Gwen Wolfenbarger is behind one of Colorado College’s most unique sounds. Also known as Seal Eggs, her new album Sunday Will be Snow is a beautifully ethereal collection of layered and looped tracks, she describes as “drinking Sleepytime Vanilla tea….” that truly “sounds like winter.”
I remember the first time I saw Gwen perform in Cornerstone last year, I was brought to tears during her performance of “One Day”, which is featured on the new album. She drew on many inspirations during the composition process, one of the most important being the journey of understanding her transition, which expresses itself thematically through the development of the tracks. Gwen describes the progression of the tracks to reflect her transition: “begins hopefully, kind of sinks into depression through the middle, and then ends on another positive note…I think the most depressing part is dysphoria”.”
Gwen’s process of composing, recording and performance is extremely unique. During composition, Gwen describes the process as a “snowball effect”. Sound-layer upon layer build up after long periods of improvisation, to produce a sound she didn’t plan out. Because of the complexity of her tracks, I am dumbfounded at her ability to reproduce this in live performance. During performance, she describes her experience: “I forget that I’m even performing for anyone, and so its incredibly jarring when at the end there’s an applause…I am extremely vulnerable to the memories and experience of the transition.” She describes getting lost in the music and the performance; music is her form of escape. The songs themselves are intimate and exposed, and this is clear through Gwen’s raw emotion. It is a beautiful experience just to witness a Seal Eggs performance.
I asked Gwen about what music means to her and what she thinks it could do for others. Of course this is a big question, but she comments on how music has always been the biggest and most important part of her life. Even before she could play any instruments (which she plays many and if she doesn’t, could learn in an unfair amount of time) baby Gwen was found chewing on her family’s upright piano. To this day music envelops her life, “I don’t even know where I would be without it, music is my best friend.” There are clear resonances of Gwen’s musical background in choir throughout Sunday Will Be Snow. Music frames Gwen’s experiences of the world and in terms of her new album; music has been a very healing experience. It was not only a healing experience for Gwen, but as a huge fan of her music, a restorative experience for all listeners.
Catching up with Gwen on her new album also led to some entertaining responses about Sunday Will be Snow:
Q: “If you could collaborate with any musical artist who would they be?”
A: “One of my big influences, Grouper. She’s a drone singer and guitarist from Portland who uses a lot of tape loops…. A lot of it sounds like it’s underwater.”
Q: “What colors and shapes embody the essence of this album for you?”
A: “Powdery blue and pink definitely, I mean those are the trans flag colors. Also warm colors like burgundy. Shapes would be spirals and circles.”