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Sea Power - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 23 / 5 / 2022



Sea Power - Interview

intro

Sea Power guitarist Martin Noble talks to Mark Rowland about the band’s new album ‘Everything Was Forever’ and the challenges of finishing an album in lockdown.


Sea Power’s new album, ‘Everything Was Forever’, marks a new era for the band. With a seismic shift in style, however, it marks the point at which the band left the ‘British’ tag behind. The former British Sea Power – Yan and Hamilton Wilkinson, Matthew Wood, Martin Noble, Phil Sumner and Abi Fry – always celebrated British life and history in their music, hosting gigs in old pubs, village halls and even castles. But they also celebrated global connectedness and cooperation, in particular on ‘Waving Flags’, from the band’s third album, ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ Their break with ‘British’ is a response to the rise of nationalism across the world, and to an extent, so is ‘Everything Was Forever’, though that is only part of the story. It’s also not fair to call it a lockdown album, even though it was part recorded in isolation, says guitarist Martin Noble. The band has always had one eye on what was going on in the world, he says, and that has certainly informed the album. “I think anyone who looks at the world, the leaders and the companies that get away with murder, can see something isn’t quite right,” he says. “It's reflective of that. The climate crisis and the way the world is treated. It's kind of out of sight, but everybody knows the impacts on the planet. The album takes all that in. Perhaps Covid and the lockdown may be consolidated into that a bit, and with Brexit, we’ve felt completely isolated. You're in your home and you're isolated from friends and family, and the rest of Europe. It's a mixture of all that.” The album is more personal than other releases, says Noble. “It's not trying to be too clever and too cryptic. It's sort fairly direct in that way.” However, it was important not to let the album become dirge-like. The four songs released in advance of the album – ‘Two Fingers’, ‘Folly’, ‘Lakeland Echo’ and ‘Green Goddess’ – are atmospheric, but also reach for an uplifting tone. “You can listen to stuff and come away from it really feeling worse than you were when you started,” says Noble. “We never want that. I think the music's quite positive and as a lot of good feeling to it. It's fairly feelgood music for the subject matter. It’s like a Trojan horse.” ’Two Fingers’, the lead single from the album, encapsulates this approach. It’s chorus, “Two fingers for the dead/Two fingers for the living/Two fingers for the world that we all live in” evokes the pain that many have felt during the pandemic, wrapped in an epic and sweeping melody. “It's sort of multifaceted,” Noble says of the song’s meaning. “It's a drinking song on one level, it’s a peace sign, its a ‘fuck you’. But it also came from Yan and Hamilton's dad. They got it first from him, like two fingers of whiskey or a spirit. That's your measurement. It's all of that rolled into one, and it's purposely left for the listener to take what they want from it.” It certainly aims to provoke how people have felt throughout 2020 and 2021, he says. “To say ‘fuck it’, you know, it's not the most self-positive outlook, but I think if you do it in the right way, it's kind of liberating. It's not completely negative. It's just kind of right – fuck that – and it's still your own thing and move forward.” ‘Everything Was Forever’ was mixed by Graham Sutton, the Bark Psychosis band leader turned producer and mixing engineer who has worked on several Sea Power albums in the past, from second album ‘Open Season’ through to 2011’s ‘Valhalla Dancehall’. This time around, Sutton came on board late in the day. The band had been recording a lot of songs already and were starting to look around for someone to mix it. Around the same time, they wer doing listening parties for their entire discography in chronological order. “Our second album, ‘Open Season’, came up, and just hearing it again after all that time and realising the role that Graham had on that and ‘…Rock Music’, ‘Man of Aran’ and beyond that. We were like: ‘I wonder what Graham is doing?’ So we got in touch with him.” Working with Sutton took place largely remotely. The band gave him free rein to select the songs that would make the best and most cohesive album. Everyone in the band felt that they needed an outsider to step in to prevent it becoming a mishmash of styles, says Noble. “I’ve been listening to the Beatles recently because I watched that Disney documentary [‘Get Back’], which is amazing, but [on ‘Abbey Road’] you’ve got ‘Something’ almost next to ‘Octopus’s Garden’, which is pretty nuts, for a listen. They could do that, but we wanted to do something a bit more cohesive. No ‘Octopus’s Garden’ on this one.” The band had about two-thirds of the album recorded remotely, and were able to reconvene as lockdown restrictions eased in summer 2021 when they could record drums. Most of the tracks were recorded ‘back to front’, with the drums being added last – everyone else played to a programmed pattern before drummer Matthew Wood laid down the final beat. “Normally he starts it off and hasn’t got a picture of what it’s going to sound like finished. It's quite luxurious, in a way.” The album is texturally rich, which also comes in part from recording in fits and starts remotely. A lot of the more atmospheric synth sounds on the record were produced using software plugins, which appeared to an extent on previous album ‘Let The Dancers Inherit the Party’, though a lot of it was redone in the studio. “Sometimes, you just use the shitty plugin because it sounds really good. You just do what sounds right,” says Noble. Despite having a wealth of material to choose from, Sutton chose some tracks for the album that were half finished, with no vocals or even fully realised structures. Usually, this would be solved in studio, with all the members playing with the idea and developing it together. This time around, that wasn’t possible: the band had to figure out a new way to approach it. “We were constructing it from scratch,” says Noble. “We didn't even know whether Yan or Hamilton was going to sing them. You’d send them out and go: ‘right, send something back’. It’s an interesting way to work. Sometimes they’d both send stuff for the same song. There are two songs on the album which have both of them singing on kind of duets, which is really nice, where they take turns. A lot of good surprises came from it, I think.” Having worked with the band on several occasions in the past, Sutton was more than happy to tell them if he thought something wasn’t working. “When I’d do my guitar bits and send them over to Graham, because we've got a good working relationship, he’d tell me if it was shit. We had so much time to redo stuff. That was a real luxury. In a studio, things are fairly time-sensitive.” Yan Wilkinson also decided to put choices about vocal takes in the hands of his bandmates, where usually he would have more control over what went on the record. The unusual circumstances gave them the opportunity to try various things to see what would stick. From a practical perspective, however, it posed some challenges. “Singing at home is quite different,” says Noble. “When you’re live in front of an audience, you’re giving it a lot more. We’d get a few back and we’d say to Yan: ‘you’ve got to give it some more welly’ and he’d protest: ‘but my neighbours are going to hear!’ – Fuck your neighbours, give it some welly! Me and Phil thought about going round and making him some vodka Red Bulls.” Now the record is finished, the band have a couple of promotional dates in February, with a few more shows booked in April. Despite Omicron, the band is optimistic that it can go ahead. Because they're fairly small, that kind of show will go ahead. That's my thinking at the moment anyway. I work in a venue as well – the Brighton Dome, which is about 2,000 capacity. I think places like that are more likely to be shut. I really hope everything can go ahead anyway, because it’s been tough.” One shining beacon on the horizon is the return of the band’s festival in the Lake District, Krankenhaus, which will take place at Muncaster Castle on August Bank Holiday weekend. “Tickets are on sale for it now,” says Noble. “We really lucked out with that venue. It’s amazing. So that’s a date for the diary. Something to look forward to.”



Band Links:-
https://seapowerband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SeaPowerBand
https://twitter.com/SeaPowerBand


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: Interview (2022
Sea Power - Interview
Sea Power guitarist Martin Noble talks to Mark Rowland about the band’s new album ‘Everything Was Forever’ and the challenges of finishing an album in lockdown.







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