Sea Girls’ Andrew Dawson talks storming the guitar music genre and post-COVID touring

Sea Girls released their second album, Homesick, earlier this yearSea Girls released their second album, Homesick, earlier this year
Sea Girls released their second album, Homesick, earlier this year
Sea Girls bassist Andrew Robson sat down to talk all about the band’s sophomore album, Homesick, as well as their upcoming tour and how they break up the heavy fatigue of a new tour

Ahead of their upcoming tour for their sophomore album, Homesick, Ewan Gleadow sits down with Sea Girls’ bass guitarist, Andrew Dawson, to talk about tour fatigue, new releases and how guitar music is alive and well.

Ewan Gleadow: First off, well done on the album. It is proper quality. What do you think of the pop-rock genre at the moment? Obviously, Sea Girls have made quite the splash. That wasn’t a pun on Sea, that’d be terrible, but no, what do you think of the genre? Where’s your place in pop-rock?

Andrew Dawson: Whoa, that’s a big question.

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Gleadow: It is, it is, got to get the big question in there straight away.

Andrew: Well, actually, I’d be interested to know what you think and then maybe we’ll go jump in from there.

Ewan: When I think of pop-rock, it’s, you know, it’s a pretty broad genre. Anything from The Beatles to Fleetwood Mac fits in that. I think especially now with new music, especially British music, it’s going through quite a nice phase at the moment. You’ve got yourselves, you’ve got Yard Act, Wet Leg, Sam Fender. It feels like there’s a big explosion of real quality British music that we’ve not seen since the early nineties. How do you feel about being part of that group? It’s quite the eclectic mix, you know, you’ve got a real range of indie artists essentially plugging away a broad genre. It’s a bit like Britpop, as a term where it was just a way of putting together all British artists.

Andrew: Yeah. Oh, that’s an honour that you think we’re in that esteemed company. It’s a really exciting time for good guitar music. It’s also, as you point out, super diverse. I guess we sit in probably the more poppy, throwback indie side of what you just said there. But yeah, it’s great. I mean, like, you just have to look at how well Sam Fender’s doing with the stadium shows up in Newcastle and stuff and that, it’s incredible. Yeah, it’s a cool time. Especially in the festival season with it, it’s really fun. People are still really into guitar music and festivals, so that’s been really good.

Ewan: How have the festivals been? Are you enjoying them?

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Andrew: Yeah, I mean the summer was really great. Obviously, it’s our first full summer back, and it was a real privilege to be back and with everyone doing that again. It was full-on, but it was good fun.

Ewan: Obviously because of the Covid Pandemic, you never really, I guess, had the chance to tour the first album. Did it feel like a bit of a blowoff having the chance to tour two albums at once?

Andrew: God, I almost can’t remember how everything went in because everything got messed up so much. So we did the first album tour at the end of the pandemic, basically lockdown. We kind of finished that and then went straight into the cycle for the campaign for this album. So it really felt like a whirlwind. It’s been an intense, intense year and a half, I suppose.

Ewan: It does sound pretty full on. I just read a book by Ian Winwood called Bodies, and part of it is about the pressure of touring and the difficulties of it. Like you just said there, it’s a whirlwind. How do you manage that? How do you feel knowing you’re going from town to town, essentially touring your material? How, how do you go about keeping your head above water essentially?

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Andrew:  Yeah, it is really tiring. I guess we get reasonable bits of downtime here and there. In the festival season, you are mostly doing weekends and you have a bit of time on and off. But if you’ve got a long run, a long run, like, you know, you get back from Europe and then you go straight into a UK tour, that can be really, really tiring. I think you’ve just got to - it’s the same as what it’d be in the real world, you know - you just have to find time for yourself and do the things that make you feel good and rested and stuff. Just try not to get burnt out essentially. Food and sleep. Sleep is the key.

Ewan: Eating and sleeping, that’s all you need, isn’t it? Yeah. Simple stuff. But is it good to be back on tour? Obviously the pandemic kind of cancelled pretty much anything that wasn’t -  I think Supergrass did something inside of a pub and Frank Turner started playing guitar at home, but other than that - pretty much dead air. Is it good to be back?

Andrew: Yeah, it’s amazing. Yeah, I mean there’s something so special about just sitting on a tour bus and travelling around the UK and Europe and it is really extraordinary and unlike anything else. It’s been really good and you know, we’ve even gotten to visit new places this time around as well, which we’ve never been to before. We’ve been to Switzerland for the first time, that was really cool, so, it’s been really good to be back and long may continue.

Ewan: And speaking of places, it’s not exactly Switzerland, but you’re doing a show in Middlesbrough. It must be nice to pick up shows in the North East, especially now with the likes of, as we’ve said, Sam Fender, it kind of feels like we’re on the cusp of an explosion up here. How does it feel to play somewhere up north? It’s been dominating the music scene a little extra bit these days.

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Andrew: Our genre, guitar music, is just so much more popular up north. On the whole, whether it’s the North West or the North East, generally, people really get into it up there. I think it’s more ingrained in the culture. I think it’s the cultural identity of people in those areas. Like Manchester is the obvious example, and Liverpool, I guess as part of a twin city vibe, all the music that comes out of there, the songwriters, are guitar-led. There’s a connection and a bloodline full of that which makes it a really special place to go. It’s really cool to get to go to all the places in the UK, so many cities.

I’d hardly been to any before we started touring, so it’s really fun to - we’ve been developing routines for every city now. We’ll go to the shops that we really like, café’s that we really like and the same places to go and get some food. It’s really cool. It does feel like, when you go to Newcastle, so much is happening there, so many interesting things. That’s amazing. I’ve not been to Middlesbrough, I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s going to be like.

