Time and tide... the joy and sadness of seaside

The Housekeeping Society
The Housekeeping Society
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The Housekeeping Society’s new album is inspired by the seaside. Chris Bond speaks to the Yorkshire folk-pop trio.

THEIR debut album was inspired by community tales from 19th century Northern mill towns, so it’s perhaps not surprising that The Housekeeping Society’s follow-up takes its cue from something just as quintessentially British – the seaside.

The Yorkshire-based trio garnered some positive reviews with the release last year of This Way To Power, and are hoping to build on this with their second, more pop-tinged, album, Postcards. Their new album, which comes out on May 14, is a song cycle that draws inspiration from the English seaside, from its glory days when families used to flock to the coast for their summer holidays, to their gradual decline in the face of package deals abroad.

It sees the band, Ric Neale, Spencer Bayles and Ivan Mack, continue to indulge in their love of storytelling, and setting folk stories to contemporary arrangements. The subject matter veers from storm-bound fishermen, through to wistfully expectant B&B owners and the tale of Lobby Lud, the “seaside mystery man”, invented by the Westminster Gazette in the 1930s.

It’s a whimsical and, at times, beguiling musical journey that evokes images and memories of ice cream on the beach, and deckchairs and donkey rides. Guitarist Spencer, who shares the vocals with Ric, says they were drawn to the idea of writing about the seaside.

“We like to have a concept for each album and there’s something about the seaside, we all have memories of going there as children and it infiltrates all our lives. We wanted to create a snapshot of an imaginary seaside town that explores the joys and heartaches of living by the sea,” he says.

“There’s a sense that seaside towns are stuck in a time warp. There’s a sheen of glamour, but scratch beneath the surface and it’s crumbling. There’s also an end-of-the-pier feeling wrapped in nostalgia and I think they’re somehow beautiful and sad at the same time.”

The new album comes hot on the heels of their acclaimed debut, which was inspired by the idea of how 19th century mill owners surrounded their factories with housing and schools to attract workers, and how, as a result, successive generations carried on living and working in the same place as their parents and grandparents.

The band used loops created from the sounds of Victorian machinery and they have adopted similar methods on their new record where the songs are underpinned by samples and loops created from sounds they gathered on research trips to Scarborough and Whitby.

“We wanted to use sounds from seaside locations to create more of a sense of place, so we walked around with microphones to capture the general ambience, the sound of waves and seagulls. We also went on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to capture the sound of steam engines for a song about a train journey to the coast.”

The trio have worked together musically for a number of years, including stints playing Ric’s solo material and some of Spence’s songs under the guise of The March Greens. But they feel their present musical incarnation suits their style. “We try to do something a little bit different so it is something of a niche, but we’re in our mid-30s now and we’ve been in bands before and written love songs and we wanted do something with a little more depth.”

Although none of them were born in Yorkshire, they all met here and Spencer, a Leeds Met graduate, says they have grown fond of the Broad Acres. “We have a real affinity with the Yorkshire coastline, there’s such a variety of towns and landscapes which makes it an inspiring place. You have somewhere like Filey which is beautiful and quaint and Scarborough with its sense of history, it’s all-encompassing and it’s a place that is rife for songwriting.”

The next step is to bring their blend of breezy pop music and folk-inspired tales to a wider audience. “We’re looking to do some festivals this summer but we’re already playing at Wakefield’s Chantry Chapel and Temple Works in Leeds, which should be great because we like playing in unusual places.”

The Housekeeping Society’s new album Postcards is out from May 14.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING GUIDE

The Housekeeping Society features Ric Neale (vocals, piano and ukulele), Spencer Bayles (vocals, guitar and bass) and Ivan Mack (cajon and electronica).

May 14 – The band’s second album, Postcards, is released.

May 17 – Live on BBC Introducing, BBC Radio Leeds.

May 19 – International Pop Overthrow Festival, Liverpool.

May 21 – Chantry Chapel, Wakefield, the first of two album launch shows.

May 25 – Temple Works, Leeds, second launch show with special guests Love of the Brave.