Spending time at home has come to mean a whole new thing over the past few years, and for Sea Girls, it’s helped inspire a whole new record.
Words: Neive McCarthy. Photos: Patrick Gunning.
Think of homesickness, and your mind probably wanders to some sort of negative, difficult experience: feeling lost or alone, perhaps. That’s not always the case, though. When you really consider it, feeling homesick can be positive: it means you have somewhere or someone that makes you feel comfortable and at peace. Something you can return to and will miss when you’re away from it. “It’s quite grounding. It’s a sense of belonging. It can be a group of friends where you’ve found your identity. It doesn’t have to be where you grow up,” muses Henry Camamile, frontman of indie sweethearts Sea Girls.
As the band approach the release of their second album, ‘Homesick’, they seem to have secured that idea of home in many ways. More comfortable and confident in their abilities, the album is perhaps their most powerful, self-assured output yet. Back at home with his parents for lockdown, Henry became well acquainted with retrospection and a kind of homesickness for times that had passed, making memories with mates and fans before the world ground to a halt. That time offered a unique chance of introspection and saw the band emerge satisfied with who they are, stories uncovered, cards on the table, and free.
There’s a new awareness at the heart of ‘Homesick’ symptomatic of those times spent unravelling one’s thoughts and meditating on the past few years. It’s as though Sea Girls are stepping out on stronger feet, and it’s the sort of growth that this unusual time ultimately facilitated. “I felt I had a purpose for lots of things,” Henry recalls. “There’s a song called ‘Lucky’, and during lockdown, my mum showed me some letters from my great-grandparents. Maybe I wouldn’t have had time to read them before. One was from my great-grandad, writing home before he got onto the shuttles over to D-Day. He’s just talking about his day and saying kiss the kids for me. I just thought, I have to write this. I feel so much safer where I am now, compared to one of my family having to go through that. I was full of gratitude, and I definitely wanted to put that into the world. It was like a what-if, just thinking about him in war and how fucking lucky am I? I’m never going to be sad again if I can help it. I had an affirmation that I’m never going to be sad again. It was quite soul-searching, and a lot of people were soul-searching at that time.”
The band have always worn their hearts on their sleeve, but on ‘Homesick’, they repeatedly wrench up emotions from the depths of their souls. “There are a lot of important things I’d never said before. In ‘Hometown’, things like that had happened recently. A close family friend, younger than me, died at the start of 2020, and it really made me think. I’d recently turned my life around, and I had time to think about how I’m not going to waste my time. That could’ve been me, the way I was living, I could be dead. It’s eye-opening. Something like that is a quite powerful moment, and I wanted to write something that was worthy in that respect and accepting how lucky I am. It was important to do a good job of that.”
Henry’s writing tackles these topics with grace and delicacy, grappling with these moments of grief but transforming them into something celebratory and resonant. It’s part of why ‘Homesick’ soars. ‘Lucky’ is a special moment on the tracklist – it’s roaring and anthemic as it expands and glances around in awe at the beautiful life around them. Amongst other moments on the album, it feels born from a fresh perspective that embeds respect and appreciation into every note. There’s an acknowledgement of dark times and unfiltered, free-wheeling joy all at once.
Those contradictions are a crucial mainstay throughout the album. It’s reflective and raw, but there’s a real hopefulness in each track. That time to dive deep allowed Henry the chance to sift through his memories and perhaps spin new ones whilst still looking ahead with fingers crossed and a good feeling about things. “We’re all multi-faceted, and our lives change quite fast, and our preferences in life do and what we’re sick of. The album changes mood throughout from ‘Sick’ to ‘Friends’. As it went on, writing it became a bit more hopeful. ‘Friends’ was the last song we wrote, Rory, Oli and I together. It’s probably the most optimistic song on it. That’s the nature of life; you can change in a month with what goes on. Everyone is unsure, you can feel like you’re having the shittest week, but it could feel like the best by the end of it.”
There are some moments that you know you’ll look back on fondly even as they’re unfolding. It’s on ‘Friends’ that Sea Girls encapsulate this running message of embracing what you have in the present and revelling in every delirious second. It feels like one for the fans: you can practically see their usual raucous crowds, arms around each other, throwing love out into the world. For the band, for the memory, for their friends.
