In Conversation with…SEA GIRLS

Calling out the glory days of noughties indie, London-based Sea Girls fuel buzzy highs through epic sprawls of hook-driven guitar pop, just one listen to their latest release ‘Heavenly War’ is enough to confirm the band’s talent. Heading into a new year, Sea Girls were quick to jump back in the van for their first headline tour of the UK.

Meeting the band in Manchester, there’s a real buzz in the air for the night’s coming show. For Sea Girls this is a city that has already welcomed them in with open arms, after their triumphant debut last November at Neighbourhood Festival – yet this doesn’t mean that there is a lack of enthusiasm and anticipation bubbling up for their first headline show this very night.

The room fills almost immediately after doors are let open and remains bustling until the very end. With only a few tracks broadcast online up to this point, Sea Girls promise a host of new material to be unveiled during their set – and they don’t fail to provide, in fact some of their most-recently written tracks might be their best yet. Whilst the set is exceedingly short for a headline, it is tremendously enjoyable and the group make the most of their time with massive choruses flying in from every direction, a stage presence that beckons bigger stages, and the initiative to form a memorable moment with each and every single person in the room.

So when the time comes for the last song in their set to be sung, the whole room is calling out for more. And never to disappoint, the band re-enters the stage for an encore – this time opening up the set list to the fans, allowing them to choose the appropriate finale – which in the end rests on the shoulders of already-played ‘Call Me Out.’ An unexpected turn of events but once settled, an immediate triumph. Bodies jump on shoulders, crowd surfing ensues and everywhere is a picture of buoyancy – this is what a live music experience should feel like. Sea Girls are on track for real success, we felt it then and we still feel it now.

First things first, enjoy our sit down with Sea Girls’ singer/guitarist/frontman Henry Camamile and drummer Oli Khan.

Last time I saw Sea Girls was at Neighbourhood Festival playing the now-closed Sound Control –  

Henry: Oh awesome, you were there!

Oli: I just walked past Sound Control [earlier].

I remember the room was buzzing and people were up on shoulders and singing a lot of the words back. Do find that this is a regular occurrence at a Sea Girls gig?

Henry: That out of London that was out first… like, we couldn’t believe it. That was amazing and I think that was one of my favourite days, of my life, at that point. Because we were like, f***, we’re a proper band and people actually like us, and it was just super f***ing cool. We loved that, so we’ve been really excited to come back here. And hopefully the same…

Oli: Shoulders.

Henry: Hopefully some shoulders again tonight. We’ve had a few shoulders on the tour as well.

Speaking of venues like Sound Control – a staple gig venue in the city that has now been erased due to building developers buying the land.

Oli: Is that it? We saw the scaffolding outside.

Charlotte: Yeah they’ve sold it.

Oli: It’s gone [he says astonished]. Jeez.

Charlotte: It was a three tier venue. Usually you could have one gig upstairs and then one downstairs on the same night. So losing that venue will have a huge impact.

Oli: Oh what a shame. The basement was cool, we saw Yonaka [there].

Henry: Yonaka was awesome. We crowd surfed.

What’s your opinion on the situation facing independent and grassroots venues at the moment?

Oli: Bad.

Henry: I hope not all of them close down like that, it would be a big shame.

Oli: There’s one in Bristol that has just closed down that was [host to] Nirvana’s first UK gig. That’s like, historic stuff.

Henry: I know there’s a movement as well to keep grassroots venues. Like, this is beautiful [speaking of the live room at the Deaf Institute].

Oli: [Thinking about the positives, Oli adds:] New [venues] pop up still as well, because we’ve got Omeara [in London], The Cookie is fairly new [in Leicester].

Henry: So hopefully it keeps going.

Oli: Stronger ones that survive.

Charlotte: We have a new venue coming soon from local promoters Now Wave. They’re renovating a building, just literally further down Oxford Road.

Henry: And they’re going to put a new venue in it?

Charlotte: Yeah, it’s going to be really cool.

Henry: That’s awesome. Hopefully it can keep the magic of the old stuff. But Manchester’s a proper music city, isn’t it?

