I should have been in Hoylake half an hour ago so I’m racing through the sleepy village of Meols, passed it’s shimmering-lemon rapeseed fields, towards a sinking sun with the car aglow from the jaunty chimes of BY THE SEA’s debut single Old Coasts.
It’s a heady tale of whimsical nostalgia and sweet sanctuary propelled by the shuffle of a sleigh-bell snare, see-sawing it between the perfect summer/winter soundtrack. With it’s release now imminent, I’m on a mission to find out what the hell they’ve been up to since Bido Lito! last spoke to them almost a year ago.
One would be forgiven for assuming that By The Sea have taken the foot off the pedal of late, venturing out from their Wirral retreat only a handful of times this year, but one would be wrong. Treading water on the gig circuit may bring instant gratification, but it can also be laborious and hinder what songwriters should ascertain to be…craftsmen. Holing themselves up in their rehearsal room, a kitsch grotto of vintage guitars and pop-culture bric-a-brac, has granted them the time and freedom to essentially place a batch of new songs on the potters-wheel and mold, shape and re-mould them before glossing the fruits with close ally and producer Bill Ryder-Jones. His is an influence that cannot be understated, as frontman Liam Power describes as Ryder-Jones as, “a master in the manipulation of space within the mix”. And the results are staggering. Stay Where The Sun Is is awash in Spectoresque reverb. Bittersweet minor/major chords steer the verse betraying the lush upsurge of a Walker Brothers chorus, while pedal-steel licks swoop around the vocal like fireflies. Descending from these thermals and we enter the bewitching dread of While In The Wood, a six minute mini-epic spliced up into four chapters. Opening with delicate minstrel finger-picking and the crystal-teardrop of Joe Edwards’s piano notes, it reaches its zenith as drummer Andy Roydon and bassist Daniel O’Connell settle into the final sepulchral groove allowing the spine-tingling dueling guitars of Steven Campbell and Mark Jackson to take flight, interweaving and dissolving before feedback threatens to send them spiraling out of control. This is the moment that By The Sea vacate the sun-kissed sunset strip, to roam the frazzled realms of Kesey’s Acid Tests as Power croons through “a toy megaphone with a built-in delay”, mirroring Morrison’s forbidding sermon in Strange Days. These songs paint a vivid portrait of an alluring and fractured Americana or what Campbell concludes to be, “how we imagine America to be like from the detached perspective of a foreigner.”
I’d be lying if I admitted I wasn’t completely astonished by the vast spectrum of colours conjured by the group’s instrumentation, and the seasoned maturity inherent within the labyrinthian arrangements, so now armed with these grandiose statements are By The Sea ready to deploy a blitzkrieg on the music industry? Power is quick to quell any hint of a formulaic master-plan, “we’re not aiming for any instant success, we haven’t really thought too much about ‘making it’, we love what were doing and letting things evolve naturally ensures that we don’t set ourselves up to fail.” Detractors may question this sentiment as lacking commercial ambition, nevertheless as things stand, By The Sea remain ruthlessly in control of their creative output. Perceiving the superiority of the product to be of more value than the financial gain is not exactly commercial suicide and securing themselves a distribution deal with The Great Pop Supplement serves only to consolidate this notion. This small DIY London label who, as their Myspace page states, ‘specialise primarily in 7″ wax, more often than not wrapped in colour ferris wheel posters, 50s wallpaper wraparounds and op-art psych sleeves’, fits By The Sea’s absorption in retro-aesthetics and insistence on quality perfectly. A split 7” single of Old Coasts/Automobile with London’s The See See released on June 11th – coinciding with the launch night at Williamson Tunnels – heralds a time for By The Sea to make further steps into the outer world. For this band of already undoubted talent and extraordinary potential, I await it with baited breath.