Seabellies bellyaching for love


December 12, Heritage Hotel; December 13, Rad 

An album written in Sydney about love, percolated in Uganda after heartbreak, refined in Berlin after acceptance and brought back to Australia with optimism is what indie-rock outfit the Seabellies are pinning their hopes for the future on.

Establishing themselves as one of the country's finest breakout talents in 2007 with a well-received debut EP and slots at the touring V Festival alongside Pixies, Beck and the Pet Shop Boys, the Seabellies released a string of singles before their first album By Limbo Lake in 2010.

A slew of international praise, overseas dates and constant domestic touring saw the band, with members from Sydney and Newcastle, build a strong following at home and abroad as they prepared follow-up album, Fever Belle, last year.

It was during this process band leader Trent Grenell had his heart broken.

"We started working on the album at the start of last year. I broke up with my partner on day 10 of tracking," he said.

"It broke my heart and I ran off to Uganda to volunteer in an orphanage. I was there for six months before I felt better."

Reconvening in Berlin with producer Berkfinger - Art vs. Science, Architecture In Helsinki - and armed with a new outlook on love, loss and life, Grenell was forced to reconsider the songs he had written in the heat of his former relationship.

"The whole album was written before the breakup, so when I walked away from the album, I had to change the songs," he said.

"I was way off the mark about love. The songs are more honest now than they were."

Half of Fever Belle is about love and half about losing that love.

The gentle indie-pop melodies and serene, breathy vocals intersperse with twinkling synths and spattering drum beats to anchor Grenell's revised stance on relationships.

He admits it is a more challenging set of songs than their first album, and has forced a rethink of their live show setup.

"Most of the songs were written in 2011, so they are old for us, but we hadn't explored them live," he said.

"It's a layered and strange album in instrumentation. We had to get all new gear, sequencers and samplers. It's still an organic band, but we needed to incorporate new sounds to play the songs live."

Grenell spent six months in Berlin prior to his stint in Uganda, and a further six months in the German creative hub upon his return.

"I'd heard a lot about Berlin, it being one of the last bastions of a city for artists to live and be an artist in," he said.

"It's so vibrant in all forms of arts. In Sydney, it's expensive to live and easy to lose focus on what you're doing when you have to worry so much about money. That's why everyone flocks there."

The Seabellies are on tour around the country to officially launch Fever Belle and have back-to-back nights in the Illawarra this week, playing the Heritage Hotel in Bulli on Thursday and Wollongong's Rad bar on Friday night.

Grenell said the band enjoys the new songs, but the new album is taking time to get used to.

"It's more difficult. We can't drink as many beers before the show now," he said.

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