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Interview: Sea Of Bees

Fresh from the release of her debut LP ‘Songs For The Ravens’, Sea Of Bees (a.k.a. Sacramento songsmith Julie Ann Baenziger) is tugging on the heartstrings of folk fans all over with her heartfelt lyrics, powerful harmonies and impressive sense of melody. Luckily, this week Planet Notion got the chance to talk to the singer about the recent album and her upcoming tour:

Planet Notion: How and where did the whole Sea of Bees project start? When did you start playing music?

Julie Ann Baenziger: It all started out in Sacramento. I would go to gatherings at the houses of good friends and sing for them. I started playing music when I was 16. I was inspired by a girl who sang in my church. She was beautiful and had the most beautiful voice. I was inspired and I wanted to be able to sing with her some day. As time went by I realised that I actually wanted to just sing for myself. I remember showing the girl from church a song that I had written. I wanted to her to react and say something completely unexpected but instead her response was “my brother just wrote a song too,” and, “ we’re coming out with a new EP.” I was like, fuck this. There was so much pride in the people around me and it was really fucking annoying.

It took me time to move on and do my own thing. For a long time I felt completely restricted. I always wanted to use my music to prove myself as being a woman that could reach something that was supposedly out of reach.  Years went by and I had time to hide away and be with the people I felt I fit in with. Then some friends of mine were recording and introduced me to the owner of the studio. We also became good friends and things took off from there. I later came up with the name Sea Of Bees at a show in someone’s house. It wasn’t planned, nothing was planned.

PN : How did you go about developing your sound as an artist?

JAB: I  don’t know. I didn’t really strive to have a sound. Things that go on around me influence and inspire me and then there is a passion deep inside that naturally comes out and is pretty affecting. Then there is also my desire to get my point across. I remember practicing a lot in my shed. I would listen to Jeremy Enigk and Joanna Newsom. I would hear the magic in one album and then the rage and the softness in another. I loved music that made me feel, it was like Nirvana. I used to compress my vocals and then I just let them go. By doing this I was able to develop a sound that I was really comfortable with.

PN: What or who are some of the things or people who inspire your music?

JAB : Orangefarben. Orangefarben is a mystery that only I know.  Love also; an inspired heart and a broken heart. Things that move you. That fuzzy feeling and electricity. The yearning, the fire and the rage of not knowing why? Or knowing why. Life, when you’re feeling good like you can do anything. Life when you’re feeling so low that you can’t even swallow. When you can’t even think about moving on, when you believe that nothing could possibly make you happy again. My mum and my friend john.

PN: Tell us a bit more about freak-folk; why do you think that it resonates with so many people?

JAB: Emmm, I think it is something that is hand crafted. It’s true and organic and what most people want something honest. Sometimes people, like myself, want something colourful, different, accepting and still feel it is exclusive, out of reach or hidden in a way. I only really dug it cause of Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banheart.

PN: Your lyrics are all very intimate; are they autobiographical or fictionalised?

JAB: I like to believe that they’re real. But who knows what is real and not real. I am an intimate person, I can’t hide things. The truth always makes me feel better and more at ease. It’s like when you meet a friend for the first time. You want to share yourself with them. Most of the album is true I think. Living can be overwhelming and sometimes I just have to put out the deep shit, to let others know they’re not alone.

PN: Bees, Ravens, Gnomes – which is your favourite?

JAB: I don’t know really. They’re all cool.  This is such a hard question, I want to give you a juicy answer but this is just so hard so I’ll have to say all of them. All of them are my favourite.

PN: Who is your ideal musical collaborator?

Sigur Ros, they fill with wonder and dreams. I look at Jonsi and his mate and I admire them.

PN: What were the last 5 songs/artists on your iPod?

JAB: Arcade Fire – Their new album “Suburbs” is amazing, Dirty Projectors, Beach House, Iron and Wine for chilling out to and  Devendra Banhart

PN: I’ve heard you’re a multi-instrumentalist. Do you play all the sounds on the record?

JAB: I like to play a lot but I don’t know if I’m a multi- instrumentalist.  I just like making pretty sounds or at least trying to, and yes I did play all of the sounds on the record. It was more random than anything, we would just think of what would fit with each song and I would try out a bunch of things and record them until I found something that worked. I like playing the xylophone, it’s so small but adds so much twinkle to the songs we used it in.

PN: You’ve got a lot of UK dates coming up in the next 3 or so months. How will you be preparing for them?

JAB: The best way to prepare is to take one thing at a time and enjoy everything that goes on. You can’t get stressed out about things like this. I do get stressed though when I am late or if a tube makes me late. All in all though I do what I love and it’s a walk in the park. I also have a good group of people around me who help with scheduling and preparing, so I am not alone in this.

PN: How do you think UK crowds will differ from those in the US?

JAB: Appreciation. American people work too much. I think most people don’t take time for themselves anymore to enjoy the simple things in life. I think that people in the UK keep to the traditions of taking time for themselves and indulge in the arts a little bit more.

PN: What’re your plans for summer – are you playing any UK festivals?

JAB: I think that is the plan. I will be working on the next album and doing a few tours in the US as well. This year looks like it will be pretty packed, which I am stoked about.



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