Sea of Bees @ The Union Chapel, London 19.11.12

As Sea of Bees come to the end of their UK Tour, Bearded caught up with the Sacramento outfit at The Union Chapel for their closing show.

Nov 19th, 2012 at Union Chapel, London / By James Ingham
Sea of Bees @ The Union Chapel, London 19.11.12 After an incredible set from Barbarossa, singer/songwriter James Mathe’s name for his music, which turned out to be unexpectedly but arguably the most suitable and welcome support band Bearded had encountered at a gig for too long, Julie Ann Bee’s (Jules to everyone it seems) musical project Sea of Bees took the stage. After picking up their latest record Orangefarben over the summer, Bearded was keen to see the live replication. We’ve loved the record, and were hoping to love the live show too.

Jules leads the band with at times an almost childlike naivety to her voice, reflecting the more lullaby elements to the music. However, this would sometimes shatter into grittier wailing in evocative expression. Amber, her musical partner, supports the vocal lines nearly entirely throughout the set with stunning harmonies, fully reflective of the country dust that neatly lines the cracks in their music. Shorter and much poppier songs include ‘Girl’ and recent single ‘Gone’ give Sea of Bees the chance to show their ability to create numbers that paint a quintessential picture of the warmer side of American life that is obscured to the outside world. This backed up by Jules’ homely nature (tributing a song to Spencer her cat for example) make Sea of Bees a very attractive band.

The main surprise of the show, was the way that although the album had seemed far more melancholy and reflective of the many personal lyrical themes Jules explores, the live show was far more upbeat and moods seemed to reflect amusement and confidence. Rockier musical influences, perhaps enhanced by the addition of the UK based rhythm section helped to drive what could have been very delicate music, reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel or even REM; a band cited by Sea of Bees as being a major influence on the opening number ‘Broke’ from Orangefarben.

Thinking about it honestly, the show was perfect. Together, all the musicians played with complete sensitivity to each other, ensuring no dissonance was unplanned, that the sound of the vocals would reverb around the chapel in harmony and that all tensions that built were climatically released. Jules at one point commented “So much good music [out now], just keep your eyes peeled” and this is none truer of her own band. It may not be the most exciting new band around, but unarguably Sea of Bees have some big tunes and a very comforting sound, not dissimilar to an Americana take of the Smoke Fairies or Laura Marling.

Sea of Bees now return to America to commence writing the next record, although promised multiple times during the show to return in the new year. Their album Orangefarben is now available as is the single ‘Gone’.