(This feature first appeared in issue #64 of Shindig! magazine. I think the band have since changed drummers since this ran. I love this band and can't wait for the LP! To read the full interview click over the jump at the bottom.)
London's latest baroque-beat band mix peppermint and incense on their first recordings. Duncan Fletcher sees them take flight.
Taking their name from a misheard lyric in The Stones' 'Paint It Black', Green Seagull formed in early 2016 around the songwriting talents of Paul Nelson and Paul Milne, formerly of New Electric Ride and The Magnetic Mind respectively. The chemistry was completed with the addition of keyboardist Sarah Gonputh and drummer Carlos Redondo.
“For me, psychedelia is a very open-ended style that gives you a lot of possibilities. You can take elements from virtually any genre - garage punk, acid rock to flamenco and classical - and it wouldn't necessarily jar if you did it right” says bassist/vocalist Milne. Do it right they do, as heard on their rehearsal room recordings on four-track cassette. Influenced by The Left Banke, The Association and The Beach Boys, the two songs on their Soundcloud page feature pop melodies spiked with sinister chords and arrangements, successfully pairing light and shade.
“The lyrics in 'Scarlet' are pretty much about infatuation and obsession and hint at a possible illness of the mind for the protagonist” says guitarist/vocalist Nelson. “'They Just Don’t Know' is based on a nightmare I had where I was some kind of world leader in a Cuban Missile Crisis-type scenario. I think I was watching too many cold war documentaries at the time! Hope it wasn't a premonition of some sort!” adds Milne.
The band are currently re-recording the tracks along with a prospective LP at London's Sausage Studio, making full use of its vintage gear. “We're fortunate that Sausage Studio is run by my boyfriend, Seb Kellig (My Drug Hell) with our friend Nick McCarthy (Franz Ferdinand/FFS)”, says Sarah. “The place is an absolute dream and I feel so lucky to be part of the Sausage Studio family. It's vintage keys and analogue synthesiser heaven... for our forthcoming single I've been playing the Philicorda organ and the Wurlitzer.”
'Scarlet' b/w 'They Just Don't Know' was released in May 2017 on Mega Dodo Records.
(Click over the jump for the full interview.)
Green Seagull are:
Paul Nelson - from Liverpool - guitar and vocals
Paul Milne - from Aberdeen - bass and vocals
Sarah Gonputh - from London - keys and vocals
Carlos Redondo - from Palencia, Spain - drums
You've all played previously in other bands on the psych scene. How did you all meet and what spurred you to start Green Seagull?
Paul Nelson: I initially met Paul Milne at a gig my old band (New Electric Ride) was playing that he was promoting, I also knew about Magnetic Mind and thought they were excellent. I approached him for what we thought would be a side project of some sort, but we realised that it could be potentially a lot more and took it from there.
Sarah Gonputh: I played keyboards and sang backing vocals with Paul Milne and Carlos in our former band, The Magnetic Mind. They asked me to play keyboards for some gigs in Spain and at the time my main band was the Lysergics, so I was in both bands for a time. We connected very well both musically and as friends who are into obscure 60’s psychedelic music. When Paul Milne and Carlos started jamming with Paul Nelson, I soon joined them too. Part of the great thing about living in London is that there are so many cool musicians and you just want to work with everyone. But you have to make the decision at some point on who you most want to work with and I chose Green Seagull because of the way we all worked so well together.
How did you come up with the band name?
Paul Nelson: It was a misheard lyric from "Paint it black" - I used to think Jagger sang: "No more will my green seagull turn a deeper blue". Pretty silly, but you should have heard some of our other suggestions!
Sarah Gonputh: I’ve enjoyed buying more green clothes because of this band name!
I'm very much enjoying the two tracks on your Soundcloud page, they were recorded at Sausage Studios I believe. What's that place like?
Paul Nelson: Funnily enough those tracks were recorded in our rehearsal room on a cassette 4-track. We are currently re-recording them in Sausage Studios however. It is an excellent studio with some mind-blowing equipment - including ace engineer Seb!