Ewan: It’s pretty good. I mean I’ve not been there in years but, no, it’s alright. There are plenty of café’s and the likes. Does that routine you mentioned there, visiting shops and café’s on your return, does that help break up the tour a bit? A new town to explore.

Andrew: Yeah. We’re really big explorers, we like going on massive walks in the towns and cities and really, really exploring. I think it makes it more exciting, you know, it’s like if you don’t make the most of the cities you’re going to, I can imagine it can become a bit of a chore. We’re getting to go back to Newcastle so we can go back to that shop we love, that’s what we really love, to do that kind of thing. It definitely makes travelling, even if you’re repeating the same cities at points, exciting. It’s like, you’ve done those things, you’ve found your safe bets and then you can explore a little bit further and find new things.

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Ewan: It’s like having a cultural landmark for yourself when you go back to places. It must be ideal. Is that part of your latest album, Homesick? It struck me as an interesting album title, something about being homesick even though we’ve just spent two years locked down at home. Is that an active choice to name the album that or more of a coincidence?

Andrew: Yeah, I think so. It’s kind of about being homesick while actually being at home. I guess the broader theme is being reminiscent of your childhood and the places you grew up, and that was informed largely by going back and ending up at our parents house throughout various points of lockdown. It was all about that feeling of being trapped at home and thinking about what it was like to grow up there, to relive those experiences. I think that’s really where the homesick part comes from. It’s not actually being away from it, it’s more coming back to it and reliving it.

Sam Fender opened up on the Seventeen Going Under writing process (Image: Getty Images)Sam Fender opened up on the Seventeen Going Under writing process (Image: Getty Images)
Sam Fender opened up on the Seventeen Going Under writing process (Image: Getty Images)

Ewan: It must have been quite a shock to the system to return home, especially after releasing the first album.

Andrew: Yeah, it was a huge shock. I mean, I think we released the album during all of it, so it was like we were building up for these big tours and to release the album and then suddenly it all shut down. It was really anti-climatic for us. In some ways it was disappointing, you build yourself up for that debut album and you don’t ever get to do that again. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to do it.

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Ewan: Was it difficult to keep momentum after that? You’ve got this album, you’ve put it out, and now you can’t tour it.

Andrew: It’s so hard to say because ultimately we don’t have anything to compare it to. We’d never released an album before. In some ways it helped us. Again it’s hard to say really, the engagement was amazing. It was really good, we had a reasonably captive audience at the time. All of our fans were really amazing, they really got behind us and joined in all our ridiculous internet schemes that we did to keep everyone involved and keep the community alive. It’s so hard to say whether it was a bad thing, but in some ways we just have to adapt to it and I think we did it reasonably effectively.

Ewan: Definitely. I think the big thing about that, from Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Discos to Jarvis Cocker’s Instagram DJ sets were part of an adaptation. Musicians had to make a presence online, do you think that’s a permanent change?

Andrew: Yeah. I mean I guess it was already going that way in so many ways, wasn’t it? But it feels like TikTok’s been around for ages, but really the boom happened during and because of lockdown. It definitely exaggerated it, I think. We’re gonna be stuck with it forever now.

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Ewan: It’s great that it’s essentially free advertising. You can connect with people and drum up social content.

Andrew: I think, going back to guitar music, that’s what is really amazing about it. People who do consume guitar music are still wanting to engage in a very real way. It’s really cool being part of that scene and that genre.

Ewan: I remember seeing someone say guitar music was dead online, and that’s not true at all.

Andrew: Yeah, music might not be streaming much but the shows are still alive and the community is still there. If you look at the amount of bands doing decent size shows, guitar music is probably bigger than ever in a live sense. More able to make a living from it that way. But obviously people were doing huge, ridiculous things back in the day, like Oasis and Knebworth. That kind of pinnacle is harder to reach, but I think there’s a broader base of people doing live stuff. I’m totally pulling this out of nowhere, someone will be like, “statistically, uh, that’s not true at all,” but that’s my feeling at least.

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Ewan: No but it does feel like that, I mean if you look at a touring schedule up here, it’s very guitar based. Kaiser Chiefs and Pixies have just headed back up north, it does feel like guitar music is, not back to being at Oasis levels of popular, but it never really stopped being popular, which is cool. It’s optimistic to see yourselves going down the guitar music route.

Andrew: Definitely, I mean it blows my mind how even in the album charts and stuff, it’s bands coming back, guitar bands, that’s still the stuff that does really well. It’s encouraging.

Ewan: Is it scary that you’ve had real success quite quickly in your early years as a band?

Andrew: Yeah. I mean the scary bit is that step further you take up the pyramid, whether that’s a reasonably successful first album or a reasonably successful second album. The number of people who have a reasonably successful third album is even smaller. You feel like it’s running out all the time, maybe we’ve run out of luck, you know. There’s always that fear and doubt in the back of your mind, but that’s also motivating as well.

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Ewan: I agree with that. You see that at Mercury Awards this year with Wet Leg and Yard Act saying they’ve got a second album in the works and they’ll release that eventually. The huge hurdle to really cement a legacy for a lot of these bands is a third album. Sea Girls are on the right track, Yard Act are on the right track, Sam Fender is on the right track. It’s scary but exciting, we’ve not had anything quite like this for a long time. Not to this extent. I feel spoiled for choice.

Sea Girls are set to play a sold-out show at Middlesbrough Empire on November 20.

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