When you’ve exploded onto the scene, been hounded with praise over your inaugural LP and raided venues across the country, a break seems well-deserved. Seabellies, however, have not spent the past three years resting on their laurels. Rather, the Newcastle five-piece sought out a sea change, venturing across the globe in search of inspiration and finding themselves reunited in magical Berlin, the city that would breathe out their spellbinding sophomore album Fever Belle.
Frontman Trent Grenell says the process was both cathartic and intense. “We really kind of locked ourselves in a studio for a month in Melbourne two years ago, and we locked ourselves in a studio in Berlin about six months after that, and just jammed [songs] out more than we ever have. Someone always brings an initial idea and it’s just really space-jammed out of there.”
The new record is a simulacrum of the band’s time in the German arts mecca, complete with slick beats and eclectic soundscapes. “I was just going to lots of shows and clubs in Berlin,” says Grenell. “There was a lot of strange electro music which I was quite intrigued by, and there were a few songs on this album that I really wanted to push our programming skills on.” The lead track from the record has already leapt up the charts. “’It’s Alright’ is quite an interesting song, in that it has four different drums and rhythms going in and out of sync with each other. That came from Berlin.”
Fever Belle vaunts the golden touch of musical Midas Simon ‘Berkfinger’ Berckelman (Philadelphia Grand Jury), teamed with the legendary Tim Whitten (Powderfinger, Augie March). Grenell says the group collaboration came about thanks to fate. “It was really comfortable – it was really awesome. I actually ran into Simon Berckelman just in the local market in Berlin, because he was living there as well. We just got talking music for a while and I expressed that we really wanted to do a new album and he said that he’d really like to do it for us, and then he suggested – ‘How about we try something different? How about we get Tim Whitten on board as well?’ And we’d just go crazy.”
So what was their secret recipe? “Tim sat in the control room and Simon was in the tracking room with us, trying all sorts of interesting mic set-ups and instrumentation, rewiring people, doing all sorts of weird things that Simon does. It was a really fun process to be in, experimentation in our room and Tim making sure the sonics were really beautiful in the other room.”
Veering away from the saccharine pop of By Limbo Lake, Fever Belle has a tinge of nostalgia and layers of infectious, progressive beats. “The first album was kind of guitary and sunny and shiny, and we wanted to have a point of difference in [this] album without changing our sound completely. So we made sure there’s a bit of our old electronic roots in there,” Grenell says.
Grenell also asserts that time was essential for the band to mature into their own sound. “The first album, we were on the scene, dying to make an album but dying to impress a lot of people. We were talking to a lot of record labels at the time and I think we were subconsciously maybe writing songs with record labels in mind. It’s really overwhelming when you first get that attention. But this album, we’ve done all that and we really just wanted to make an album that we were happy with, that we really enjoyed. So I think that’s why it’s a little different. It sounds a little more like how we’ve always intended on sounding.”
On the brink of their biggest tour yet, Grenell says Seabellies are fired up and ready to make waves. “We’re going to be spending far too much time in the band van. It’s fine, we’re pretty close … Playing new songs is a new energy for us. On the new record, the songs are a lot more diverse than our last album, so there’s a bit more light and shade.” Grenell admits with a laugh, though, “live, it’s getting harder and harder. We use a lot of looping stuff live, and sequencers. We quite like using old gear so we’ve got some pretty dated sequencers and keyboards. We don’t like taking a laptop up and pressing ‘play’. We like still twiddling the knobs and trying to beatmatch it in time.”
As for the stunning surrealist album artwork, Grenell says it’s just another thing to thank Berlin for. “I managed to meet a young artist when I was living there. I saw that painting and I immediately just said to her, ‘I think that’s the new album cover.’ It just seems to encapsulate the beauty and the vileness on the record. Half the album’s about beauty and love, and the other half is about the pain of when it’s gone. It just summed it up, for me.”
BY MINA KITSOS