Building on their critically acclaimed debut, London’s Seafarers dive deep into the human experience on their cinematic sophomore album ‘II’, a captivating and beautiful alt-folk outpouring of depth, nostalgia, and warm wonder.
for fans of Bear’s Den, Blind Pilot, Gregory Alan Isakov
Stream: “Submarine” – Seafarers
My fingers trace the line between the gestures and the signs, unravel and collide, but maybe it’s alright to be a good beginner…
London’s Seafarers have an uncanny ability to get under our skin: Their music, at once gentle and turbulent, intimate and expansive, often captures that which we can’t easily put into words, like the meaning of a memory and time’s inherent melancholia. The band dive deep into the human experience on their cinematic sophomore album II, a captivating alt-folk outpouring of depth, connection, nostalgia, and warm wonder.
Over time, the photos left their frames behind,
But I lay shipwrecked in your arms.
Silver ash, clinging to your lips were chapped.
The bath began to overflow.
Darting like fishes, the rain fell in ribbons,
I lost my hands about your hair.
In awnings we glistened,
come morning, I miss them,
And it’s all in colour,
Awash with colour.
Idol eyes, ticket stubs, and poster boys,
estroyed, the blazes scorched the lawn.
Submarine, soaking in another dream.
You seem, more vivid than you are.
Independently released February 4, 2022, II is a radiant return from one of London’s hidden treasures. After all, it was only a year and a half ago that Seafarers introduced themselves through their debut album, Orlando. That first record instantly set the five-piece apart through its carefully crafted blend of contemporary jazz, Celtic, and folk music. Founder Matthew Herd’s lyrical poetry shone brilliantly through Lauren Kinsella’s stunning vocal work, all of which resonated alongside gorgeous piano arrangements and an elegant suite of traditional stringed, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.
“Seafarers have done what so few artists achieve these days in crafting a unique, standout debut,” Atwood Magazine wrote back in 2020, praising the record as a glimmering gem of compelling textures and vulnerable, honest introspective thought. “Stirring poetry and a dazzling jazz-folk hybrid make Orlando a beautiful listening experience from start to finish. Seafarers touch the soul and pique the senses, diving into the depths of our shared humanity through songs of loss and grief, spirituality and self-discovery, and learning to cherish life’s little things.”
And as you dance alone,
I wonder what you’d do to me,
A familiar kind of jealousy,
Sprayed across the fields a perfect frost.
And innocence collapses,
And fools us all until we fall.
Oh, it collapses,
And fools us all.
– “A Perfect Frost,” Seafarers
Today consisting of Lauren Kinsella, Matthew Herd, Tom Taylor, Tom McCredie, Dave Hamblett, and Arun Thavasothy, Seafarers are truly something special. The band’s sophomore LP brings sparks of indie rock and emotional nostalgia into the fold as the band craft a radiant and immersive follow-up to their debut, building on its foundations while developing something altogether unexpected, exciting, and new.
“This record is about being a teenager,” Seafarers’ founder Matthew Herd tells Atwood Magazine. “It was only after I’d written three or four of the songs that I realised they were all spilling from the same place, the experiences and emotions I first felt in my school years. I started writing these songs in my late-twenties, whilst working with Tom Taylor (piano) and Tom McCredie (bass) as a music teacher in a school in north London. It was the most remarkable time, and I saw my younger self reflected in the students. I was with them on good days and bad days, I watched them struggle, and fly, make terrible decisions, discover their passions, and their worth, warmed by the feeling that I’d been there too.”
“There’s an unbearable, hopeless beauty in how foolish and fragile we are at that age, drifting in a toxic no-mans-land between child and adulthood,” Herd adds. “Everything’s so at odds, and I find that fascinating.”
“Early on it felt important to capture the right sound. I wrote most of the songs whilst in school, either between lessons or staying late. The piano in my teaching room isn’t particularly special, until you press the soft pedal. When the felt muffles the strings, it becomes this wonderful, warm whisper. We took that sound into the studio and tried to centre the album around it. The close, saturated sound of the damp piano and the tape machine belonged entirely to our little universe. We tried to preserve the nature of the demos in the session. It was lovely trying to make a studio album sound small.”
Halloween, and we’re all getting dressed up
In face paints and fake blood and hanging like bats from the trees.
Watch it burn, freedom looks like a boy in a skirt.
But they ended up chasing, pushed him to the railings,
And forced him to stare at the sun.
