In one fell swoop Sea Power hacked away something that had bothered them for too damn long.
The cultural tectonic plates had shifted, and all of a sudden the connotations of 'British' became too much, too out of sync with what the band's identity stood for.
So, they severed it. And moved forward. New album 'Everything Was Forever' is an appropriately dynamic, up-front return, a record packed with energy but one that seemingly took months to perfect. A work of real unity, it was sculpted remotely, by a band who have settled in all four corners of the British Isles.
Their first album in five years, 'Everything Was Forever' was largely sculpted away from those celebratory live shows, and it follows the group's BAFTA winning work on the enormously successful Disco Elysium soundtrack.
Both a severing with the past and a firm grasp of their identity, this new album finds Sea Power working with incredible confidence, and a remarkable degree of unity.
Clash chats to Yan Scott Wilkinson about its construction.
- - -
- - -
So: the new name change. More power to you for doing it, but what was it like to sit in that social media whirlwind?
It was weird! And very, very funny at times. Quite stressful. You’re dipping into these dark recesses… it’s this arena of filtered ignorance and madness.
I think in a strange way it reminded a lot of more casual fans what a special group you are!
Ha! Well, who knows? I had suggested it before. But it always seemed like such a hassle – changing the name on Spotify and Apple Music, it’s a complex process. But the old name didn’t feel right for this new album, the emotions feel different.
It’s been a while since the last record, but Sea Power haven’t been idle – you scored an award-winning video game, for one thing.
It’s funny, when we started that project is seemed quite obscure, quite quirky and sort of odd. We did take a bit of convincing, to be fair. But we enjoyed doing it, and the game itself transformed into this hugely successful phenomenon, one that made the cover of TIME Magazine. We won a BAFTA!
You’ve always had a knack for world-building, to be fair…
We’ve always enjoyed that aspect, sure. And it was actually really rewarding, which we hadn’t expected. It gave us free rein to be experimental and atmospheric. We’ve done score work before, but it’s mainly been playing to documentaries, and animated films. This was different. It wasn’t brand new territory, but it was definitely new. And I do think those processes influences the new record, a little.
- - -
- - -
There’s a real sense of purpose to the record, did it feel like that from the outset?
Well, it was actually driven in phases. We started writing songs after the live shows at the end of 2019, and then COVID interrupted everything. But we approached with the mindset of: what if this was the last record we did? Would we be happy with it? All that was at the back of our minds.
The pandemic must have caused huge interruption for you.
It did, but then we’re actually quite spread out – the south coast, Cumbria, the Hebrides. We’re used to communicating like that. We actually created the game score in that fashion. We’ve become adept at writing something, sharing it on, doing a little bit more, and finishing the song. But as for the pandemic itself, it did become a moment of reflection for us all. For everyone, really. It was a reset moment.
Do you think that’s where the energy comes from? That feeling of it potentially being your last record?
Well, me and my brother lost our parents. Now, the album isn’t about that at all, but I couldn’t say that those events didn’t inform it emotionally. Going through that makes you very reflective. And I think that’s a common side effect of grieving. There’s a few things – like ‘Two Fingers’ for example – which are things our father used to say. I mean, my brother is a closed book. He doesn’t give much away. And I don’t actually ask him what the songs meant – they’re probably about rambling, or the battle to gain the freedom of right of way.
There’s a real directness to the songwriting which suggests you’re still infatuated with the noble art of the pop song…
Oh definitely. The songs on the record aren’t exactly primed for radio, but they’re not far off. And I like that kind of thing myself. There’s just something about songwriting of that type – we love immediate pop songs, it’s just that we like to combine it with something less obvious.
Given the album was completed in phases, how did you maintain momentum? There must have been points during lockdown when you began to wonder what was coming next…
We’re actually working really well together, so I didn’t worry about that. If anything, I was grateful for the extra time. In some ways, we could have finished it a year earlier… except it wouldn’t have been as good, and we didn’t want to put ourselves through that. I feel like with taking our time, we could strike a better balance.
As a band, will you ever go back to the touring cycles you did before the pandemic?
I’m open-minded about that. We’ve all acquired normal lives again during all this. But I feel like touring is important for us as a band. We don’t live close to one another, really, so it’s one of the main times when we see each other. It’s an excuse to get together with friends really. We’ve been together a long time, it’s like a family outing. We’re always nervous when rehearsals start, but then it clicks together. I’d like to see that continue.
- - -
- - -
Obviously you started your own festival in 2019…
Krakenhaus! It was amazing. A brilliant site, all our friends… the music was excellent.
Would you do it again?
We are doing it again, yes. It’s been difficult, but we’re doing it. We really wanted to try a second one, and – if possible – do it as a yearly thing. So we’ll see!
Are you seeking out other projects this year? Further score work? Bands like Mogwai have this shadow catalogue now…
I know! They’re perfect for it, though. Mogwai and crime dramas seem to go together, somehow. We’re open to it, but it’s about finding the right project. And believe it not, until the game happened we hadn’t really been approached before. But if the right project comes up, then certainly we’d consider it.
Hopefully a Scandinavian drama writer is a Clash reader then…!
Ha! You never know.
Finally, what do you think ‘Everything Was Possible’ taught you that you hadn’t learned before?
Well, Graham Sutton (producer) was extremely important. We actually wrote too many songs for this album – we had around 20 songs prepared. And none of us could agree which ones should go on it. It became this grey area. At that point, Graham intervened, and it got to a point where he chose the songs, basically. That just shows you the benefit of the outside voice. So, to answer your question in a cheesy way – the art of collaboration, is what we learned.
- - -
- - -
'Everything Was Forever' is out now.
Words: Robin Murray
- - -