The proclamation that ‘guitar bands are coming back!’ is as regular as Christmas, but the initial fizz and sparks of interest tend to be as short-lived as the hope itself. Nearly. Not quite.
2019 though feels different. Livelier. Guitar sales are up, and the manufacturers are feeling chipper. Damn, even one of the year’s bright young faces is inadvertently advertising one of the biggest six string brands in sharing the same name. There’s something behind all this guitar hype. Something exciting and relevant. Songs are soaring again, and riffs are relevant.
Sea Girls are at the very forefront of this renaissance. Four lads from sleepy towns on the commuter belt, now holed up together in London. Named after a misheard Nick Cave lyric. Filling ever-growing rooms with kids all around the country. Kids that hang on their every word and create one heaving, bouncing mass as they belt them back. Raw, escapist joy. Sweaty, innocent euphoria. Songs for the radio. Songs for the terraces. Something’s going on here. Something’s blowing up.
As front man Henry Camamile remembers, it’s the moments like these that he once enjoyed as a young fan. He felt what they’re now feeling. “The first gig I ever went to was Bloc Party with The Cribs, and I went and was like f**k, I’ve never been to a live show before. Shit, this is so cool that there’s this guy on stage singing that makes me feel like that. Brandon Flowers from The Killers had a similar effect when I saw him for the first time. I’d listen to albums over and over and imagine it’s me performing, and when you imagine playing those songs it’s not in a small cafe - you want them to have a huge impact in the biggest rooms possible”.
It’s a far cry from dream-setting days growing up and bonding around Leicestershire, scattered across tiny villages with little to nothing about in terms of entertainment. The kids around them at school more into classical music than the idea of a band, it was a childhood full of expectations to join the school choir, try out jazz or simply settle into a countryside life with no questions asked. It’s understandable why all four were at some point banned from the school's music department, and why playing jazz flute wasn’t exactly on their radar.
“We don’t know why, but naturally we just wanted to be in a band” recalls Henry, “The first thing we did at school together was try to start a band. Before anything else”.
Tried and tested, Henry, guitarist Rory Young, drummer Oli Khan and bassist Andrew Dawson floated between a pick and mix of bands - different styles and variations (some more successful than others), playing alongside each other in various incarnations - playing ‘festivals’ in friends back gardens, swapping instruments constantly. “There was nothing else to do but play music, get drunk and be round each other’s houses” points out Andrew. Yet, a chance opportunity for some free studio time proved to be the catalyst that pulled Sea Girls into place, joined by a shared ambition and history to make the stadium-sounding hits they dreamed of when staring up at their ceilings.
“I went to a gig and was watching this band play KOKO” lays out Henry, “and I was like – f**k man, I know we can make a better band than this! Let’s start with that goal, to play KOKO”. As fate would have it, Oli, Rory and Andrew were having a similar experience at the time (“we were at a gig and thought we can definitely do this”) and with the win of studio time under their arms and Oli deciding to teach himself drums just to click into where they go next, they gathered together and slotted into place a formation that ultimately would lead to Sea Girls.
It meant that Henry was suddenly faced with a newfound role as a front man, no longer shifting and changing roles in bands, but finding a place for him to be a focal point for an entirely new band.
“I feel natural doing it” comments Henry on his centre stage role, something evidently clear when rolling up to a Sea Girls show. Immediate joy and pandemonium from front to back, a Sea Girls show captures everything they’ve experienced across teenage years in tiresome towns and sets it ablaze into the sort of party that bottles that feeling. That feeling, even if it’s from one night only, of jubilant celebration and wiped minds - where all that’s left is the sounds and vibrations you can feel sizzling along the floor as a band commands a vast stage in front of them. It’s the ability to attach memories to anthems, of meaning something here and now, a year down the line or ten years down the line - standing the test of time by soundtracking the now. The Maccabees, The Killers, Bombay Bicycle Club, Bastille.. Picture the band, picture the moment and picture the sound. Who’s next? Sea Girls.
“We want to be the biggest band that we can be” states Rory, the band nodding and smiling in unison. Constantly looking to write the next big sing-along firework, ambition is clear. When on stage, Sea Girls are a tidal wave unstoppable in its power - Henry a prowling force full of mystery and vision, a captain leading whatever room is in front of him into a new and exciting direction.
The name Sea Girls has become something meaningful - a band bonded together as best mates all wrapped and hooked on the joys of being in a band and facing the globe after late nights at each other’s houses with nothing else to do but write and play.
Now, with the sort of spilling reaction that follows them everywhere, those days where a band can take on the world and grab a generation by the scruff of the neck are back and blazoned big above Sea Girls’ heads. Being named the only band on the BBC’s Sound Of Poll (whilst still unsigned) placed a firm marker in the sand. Achieving BBC Radio 1 playlists and being snapped up by a major took things up another notch.
As Oli points out, “it feels like we’ve been given a mandate by the people that come out to see us and know what we’re doing is working”. With every word, every flick on stage and every cry - Sea Girls feed off something indisputably classic, taking a feeling felt for generations but needed for the one ahead.
Sweat dropping off walls, voices hoarse after screaming along all night - Sea Girls are bringing things forward to the pure joy of what a band should be.
“That time” recalls Andrew, thinking back to the bands that soundtracked the life-changing moments of youth, love and hope that all come with finding your feet in modern life. “That time, it’s a time of first cars y’know - of having CDs and driving round at night with albums playing. That’s the sort of moment that’s really formative to me. The idea of being that for someone else is really exciting, thinking of an 18-year-old with their first car and the music playing…”
Sea Girls are well on their way to completing their vision for the next eighteen months, at least. A sold out UK autumn tour. Smashing festival sets across the country. More songs. More fans. There’s more, more, more to come.
As 2019 is indeed continuing to prove pivotal for Sea Girls, it’s not because of any crystal balls being spun. Great songs always win out, and Sea Girls write great songs. It’s really very simple.
Violet is out now on Polydor Records.