INTERVIEW: SEAWORTHY: TIME OFF (AU)
LOST AT SEA
SYDNEY’S SEAWORTHY BEGAN LIFE IN A LOUNGE ROOM AND RECENTLY MOVED TO A BUNKER. MATT O’NEILL SPOKE TO FOUNDING MEMBER CAM WEBB ABOUT THE BAND’S ONGOING HOMELESSNESS.
It’s popularly acknowledged that there are very few undiscovered territories left in art. The general evolution of creativity that has developed exponentially over the course of human advancement has slowed considerably in recent years as something resembling order has fallen upon the cacophony of creatives inhabiting the world – with even the most unconventional of practitioners fitting into the construct. It’s almost impossible to conceive of an artist acting independent of some variety of similarly-minded scene or setting. Sydney’s Seaworthy, however, demonstrate the superficial nature of such pessimistic conclusions.
“I think the tricky thing for artists like Seaworthy is connecting to people,” Seaworthy guitarist/composer Cam Webb muses. “I mean, particularly in Australia, those usual means of connecting to your audience are somewhat difficult. It’s not the kind of music that’s going to get regular radio play. It’s kind of funny – I struggle with what to call my music. The music that I’m making is generally what I consider to be made by electronic musicians and soundscape style artists but because I’m using ‘traditional’ instruments it sometimes gets referred to as post-rock or even indie. I think it’s hard getting people to hear you.”
An experimental trio touching on sound art, electronica and post-rock, Seaworthy are a musical ensemble largely without a stylistic home or bona fide scene. The band’s sophisticated aesthetic of layered guitar and processed sounds and field recordings has confounded and delighted audiences and critics since the early noughties. The group’s various releases have invited comparisons to both sound art maestros like Christian Fennesz and art-rock institutions like A Silver Mt Zion. The trio’s modest success on composer Taylor Deupree’s respected 12K label, meanwhile, has only emphasised the singularity of the band’s sound – Seaworthy’s lush ambience a pronounced contrasted to the imprint’s traditional abstraction.
The unique aesthetic of Seaworthy, however, is relatively unsurprising when one considers the outfit’s origins. The main sonic vehicle for Cameron Webb, Seaworthy evolved out of the guitarist’s work as an environmental researcher and scientist – wetland field recordings forming the basis of the band’s organic soundscapes and loungeroom jams. This singular perspective, coupled with the band’s evolutionary approach to composition, has allowed Webb to construct a deeply personal and remarkably idiosyncratic sonic vocabulary. 1897
, the band’s recently released sophomore full-length, even found Webb exploring the acoustics and sound fields of an abandoned Sydney naval bunker in the interests of developing Seaworthy’s sound.
“My day job can be pretty demanding but, at the same time, they both sort of feed into each other,” Webb considers. “Most of the work for the album was done in and around this building that was built in 1897. It’s an old sandstone ammunitions bunker that was initially used to store gunpowder for the colonies and has over the years been used for different types of ammunition for the navy. It was pretty much in active use until the early 90s. I thought the acoustics inside these old halls would be amazing and I’ve got a bit of a fascination with place and space and how it informs your music.”
“I don’t think I ever really intended to be a musician,” the guitarist reflects. “I never really felt a strong pull in that direction. I played in a few indie/pop bands in my younger bands but that was largely a fun thing. It was during that time, however, that I started to make music more along the lines of Seaworthy – field recording kind of stuff. I never actually thought people would like it or that I’d actually be able to put out records of the stuff. I’d probably still be doing it now if nothing had happened – the records just wouldn’t come out. I’ve just had opportunities where there’s people who are encouraging me to put out records.”