David Line â€“ vocals/guitar
Caroline Banks â€“ drums/vocals
Charles MacLeod â€“ guitar
Kevin Hendrick â€“ bass/vocals
Some people think that this rock'n'roll thing is a laugh, a bit of cheeky fun to be had until the royalties come pouring in. Those who have lived it aren't quite so sure, however. Take Seafood.
In 2001, the London-based four-piece were sent to Mission Sound studios in New York to record their second album, When Do We Start Fighting with Eli Janney from Girls Against Boys at the production desk and special guest appearances lined up for the weekends. Sounds brilliant, right?
Right. Apart from a few 'Boot Camp' style regulations such as the fact that the whole album had to be recorded and mixed in four weeks. The band had already been squeezed together for months writing the album in a shoebox in Fulham. Not all of the songs were finished when they touched down at JFK airport. The apartment they were renting in Brooklyn was shared with "hairy mattresses" and the resident cockroaches. Back home the band's label was about to lose its worldwide backing. And the producer's wife was eight months pregnant. Oh joy. Oh joy.
"It was like Big Brother - we were even sleeping in the same room!" grimaces singer David Line. We started a video diary on our website but it
didn't last long because it all got a bit too much and everything got too personal."
"It wasn't just the record of the album, it was four months before it when we'd just been in each other's faces, rehearsing and writing every day and driving each other mad," sighs Kevin Hendrick, Seafood's bassist. "Then, when we go to record the album I know, I've got a good idea, let's all live in the same room for a month!"
David: "It was make-or-break time for the band. I really was thinking, is it really worth it? But then you look back on it once you get back home and get your head together and, yeah, it was worth it. It's just that we'd never done anything as intense as that before."
Seafood then: four young tykes called David Line (vocals/guitar), Caroline Banks (drums/vocals), Charles MacLeod (guitar) and Kevin Hendrick (bass/vocals). Four people, who, since their inception in 1997, have released seven singles, one full-length album called 'Surviving The Quiet' and one mini-album called 'Messenger in the Camp'. Toured the UK. Toured the US. Toured Japan. Flavor of the month for a whole, uh, month, back in 1998. Now slowly, stealthily developing as a rock act with a sensitive side, an intelligent edge and utterly cracking tunes. Confuse people because they are a guitar act which has more than one idea at any one time. Thrill those in the know because they aren't Limp Bizkit. Impress anyone who realized that the band's careful hyperbole-free development over the past four years has direct parallels with the way American bands have to work the system.
With When Do We Start Fighting set for an April release on Nettwerk America, the band is about to embark on a European tour with Jimmy Eat World that will be followed by a U.S. tour with Dashboard Confessional.
It's hard to believe, but once upon a time, two whole rocking, rolling years ago, there was an industry 'buzz' in the U.K. about some fresh-faced bunch of indie tigers called Seafood. Their early gigs were sell-out successes. Verily, they were the talk of that minuscule corner of London Town, which somehow believes that it controls the entire music business. "These A&R men would be phoning us up and they'd talk non-stop for half-an-hour," recalls bassist Kevin Hendrick. "Then I' go 'to be honest with you, I haven't got a clue what you're talking about." Imagine it!" we couldn't possibly. Still, two whole rolling, rocking years on, Seafood can breathe a huge sigh of relief about the fact that the industry 'buzz' faded as soon as it had started. Unsigned, underrated, undaunted and left to their own devious devices the foursome were allowed to develop at their own pace, free from corporate pressure and 'cor-blimey-bish-bosh!' shit-style hyperbole. Now they're more than ready to make their mark as "casual pilots exploring twilight noise seduction". And here is a bit of their story.
Seafood is frequently described as "A London post-grunge band". This is patently not true. Kevin and Caroline are from Uxbridge in Middlesex, while David and Charles were brought up in Guilford, Surrey. "It's all outskirts of London," says Kevin, defensively. "It might mean something I reckon, coming from that area. I found it pretty dull, personally." Nobody around here has yet managed to work out what 'post-grunge' actually means. Seafood's biographies often claim that the band formed via an advert in Loot, for a flat. This is extremely true. Caroline and Kevin wanted somewhere to live. David and Charles were looking for a boy drummer and a girl bass player. Kevin and Caroline (right sex, wrong instruments or right instruments, wrong sex, depending on your state of mind) just about fitted the bill. After two gigs in the summer of 1997 Seafood had already set the indie underground's wires buzzing. After three gigs they could have been signed to Fierce Panda but that label's A&R department got pissed at the Kerrang! party and turned up too late to see them. At their fourth gig - upstairs at Highbury Garage in October '97, they were finally snapped up by a more sober Fierce Panda. Everything else is just confusion, pure and baffling. "We're a very contradictory band," muses Kevin. "We argue a lot," fidgets David. They aren't wrong.
Seafood's first three singles were a bewildering-yet-brilliant ragbag of indie sensibilities and lo-fi, but somehow fired-up, college rock dynamics. The band motored away around the UK twice that year, once with Kenickie and then again as part of the 'Panda in a Vanda' tour. They also managed to squeeze in supports with the likes of Laptop, Grandaddy and Dawn of the Replicants. 1998 ended with a headline slot at London's LSE and the release of the single compilation mini-album, 'Messenger In The Camp', but fundamentally the Seafood spirit had always been more than willing. Problem: a week before Reading Festival '98, guitarist Charles lacerates both his hands in an incident at a party. Solution: after a couple of mildly desperate rehearsals, Seafood made their Reading debut as a three piece. Second problem: the slimmed-down line-up can only do justice to 20 minutes' worth of Seafood material. Second solution: they end their half hour slot with a ten-minute massacre of ickle Chrimbo favourite 'Walking in the Air'. Aled Jones in not amused. Apparently.
Over the past few years they have seen their supposed superiors rocket off in a blaze of major label-style bravado, and then get dropped six months later. They've watched the hip and they've smelt the hype. Crucially, Seafood have laid the foundations, made friends, and have got on with being a band. 1999 saw them play their debut American show at New York's CMJ marathon, as well as step into the grown up UK Top 100 with two singles, 'Easy Path' and 'This is Not An Exit'. Which, rather handily brings us to Seafood's debut long-player, 'Surviving The Quiet', released in January of 2000 (in the U.S. on Big Wheel Rec). 'Surviving The Quiet' represented a titanic struggle between light and dark, between calmness and chaos, featuring cello, flute and bedazzling bastard guitars.
With the experience of â€œSurviving the Quiet,â€? and now with the release of When Do We Start Fighting, the band can reflect on their previous tendency to take this band malarkey extremely seriously indeed. "There is an inbred integrity to Seafood," says Kevin at one particularly thoughtful point, "people do pick up on it live." Ask them if they consider themselves to be one of Britain's best-kept secrets and David makes a funny, slightly embarrassed "Hmmmhmmhing" noise and mutters, "I think so." A more assertive Kevin says, "I'd like to think that." Charles strolls slightly off the point and suggests "The argument would be that we're not doing anything fundamentally new. I mean, we are, but..." "I think we are a lot more interesting than a lot of bands who are more one-dimensional," blurts David, bravely. "And I know we're not doing anything new or different, but we do try a bit of everything - there is an obvious Seafood sound and I think that will develop as time goes on. We're always up for new things, and we are more interesting because you never quite know what to expect from us. You know there's going to be a loud bit in there somewhere, but you're not too sure when it will actually happen."