The Legend of the Seagullmen
How does one go about explaining the Seagullmen phenomenon? With great difficulty.
Conceived by brothers Frank, Chris, and David Dreyer and a group of close friends, the Seagullmen are a fascinating fusion of live music, performance art, cutting-edge theater, puppetry, 3-D film, and folkloric folderol.
Originally from Philadelphia, the Dreyer brothers moved to Cocoa Beach in 1977 when their father came to the Space Coast to start an advertising agency. “Each of us have been pursuing creative careers since we graduated from Cocoa Beach High,” Frank says, “and sometimes our talents are brought together on projects like ‘Legend of the Seagullmen.'”
David, the youngest, had been in bands since before graduation and has made his mark as a production designer for films, TV, and music videos in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Chris is the founder/director of the 3D Film Festival and has produced several movies over the years. Frank, the eldest, is a creative director/film producer based in Los Angeles and is also known as the performance artist Heinous Bienfang.
“Our professional careers have helped fuel the development of our artistic projects, giving us a chance to utilize each others talents,” Frank explains. “Even though we live in different cities, we all take turns staying in Cocoa Beach where our mother still lives. We’ve been helping her fight through stage-4 breast cancer for the last five years. She has a great support group in Cocoa Beach, but sometimes it gets tough. David has had to spend the most time back here. Our friends, especially the Mowreys, help her a lot when work takes all three of us away. Our mother, Angela, is a very inspiring person, courageous in her faith, and has always supported us to step up to what we think we would want to accomplish creatively.”
As the Seagullmen, the Dreyers and their comrades have created a local seasonal tradition with the riveting shows they put on each November.
We asked Frank via email to help us unravel the mystery of the avian heroes in preparation for their November 25 show in downtown Cocoa Beach.
It might be best to start off with an explanation of the Legend of the Seagullmen. Recount it for us.
This is a 400,000-year-old story with pirates, sailors, a rock band, and mythical sea creatures, officially qualifying it as a legend. The song, “The Legend of the Seagullmen,” go figure, tells the story. Four hundred thousand years ago, a league of pirates, led by Captain Red Beard, sold their souls to the Seagull God King, who in turn granted them an immense treasure and the power to live forever. However, just as Red Beard was reciting the chant, “We are the aire, we are the Seagullmen,” he was stabbed in the back by Man o’ War Man, who wanted the power and treasure for himself. The Seagull God King felt pity for the pirates and granted their souls eternal life as seagulls. So whenever you see a seagull on the beach it contains the soul of pirates long lost. Since that time, the Key has been hidden from the Man o’ War Man by a collection of sailors and pirates. Recently, the Key and the Legend were in possession of the Skipper, but that changed during a poker game gone bad at the lair of the Asian Pirate, which is located on an island off the coast of Cocoa Beach. The dying Skipper entrusted the Key and the Legend to Crusty the Sea Captain, with instructions to swallow the Key and give the Legend to a band of mercenaries waiting in Casablanca. The Skipper blew himself up rather than be taken by the Man o’ War Man and his Ghost Crab Army, and Crusty escaped. He made his way to Cocoa Beach, and being a drinking man, didn’t realize the Skipper meant Casablanca, Morocco, not the dive bar in Cocoa Beach. It so happens that a band called the High Voltages was playing at the bar that night, were mistaken for the mercenaries, and were told to travel with Crusty to the Seagull God Temple. They chartered a boat and followed the instructions of Crusty to become the new Seagullmen. Now, their arch enemy, Man o’ War Man, will stop at nothing to get back the Key and the power of the Legend.
How did you guys come up with the concept?
You may imagine that if you spend enough time in Cocoa Beach against your will, you either learn to love it or go crazy. The Seagullmen is all about doing both and embracing the subtle joys of our mythically world-famous hometown. We’re famous for a fictional TV show that was never shot on location here, for God’s sake. I don’t know if any of the three of us would be spending this much time here if our mother didn’t need us; we do have a love/hate relationship with Cocoa Beach. Imagine if Kelly Slater could only surf the waves here… He’d get quite bored. But it’s a great hometown. But with the Seagullmen, it’s mostly about David’s actual adventures playing with his band, the High Voltages, and how one night after a show at the Casablanca in downtown Cocoa Beach they met up with a crusty old sea captain who spun a tale of the Legend and gave them the Key to unlock the transformative super powers the Seagull God King gave them. Because they were a rock band, the powers come out when they play shows. You really just need to see the movie.
The story has been unfolding and progressing for some time now, right? Is it recapped for newcomers each time? At what stage is the Legend now?
As with all good long tales, the audience is introduced to the Legend of the Seagullmen at each show. How many bands start off a show with a 12-minute introductory movie? We always add more to the story every time we tell it. And if you’ve seen the show before, you haven’t seen the next one.
So it’s more than just a concert. How would you describe it?
The Seagullmen is a true 360-media phenomenon. More than just a band, it’s a story that is lived and told with film, video, music, art, and performance. The Seagullmen have cast a spell over the inhabitants of Cocoa Beach, and when they hear the music rise over the salty ocean breeze sweeping down Minutemen Causeway, everyone crawls out of their holes like ghost crabs to come to the show.
Who is currently in the lineup?
