Interview with Pale Seas - Southampton - 9 March 2012

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Pale Seas Pale Seas’ first single ‘Something or nothing’ was released on Monday 5th March, available in download or vinyl. No CD alternative. ‘I’ve never liked CDs’ admits Jacob (lead singer and guitarist). ‘I bought a lot of CDs of Elliott Smith and Belle and Sebastian when I was younger. Then I went into cassettes because in charity shops they were a lot cheaper. Once, I saw ‘Xo’ by Elliott Smith in a bin bag outside Oxfam. It was hanging out so I thought should I? It was smashed, I felt so bad, so I bought it. You do stumble across some really nice things in charity shops, it’s really cool’. We laugh but we know deep down that our normal lives brush against some heavy-hearted and sometimes horrific stories more often that we wish to care for. The enigmatic journey of ‘Xo’ continues even beyond Elliott Smith’s grave. Graham adds, ‘The point is… as it’s a cassette that you bought in a charity shop it might have a story, but if you buy a brand new CD there is no story as such’.

I have this sad vision of the journey of this cassette that ended up in a bin bag before being rescued by Jacob. I tell the band how I came across (and bought) the back catalogue of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds when I was helping out in an Oxfam shop myself many years ago. The feeling of surprise and elation at us each exchanging our much cherished treasure hunt stories is superseded by a respectful sigh when I ask Jacob if he knows of the circumstances in which the Elliott Smith smashed ‘Xo’ cassette ended up being abandoned. ‘I think somebody probably died. I think somebody probably died’. The repetition may be unconscious on Jacobs’s part but it shows the serious tone that this interview has suddenly veered into. ‘Or maybe it was a break up. Maybe somebody’s girlfriend had it in their house. Maybe the cassette was his and she got rid of it. It was never really going to be a happy story if it ended up in Oxfam!’ We could intimate more sad stories or recall the joys of dawdling in charity shops but I think it’s time to progress with the interview.

From one feeling to the next I ask Pale Seas to describe how it feels to have released their first single. They all contribute to the hubbub, a clear sign of excitement and I only catch bits of sentences. It’s clear that it is a dream come true. Yet as Zeelah shyly admits, ‘it doesn’t feel real, it actually feels weird when you think about it’.

It feels very real from where I stand, and especially from where I stood in the Southampton Joiners watching them play live. It also felt very real when Pale Seas supported the Lemonheads in Portsmouth. ‘I had the best day of my life the day we found out we were going to open for the Lemonheads’ Graham confides. Then Jacob adds: ‘My step dad introduced me to The Lemonheads. He used to play ‘Come on Feel’ a lot in the car. I must have been ten or eleven. I remember thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard! He put me onto some really great stuff like J. Mascis and Pearl Jam.

Pale Seas will play Brighton’s Great Escape 2012 and I very much look forward to seeing them live again and hearing Jacob’s enchanting and fragile vocals. I very much look forward to seeing the band evolve and play to bigger crowds. I very much look forward to looking at my signed copy of ‘Something or nothing’ in a few years time and remembering the day I met Pale Seas for the first time, and how we exchanged our personal stories about charity shops and music in general.

For now, I know that the future of popular music is in safe hands with Pale Seas. The music they record and play is a heartfelt interrogation of their own popular music experience. The vocals and guitars work in tandem to create beautifully crafted melodies giving an overall eerie distinction to their flagship songs ‘Something or nothing’ and ‘Amour’ (B-side). In concert, the stripped down yet powerful pounding of the drums (two drums actually) provide a much more raw and dynamic sound. It could have been the mix on the day, but it sounded more brutal (to my delight). Brutal it may have been, still it retained the melodic subtleties that define the craft of Pale Seas.

Along with other Southampton born bands such as Mancub and The Road Less Travelled, has Southampton finally found its musical identity with Pale Seas? I very much hope so.

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For more details, visit… Pale Seas' website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2012