Hailing from Natland, Cumbria, England, Sea Power are a conceptual indie band whose music incorporates elements of art rock and post-rock experimentalism with an uncommon degree of imagination and dynamics. While their early work was often compared to the Cure and Joy Division (the era typified by their 2003 debut The Decline of British Sea Power), they matured into more elaborately arranged productions (as on 2008′s Do You Like Rock Music? and 2013′s From the Sea to the Land Beyond) that were powerfully atmospheric, with an evocative tone recalling classic film scores. While the tempos of their music are sometimes languid, their use of dynamics and the classical aspirations of their melodies give their work an impact that’s truly unique. Originally known as British Sea Power, the group streamlined their name Sea Power in 2021, and reintroduced themselves with the grand-scale sound of 2022′s Everything Was Forever.
Sea Power was formed in 2000 by brothers Yan Scott Wilkinson (vocals and guitar) and Neil Hamilton Wilkinson (vocals, guitar, and bass), who teamed up with a longtime friend, drummer Matthew Wood. When Yan enrolled at the University of Reading, he met like-minded musician Martin Noble, who played guitar and keyboards, and soon they began performing under the moniker British Air Powers, changing the name to British Sea Power after a song from their early repertoire. (Another name change followed in 2021 when they removed “British” to become Sea Power.)
Their live shows received notice early on, thanks in no small part to the group’s offbeat theatrics and visual flair (the band often wore military uniforms, large stuffed birds and artificial plants were a big part of their stage set, and a man in a bear costume sometimes joined them on-stage). Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis was impressed by one of Sea Power’s (literally) wild performances and signed them; by the end of 2001, they had two singles in the racks: “Fear of Drowning” on Golden Chariot and “Remember Me” on Rough Trade. Sea Power expanded to a five-piece when Eamon Hamilton of Brakes was recruited to play keyboards with the band; he was also known to pick up a bass drum and charge into the audience when the spirit moved him.
The group released their critically acclaimed debut, The Decline of British Sea Power, in 2003. Open Season arrived in 2005, but the following year, Hamilton left the group to concentrate on Brakes, while two musicians joined the lineup, Abi Fry on viola and Phil Sumner on keyboards, cornet, and guitar. In 2008, the expanded lineup recorded the eccentric but accessible Do You Like Rock Music?, then followed it with an unusual project, lending their signature post-punk atmospherics to director Robert Flaherty’s bleak 1934 film Man of Aran, composing a complete soundtrack for the movie that was released on DVD, as well as performing the score in its entirety at a number of screenings.
In 2010, the band unleashed the seven-track EP Zeus, followed in 2011 by their fourth full-length outing, Valhalla Dancehall. Machineries of Joy, inspired by a 1964 collection of short stories of the same name by Ray Bradbury, arrived in 2013. Late the same year, Sea Power unveiled another film score, penning the soundtrack for Penny Woolcock’s documentary From the Sea to the Land Beyond. In 2015, they reissued The Decline of British Sea Power through their own Golden Chariot label; it appeared in two expanded editions, one featuring a bonus disc of rare tracks, and another that included a DVD of rare film footage along with the two CDs.
That same year, Sea Power staged a concert tour in which the group were accompanied by a traditional British brass band at each stop. At the end of the tour, they entered the studio with Foden's Band, a celebrated brass ensemble first formed in Cheshire at the dawn of the 20th century, and re-created the live set from the tour; the sessions were released in October 2015 under the title Sea of Brass. Sea Power returned in April 2017 with their sixth studio effort, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party. The record was paid for in part by a crowdfunding campaign to enable its release, and was recorded in multiple locations, including Clapham, Lympne Castle, Skye, and the band’s native Brighton.
The group took on an unusual project with Disco Elysium, which featured cues from their award-winning score for a celebrated historical video game of the same name. The album was released in June 2021, and two months later, the band revealed on social media that they were changing their name from British Sea Power to simply Sea Power. In a statement on their website, they declared the change was motivated by the rise in the U.K. of “an isolationist, antagonistic nationalism that we don’t want to run any risk of being confused with.” Having reasserted their identity, Sea Power set to work on their first album under the new banner. Everything Was Forever was released in February 2022, and saw them working with producer Graham Sutton, who had previously been at the controls for Do You Like Rock Music? ~ Andy Kellman