Charlotte: Yeah, definitely.

Henry: So it’s a shame when something like Sound Control closes down.

Oli: [The Sound Control gig is] always going to be our first gig in Manchester – and we’ve come back, and it’s gone.

Henry: We were lucky to play it. But this venue is incredible [speaking of the Deaf Institute]. I hope it’s not going anywhere [Immediately as this is said the room turns to black]. The lights have just gone down and it looks amazing.

You are currently on your first headlining tour, what does it mean to the group to be a touring band?

Oli/Henry: Everything [they say in unison].

Oli: Oooh. Jinx.

Henry: Yeah [laughs]. It’s like that’s what you want to do when you be a band, you know, you want to actually go on tour and play to people who want to see you.

Oli: Obviously it’s cool to see Spotify numbers, or whatever, but that doesn’t mean anything until you actually see people right in front of you.

Charlotte: You want to look them in the eyes…

Oli: Yeah, look them in the eyes.

Henry: Manchester was awesome when we first came, and today it’s going to be amazing. That’s why you write isn’t it? That’s why you write, rehearse, and everything: to go on tour. And it’s just awesome playing shows night after night, it’s a real treat. Rather than having to wait for ages in your home city.

Sea Girls have a really interesting back-story, in terms of how the band has re-imagined itself since forming – I’m talking about the shift of roles within the band, members taking up different instruments and disciplines. An important decision – what prompted that 360 turnaround?

Oli: We were in two separate bands basically, we [Oli and Henry] were in a band and the other two [Rory and Andrew] were in a band and both of our drummers left at the same time.

Henry: So, Oli was the singer…

Oli: I was the singer and guitarist, then I thought, ‘drums can’t be that hard?’

Henry: I could not have picked up the drums, so I had to sing.

Oli: We had tried out one drummer – who we had known… because obviously we’ve all known each other for years – and it just didn’t feel right.

Henry: I think we’ve played [together] in every single line up. Rory sang as well at one point… and we just worked out what was best. It just naturally fitted in this way, I think. [His voice turns at this point, quietly admitting:] I’ve always wanted to be a singer… on the X Factor [sealing the confession with a light-hearted snigger].

Sea Girls’ songs are always very well written and musically sharp, part of this allure as a listener is the attention given to detail and also, of course, the amount of serious hooks weaved throughout each track. How do you go about creating a song – say your latest release ‘Heavenly War’? Where did you start?

Henry: That started with just the verse melody and that statement: “When I was 18 / I started going out / with a girl / the boys used to shout about.” And you just think around that vibe. The songs I write, I just keep it very simple chord-wise, and just not fight it, and find the melodies within that and then you just tell the story.

Oli: Then we just add our own grooves on top of that –

Henry: Our own in the band, yeah.

Oli: Try not to repeat ourselves, add something new, something different, another element that we haven’t used before. Like in ‘Heavenly War,’ we’ve got this repeating drum beat throughout the song which kind of gets hypnotic.

Henry: And then the instruments filled and fall around it to make the dynamics in it. Yeah, we just try all sorts of things, and then sometimes we’ll groove in the band. Sometimes we’ll freestyle… ‘What For’ was freestyled, and then we fitted in the theme around that. So there’s no gospel way of [writing], we’ll do it all sorts of different ways.

[Not quite ready to move the conversation on, Henry continues:] Make sure there are hooks though. Make sure it sounds good, if it sounds s***, we won’t do it.

Oli: If it’s in your head after practise, then that’ll do.

Henry: Yeah, exactly.

Charlotte: Like they say, ‘If you find yourself singing it in the shower, you know it’s a keeper.’

Oli: We do that a lot. I’ll text Rory, and I’ll be like, ‘That was great, let’s do that.’

Thinking about one specific writing or recording session, is there one that springs to mind that was pivotal, or maybe just really satisfying?

Henry: Pivotal? Would you say that was when we were recording ‘Call Me Out’? [He says to Oli]

Oli: Yeah that was pretty pivotal, yeah yeah.

