Wirral’s THE SEAL CUB CLUBBING CLUB are a unique bunch. From their commix of music reference points to their abstract song structures, a varied lyrical direction to mind- bending artwork concepts and that name, this is a band who defy categorisation. And indeed, that is somewhat the point. The SCCC bludgeoned their way into the nation’s musical consciousness in 2005, as a result of their two debut, self released EPs Number One In A Serious and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club EP, which were met with critical acclaim from, amongst others, Rough Trade and Steve Lamacq. This resulted in tours with Brakes, Field Music, British Sea Power and a host of festival appearances.
The band’s debut LP, Super Science Fiction, was heavily delayed due to legal wrangling with the group’s former label, before finally landing in 2009 aboard Jack To Phono Records. The album stands as one of the finest pieces of work produced by a band from our region in years; an abstruse post-punk mix, combining the soaring tension of Yucatan, the prog-Kraut rumblings of Can and Super Furry Animals at their odd-pop best. Bido Lito! caught up with Nik Glover, the band’s lead protagonist, to gain an insight into the world of The SCCC.
For readers new to the band, how would you describe the music of The SCCC?
Confusing. We tend to mash together genres as much as possible so our albums can swing from one style to another even within songs. We’re kind of weird-indie/ambient/trip-hop.
There is a depth and variation to the arrangements and the sonic landscape of The SCCC’s music. Is this something that comes naturally, or is there a constant strive to find new sounds and present them in interesting ways?
We start with a sound and decide where that sound should naturally build to. We structure everything else in the song around bringing out what is good in that first sound, trying to stick to whatever first impressions and ideas sprang from hearing that sound for the first time. We never start with lyrics, everything comes from that first moment of inspiration.
Literature is key to the subject matter of The SCCC’s work and the band’s overall aesthetic. What is your view on the relationship between popular – or not so popular – music and literature?
Popularity comes and goes. 90% of the music that is popular now will be forgotten about by all but a small section of the population by the time it’s 10 years old. Our music is built on the idea that everything is transient, and that there is no point trying to create timeless music. Art usually becomes timeless because of the critical reaction it receives, or occasionally because it has an extremely polarising effect on a large audience.
Your material is often lyrically abstract, hung around various identifiable, common themes. This theme strikes me as being similar to your artwork. Is this juxtaposition between the everyday and the abstract something you strive for in both your lyrics and artwork – and I suppose in your arrangements and song structure – as an identifiable aspect of what The SCCC is all about?
The lyrics we write take themes from whatever we’re reading at the given moment, though in the very few ‘story’ songs we do there is always a ‘real’ character at the centre of them, based on someone we know. At the moment I’ve been reading lots of graphic novels so there is a lot of references to super-heroic feats in our songs. We’ve been fortunate with artwork in that three very talented artists (John ‘The Doog’ Dowswell, Jon Owen, Elley Suggett) have come along at the right moments in our development to supply us with the right artwork. We don’t give them anything to listen to to prepare them for ‘painting’ the music, we just give them a rough outline of the themes involved and trust that they’ll produce something extraordinary.
What impact do you feel being a band from the Wirral has on the music and outlook of The SCCC? Has it also had an impact on your relationship with the scene in Liverpool?
It used to make us feel a bit separate from the Liverpool scene, but since three out of five of us live in Liverpool now it doesn’t make much difference. We know a lot of the Liverpool bands so we do feel a bit more part of a scene, even if it’s a constantly changing one.
You have been involved in the Merseyside and UK music scene for many years now. How would you regard the strength and depth of the current local scene?
Liverpool changes every year, depending on fashion. Like all British city scenes, it mirrors whatever is big in indie/dance music that month, while also playing host to a few stalwarts. We’re one of the older bands in Liverpool now, which feels strange to say. There has been peaks and troughs, but there is always enough good bands around to pull the rest up.
From the current crop of Liverpool bands, which of these musical peers would you say you share an affinity with?
We’ve never really had a group of bands around us playing similar music, I don’t think we’ve influenced many people to try, so I wouldn’t say we share an affinity with anyone. Other bands we like or respect haven’t really changed, The Laze, Indica Ritual, Balloons, aPAtT, Hot Club, Wave Machines, Married To The Sea, all of them are very good bands.
I can imagine that the release of Super Science Fiction was quite a liberating experience. Was this the case?
It’s hard to feel liberated after such a long, painful process. It does feel good to have it finally out.
What has been your take on the critical reaction to Super Science Fiction?
It was OK, for what we got. We were lucky to get a lot of radio play from 6Music which has really helped raise our profile in certain circles. It polarised the people who reviewed it in that everyone liked certain bits and couldn’t understand why we’d done other bits. The bits that polarised people were always different, some people liked the poppier stuff on it, some people only liked the weirder stuff. That’s the reaction I wanted.
How would you say your new material differs from the band’s work on Super Science Fiction?
It’s a lot nastier, and a lot more studied. There’s more words, faster lyrics, faster guitars and a lot more synths. We haven’t gone all 80s
After the turmoil and drawn out nature of Super Science Fiction’s release, its been extremely pleasing to see The SCCC emerge this year with new material – in the form of frenetic new single Made Of Magic – a flurry of live shows and a session on the ever supportive Marc Riley’s 6Music show. Many bands would have simply fallen apart as a result of the drawn out legal jousting and emotional baggage emanating from the impasse. Luckily, The SCCC are thick skinned chaps. I asked Nik what their perseverance said about the band and he replied simply, “We’re mugs”.
Thank goodness for that.