If one entered Seafret’s performance at The Caves awaiting the sound of traditional folk tones, then they would probably have left feeling slightly disappointed. Seafret are the North’s answer to the grand romantic piano ballads of Tom Odell, or down-to-earth guitar strums of Ed Sheeran, rather than disciples of Bob Dylan. Think Dracula crooning from his battlements about the eternity of his love, not a busker confessing his fights with his girlfriend. All this was furthered by the excessive amount of dry ice smouldering on stage and red lighting hitting the high brick walls, giving the evening a dramatic, emotionally-charged quality.
Lyrically, Seafret flirt with clichéd romanticisms, but these are woven together with a less-than-perfect reality to create a layered web of aching heartbreak, volatile desire, and hurt. Put simply, their words hold a deep sincerity that is beautifully conveyed in vocalist Jack Sedman’s performance: a painfully honest, yearning account of love. The duo’s best known track, ‘Oceans,’ throbs with a deep, inner, even animalistic need – evoking the sinking realisation of an ever-widening chasm in a relationship, demonstrated as Sedman croons “we hide our emotions under the surface/tryin’ to pretend.” ‘Atlantis’ exudes hopelessness and defeat in every note, and again this song spells out inevitable doom for the couple of the song, having built their love “on shaky ground.”
By contrast, Seafret’s sound is one of greater simplicity. A reliance on guitar, and only occasional use of piano and drums, means that the duo evokes a modernised update on the singer/songwriters of the early 1970s, even visually resembling the contrast in hairstyles of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. However, Seafret also bring their own brand of uplifting guitar riffs and playful rhythms to the often sombre atmosphere of their songs.
Expertly plucking out a musical dialogue on his guitar, Harry Draper creates driving, dynamic melodies that, together with Sedman’s lyrics, build to climactic choruses. At times the pair play it safe with an acceptable mainstream pop-folk fusion, yet the degree to which they lay themselves emotionally bare on stage treads on anything but safe ground. Hoarse and croaky as he cries out shamefully “I can’t save us” Jack Sedman is a man on the verge of tears, forever just a step away from the cliff-edge of utter despair.
“I need to make a note to myself to not always write songs where I shout,” he confesses in one of his several playful quips, aimed at dispelling the melancholy Seafret’s songs frequently cast over the room. The duo’s own name reflects this simultaneous attempt at humour and poetic imagery: ‘sea’ denoting the mist rolling in from the sea, and ‘Seafret’ being a personal pun on a guitar fretboard. Shy but honest, funny without being offensive or subversive, and keen to please but not needing to be adored, Seafret succeeded most in feeling their way through this set, and made their audience do the same. As they walked offstage, they left the crowd with that fluttering feeling of nervousness and excitement we’ve all felt akin to a childhood crush.
Photo: Alexander Kellner via Wikimedia