Music Notes: Sennen - little band, big sound
15:22 14 May 2012
One of Norwich’s most critically acclaimed — though criminally under appreciated — bands return for a hometown gig this week. Sennen have been quietly building up a strong word of mouth following, not to mention critical cuttings to die for.
They arrive back at Norwich Arts Centre next Wednesday on the back of their third album, Lost Harmony, which has again won positive reviews.
The four-piece — made up of Larry Holmes (guitar, keys, vocals), Rich Kelleway (guitar, vocals), James Brown (drums, keys) Tim Kelleway (bass) — took their band name as a tribute to his heroes Ride, who’d released a B-side with the title in 1991.
However the name has arguably held them back as its connotations weren’t entirely relevant as the band’s interest in the 1990s ‘shoegazing’ scene, of which Ride were prime movers, was limited. But the name and the ‘shoegazing’ references stuck.
“I guess if we were savvier we would have changed our name as it was a bit misleading,” Larry now admits. “We started out quite post-rock, then decided to try and write some tunes, covered them in our usual guitar noise and sung harmonies on top.
“We’ve never been that savvy when it comes to ‘packaging’ our music. Even within the little niches that we get thrown in, we’ve never really quite fit in anywhere.”
Yet to those who listened closely, Sennen were always more adventurous than the name suggested, and Lost Harmony drives that point home.
The four-piece — originally from Norwich, though three of them are now based in London and one in Nottingham — approached the album with a pleasing disregard for what was expected.
“One of the benefits of being a little band is you can do what you like,” says Larry.
The resulting tracks are more lo-fi, tinged with hints of country, taking inspirations fromNeil Young, Galaxie 500, Mercury Rev, Sparklehorse and Elliott Smith. They’re never slaves to their influences though. “We never think, ‘Let’s write a song that sounds like this genre, or this band’,” says Larry. “We just do what we get a buzz from. So we didn’t decide to make a ‘quiet’ record. It was more a natural evolution of material.”
It’s hard to imagine from its almost beatific sounds, but Lost Harmony was recorded in London’s East End during the London riots with David M. Allen, producer who has previously worked with The Cure and Depeche Mode.
Larry recalls: “During recording we would often stand on the fire exit out the back of the studio. We could see smoke rising across the city.”
It’s a pertinent metaphor for an album that offers a mix of the turbulent and the tranquil.
“This record was very much us at peace with ourselves,” Holmes reflects. “We’ve been around a while and, when you’re a band like us, who knows if this will be your last record? But that just made the whole time we were recording a joy. I think it’s probably the happiest we’ve been as a band.
“There was nothing forced or difficult musically. I don’t think we’ve ever grown out of noise but, at the same time, we’ve gotten more open to our love of popular song.”
■ Sennen play Norwich Arts Centre on May 16
■ Lost Harmony is out now.
■ Further listening: sennen.org.uk