Sarah Gonputh: We’re fortunate that Sausage Studio is run by my boyfriend, Seb Kellig (My Drug Hell) with our friend Nick McCarthy (Franz Ferdinand/ FFS). We are currently recording our single and forthcoming album at Sausage Studio. The place is an absolute dream and I feel so lucky to be a part of the Sausage Studio family. Its vintage keys and analogue synthesizer heaven, plus Seb and Nick gave a home to my piano when there was no space for it in our flat. For our forthcoming single, I have been playing the Philicorda organ and the Wurlitzer.
There's a real Left Banke meets Arthur Lee vibe to 'Scarlet', what to you is the attraction of baroque pop and psychedelia? How did you first get into this music?
Paul Nelson: I've been listening to this sort of music all of my life, so whenever I write anything this style always comes out. I love anything with harpsichord sounds and nice vocal harmonies.
Paul Milne: For me, psychedelia is a very open-ended style that gives you a lot of possibilities. You can take elements from virtually any genre - from garage punk and acid rock to flamenco and classical music - and it wouldn’t necessarily jar if you did it right.
I love the way you have pop lightness in the melody, spiked with slightly more sinister chords and arrangements. A great mix of light and shade on both 'Scarlet' and 'They Just Don't Know'. What's the story behind the lyrics in those songs?
Paul Nelson: The lyrics in Scarlet are pretty much about infatuation and obsession and hint at a possible illness of the mind for the protagonist...
Paul Milne: ‘They Just Don’t Know’ is based on a nightmare I had where I was some kind of world leader in a Cuban Missile Crisis-type scenario. I think I was watching too many cold war documentaries at the time! Hope it wasn’t a premonition of some sort...
Aside from Love and The Left Banke who else would you say is a big influence on your music?
Paul Nelson: I'm into anything from the mid to late 60s and some early 70s really. I also enjoy film soundtracks. I get ideas for melodies from anywhere, TV adverts and things can trigger off an idea, or just random stuff happening to me as I walk the streets. My favourite bands are probably the Byrds, The Kinks and The Beatles, but there are too many others to mention here!
Paul Milne: The Association and The Beach Boys are big influences on me, mainly for the harmonies, but I’m also a fan of bands like Iron Butterfly, Spirit, and Bubble Puppy that combine the intricate stuff with a more raucous edge.
I notice more craftsmanship in your music than a lot of new bands seem to manage, especially in the arrangements and harmonies. Is that something that comes naturally to you or is it something you've had to work hard at?
Paul Nelson: We do put work into song craft and harmonies, but for us that's a lot of fun as we like music with these qualities. We aspire to be as good as the bands we listen to.
Sarah Gonputh: We do spend a lot of time crafting the songs and arranging the harmonies and it always pays off. It’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy working in this band so much- we strive for perfection!
Any physical releases on the way? An album perhaps?
Paul Nelson: We are currently recording tracks for an LP and a 45 single on Megadodo records. The 45 will be 'Scarlet/They just don't know' and should be released in May 2017.
Who does the writing? Is it a team effort or do you write separately?
Sarah Gonputh: Paul Milne and Paul Nelson are the main songwriters but Carlos and I will add our ideas during our rehearsals. For example, I was glad to be able to add a Bach inspired instrumental to one of Paul Milne’s songs.
There are passages within the two songs on Soundcloud that sound ripe for improvisation. Do your live renditions of these tracks differ from the studio versions?
Paul Nelson: Not really, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely. I tend to avoid writing lengthy songs as I would consider it a potential challenge to the listeners’ attention span. I wouldn't want to bore folk with endless noodling. I like concise, catchy songs.
Any gigs/tours coming up?
Paul Nelson: We are playing in February with US band Promised Land Sound and fellow London-dwellers The Hanging Stars, but we will be booking lots more shows in the new year so keep an eye out for us.