Sea Girls frontman Henry Camamile is an open book when it comes to songwriting.
“If someone was to ask me ‘Henry, do you think you should tell everyone your problems?’, I would say ’no, I’m private’”, he admits to Daily Star Online when getting onto the subject of his raw honesty evident across their debut album Open Up Your Head.
“But for some reason you have a relationship with music and writing, it seems different. It seems like you break the rules.”
This sense of lyrical connection is integral to the record’s impact, delving deep into Camamile’s inner thoughts as he navigates darker themes of heartbreak, anxiety, void-filling over indulgence and overcoming trauma.
The frontman suffered a serious head injury, leading to a long recovery period that changed his outlook on life as he came to terms with its lasting effects and bouts of depression.
He tells us: “When I hit my head, I hadn’t recovered and I couldn’t stop partying, essentially. I was scared of how I was treating myself. If I stayed still, I was too unhappy. Once I hit my head, my mind was different.”
But the subsequent disruption also took his writing in a different direction – it gave Camamile a newfound sense of clarity.
“I started writing brutally, a bit more honestly”, he adds. “The song Open Up Your Head is not on the album but it was one of the first times I put it out there to say that I don’t think something’s right. I started writing a lot more and my writing got better after that moment.”
Open Up Your Head, released on Friday, is already enjoying the plaudits thanks to its stadium-filling hooks and anthemic choruses. Named The Guardian’s Album of the Week, it marks an incredible ascent for the four-piece who formed just five years ago after playing in different bands.
Now they have a sold-out tour to look forward to in November, including a landmark show at the historic O2 Academy Brixton.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Henry to talk about their Open Up Your Head, recovering from a head injury and its after effects, their influences, and why they’re grateful for their achievements so far.
Hi Henry, how’ve the past months been for you and the band? How’ve you navigated a pandemic? What’s it like releasing your debut album Open Up Your Head album now?
“I guess when it came to keeping the band going and relevant, it’s a good job we’ve got social media at the moment.
“We did a ton of stuff on Instagram, we’ve put covers out, we did live recordings of tracks. We put out one a week when we were meant to be doing our gigs. We kept ourselves busy trying to make cool stuff and use our music. We did Netflix parties. We’ve got to keep going.
“We did a lot of writing and sending each other songs. I’d write a song and Andrew (Noswad) would demo it up. We just made sure we kept creative.
“It hasn’t been as fun as not being on lockdown. It is what it is.”
Is it weird releasing a debut when everything is so closed down in the music industry?
“Obviously it’s weird. No one in our team is used to it. We weren’t going to not put it out. We want to keep moving. We like setting a tour or release date and sticking to it. Hopefully our fans will appreciate that.
“We’re excited about putting it out. It’s good for us. We haven’t got gigging or festivals but there’s nothing to say we can’t put an album out.”
You’ve been dropping tracks in the build up to the album. Has it been great seeing the reaction to each one and did it build up the excitement?
“When you put the first song out that’s the first album single, that was super cool. That was Do You Really Wanna Know? We released the album artwork with the track and we thought ‘here we go, this is exciting’. You’ve got to keep reminding yourself you’re putting out a debut album.
“At least we can stay in one place being in lockdown. You’re aware of what’s going on instead of touring all over the place and maybe forgetting about it a little bit.”
Let’s talk a bit more about Open Up Your Head. What was the writing and recording process like this time around compared to the EPs and previous releases?
“Talking about Open Up Your Head, the reason why it’s called that is because half the songs on the album are directly related to when I had a head injury.
“I had a bad concussion. I’ve never had it before and it didn’t go away. I was like ‘this is f****** weird’. I had post concussion syndrome. I had it for two years.
“After I’d hit my head, I started really writing about that and a bit more honestly about feeling stuck, feeling down. It really made me think about what the hell I was doing in life.
“When I hit my head, I hadn’t recovered and I couldn’t stop partying, essentially. I was scared of how I was treating myself. If I stayed still, I was too unhappy.
“Once I hit my head, my mind was different. The only way I can level this out is by being smashed because that gets rid of everything. Everyone else is smashed around you and then I’m normal.
“I started writing brutally, a bit more honestly. The song Open Up Your Head’s not on the album but it was one of the first times I put it out there to say that I don’t think something’s right. I started writing a lot more and my writing got better after that moment.
