The Sea Kings? Another duo? Another psych oufit? Another band from London? Another glamour and glitter collective? None of that. The four-piece Sea Kings are passionate songsmiths from Glasgow, Scotland. Last August they released their towering debut album of classic songwriting as we know it. Musically they produce a sparkling cocktail of folk, rock, country & blues. Lyrically they tell/sing compelling stories about 20th century’s history, love/hate, death/glory, war/peace, good/evil and eh… graveyards and serial killers. Psychobilly is their game ! Meet The Sea Kings…
Who are the Kings?
“We’re a band of four. Brian Canning sings and plays guitar. Nicky Kelly plays lead guitar. Stephen McGrath plays drums. Ralph Hector plays bass. Everyone helps to fill in musical gaps when they appear. Brian instigates the musical and lyrical ideas and we all flesh them out.”
Where and when did the ship left the harbour?
“The band formed in 2008 after rehearsing under a railway arch. We’re more trains than boats in many ways… despite the name.”
Any real sailor(s) in the band?
“We have all been on a boat and I think we can safely say we’ve all held an oar but that’s as far as it goes. Nicky I think came up with the name. There is meaning behind it but it’s a secret. Other than that it’s a powerful name.”
‘Bible John’ – outstanding track of their debut album !
You got my attention with ‘Bible John’, the irresistibly catchy single of the debut album. What is the song about?
“It’s a folk tale from the east end of Glasgow that we all grew up with, about a serial killer who stalked the dancehalls of Glasgow in the 1960’s. It’s also about the hysteria created at the time. We’ve taken the story as the basis for our song, just as lots of crime writers use factual stories for fiction.”
What’s the story behind the debut’s album title ‘Woke In The Devil’s Arms’?
“It’s certainly not a religious album, it’s more a social commentary on the establishment, those in power and their total disregard and lack of empathy for those who most need their help. Every day we wake up in the devil’s arms and each of the songs tries to convey that on a different scale.”
Listening to the album I hear a sparkling melting pot of trad rock, country and folk. Are The Sea Kings romantics?
“We tend to play whatever style suits the song. I guess the album is a bit of a mix of styles, but that’s no bad thing. The album still feels like a unified entity to us. And The Sea Kings are indeed romantics. At the moment we’re reading ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ by Raymond Carver.”
In track ‘Night Of The Broken Glass’ there’s a line ‘I joined the Hitler Youth’. You don’t hear the mass murderer’s name every day in a song. Tell us more…
“It goes back to the overall theme of the album and its title. It’s the story of someone coming to terms with the gravity of that situation. Good, ordinary Germans swept along by fear. Could it happen again? I think it already is to an extent. Is Hitler the devil in the title? No, he’s one of many.”
What’s the song you really want to cover?
“We’ve never played a cover version, not even in a practice, so I think it would be an odd thing for us to take on. We could make another album in the time it would take us to decide on a song to cover.”
How did you vote last September regarding an independent Scotland?
“We didn’t really discuss how we voted individually, although we certainly felt strongly about it. It was an interesting time and another example of the establishment promising one thing and delivering another – that following morning we ‘woke in the devils arms’, if you will.”
The social media. Blessing or pain in the ass?
“It’s a necessary evil, which is dancing along the fence of a committed answer. For a band of our size it’s an unbelievably cheap way for us to get our music out to the masses. But the reality is that the social media ‘everything all the time’ thing dilutes things down – it’s much harder to make an impact online now. Your important band message gets devoured in 30 seconds and then lost in the flood of information. You’d have to be on social media 24 hours a day to stay on top of everything, and we’d much rather be making music than tweeting about music.”
Belle & Sebastian or The Vaselines (note JL: both are Scottish bands)?
“Both were important for some of The Sea Kings when we started writing music, although clearly we have forged a vastly different path in style and content.”
Track and album of the year?
“We’d probably pick a different favourite album each, but a good joint selection would be ‘Lost In The Dream’ by The War On Drugs. We saw them live in Glasgow recently and it was pretty fucking great. ‘Under The Pressure’ from the same album, especially at 4:05 into the track.”
Hero of the year?
“Probably Wilko Johnson. Odds stacked against him. But still playing live, still making albums, and he still made it to the end of 2014. Hats off to him.”
Wilko Johnson – legendary British R & B guitarist…
Prick of the year?
“If we’re sticking to music then probably U2 for the iTunes debacle. If music as a commodity wasn’t already devalued enough these days, having a band the size of U2 just placing their new album directly into people’s homes (or inboxes), for free, just reinforces the notion. It doesn’t do any musicians any favours at all.”
Songs of pricks…
What is your fav Christmas song?
“I don’t think we have a favourite. They’re mostly rubbish, let’s be honest, but there is the odd wee gem out there. Low have a pretty good Christmas album. Sufjan Stevens does too, and let’s not forget Dylan’s album. There’s serious danger of us putting something together for this Christmas. We might call it Midnight Massacre.”
What should Santa Claus drop in your shoes this year?
“A budget for album number two would be just fine.”
What can we expect from The Sea Kings in 2015?
“The steady click of The Sea Kings PR machine. We’re going to release a couple of new singles in the next few months in support of the album. We’d record all the time if we could, but we’ll be supporting ‘Woke In The Devil’s Arms’ for a while yet, to get it heard by as many people as possible. We’ve already started working on new songs so we’re going to start integrating them into our live sets in 2015. Summer festivals are planned.”
See you sailing next year, Kings !…