Seafret

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about the artist

Hope requires courage. Wonderland, the astonishing album from acclaimed duo Seafret, has both these qualities in spades.

The culmination of two years of graft by band members and longtime friends Jack Sedman and Harry Draper, this record is a sublime body of work that guides the listener through the band's story, from heartbreak and loss to the joys of love and new life. "It's the project we're most proud of," says Sedman. "The one we're most invested in and emotionally connected to."

As soon as they landed on the title, Seafret envisioned the album as a story of darkness turningMore

Hope requires courage. Wonderland, the astonishing album from acclaimed duo Seafret, has both these qualities in spades.

The culmination of two years of graft by band members and longtime friends Jack Sedman and Harry Draper, this record is a sublime body of work that guides the listener through the band's story, from heartbreak and loss to the joys of love and new life. "It's the project we're most proud of," says Sedman. "The one we're most invested in and emotionally connected to."

As soon as they landed on the title, Seafret envisioned the album as a story of darkness turning into light. "We've tried to find a balance on the album, so there are some songs that are about heartbreak and others that are really uplifting," Draper points out. "Wonderland is us going out of our comfort zone a little bit, which has been amazing, and we find that when we do it, people love the music just as much."

Formed in 2011 after meeting at an open mic night near their hometown of Bridlington, Yorkshire, Seafret rose to swift acclaim upon the release of their debut project, Give Me Something. The EP opens with the title track, a beautifully wrought composition of tender guitar picking, ghostly cries and Sedman's own affecting tenor. A year later, in 2015, they released their astounding Oceans EP. Accompanied by a video starring Game of Thrones actor Maisie Williams as a bullied teen, the lead single "Oceans'' remains a fan favourite, with over 170 million Spotify streams. It's easy to understand why. Sedman sings in a grief-stricken cry over lush arrangements of piano, steady percussion and acoustic guitar strums: "You know I'd rather drown/ Than to go on without you/ But you're pulling me down."

"Our music always has to have something real about it," Sedman says. He recalls his dad offering some advice: that an audience can always tell when an artist is singing from a perspective that isn't their own. "People can always recognise real feeling."

Possibly this helped provide the title for Seafret's debut album, 2016's Tell Me It's Real. Released as part of a distribution deal with Columbia Records, it charted in the UK and received positive reviews from critics, who praised its "moments of real beauty" and delicate emotion. But by this time, Draper says, they'd grown wise to the bigger labels. "We kind of retreated a little bit," he says. "We really wanted a proper home for our music." It was a fraught time: the duo, at this point barely out of their teens, were told they'd miss their chance if they walked away from the majors. "That only fired us up even more," Draper says with a grin. They created their second album, 2020's Most Of Us Are Strangers, over eight weeks in a Glasgow studio with producer Ross Hamilton. "It was a big risk for us," Sedman acknowledges. Needless to say, it paid off. The album caught the attention of national publications including The Times, which singled out the band's "quality songwriting" and accomplished sound.

Seafret were supporting the album during a tour of Europe, before their schedule brought them back to the UK for a string of homecoming shows. But this was brought to a screeching halt by the arrival of the pandemic. Live music venues were shuttered, the band's tour was cancelled with three shows to go, and the duo felt as though they were back to square one. Draper was in Leeds, while Sedman was back in Bridlington: "I never ever in a million years thought I would end up back here," Sedman says. And for a long time, they found themselves waiting. "It can get heavy on your mind," Draper recalls. "You get in this dark space. But we just tried to carry on writing, and actually we've never been as productive as we were during lockdowns. And we're really proud of these songs."

Written while both Draper and Sedman were starting families with their partners, Wonderland demonstrates their remarkable talent for songs that delve into the full spectrum of human emotion. Take opener "Never Say Never," a hearts-racing folk-pop song crafted from skittering percussion and romantic guitar licks that nod to The Police. "I was never good at giving in," Sedman sings. "Keep fighting for an open door/ No I'll never say never, no more." On the chorus, his voice lifts to a dazzling falsetto, filled with resolve.

Recent single "See I'm Sorry" — a left-leaning pop track engineered by Grammy winner Dan Grech-Marguerat — was one of the last songs added to the album, as Sedman and Draper found their creative streak just kept going and going. "We thought the record was done," Sedman admits with a laugh, "but we carried on writing…" The track serves as a mea culpa for "all of the little mistakes you make in life," with the band calling up fans to get involved in the official music video. "It was such an amazing response," he says, beaming. "They wrote down the things that they were sorry for, which took the edge of it just being me and Harry." The fans were, of course, delighted upon learning they'd made it into the video: "It's one of the best ones we've done," Draper says. The hundreds of thousands of viewers who've watched the video since its release in January seem to agree.