Over the years, they’ve cultivated quite the loyal fanbase. Constantly in contact and interacting and appreciating those that have followed their journey from the start, it’s a really precious relationship between artist and listener in this case. “We managed to keep in touch well out of lockdown and touring – we always as much as we can stay afterwards and chat to them,” assures Henry. “Whatever we’re doing, we always make sure we’re talking and doing phone calls around tours. If anything, it’s gotten stronger with us. It’s felt like the right thing to do, and it’s quite special starting a band and getting a certain level of success because of fans. Having people who will stick by us is pretty cool, and we’re definitely grateful for it. We just love it. It’s kind of a crazy journey, so it’s good to be talking to the people that like your stuff and not just creating music in a void.”
“We stretched our legs a bit more. It definitely feels more confident”Henry Camamile
In many ways, that knowledge that a solid group of people are going to have your backs regardless of what comes next only contributes to that confidence Sea Girls have been building. Perhaps that’s why ‘Homesick’ feels so much more determined. Where their debut ‘Open Up Your Head’ found a winning formula and played it safe, ‘Homesick’ plays with the rules far more and nudges the boundaries and expectations that listeners might have for the band.
“I think that will always happen,” considers Henry. “You grow in confidence and want to try things. You have license. You’re like, ‘oh fuck it, let’s just have a really good time’. Making this music is such a treat, so there are plenty of ideas and places we tried out sound-wise that we didn’t do. We stretched our legs a bit more. It definitely feels more confident. We had a goal for everyone to have a moment to shine, even if it’s a bar or a few seconds where drums will just come in, or there’ll be some really strong guitar. I think it was way more focused; it’s direct, so everything hits really well. Following your nose is the trick with being a musician. If you follow your nose and think, what do you like? What feels cool? We’ll just make that. We did that across this album.”
That thrill seeps into the album’s every pore. It revels in the unpredictable moments, like an intense shift from the dreamily soft first half of ‘Cute Guys’ into the alt-rock inspired, electrifying climax of the track. It strays in so many differing directions that you’re never quite sure what they might throw your way next. In parts, that could be due to the starkly new experience that putting this album together brought. Working from a studio in Brixton but in constant communication with producers over in Topanga Canyon, ‘Homesick comes into life somewhere in the midst of those seas.
“It was definitely interesting, and it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the pandemic,” Henry asserts. “It’s night-time vibes. It would be kind of dull in the mornings, and you work and come out at night – there are no windows in the studio. There were late-night phone calls and things like that to America because they were on the West Coast. The relationship I had at the time was with someone in America, so lyrically, I throw in some American phrases. I think production-wise, with something like ‘Lonely’, it made sense to really go down that Western, [composer Ennio] Morricone vibe. Maybe that made us braver with stylisation. Morricone had died during that first lockdown, which was around the time I wrote it. There were lots of tributes on the radio, and they were playing ‘Ecstasy of Gold’ from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, with all the whistles. It made sense to put one in to celebrate and reflect that Transatlantic thing and the American film world. Because it was lockdown, I was getting back from recording at 1am and watching a shitload of American films or loads of The Sopranos. I think making it feel very cinematic and stylised and Western made sense.”
‘Lonely’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album – combining the finest points of Sea Girls’ previous releases with that dramatic, heavy atmosphere they build; it’s a dark, fearless Sea Girls that rise to the surface properly here. They benefit massively from pushing the boat out and being true to what they want to create, never mind how out of sight it might seem at first.
That brutal honesty and earnestness is absolutely key on ‘Homesick’. They might be finding themselves in courageous new waters, holding nothing back and making a stand that this is Sea Girls, take it or leave it, but there’s no concern there. This is an album cut from the fabric of who the band are.
“This album is very frank, and there’s not a thing that other people or our fans won’t feel themselves or haven’t felt during writing this album,” recognises Henry. “It’s common feelings. It was a joy to write. I felt really confident about it, and I felt like I was encapsulating life and putting down what I wanted to say. We had something new to give and in a fucking cool way. We’re massive fans of these songs. The different stories we put in; they just sound good. It’s fucking exciting. We’ve been in the rehearsal studios just playing it through and loving it. It’s been great.”
On one of the final tracks on the album, the sunny, upbeat ‘Watch Your Step, a more stripped-back moment sees Henry sing of how “treading water is overrated”. It’s a thought that ‘Homesick’ embodies, again and again. This is no treading water for Sea Girls: this is a cannonball, right into the deep end. There is no hesitation, no tentative moves. They’ve outgrown the shallows now.
Taken from the April 2022 edition of Dork, out now. Sea Girls’ album ‘Homesick’ is out now.