After two years in limbo The Seal Cub Clubbing Club are ready to launch themselves on an unsuspecting world, says Michael Wylie-Harris
by Michael Wylie-Harris, first published in LondonTourdates #044 ,10th April 2009
With tunes called ‘Song For Haku’ and ‘3 Ft Of Air’, and a band name that is frankly ridiculous, it’s hardly surprising that The Seal Cub Clubbing Club (try saying that on ketamin) have been accused of gimmickry.
But meeting the Mersey-based five piece outside Brick Lane’s 93-Feet East, they are surprisingly free of pretension. And while the experimental music (and the fact they also run a book club) had us thinking they’d be all cardigans, side partings and poetry anthologies stained with the butter of crumpets, what we got was something quite different.
These are actually good, honest lads. Salt of the earth. More your Stevie G than your John T. And hearing the story about what they’ve gone through just to get their debut album released (Super Science Fiction Number Four In A Serious Recorded In Stereo – there they go again) it’s easy to see where the down to earth charm comes from.
Despite being from The Wirral and sharing recording space with The Zutons, TSCCC (I think that might make things easier for now) don’t sound like your average, meat and potatoes scouse-rock.
More often compared to Radiohead and The Super Fury Animals than The Coral, they’re all about soundscapes, obscure lyrical references and Thom Yorke-esque wailing. They recorded their album (out on April 27 on Jack To Phono Records) in – wait for it – a French country house. And it shows…
“Mattresses for sound-proofing,” says singer and lead guitarist, Nick Glover, on his memories of the experience.
“We went there for a month or so. The record label owned this house there, which they decided to make into a recording place.
“We went back and fourth. It was fine in the end to do the album from there. It was quality actually – a really good environment. It was like a massive cottage in the middle of nowhere with loads of outbuildings. I guess it was kind of a farm.
“It was nice because there was no one around at all apart from us. It was just us and the producer. The record label people would come and go occasionally. One of them would turn up and stay the night. Essentially it was just us and the producer though, a couple of dogs and really nice weather.
“I think we made a very ‘farm’ album,” interjects keyboard player and token funny-man, Jay Freeman. “The rural French really comes through on the album. There’s no accordion on there is there though. No French cows in the background.”
The album was produced by Simon Barnicott (known as Barney) who has worked with The Arctic Monkeys, Gruff Rhys and Lightspeed Champion in the past. At a time when so many bands are favouring a minimal, garage rock sound, songs like ‘Slow-Motion Powerslides (In Dee)’ and ‘Pspm’ have a textured quality that feels slightly like it’s of another time and reminds you of the first Turin Breaks album.
“He [Barney] has done loads of stuff as the assistant to Jim Abyss,” says Glover. “This was the first album he’s done on his own. It was great. We were allowed to go off on our own and record in our own little stations that we’d set up.
“It meant that everyone could just do what they wanted, whereas in normal studios you can’t. You’ll have one main recording room and then one other room. We had like four set ups all around the house where we could just go off to and do what we wanted, like smack objects and record that and put it into the track ourselves.”
But you’re from Liverpool (well, practically Liverpool): why doesn’t it sound like The Zutons? “The Mersey sound was never something we really aspired to,” laughs Glover. “I don’t think it was deliberate, it just happened. We practised next to The Zutons so we couldn’t sound like them really. I think it was me mainly. I was just really into The Super Furries and Radiohead.”
The story of TSCCC’s first record doesn’t end when they got back from France. Despite the fact that it’s getting released this month, it was actually recorded in 2006. The band were originally signed to an independent label called Nomadic which no longer exists, and after making the record in 2006 were involved in two years of legal disputes surrounding its release.
“They just decided they didn’t want to be a record label anymore,” explains Glover. “They didn’t really go bust. They were these two really rich guys, one from Oman and one from Mexico, and they just decided they didn’t want to be involved in the record industry anymore.
“We basically got away from them and signed to a new label and it’s taken this long to finally get it released.
“It’s still the same thing. We’ve messed around with the track order but that’s about it. It was all done and finished and it was all fine and so we just left it. It has literally taken us two years to get away from that label though. It’s been a nightmare.
“We have had to keep on playing the same songs basically because it has always been in a state of almost being released. We’ve written loads of new stuff. We’ve got a whole new album but you can only play a certain amount of stuff in a set and also, when you’re releasing something, you have to play it, really.”
There’s a certain amount of understandable frustration in Nick Glover’s voice. Despite the fact that his band has played Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, toured with The Fall and British Sea Power and been championed by Steve Lamacq among others, there’s obviously a massive sense of limbo about the position they’ve been in for the past few years.
“We had a flurry of activity when we first signed to Nomadic,” he continues. “We released two EPs and then did the album and then just had two years trying to get away from them in legal ramblings and all that.
“I just want to do another album now. Forget about this and get another one done. It is a debut, but it’s just taken three years to get it recorded to where we are now.”
With their debut on the verge of release, TSCCC might finally be able to quash the demons of their two-year legal battle with Nomadic, and 2009 could well be their year. When you do eventually get hold of a copy of Super Science Fiction though, don’t listen to it all at once… The next one might not be out till 2020!
The Seal Cub Clubbing Club play Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
(020 7613 0709) on 18 May 2009.