Three years ago, Sea Girls frontman Henry Camamile was working in a London pub when one of the cellar doors came crashing down on his head. He didn’t go to hospital until months later, when he noticed he was being plagued by depressive thoughts and struggling to string sentences together. “I wasn’t in the best space,” he admits. “I wasn’t looking after myself and I was drinking too much.” A neurologist told him he’d suffered a prolonged concussion, and it could take two years before he noticed any improvement, which sent him into a further spiral. “It was a pretty hard few years,” he says. He’s on the mend: “Now I get a bit blinky and tired – it can be hard to stay focused.” As a result he’s pretty much given up the booze. “I still go out though,” he confirms. “I love getting involved.”
Camamile has plenty to celebrate. Sea Girls’ second album, Homesick, is an ambitious record that marks a sonic shift from the late-night anthems of their 2019 debut, Open Up Your Head. Now they’re embracing previously subtle nods to the driving-with-the-roof-down rock’n’roll of Bruce Springsteen and The Killers. Sam Fender, eat your heart out.
Homesick is less about craving a particular place and more about “belonging, and how the world has light and shade in it”, Camamile says, sitting beside drummer Oli Khan in a hotel bar that overlooks King’s Cross Station. The band’s members all hail from the Midlands, but it took moving to London after university in 2015 for them to ditch their old groups and form Sea Girls – named after a misheard lyric in Nick Cave’s “Water’s Edge” (“They would come in their hordes, these city girls.”). They wrote Homesick with guitarist Rory Young and bass player Andrew Dawson over the better part of a year, while living back home with their families during lockdown. It gave them the opportunity to revisit old haunts and see people they hadn’t in a long time. “Nostalgia’s a big part of it,” Khan says. “But this album also has ambition,” adds Camamile. “It wants to go somewhere. It’s about people wanting to get out of small towns, wanting to be rock stars.”
Since the UK reached indie landfill tipping point around 2008, very few have managed to break through in the way acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party and The Libertines once did. Though the sight of four blokes wielding guitars today can spark unfortunate flashbacks, the Sea Girls’ fanbase is growing at a rapid rate. Having completed the traditional gig circuit, they’re now big enough to be playing the cavernous Alexandra Palace in London this November.
There’s a jittery energy on Homesick that taps into a well-documented generational anxiety, along with Camamile’s own experiences. Songs such as the floor-thumping album opener “Hometown” were written as a celebration of youth, a way of Camamile pledging to make the most of life. “It was a difficult one to write,” he says of the song, which is dedicated to an old friend who died. “I wanted to get it right and do this nod to them, and other people I’ve known our age who aren’t around anymore. And telling myself that I won’t be as reckless as I once was.” After a Strokes-y guitar squall, Camamile runs the gamut of teenage memories, before the song explodes into a bombastic “Born to Run” chorus.
Others hit closer to home in different ways. “Lucky” came from a letter Camamile found at home during lockdown, written by his great-grandfather during the Second World War. “The guns sound terrible,” he wrote to Camamile’s great-grandmother. “I’ve got to go now. Kiss Cynthia and Ben for me, and I’ll be home soon.” Though of course written before Russia’s war against Ukraine, it feels especially current, with Camamile singing: “Sometimes people grow up in war/ Not knowing what the adults are fighting for.”
Camamile is fully aware of how good he has it. “It made me think, ‘Thank f*** that’s not my life’,” he says. “I found myself being determined to not be as f***ing miserable as I used to be.” On “Sick” he berates himself for just this. “I’m sick of my timing/ Always letting me down/ I’m sick of your boyfriend/ And his f***ing around,” he sings. On “Sleeping With You”, Camamile confesses to thinking about another woman while with someone else and wracked with guilt. “That one’s a bit of a d***head song,” he admits.
Khan says they’re a “band of worriers – these days there’s always someone to be compared to”, but they’re learning to relax and just go on instinct. And it’s paying off. “Something’s happening,” says Camamile, with a grin. “I feel f***ing good right now.”
‘Homesick’, the new album from Sea Girls, is out now