By The Sea
From Vikings to Bruce
Dec 24, 2012
Liam Power, vocalist and guitarist for the U.K. band By the Sea, grew up in an old Viking village on the Wirral Peninsula called Meols (pronounced “melz”), a residential seaside town that he calls “quite quiet and quite close knit.” It’s the kind of place where a boy can live a calm childhood and commiserate with friends from nearby small towns, or take advantage of its proximity to Liverpool—just a 30-minute drive across town and the nearby River Mersey—to interact with that city’s rich musical history.
“Since I was 16, we used to go over to Liverpool and watch gigs and stuff,” says Power from his house in Wirral. “But we could always come back over here and it’s quite chill.”
Power was immersed in music early, exposed to his parents’ record collection, what he calls “the staples of music”—such artists as The Beach Boys, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Bob Marley, and, of course, Liverpool’s favorite sons, The Beatles. His first memorable concert experience was Super Furry Animals at the Royal Court in Liverpool, a venue that has since transitioned from concerts to mostly theater.
Eventually, as many music-loving young kids do, Power started a band, one that would become the shoegaze-y and melody-laden six-piece By the Sea, an appropriate name given the band’s seaside locale. By the Sea started as an acoustic duo, with Power and his friend Steve Campbell taking cues from harmony groups like Simon and Garfunkel and acoustic folk musicians like Townes Van Zandt. Soon, bit by bit, the band increased in size, first with Daniel O’Connell on bass, then Mark Jackson on guitar, and finally Andy Royden on drums and Joe Edwards on keyboards/synths.
“[Having a full band] is what we always strived to do,” says Power. “Maybe we thought we would have done more stuff acoustically for a bit, but once everyone was in, especially with Joe on the keyboards and synths, it was hard not to evolve into what we’re doing now.”
By the Sea has already released two 7" singles on The Great Pop Supplement in the U.K., and the band is releasing its full-length, self-titled debut in both the U.K. and the U.S. this fall. Its sound is a dreamy combination of melody-rich tunefulness and instrumental haze, which essentially can be chalked up to the variety of the band members’ musical likes and influences.
“One of my [favorite] records growing up was The Beach Boys’ 20 Golden Greats,” says Power. “It was great. Big vinyl. Great artwork. It had a surfer on the front. Real dreamy. I think that was the first time I came across something like that. And it’s always been there for us…. When we started this band, when we were good enough to play at a certain level, it was The Beach Boys that we wanted to emulate.”
Aside from evidence of The Beach Boys touchstone, one can hear in By the Sea a distinct kinship with shoegaze, which Power credits to his bandmates.
“Danny and Mark were into Ride and My Bloody Valentine,” he says. “It’s more of a recent thing for me. I hadn’t really even heard Jesus and Mary Chain until before we met.”
By the Sea was recorded and produced by ex-Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, with the band handling its business in DIY fashion, splitting recording time among a Scandinavian church in Liverpool, Edwards’ garage, and “Bill’s mom’s house.” One of the guiding principles in creating the album was the notion of keeping it relatively short. The album clocks in at approximately 34 minutes.
“With how saturated the music industry is now, with a lot of bands, we just didn’t want it to be too grueling,” says Power. “If you do a long album, like 46 to 50 minutes, it might buy you a bit more time until you do your second album, but we thought maybe we would put something out that was short and snappy, and then get straight into working on the second album…. Then, of course, people aren’t totally sick of you. You haven’t got another grueling 50-minute album that sounds kinda similar to your first album. It left a lot of options open.”
With the hope for a second album to be ready by next summer, Power is looking forward to more opportunities and welcoming the chance to start playing shows across Europe in support of By the Sea. But he and his mates also feel a particular kinship to America. In fact, O’Connell told Britain’s NME earlier in the year, when they were working on the album, that they hoped it sounded like “a series of failed Springsteen anthems played with too many chorus pedals.” Despite By the Sea sounding nothing like Springsteen and its songs not much more like anthems, Power sees some sort of connection, cheeky as it might sound.
“We do genuinely like Springsteen,” he says. “He’s the Boss. We like Americana. Bruce Springsteen, musically, kind of sums up the word ‘Americana’ to us. We all read a lot of Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac, American road journeys, stuff like that. I think, in our heads, we’re closer to some sort of American dream than we actually are. We probably sound nothing like Americana whatsoever…. Unfortunately, we live in England where it pisses down all the time, and the nearest thing we’ve got to Bruce Springsteen is Morrissey, who is probably the polar opposite.”