Intertwine, my hands ’round your neck,
It’s warm and it’s wet, and it drips to the floor from your eyes.
Like the ghosts in the park,
Who look like my friends,
Newlyweds too in love,
To check under the bed,
And I want you to panic,
‘Cause I’ve seen what’s ahead
Whereas he previously described Orlando as a “hopeful, liberated, and futile” record, Herd calls II “lost, searching, and trying.”
“I think Orlando sounds quite aspirational. It’s wide and expansive and, like the character, wants to be anything,” he reflects. “II is a confessional. It’s small and destructive.”
“We used pretty much the same team for this record as Orlando, and I think there’s a greater sense of self assurance within the company. We were all striving to tell the same story, and that felt secure from the off. I certainly feel more confident in my writing, and bolder in my intentions. Seafarers II was the working title, simply because it’s our second record, and I guess it just stuck. I tried different names, but nothing was ever quite right. It maybe felt that a longer title would be overkill considering the sensitive nature of some of the songs. I get a bit nervous about drowning people in heavy emotions, I find that a bit yucky.”
Opening track “A Disappearing Act” sets a stirring scene, with marching drums and glistening piano keys bustling against an increasingly fervent, urgent soundscape. “And the shadows swim across our abdomens,” Kinsella sweetly sings in the chorus, her voice as much a vessel of intense emotion as it is a beacon of light. “As our bodies twist behind the multiplex, and the stars turn black, a disappearing act.” The slow burn continues to smolder and rise right up through to the track’s cathartic, cinematic conclusion.
We watched as it went up in flames
And gathered reels of burning tape.
Just modern teenage parlour games,
Revenge can leave a bitter taste,
But petulance is charming,
And I can be so charming.
Complete the form in ballpoint pen,
Your name, address, provide consent,
“Did you come alone or bring a friend?”
“He stopped replying to my texts.”
“They’ll call you when they’re ready.”
“This is a song about a particular kind of self-destruction,” Herd explains. “It’s the soft-core kind, that’s born out of a miserable combination of boredom and lust. It’s about purposefully making bad decisions, or doing awful things just to feel something. I occasionally see it in myself, this shallow greyness that wants to break things, just because. The characters in the song come from a few people I knew at school: The boy in the video shop, the teenagers setting fire to the bins, the couple having empty sex behind the cinema. I think, as an adult, it’s quite scary when you notice such a young emotion burning within you, and we’ve supposedly grown up and left these things behind us. But I love that our teenage shadows stick around. I overheard someone say that they felt like they were aging but not getting any older. Perhaps there will always be a part of me that stays turbulent, petty, and reckless.”
So begins an incredibly intense, introspective, and observant musical journey: One that moves with both grace and fervor, fragility and boldness.
The tender, piano-driven “Good Beginners” dwells in questions of human connection and understanding, whilst the subdued “Newlyweds” pulses with the haunting specter of an old memory and a charged, churning indie rock energy. Further highlights include the dazzling and dynamic standout “Submarine,” which (per Herd) “came out of [the thought] of being stuck in an endless state of longing,” the warm reverie of “A Perfect Frost” and “Nathalie,” the achingly intimate and intense poetry of “The Curators,” and the enveloping drama of “You Can’t Pretend in the Dark.”
“Some of these songs feel quite close to me. Most of them are based on things that either happened to me personally, or things I witnessed happen to people I care about,” Herd says. “But, I think the unifying aspect of the whole record is the sound. All the imperfections, the pops, clicks, hisses, and gurgles. It makes me feel an odd mix of comfort and disquiet. That was the vision of our prodigious and empathetic production team, Euan Burton and Patrick Phillips. It’s my favourite thing about the record.”
“For me, lyrics can sometimes fall into the trap of becoming a poetic or sentimental avoidance tactic: A way of skirting issues,” Herd answers, when asked about what his words mean to him. “I’ve enjoyed trying to push against that, and interrogate myself on every decision. What am I trying to say? Is this my story to tell? How can I tell it? Can I tell it any better? Some lyrics chime because they evoke a certain feeling, but some just feel quite pleasing to say. I like the opening of “All That Matters” for that reason: ‘Shame likes to hide, in the voices of children who shout when they’re shy.'”
The fact that this music is made, out of his system, and out in the world is a relief in and of itself for Herd. The creation process in itself – a collaborative, team effort that saw Seafarers’ family grow and evolve throughout – is the greatest reward; everything else is just the icing on top.
