If Sean Gardner is known for one thing, it’s never doing just one thing. Blessed with a bright, fragile singing voice and multi-instrumental talents, Gardner always juggles several bands. First it was the buzzy post-punk project Denovo and the gorgeously expansive Kopaz. Then came Melty Melty’s electronics-infused indie pop, the raucous guitar pop of Bookmobile and The Kyle Sowashes and The Receiver’s artful prog.
All the while, he nurtured deeply personal songs under the name Winter Makes Sailors. A decade ago they were just bedroom recordings — airy, emotive ballads a la Elliott Smith that didn’t fit with Gardner’s other ventures.
“If it wasn’t for friends asking me to play these songs solo originally, I don’t know that I ever would have,” Gardner said.
Winter Makes Sailors became a personalized outlet alongside Gardner’s many sonic democracies. Songs such as “Two States Away” and “Take Me West” emerged online as beautifully bleary sighs. But eventually, like so many solo projects, Winter Makes Sailors accumulated bandmates.
As the group morphed into different shapes, so did the music. The six-piece lineup that solidified in recent years became a breezy folk-pop ensemble with shades of Beulah, John Vanderslice and The Decemberists — heartfelt outpourings of a twentysomething aspiring rock star seasoned with the wisdom of a married thirtysomething homeowner.
“These songs are so old, so they’ve seen different points of my life,” Gardner said. “So they have changed a lot, just like I’ve changed a lot.”
So many people got involved that the band started to feel more like a community project. So when Gardner finally made a record, he aimed to include them all. The credits for Moving On, which finally sees release Friday at Kobo, mirrors the contacts list in Gardner’s phone.
So does Friday’s lineup: Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage, Joe Peppercorn of The Whiles, Casey Cooper of The Receiver, Billy Peake of Bicentennial Bear, Dan Gerken of Miranda Sound, Mike Finch of Ease the Medic and Joel Walter. Gardner gathered solo acts galore to recognize the band’s roots as a singer-songwriter project and the music community that shaped it.
“The people that are playing are awesome,” Gardner said. “To me it really is a huge celebration.”