Henry: That was when we knew we had a f**king good song [After realising what he’s just said, he laughs]. Well, it felt really cool, and we were young, it was exciting. It felt quite rock’n’roll, it was our first proper recording session. We had loads of fun, ate loads of burgers, drank loads of beers, and then recorded this track. And that was exciting, and we really wanted people to hear it – people didn’t hear it for ages.

Oli: Yeah we recorded it, like, six months before it was released.

Henry: That was amazing, that felt right. Then, I think, the last time we were in the studio – we’ve come a long way as musicians, I think, since recording ‘Call Me Out’ … Oli picked up the drums, what two years ago? Like, [just recently] our producer said that he’s, like, f**king good. And we’ve all got our own language in our instruments, in the way we add to it, and it’s feeling really really natural. We’ve got better.

You’ve arranged your songs in acoustic and stripped back situations before, for events like Sofar Sounds, do you ever think you’ll release an acoustic EP or something similar in the future?

Oli: It’s not off the cards.

Henry: We could do. We’d be up for that. It’s just basically [about] whether we have time for it at the moment but we really enjoyed [the process].

Oli: It was just taking a song, taking it back down and rebuilding it –

Henry: Finding a different mood for it. We do that even when writing a song, we change the vibe of the song from the way it originally was. I think ‘Lost’ is the best case of that, that was a bit more ballad-y originally, and then in the band we made it exciting and stuff.

Indie rock has a long history, where do you place Sea Girls in the timeline?

Henry: In the timeline? Current. Happening now.

Oli: Taking everything everyone’s learnt and then adding our bit onto that.

Henry: Yeah, we’re not in the past [he emphasises]. We don’t try and stylise it to anything else that’s been, of course, we’re affected by everything that’s already been, but like, there’s no pushing. We don’t want to sound ‘80s, we don’t want to sound ‘90s, we don’t want to sound like the ‘70s.

Oli: We sound a bit like 2000s indie rock because that’s what we grew up on. That’s us taking that in, and feeding on it, and re-doing it in our own way, bringing it to 2018.

Social media you might say has become the lifeblood of the online world, especially for musicians, how would you define Sea Girls’ social feeds to anyone that hasn’t checked them out before?

Oli: Cheeky.

Henry: Oli is the main social feed man.

Oli: I just reply with Gifs a lot – but tailored Gifs, I would never use the same one ever again… but that’s like 90% of our social media.

Henry: And we will reply, if we can.

Oli: I reply to everything – all the messages, all the tweets.

Henry: We love getting messages. We’ve got an amazing drawing of… it’s lyrics and pictures of ‘What For,’ which is beautiful –

Oli: On Instagram.

Henry: She drew out the [art] and sent it to us, so that was amazing to see that.

Oli: Our first fan art.

Charlotte: I remember last time I was here at the Deaf Institute to see ISLAND

Henry: Oh, we know ISLAND.

Charlotte: – Someone brought some fan art and that was their first time receiving that.

Henry: Oh really? That’s awesome.

Oli: I went to school with the guitarist from ISLAND; we’re all really good friends with them.

Henry: Yeah yeah. They’re good boys. And Wolfe wore our Sea Girls t-shirt to the Maccabees last ever gig, and he crowd surfed in it, and you can see it on the footage.

Charlotte: I love how everyone’s always connected.

Henry: You’ve gotta be, like, big love for all other musicians. That’s the whole point of it, isn’t it? To have your fun and share it with everyone else – have a community. We’re not about making enemies.

After this tour is over, what’s the plan going forward in 2018?

Henry: We’re doing a big London show, and we’re going to do another bigger UK tour.

Oli: We’ve got a support tour happening with The Academic.

Henry: We’re recording – no idea if an album’s actually going to be out, but we’re working towards an album, we’re recording towards an album. That might be out in 2018, I don’t know.

Oli: Festivals…

Henry: We’ve got loads of festivals.

Oli: Upping the game, that’s it.

Henry: We’re just busy, busy, busy.

Oli: Writing some more bangers.

The latest single from Sea Girls, ‘Heavenly War,’ is out now – and available to Stream/Purchase here.

Photo Credit: Jodie Canwell

Find Sea Girls on Facebook and Twitter.

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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