Snapped up by a major label and moving to London in the early stages of their career, Seafret have since found their feet on their own terms. Yet it's evident from Draper's assured, lush production on Wonderland that they didn't squander that time working with some of the UK's most renowned producers, from Cam Blackwood (Florence and the Machine, George Ezra, London Grammar) to Steve Robson (Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Take That). "I think it's really brave to have done that, because we've been through the major labels and we've worked with the great producers, and we still have connections with them," Sedman says, praising his bandmate for taking the plunge. "Producing this record is how I've learnt the whole process, so it's really special to me in that sense," Draper explains. "When you put yourself in that vulnerable position, where you haven't done something like that before, there are no limits. You're not set in your ways. And that really helped, creatively."

"Running Out Of Love" addresses those relationships that don't make it. "That one's more about fighting for a love that's breaking," Sedman nods. "When you're fighting a losing battle. I think we've all been there, in a situation where you don't realise you're changing yourself to get someone to stay." He was inspired by watching couples interact with one another on the London Underground, and looking through Instagram at other couples presenting themselves as "perfect." It would be easy, he thought, to go back to your own relationship and see the cracks starting to show. "But then it's not real life, a lot of the time."

Listeners will likely pick up on the way songs such as "Remind Me to Forget You" evoke the dramatic cliff faces and desolate but beautiful landscapes of their coastal hometown. Haunting calls echo out across a grey sea of sparse piano, with Sedman offering up some of his most affecting vocal work to date. "Don't say nothing," he pleads. "I can hear the silence/ Constantly reminding." The bridge is a revelation, as poignant as a deserted beach suddenly ignited by the red-orange glow of a setting sun.

"It's one of the most emotional tracks on the album," Sedman acknowledges. "I remember writing it, looking at what I'd actually written down… Sometimes I don't know where it comes from, so it can take a while to figure out. Trying to write a story." Draper took the same dark approach with the production, adding layers of reverb to the piano and drums that recall Ben Howard's finely wrought compositions.

"Pictures" was written shortly after Sedman and his partner discovered they were expecting their first child. He began to visualise what life would be like as a new father, and how he'd feel watching his son or daughter growing older. "It's that initial instinct of wishing you could freeze time," he says. "I was thinking about holding my baby, and seeing the sunlight in the garden, being in one of those perfect moments you wish you could hold on to. And realising how fast those moments pass."

It's a sentiment echoed on last year's single "Hollow," about the impact the loss of a loved one can have on the people they leave behind. Sedman wrote it right in the depths of lockdown, thinking about the grandparents he was unable to visit. "Everyone became more aware of how lucky they were, and what they had," he says of the pandemic. "It was difficult not being able to see people, especially if they weren't in a good place. And we all want to try and make the most out of every day." The track begins with simple guitar strumming that sounds resigned to the inevitable. "Wish we could keep on running/ Go back to life before," Sedman sings. Then comes a shimmer of percussion, and the guitar grows more determined, building into the uplifting chorus. "Obviously with everything going on, that was bound to have an influence on the mood of the music we were creating," Draper says. "And there were other situations we were going through that were tough — people we wanted to see — and that definitely came through a lot in the songs."

While Wonderland will no doubt broaden Seafret's already considerable audience, they also experienced an additional surge in popularity during the recording process. A sped-up version of their 2016 single "Atlantis," from their debut album, went viral on TikTok, racking up 1.7 billion views with the song hashtag and, to date, more than 400 million streams on Spotify. "It just went mad," Sedman says. "We didn't even have TikTok at the time, so people were telling us what was happening. That's spurred us on through our whole career, getting those reactions from people from different countries around the world." Draper adds: "It's incredible because the song came out in 2016. And we love TikTok now — there's so much talent there! It's really inspiring.

One of the duo's favourite Wonderland tracks is "Made of Love," inspired by a number of things but perhaps most of all the death of Sedman's grandma. His voice is rough with grief, cracking with emotion as he reaches towards the heavens with a piecing falsetto. "When I listen to it, it reminds me of a close family, and of big starry skies," he says. Draper's piano riff offers an instant emotional impact, while guitar notes glimmer warmly like distant constellations. Single "Wonderland" is equally moving, but instead reflects the album's overarching theme of emerging out of the dark and into the light. As Sedman puts it: "It's about finally appreciating what you took for granted for so long." Seafret believe this is their most meaningful work to date. Listen, and you'll feel the same way, too.

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