“It was a terrible time, particularly five months of it threw me into depression. I wrote a lot. A least half of the songs on it are like that. You Over Anyone, that was one of the first I wrote after I had the accident. Other tracks like Rory’s Forever, we held that back. We felt they had to be on an album. They felt too big. It wasn’t like a single. It was part of an album, part of a piece of work.
“We recorded it at Snap Studios over quite a while on and off from tour. We picked ones that made the most sense and told a story. We felt they were the best.”
You take a real honest storytelling approach to songwriting. You don’t hold back and don’t mind putting your inner feelings out into song form. You don’t mind your heart being on your sleeve. Is that a great way of dealing with personal things as well? Does it help you when you write songs? Were you afraid putting yourself out there so much?
“If someone was to ask me ‘Henry, do you think you should tell everyone your problems?’, I would say ’no, I’m private’. But for some reason you have a relationship with music and writing, it seems different. It seems like you break the rules.
“I’ve put out a lot of positive-sounding music with messages within it. You do it and you almost feel like it’s not real. I’m sitting here telling you this stuff but just because I feel it makes sense. I don’t really feel like I’ve planned it.
“I think it’s harmless and probably good and I feel in a much better place now, having been like ‘I want everyone to know what these songs are about’. That did help me and the first port of getting stuff out was putting things into songs.
“I did then tell my family how I was feeling. It was the first way of being ‘I have the ability to express that’.
“I haven’t thought if it’s good or not. It’s just kind of happened. When it comes to music, it’s art. It seems important. I just wanted it to be important. As fun and as crazy it is, it is also important.”
Do you ever have fans come to you saying ‘this really resonates with me’?
“I remember when we played Bristol last time. Someone came over and she said ‘I really get your music. It has really helped me’. That’s what it’s all about.
“I want everyone to have a good time and I want to be in a f****** rock band. But also, where’s it coming from? It’s coming from a s*** place but it’s a good way of dealing with it and it’s great that other people get it. It was a really nice conversation.
“That’s happened a few times.
“When people are like ‘I love your music, it gets me pumped’. That’s great. It gets me pumped as well. There’s no wrong answer to how people perceive it. Our music isn’t all gloomy. It’s really nice when that happens. That’s what I like seeing in bands.
“It’s always happened with songwriting. Putting something difficult into it.”
It must be an added bonus when you do hear feedback like that. You are doing what you’ve always wanted to do but you’ve also got people understanding and listening to what you’ve got to say.
“It feels awesome. It is the whole package. It’s not vacuous. It really matters to me and it’s great it really matters to you. That’s super cool.
“I hope that in any small way it helps and it makes you feel like you’re not alone. That’s why I used to listen to music. Sometimes you’ll cry because that’s what you want. You feel like you get this.
“These are experiences that everyone goes through. It’s cool that people connect to. I guess it’s kind of emo in that way.
There are some real huge anthemic tracks on here, like Ready For More, All I Want To Hear You Say, and Do You Really Wanna Know?. What’s it like seeing those evolve from ideas to major, arena-esque tracks?
“It’s great and that’s what’s great about being in a band. Other people’s talents elevate everything. These are songs essentially written on an acoustic.
“That kind of energy, we do make that anthemic stuff that makes you want to stand up because that’s what I love. It doesn’t matter what the emotion is. You want to get up and move and pace around the room. There’s something exciting about that and we all share that.
“I put the album on sometimes and it’s so cool. It’s weird. You almost forget how it was made. It’s cool people just hear it in its finished form.”
You formed in 2015 after being in different bands. You all got into a room and played together for the first time. How would you say you’ve evolved in those five years? Is there a clear change at some point?
“It’s been so gradual that it hasn’t been noticed, other than we’ve got a lot better. We always had confidence in ourselves that it was worth doing and make music we really liked. It definitely feels different in the room because you are all rehearsing to play to people that have come to your show, rather than a show there are going to be five of your mates at. It’s got different in that way.
“In this set up, once we got into it, we knew what we were doing. I knew what I wanted to write, Rory (Young) had his way of writing. It’s complimented in this format.”
Is the album what you always set out to make? You’ve had EPs out but is this what you envisioned it to be?
“I think so because it’s pretty dynamic. There’s grungy sounding songs, there’s like a John Lennon sounding song, there’s Springsteen and Killers anthems. It’s a collection of the stuff closest to our hearts.
“We just made the best songs possible. I think we settled into a sound. Even though we keep it varied, that anthemic, standing-up sound is one we’re comfortable with.
“Maybe when I started writing when I was 15 I thought it would sound a bit more like The xx. You keep moving through and I found the way I use my voice has changed too. We’ve settled on the things we most enjoy doing, the way we like using instrument and voice.”
