Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Julie Ann Baenziger of Sea of Bees

Sea Of Bees by Calico Charlotte Melton
Sea Of Bees by Calico Charlotte Melton.

Sea of Bees released her new single Gnomes on Heavenly Recordings yesterday. It’s yet another heart rending slice of Julie Ann Baenziger, treatment so it seems high time that I finally publish the interview I did with her earlier this year, unhealthy just prior to a gig at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush.

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees in February 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

jenny robins - amelias magazine - sea of bees
Sea of Bees by Jenny Robins.

Watching Jules live it is hard to believe that she was once a shy church going suburban girl. Since signing to Heavenly Recordings for three albums last year she has become submerged in the intensity of touring, experiencing a very different world to the one she left behind.

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
YouTube Preview ImageGnomes

Jules was born in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento. ‘A place where you go to school, have crushes, go to college, go to church and very little else.’ She was brought up a Catholic but from an early age knew she was different. As a shy and awkward 6 year old, she remembers becoming enchanted by ‘this hippy man with curly hair and glasses singing with a wobbly vibrato‘. She instantly knew she wanted to sing but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

Sea of bees by Lee
Sea of Bees by Lee.

Her mum loved Cher, Celine Dion and the Bee Gees (in their bad stage, Jules hastens to add). Her dad thought The Mamas and The Papas were bad because they all slept with each other, and he would say things to scare Jules away from popular music. At church they listened to U2 and Christian music. Apparently U2 made it their goal to reach religious congregations. ‘I don’t mind them,’ she says ‘but I don’t like them in church.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
jenny robins - amelias magazine - sea of bees
Sea of Bees by Jenny Robins.

Never aspiring to do anything more than play in small bands, Jules taught herself to play an out of tune one string bass that she found in the shed when she was 16. She had lots of long hair, and looked like a real girly girl – but she liked girls. ‘There was nothing to do but go to church and school, and I was in love with a girl at my church who had the voice of an angel,‘ says Jules, ‘so I learnt a song that she always sang note by note.’ She had just one goal: to find the right person for love. When the object of her affections told her ‘that’s great Jules‘ it lit a fire beneath her which inspired her to practice hard every day, yet still she felt frustrated because her feelings were not returned. ‘I felt I couldn’t love anybody or play good music.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Julie from Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen
Julie from Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen.

Her mother was supportive yet still she remained depressed, haunted by a nagging feeing that she would die young, wanting but unable to have the things just out of her reach. Folks at church told her ‘don’t let your gift overthrow your heart‘ – meaning that she shouldn’t obsess all the time. But everyone in Christian bands seemed to break up and have kids, so eventually Jules left Roseville and the church at 23 years old to live with a 19 year old guy, a producer, that she had met online. They lived in a ramshackle old house in Sacramento where they hosted lots of parties which trashed the place. ‘Every night we played music and some mornings there would be 25-30 people sleeping on the floor… lots of mad hipster kids. I would just get drunk to stay numb.’ They lived together for two years, Jules playing bass for their punk band, Find Me Fighting Them, and working as a coffee barrister in the daytime. It was in the coffee shop that she met her Orange Farben. ‘She had a bowl haircut, green eyes, vintage shorts and a ruffled shirt – and I knew it was right. She was like ‘Do you like boys?’ and I was like ‘Phew, that’s a bold question!’ She freed me, she was the thing that I needed.

Sea of Bees by Sarah Matthews.

A year and a half ago she met John Baccigaluppi of Hangar Studios, who encouraged her to use his studio to record some acoustic songs. Straight away he was keen to remix her songs and the first short EP was born. Since then she has been busy gigging all over the US and Europe. ‘I just try to keep moving and enjoy the moment. I know I can rest when I’ve had a good day.’ She credits John with teaching her ‘what’s good in life‘ and aspires to lead a similar lifestyle to Martin Kelly of Heavenly, who is married to Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne. ‘His quality of life inspires me.’ Jules dreams of setting up her own studio at home, where she will nurture a calm environment far from the partying demands of being on tour. ‘I like to eat carrots and nuts and salads. Stay put at home and enjoy my friends.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen
Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen.

Jules has songs already recorded for the next album, some of which she wrote whilst on tour with the Smoke Fairies. When I met her she was fairly certain that the next album will be called Orange Farben, after the love that meant so much to her. ‘I want to be a good person and care,’ said Jules, as she prepared to go on stage. ‘Keep doing what you love and good things will come – that’s what I keep telling myself. Of course there’s loneliness but I have to let it go.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees by Jane McGuinn.

Why the reference to sadness? Her last song at Bush Hall was dedicated to her Orange Farben – a statement which was lost on the majority of the audience, as was much of her slightly garbled interludes, but I had just hugged her backstage as she spilled over into tears, and I knew that her girlfriend of one year had split up with Jules over Skype the evening before. ‘I just want to love somebody and take care of them,’ she had reiterated to me. ‘That’s my goal, that and make music. Right now I have heartbreak but everything is going to be okay.’ Sea of Bees‘ unique talent lies in her ability to share emotion on a visceral level, the melancholy of her music slipping deep inside when you least expect it. Orange Farben may have broken her heart but I have no doubt that the album dedicated to her name will be a therapeutic experience not only for Jules, but also for her ever growing sea of admirers.

Gnomes Tunng remix, free download for a short period only.

Categories ,Bee Gees, ,Being of Unsound Mind, ,Bush Hall, ,Calico Charlotte Melton, ,Catholic, ,Celine Dion, ,Cher, ,Christian, ,Find Me Fighting Them, ,Gnomes, ,Hangar Studios, ,Heavenly Recordings, ,Jane McGuinn, ,Jenny Robins, ,John Baccigaluppi, ,Julie Ann Baenziger, ,Lee, ,Lilly Allen, ,Martin Kelly, ,Orange Farben, ,Roseville, ,Sacramento, ,Saint Etienne, ,Sarah Cracknell, ,Sarah Matthews, ,Sea of Bees, ,Shepherd’s Bush, ,The Mamas and The Papas, ,Tunng remix, ,U2

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