If you thought all forms of op music was insipid and oppressively bland you have not come across the new album Rooftops from UK indie band The Sea. Consisting of brothers Alex and Peter D’Chisholme the band released a collection of songs which were infectiously imaginatively inventive and distinctly varied pulling in essences of pop, rock, show tunes, soul, and the blues to name a few of the flavours bursting from within Rooftops. As soon as we were offered we jumped at the chance to speak with the band to find out more, asking Peter about them, the album and life in The Sea.
Hello and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Thank you for talking with us.
Firstly for those still not aware of you, please introduce yourselves and describe the band.
Hello there, we are two brothers (Alex and Peter), guitar and drums – making rough pop music. Lots of energy and lots of love.
What inspired you to make music and your sound in particular?
Couldn’t tell you what actually inspired us to start, it’s always been there with us and we kinda fell into it. The sound just came naturally and due to the fact there are only two of us. Whatever we’d lose from there being only two of us we more than match with the energy of our live show.
At what point did you think your music had something that would appeal to others as much as you enjoyed creating it?
Haha, when other people told us?! It’s never really been a major issue for us; we’ve always made the music we wanted to regardless of what others say.
Did you grow up with music, always music in the family household?
Yeah absolutely, our Dad is a guitarist and was in several covers bands when we were kids. There was always a guitar in the house and The Beatles were always on the stereo.
Was the band name pretty inevitable with your other love haha?
Er, yes I suppose it was really. We were sat on the beach one day talking about what we should call ourselves, when Alex said, “How about ‘The Sea’?” and that was that.
As surf fanatics too how hard was it to blend the two and to initially give your music the dedication it needed when the waves were calling?
Very hard indeed, and us moving to London pretty much says it all really doesn’t it? There are no waves here, man! So the band took priority. However we do watch all the ASP contests when we’re on the road – for us it’s our football.
You began in 2007 out of your parents garage your bio said, was that the point you actually started making music or the point you decided you were a band?
The point that The Sea came about… We were in another band before, that fell apart and we found ourselves just jamming at Mum and Dad’s place and we were like “yeah this works”.
Your acclaimed debut single Love Love Love came out as 2009 started on your own Lusty Records, as have your releases since. Was doing it DIY always your preference or the only way at the time to get something released so no real option?
Well, we were advised if you want to keep full control of your output you should set up your own label so we did. Since then we’ve licensed the releases to various other labels all over the world so I don’t think we were worried about not getting signed to other labels.
Could you see Lusty Records widening to help other artists at some point?
Yeah don’t see why not. Not yet though.
2008 and 09 seems like they were very hectic and full years in many ways for you, though most years could be classed the same it seems for you haha. Was it as much of a whirlwind at the time as it seems from the outside?
It’s more of a whirlwind now I’d say. Fuck man, it’s all a blur to be honest (not in a druggy way, just constantly touring or recording). It’s been a great few years that’s for sure.
You were invited to play the MJ Festival in the US during this period, please tell us how that came about.
Really don’t know. We’ve played twice actually. They just contacted us and asked us. This has happened a lot to us, most unsigned bands don’t tend to believe you, but most of the good stuff that has happened to us is not through us pushing for it. Getting signed in Europe, supporting big bands – all of it is because others have contacted us.
Your debut album Get It Back was released in April 2009 also again to strong and eager acclaim. In a time already going very well what impact or extra difference did it make to the already impressive responses you were getting critically and at your constant shows and touring?
I think it was a case of the gig attendance went up massively, almost overnight. People just started turning up! Haha!
It seems like the album came out in the middle of touring was that actually what happened or there was a lull around it?
No, it happened mid-way through touring. It was very hectic. We didn’t really have any management in place in those days, so we were running everything. It’s a lot more organised for this album. Kind of had to be because we’re touring even more this time!
Moving on to your excellent new album Rooftops. How has it and the sound you have now, changed and evolved from your debut?
Well, if we have changed it’s more of an unconscious decision in the sense that we just gave each song what we felt it demanded. If we heard horns or strings in our heads we’d put it down. I guess this record is more pop than “Get It Back”. That’s not to say the next album will be like “Rooftops” though.
Did Rooftops emerge exactly as you envisaged going into it or did it bring an extra breath and depth that even surprised you a little?
Good question! I guess it did surprise us a little bit. The songs seemed to take on a life of their own. It was like they were speaking to us saying “give me strings, give me horns”.
Listening to the album there are so many flavours that suggests many influences without sounding exactly like any either. As songwriters how aware or how much thought if any goes into wondering where some chords or riffs come from and how much they may sound like something else or is that never an issue?
