The Seabellies. Image: Warp Magazine
The Seabellies washed up on the Aussie music scene in 2006. The Indie quintet from Newcastle have been riding the wave ever since with appearances at some of the nation’s largest music festivals and headlining countless gigs. Their newest album Fever Belle is set to reach the shores of Tassie this December 19 with a groundbreaking gig at the Republic, and frontman Trent Grenell speaks openly about the intense emotional experiences which inspired the autobiographical release.
“I wanted to make a real 50/50 album about being in love and then the feeling of when that’s gone. It seems to be a pretty popular theme that people like writing and listening about.”
While Trent acknowledges the prevalence of love in contemporary songs, his own relationship with the emotion has grown new attachments as he lived through his first serious heartbreak. As with many bad breakups, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
“In the middle of week two in the studio, I got a call from overseas from my old girlfriend and she actually broke up with me in the middle of tracking the album.”
“Then I had to run away for a while, I had to leave the album and go traveling by myself for a little while and rewrite a better album – lyrically anyway, so I could reimagine that horror.”
While it’s not uncommon to shy away from thinking about our toughest times, Trent braved his heartache and decided to share it with the world. Embracing a newly discovered tenderness that commenced with the ending of his six year love affair, the singer expresses himself through the band’s new release.
“In a way, it’s a good thing that it really did happen to me because I think that the lyrics have become a little more honest and a little more heartfelt, and I think the performance was as well.”
“I always wanted to explore that heartbreak side because I love that sort of music. I’d never had that experience, so I just kind of imagined it as best I could.”
Along with title track ‘Fever Bell’, the songs ‘Isabelle’, ‘Bodies’ and ‘Atlantis’ each explicitly refer to love and loss. Fever Belle has been an emotional roller coaster for Trent – but doesn’t necessarily drag you along for the ride. Although Trent does consider it important for his songs to clearly express the ideas he intends, the music leaves you the freedom to engage with it in as much depth as you like.
“I like to anchor every chorus or verse in some sort of reality. I think it becomes a little more meaningful if you’ve got a message.”
“I do write a little bit abstractly sometimes, and that tends to be a bit of my natural character. I still try my best to put some real world stuff in there – it’s a hard thing to balance.”
“You can paint as flowery a picture as you want and be as descriptive as you want and set a really nice picture for the listener, but one in four lines has got to be direct – otherwise it can just be a series of pictures with no meaning.”
Understandably, Trent hasn’t had the easiest time singing those lines, but despite their content he is now getting back on his feet ahead of the band’s Tassie gigs.
“It was a bit too hard to sing for a while. Tracking the music was done in January 2012 and I didn’t do the vocals til July or August, so it was a big gap there. But I’m fine to listen to it now. I’m friends with that person again and it’s all OK.”
Not only has Trent discovered a deeper range of emotions since 2010 LP By Limbo Lake, he has also evolved as a singer and the results are audibly evident in the band’s new release.
“The melodies, the intervals are quite huge, so I think I have stretched my range quite a fair way since the first album. It’s making it harder to sing live.”
The Fever Belle tour marks a new success for The Seabellies. Trent thinks the band’s longevity may be attributed to the fact that they’re the “the stubbornest Indie band around,” although they have considered changing their name. The band name may sound light and fun – and certainly is reflective of their music – but the story behind it is much darker.
“It’s a really morbid story. When I was in university, I wrote a short story about this experience I had where I saw a man washed ashore on a beach in New South Wales, and he unfortunately had drowned. I was only a child at the time and I remember finding it really fascinating in a horrible way. It always stuck with me.”
Naming his original short story The Seabellies after the disturbing experience, Trent wonders “why you would call a band that, I don’t know. I just always like the juxtaposition of our quite funny music and that really dark name.”
Feel what you need to at the Republic Bar in Hobart on December 19. Tickets available from http://www.moshtix.com.au.
BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
This article featured in Warp Magazine December 2013.