“It’s tricky; I have this small but ongoing conflict waging inside me about why I make things and what I expect when I present them to people,” he shares. “Obviously it’s nice when something you made is well received and appreciated, but I don’t think that’s my reason for making music. In the end, I make it for me. It’s something I do that brings me great joy and peace. So, it’s unbelievably special when people respond to it, in whatever way, and I’m deeply grateful for all the ears it reaches, but I write songs simply because it makes me happy.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Seafarers’ II with Atwood Magazine as Matthew Herd goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s sophomore album!
Stream: ‘II’ – Seafarers
:: Inside II ::
A Disappearing Act
There is a beautiful magnetism that often emits from the most destructive characters. This song is about a loveless, fumbling, manipulative romance, and the desperation to feel wanted.
I sometimes wonder how much we ever really know people. Even in my closest relationships. Do I just fill in the blanks to make someone who I want them to be? Who knows what they do when no one else is around? And who do they think I am? I don’t think I ever really want to know.
One of my earliest memories is being at my primary school’s Halloween disco. It was too much, too soon. The lights, the loud music, the drama kids, the sugar all got too much for me and I just cried until a kind lady took me into the school office. I realised that this situation keeps haunting me in different guises, watching in silent terror as situations unfold. The boy being assaulted, nicotine stained teeth, awkward dancing, correctional braces, strangulation, prophetic dread, Newlyweds is a catalogue of little horrors.
History and memory often consume my thoughts, in particular their flaws. Nathalie is plagued by her past, sometimes vivid, sometimes abstract, but never explained. There’s a good thought about the past not being behind us, but being under us. Bodies, rivers, cities, objects, everything used, everything physical all returning to the ground we build our lives on.
A Perfect Frost
A few summers ago, I walked by a peaceful protest outside the British Museum for the struggle against climate change. I heard the voice of someone I used to know amidst the clammer, and it sent me reeling back years. I never quite spotted them between the placards and people but I like to think they were there, fighting for the cause. We used to have wonderful, heady days together, with the kind of intensity you can only ever sustain before crumbling and breaking apart.
One of my favourite books growing up was Richmal Crompton’s “Just William”. William is a schoolboy who gets himself into all kinds of muddles, it’s a children’s book with a slightly old-fashioned moral leaning. One line I’ve always remembered is “it is a great gift to be able to lie so as to convince other people. It is a still greater gift to be able to lie so as to convince oneself.” I, like William, was possessed of the latter gift.
You Can’t Pretend in the Dark
I went to stay at my parents house a few years ago. It was the first time I’d been back in a while, and I was struck by how much of the little town had changed. They knocked down my school, and built a housing estate on the playing fields. Many of my friends parents had moved once the kids left, so there were new faces at the windows and different cars in the drive. One of the few things that hadn’t changed was my bedroom. Gig tickets plastered to the wall, a big Arcade Fire poster, a box full of old journals, a makeshift Halloween costume, drawers of cassette tapes, albums (Death Cab, Scissor Sisters, The Killers!), films, and magazines.
I couldn’t help but be consumed by those years as I lay awake in that small bed, surrounded by my old belongings. So much had changed, progressed, and grown, but it’s hard not to feel slightly mournful for what used to be.
Arun, who plays guitar in the band, was once talking to me about memory and how easily we romanticise what we no longer have. Almost like the memory of someone being more attractive than the reality. This song came out of that thought, of being stuck in an endless state of longing. I remember looking at the family photos on the mantlepiece at my parent’s house, and thinking how strange it must feel for your children to grow up and leave home. Is their memory of me always the boy in the photograph? Do we ever really grow up in our parent’s eyes? Whenever I think of my mother, she looks how she did in her forties.
All That Matters
The refrain in All That Matters comes from the encouragement my parents gave me growing up, but the verses allude to darker, more troubling instances that I experienced as an adult. There’s a double-ness to this that I find fascinating. That early parental wisdom never ceases to be relevant, no matter how far away I seem from my childhood. I’m taller now, and older, and hopefully a little more knowing, but really just the same.
I wrote this piece for Tom. It’s a simple little melody that goes through a few different variations, some lighter, some darker, but in the end the song is just the same.
— — — —
? © a young Matthew Herd, by Jana Herd
:: Stream Seafarers ::