I don’t think that’s ever really been an issue to be honest, if it sounds good then we’ll do it and just hope that someone tells us before we release it if we’ve ripped off someone else! Our merch guy is like a musical encyclopaedia he knows every riff ever written, when in doubt ask Ben. That’s our motto!
Rooftops is very varied too, from the big glorious sounds of New York, the wonderful soulful ballad Cry, to the garage punk energy of Panic On The Streets Of Dalston. How have you created this diversity but made it fit seamlessly within the overall charm of Rooftops without it being disjointed?
That’s a big compliment, thank you! We spent a lot of time in the studio discussing how the songs were put together – months in fact. Our producers Julian Diggle and John Cornfield wanted to get the story of the songs to flow into each other. In many ways it’s a concept album of falling in love in London and the whole album maps out that summer when it all happened.
Could you give some background to Panic On The Streets Of Dalston our favourite song on the album?
I (Peter) was at the time living at my friend’s house in Shoreditch and my friend turned up early from work saying, “Have you heard about the shooting in Dalston?” At that time The Smiths song ‘Panic’ was on the TV, so I just went into my room and out it came! I also wrote ‘Where’s The Love’ on the same day!
Also tell us about the distinct and hypnotic closing track to the album is Emily’s Waltz?
Well that’s THE song for us on this record. It’s the realisation of falling in love and letting everything else in your life just disappear. I still ‘well up’ when I sing it live sometimes. It’s about hope and the risk of starting a new life.
As you mentioned you got producer John Cornfield (XTC, Muse, Supergrass, Oasis, Razorlight) in to work with you on Rooftops. Why did you feel he was the right man to help realise your new ideas and sounds?
Well he’s a fellow Cornishman, so we knew each other and love all the albums he’s ever done. He’s got a real ability to get the best out of you.
You were writing the album in 2010 and you recorded it then too?
Yeah the recording, mixing and mastering went through 2010 and 2011. We were lucky to be given such a long time to make it.
Rooftops has taken quite a while to be released then and obviously that is also down to the terrible accident Alex had whilst surfing in 2011. That must have put music well away from the thoughts at the time?
Yeah, the accident put the release back by pretty much a whole year. But to be honest it was the last thought in our minds at the time. We were told by various industry people that this could really damage our career (such a long time between albums). But any suggestions to continue without Alex were met with a very swift ‘FUCK OFF’. There are more important things than what some wanker in the music industry thinks.
Can we ask the extent of Alex’s injuries and the prognosis for him at the time?
OK, as I (Peter) am doing this interview I can only tell you the facts. The surf was pretty average, certainly not big; a freak accident ‘duck diving’ (look it up) pushed Alex’s neck into the shallow sand, rendered him unconscious underwater, breaking his neck and slipping a vertebra out of place. It looked for a while that he’d have to have surgery and initially at least we were not sure if he’d ever walk ever again let alone play the drums. He’d lost the use of his left arm totally.
Could anyone other than a drummer have made the remarkable return to strength and the drum kit that he did haha?
Haha, probably not! Even the doctors were astounded by his recovery. As the swelling reduced the vertebrae slipped back into place, his left arm started working and he slowly got back to normal.
Is he back to full strength now, and has surfing take a back seat now?
Yes, thank God! You’d never know now, everyone that saw The Sea before the accident that sees us now will tell you he’s playing better than ever. It’s truly incredible. He still goes just as hard when he surfs as he did before too!
That’s right. This year is the biggest ever!
I believe you played 250 gigs in just two years, was this a target you aimed for playing as many shows as possible or just how it turned out from the demand for your music?
Demand really, but can’t say we were complaining. I think we’re doing more this year though.
I have to ask how do you get the large and majestic sound to your songs like on the single New York to translate live though just a duo?
Well mostly it’s the energy we put into the performance. The horns are on laptop (I don’t think there is any shame in it, everyone does it these days). Come and see us and then you’ll know!
After the album what are the next plans for The Sea?
Touring in UK, Europe, USA and Canada. Release another single in the summer. Supporting some bigger acts in the summer too. Recording album no. 3 in the winter, and repeat the whole thing again next year.
Thank you again so much for talking with us.
Would you like to leave any final words or thoughts?
Our pleasure. Final thoughts – no matter what is put in your way don’t stop believing in your dreams, it can happen. Take it from someone that knows.
And lastly with New York following previous single Don’t You Want Me by being featured on UK TV show Hollyoaks; do you have a fan on their production crew haha?
Haha! Honestly, I don’t even have a TV that works so it’s rare that we even see it. But it’s very flattering. The money is of some comfort too.
Read the Rooftops review@ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/the-sea-rooftops/
The RingMaster Review 11/05/2012