From The Belly Of
Three years since the release of their debut album, By Limbo Lake, indie Sydney-siders, Seabellies, have been on a mission to anchor themselves within the turbulent riptide of the Australian music scene. Now touring in support of their second LP, Fever Belle, frontman Trent Grenell chats with SHAUN COWE ahead of the band’s show at Flyrite on Friday, November 29.
Fever Belle is the second studio album by Seabellies, and in the three years since the release of By Limbo Lake, Trent Grenell believes the band has found its voice.
“Staying true to yourself is quite difficult in the current industry model,” he says. “This record was easier for us; we knew what we were and we knew what we wanted to be, and it was just much more liberating.”
Darker, deeper and more introspective than the band’s previous work, Grenell admits Fever Belle is heavily inspired by a relationship and subsequent breakup he went through during the writing. “We really wanted an album that was split half and half, thematically. Half about the pure joy about being in love and being happy, and then the other side of that when it’s all taken away.”
To help the band with this process two producers were brought on board to work on the album, Berlin-based Simon Berckelman, ex-frontman of Philadelphia Grand Jury, and Tim Whitten, who has produced albums for a host of Aussie bands, including Powderfinger, Hoodoo Gurus and Augie March.
Written and recorded in alternating periods between Melbourne, Sydney and Berlin, Grenell believes the time spent in the latter city helped to inspire the dark electronic themes throughout the song.
“Berlin changed the treatment of the songs and definitely the mix. There’s a lot of electro stuff over there and a lot of different kinds of music.” He says. “We gave Simon time to really just focus on his interesting techniques in the studio. He was in the tracking room with us and Tim was in the control, making sure it all worked.”
Now with the recording process over and the album released, the band is set to embark on a national tour. “This is the biggest tour we’ve ever had. We’re coming over to Perth for the first time in three or four years. It’s just that logistics are very difficult. It’s very costly to travel around, but you know, we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t worth it.”
Expanding on this, Grenell says he believes one of the biggest problems facing any upcoming Australian band is the expense of touring and the lack of options.
“There’s just not enough cities and venues,” he says, “touring is very hard. There’s just so much travel involved. It’s not like America where you can drive two or three hours and you’re in another huge city.”
Since the band’s victory in the 2007 Garage To V Competition, Grenell has been on a mission to consolidate the band’s success into a long-lasting brand. When asked about why he thought the Seabellies had succeeded where so many others had failed, he says: “I think, more than anything, we’re just a stubborn bunch of motherfuckers and we just outlasted a lot of bands. It’s sad there’s bands out there that have such potential and such great music, and it’s such a difficult industry to persist in.”
Another problem Grenell has with the music industry is the tendency for Australian bands to draw too heavily on international influences, rather than creating a uniquely Australian sound. “It’s easy to get caught up chasing the fads that come to us from the States and the UK. I think a lot of bands come and go riding on the sounds of international bands. You’ve got to be careful of that because you can have a really short career.”
Even so, he admits the Seabellies once followed a similar path, sourcing heavily from the Canadian music scene. With this new album however, Grenell believes the band has finally grown into its identity. With a new tour and a new sound, Grenell is cautiously optimistic on the future of the band. When asked whether he believed Fever Belle will take them to the next level, he answers simply: “Whether it’s worked or not time will tell.”