Having nearly released five records in the space of five years, Sea Pinks seem to not only be one of the hardest working outfits consistently lighting up the domestic scene, but one of the most reliable in maintaining an evolved, raw sound from each release to the next. Ahead of their launch show this week for new LP Soft Days, Neil Brogan – the driving force behind the Belfast three-piece – talks to State about the impetus of the band, the benefits of the studio as opposed to the bedroom, and more.
Considering your output over the past five years or so, would it be fair to that you had a lot of creative energy that you needed to exorcise through different projects before committing more wholly to Sea Pinks?
I think it’s just worked out the way it has. I never really thought about doing Sea Pinks beyond the first album, it was just another one off thing that ended up taking over. I still think of it in terms of an album at a time. I don’t have a long term plan for it, which is probably quite obvious! It’s kind of like a tv show that keeps getting another series, against the odds. I tend to just get caught up in other projects in the same way, without much forethought. And that’s an ongoing thing.
How would you describe how your process differed between Dreaming Tracks and Soft Days? Does the studio free Sea Pinks to experiment more, or does the invariable finite structuring of studio recording set limits for Sea Pinks to work within?
Dreaming Tracks was pretty tortuous to record because at the time I was hellbent on making two different records at the same time (long story) and couldn’t decide whether it was even going to be a Sea Pinks record. It was only after mixing it that it came together in some kind of coherent sequence. So by comparison this was a lot simpler as I knew it was a Sea Pinks record going in. I was a bit more confident working in a studio this time so was able to focus more on getting the sounds I was after. But yeah, I always have a very limited budget so try to track and mix as quickly as possible (this one was about five days of tracking and a weekend to mix) which can be limiting though that’s not always a bad thing.
Has running and releasing through your own CF label affected how you operate musically? In your eyes, how does the independent nature of the DIY label rival that of more established indie labels (Sub Pop, Bella Union, etc.)?
Well yeah, it limits things in terms of the amount of records I can press and the budget I have for recording, PR, etc, compared to those labels you mention. It really doesn’t compare to the kind of operation the likes of Sub Pop is running. On the plus side I’m in total control of the whole process and don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s a conscious choice to be DIY but not always my first choice.
Soft Days feels bigger than your previous releases in terms of sound and atmosphere; would you say that Sea Pinks is perhaps more open now to moving further away from a lo-fi sound?
I would like to think so. The first three records could fairly be described as lo-fi as they were recorded in very slapdash fashion by me at home. The last two were made in a good studio with the intention of making something that sounds “proper” for want of a better word. I’m glad this one sounds bigger to you as I was definitely trying to push it a bit further in terms of the sound, trying to open it out a bit.
What is the biggest challenge you faced when setting out to write for the new record?
I don’t really think in terms of writing a record usually, I just write songs and then when I have enough I go in and record them. The recording and afterwards is normally the trickier bit for me.
Do you feel that Soft Days has allowed you to accomplish your ambitions fully, or are there other tracks/records you had in mind whilst creating the album? Left over tracks, for example, that you thought wouldn’t fit the aesthetic but have been placed on the to-do list.
Well no, I’m never really totally satisfied with anything but yeah there’s plenty of other stuff to be getting on with.
After the Belfast album launch, are there plans to take the new record on the road?
We have another show in Dublin at Bello Bar on the 15th of January, after that we’ll see!
How do you forecast the much deeper ambience of Soft Days translating to the live stage?
I think it’ll be pretty stripped down but will still have some of that ambience. Having only three in the band forces you to be kind of brutal when it comes to playing live, but it works for us.
Sea Pinks launch new album Soft Days at Lavery’s, Belfast, this Friday, January 8th, and costs £5 upon entry. More info can be found here.