For me it sounds like an album released by a band who has released loads of albums. The songs are so tight and strong, but it’s your debut. When you listen to it back to you think ‘great, this is really good. We’ve done well here’?
“It does. I’m super proud. We’re all really proud of it. I’m guessing that a lot of debuts come out a year or two within forming a band. But we’ve been together five years and that goes some way. We’ve released an album’s worth of stuff before this that isn’t the album. I don’t think there’s a song on it that I didn’t want on.”
With everything still locked down and venues closed, are you eager to get back out on the road?
“Definitely. We’ve been able to rehearse for a while now but we’ve been getting ready for that tour, so we’re ready to get out whenever. I’m really starting to miss it.
“It was alright for two months but I’m really missing it. We’ve got these dates in November, I just can’t wait to do those in stores and stuff.”
You’ve also got Brixton Academy, too. That must be a dream come true to play there?
“100%. That’s the venue I always wanted to play. Oli (Khan) used to work at Brixton Academy on the bar. I’ve been to some sick gigs there. It’s probably the venue I’ve been too most. That’s kind of crazy. I don’t even know what it’s going to feel like, I’ve never done it.
“It’s almost double Kentish Town. That was the same. It felt like we were doing our first ever gig. It was that exciting. I can’t believe we get to do it!
“I’ve seen Big Pink, Maccabees, Razorlight, Temper Trap, Bombay Bicycle Club there.”
Are they all acts you’re influenced by?
“I think the Maccabees big time. When we started learning music it was listening to them and their first two albums. I like how dynamic they are. There’s this urgent, scrappy, paranoid songs, but then the darker songs like No Kind Words, Wall of Arms… they had a big impact.
“Rory loves Razorlight. There’s not one of us that doesn’t like the bands I’ve listed.
“We’re big fans of Foals, particularly live. When I started gigging first in a band with Ollie, that was when Foals really just broke through. There wasn’t that many bands, that big, that were tearing s*** up and with that energy, getting in the crowd. I love Spanish Sahara. They’ve got a great breadth of music in them.
“Huge anthemic bands like Oasis you can’t avoid. You can’t avoid wanting to write Supersonic.”
You were named on the BBC Sound of 2019 poll. Was that a big moment for you guys? At the time you were unsigned.
“We were unsigned. I wasn’t really aware of what the poll was. Andrew and Oli were. They were like ‘you’re on the poll’. I was like ‘that’s cool’ but I assumed it was 100 bands. They said ‘on it, there are on 10 artists and it’s international!’. We were the only unsigned act on it. Then I realised ‘we’re on the sound of 2019 poll, we might get a record deal’.
“It was big recognition. BBC Introducing had played a big part of that. It’s a whole world for new artists to come through. I was a little bit emotional realising we were a part of that.
“You don’t know how people perceive you. I still don’t know to a certain extent really know what it’s like not to be in Sea Girls. The fact we were deemed as relevant. I always thought to be in a band was to have fans and do gigs, but not be relevant on any radar. You don’t think like that. You think you’d be having your head down, making music and having fans. It was a weird experience.”
You’ve achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time. How can you sum up Sea Girls’ progression?
“I feel so grateful about it. It wasn’t that we formed, wrote a few songs and then we got picked up. We were rehearsing most nights a week for a year and a half. No manager, playing to no-one, having jobs to do the band and really working super hard.
“Then slowly it moved and started exponentially working out for us. It’s been a five year journey of heads down and this is the priority.
“You can’t guarantee it. All you can do is make the music you make, put it out, play gigs, have fun, and hope people like it.
“It’s crazy how we’re putting out a debut album and playing Brixton Academy and Barrowlands. It can’t get better, really. For five years in a band, it can’t get better. We’re just grateful for this.”
What are your hopes and next steps looking ahead?
“Just to keep doing it. We’ve been writing a s*** load. We’ve got a lot of another album. I want to do as much touring as possible. Get around the world, starting doing little gigs in America. In November we have these in-stores, we want to play and fill up our diary again and make the most of it.
“You’ve just got to do it while you can. If I bring in an analogy, I sing songs that are difficult with a high voice and I might not be able to sing this way when I’m 40 but I don’t care because I’m doing it now. It’s kind of like that with gigs, just do it while we can, shout these songs while I can. Live in the moment and look after ourselves.”
Sea Girls’ Open Up Your Head is out now via Polydor