David, also known as “The Doctor” on guitar/vocals, Steve “Jewop” Caglianone on drums, and Dave “Gravy” McCullough on bass are the High Voltages. They wield the power granted by the Seagull God King to become the Seagullmen, and play their shows with Crusty the Sea Captain on keyboards and the Seagull God King on guitar. They must fight off villains like Captain Red Beard, Man o’ War Man, and the Ghost Crab Army. During the show, other creatures, pirates, and people join them onstage to help, including Manatee Man, who loves the Seagullmen but hates humans, as you can imagine. There’s Bloody Bill, the marine biologist who murders in the name of science, and the Asian Pirate… or whatever he is. Personally, I’m waiting for the Jellyfish Queen to make an appearance.
How did Brent Hinds of Mastodon come to be involved?
As a good friend of ours from Atlanta, Brent came with David to Cocoa Beach for some R&R a few years ago. He learned his true calling in life and is now a part of the Legend of the Seagullmen. His other bands — Mastodon, Fiend Without a Face, and West End Motel — are just excuses for him to travel the world and hunt for the Man O’ War Man. You really need to see the movie. It will all make more sense. Mastodon is playing the House of Blues at Lake Buena Vista on December 1. I highly recommend going.
Seagullmen shows have become a kind of seasonal tradition around here. How well does it go over with the Art Show crowd? I’ve heard some people were initially perplexed but were won over by the time it was all over.
For the last few years, we’ve played shows on the Friday after Thanksgiving, before the Space Coast Art Festival, and they have been insanely popular. That Friday night is also big for the reunion crowd from Cocoa Beach High. We’re fighting with the City to allow us to hold our concert downtown, but it’s still in negotiation at the time of this interview. Each time the Seagullmen have played, they’ve overwhelmed the venue. Shows at Casablanca and at the North End Pub couldn’t hold everyone, and the bartenders are left crying in fetal positions after the show due to the massive thirsts of the crowds. Last Mother’s Day weekend we played an outdoor party in the field next to Mai Tiki and packed that place, too. I mean, you’re in Cocoa Beach, and if you miss the Seagullmen show, it’s like missing a shuttle launch — you have no excuse, just walk outside! If anyone was perplexed before a show it was intentional. That shouldn’t stop you from just showing up. Does a Ghost Crab ask what the hell that piece of dead flesh is on the beach or does it just start eating it?
What can people expect from the November 25 show?
The band spent most of August and September in Los Angeles filming “The Legend of the Seagullmen Movie” in 3D with an expanded story line — so this will be much different than the last show we had for our “Seagull d’Mayo” party at Mai Tiki. So, 3D projection is in order, and we’ll have glasses for everyone with admission. (Please note: subject to be in 2D without notice…)
How long does it take you to prepare for a show?
Usually about three months to plan a major event, build the props, and make the movie. This time we’re going from a big show at the 3D Music Fest in Hollywood in September and Atlanta’s Little Five Points Halloween Parade and Festival in October to this show in Cocoa Beach on November 25. So we’ve been working on this show officially since August, but planning it since the day after the last show in May. It will take us all week just to set up the show and bring in the performers from out of town. Not to mention that the last 24 hours are usually spent with a dozen or more people not sleeping, just to get in all the last-minute details. Having it right after Thanksgiving means our whole family will be on hand to work on the show. I have four kids, and my wife and oldest daughter, Alex, help quite a bit. We hope a few of our cousins show up again. Last time, our cousin, who was the Sheriff of Atlantic City County, showed up unannounced and helped us with security… actually mostly with the authorities. The cost to put on a show this size is much more than any average band or event, with the props and equipment, not to mention the cost of making a short film. The citizens of Cocoa Beach have been very generous in their support, making it all worthwhile. And we hope to get a lot of ghost crabs to come out again this time.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face for this performance — and past performances?
Projectors, Projectors, Projectors! Anyone have a 3D projector we can borrow to avoid us having to ship one from Los Angeles? Everything is done DIY, which can be liberating, but it also means that there are a lot of logistical challenges. But I think that spirit adds to the atmosphere. It’s chaotic at times and we don’t know what will go wrong, but after putting on shows and performing for 20 years together, we all know that anything can happen, so we just roll with it.
Tell us more about the film. And what does else does the future hold for the Seagullmen?
It depends on whether the Seagull God King wants us to spread the Legend more or not… In Hollywood this is also know as “raising the budget.” We’re satisfied with just letting our friends in on it, but we think there are a lot more people out there who need to hear the story. Most of the backstory has only been told in film, and we do plan on developing the current adventures of the Seagullmen as they do battle with Man o’ War Man and try to escape the revenge of Captain Red Beard. Most of these stories are told during the live concert, but in the future we could easily see comic books, a TV series, and a feature film. I’ll leave you with the chorus from the song, “Legend of the Seagullmen,” because if you read this far into the story you deserve to hold the Key: “That’s right, this is entertainment/We don’t know why, we can’t explain it/It’s the legend and the power of the Seagullmen.”
The Seagullmen perform on November 25 in downtown Cocoa Beach at an as-yet-undisclosed venue. Check their websites online — www.theseagullmen.com and on Facebook: “Cocoa Beach Seagullmen” — or check www.thebechsideresident.com for further details as they emerge. You can also see video samples of their performances and short clips of the planned film.