which is wildly misplaced in the modern age, belonging instead to that grunge era we keep referencing. It has that bedroom-production quality, clouded by discordant swells and blurry vocals, so it's yet another example of Chris' versatility when it comes to building multi-instrumental arrangements and vocal delivery.
The Grey Area ends with "The Grey Area (Of Other People)," a remaster of Sansha Blue's first release. It's a circular ending, almost, mimicking the schizophrenic psychedelia of the record's first track, but this time in a more controlled, otherworldly sort of way. There's an incessant buzz carried throughout the track above tender percussion and Chris' weary wail, the arrangement growing in urgency at certain points then quickly deflating back to a hazy slow burn. The ending erupts into a full-on prog-rock breakdown, weighed down with heavy crackles of distortion before the comedown fully fades out.
In just five tracks, Chris travels a swath of influences from Nirvana's brooding grunge to Pink Floyd's warbling instrumentation to even Led Zeppelin's quieter, contemplative moments. Sansha Blue runs the gamut here both in terms of inspiration and talent, saturated by the kind of passion and grit you'll find in young up-and-comers. Chris Paraggio already has the skills -- further honing them will yield wildly interesting results.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
Sansha Blue: I’m a 17 year old singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and graphic design artist. I started as a classically trained pianist and cellist, and was able to teach myself seven other instruments from there. I started writing my own music around my freshman year of high school, but I started getting serious once I realized I could do music for real.
TMM: What was the production process like behind your new EP, The Grey Area?
SB: Producing this album was strange compared to the other projects I’m working on. A lot of these songs were written a long time ago when I was in a certain headspace. As a result, I recorded multiple versions of almost every song on here, so making final decisions on things took a while. Recording each individual song also takes a fair amount of time since I record and produce everything myself.
TMM: The lyrical matter is pretty heavy and abstract throughout the album. What tends to inspire your songwriting?
SB: While I want to present ideas that may be relatable and understandable for the listener, I never want to give too much away -- I think my listeners should have the option to relate my songs to their own lives. I wrote all these songs with certain personal ideas in mind, but I could never say that someone’s interpretation of a song is wrong. I think, if one of my songs becomes a personal idea, story, or message for someone else, I’ve done a good job.
TMM: Who are some of your biggest influences, both musically and personally?
SB: I’ve always been inspired by any “outside of the box” type of music. I think outside of the norm is where you find all of the interesting stuff. I’ve been really inspired by artists such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, The Clash, and David Bowie. While my long list of inspirations goes through artists in punk, rap, jazz, or anything else, I’d say that those five have been really, really big in my life. They’ve proven that being yourself can pay off, no matter how weird you might be for the time.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Sansha Blue?
Sansha Blue: Currently, I’m working on three new projects. Without giving away too much, I’d say listeners can look forward to some interesting and diverse content throughout the next year.