Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Joëlle O’Toole
Victories at Sea have an eye for detail. They are fastidious about everything, from the sound of their snare drum to their matching black clothes.
It’s the main reason it took them almost six years to release their debut album, Everything Forever, as apparently they only manage to write four new songs a year. But this obsessiveness is arguably both their biggest strength and biggest downfall.
I’m at the Hare & Hounds, the place where Victories at Sea launched Everything Forever back in October 2015. And the first thing you notice about Victories at Sea live is that for a band with only three members, they take up a lot of space. Massive analogue synths jostle for position with guitar pedals and a laptop, alongside the traditional guitar, bass, drums set up.
Perhaps surprisingly given their name (which, for some reason, led me to expect an evening of expansive Post-Rock) the sound all this equipment generates is that 80’s revival stuff made so popular by bands like Interpol. Imagine a dancier Editors and you won’t be far off the mark.
Indeed, Victories at Sea have supported Editors on a number of occasions and in some large venues. I can imagine this working very well – the band have a commercial sound, and are both confident and professional live performers. Songs like ‘Up’ and ‘Florentine’ (which could both easily be found on a Foals album) are certainly catchy and no doubt thoughtfully structured.
The trouble is the sound is so slick and controlled it starts to feel overproduced; nuances between songs get washed away in thick waves of reverb. As my friend said to me afterwards, “I enjoyed it quite a lot considering they only have one song”. Even adding computer samples doesn’t really help matters; in fact, as it makes it more difficult for the songs to change tempo or time signature, it actually only serves to exacerbate the problem.
And there isn’t enough bite or soul present tonight to elevate the songs above anything more than Indie dance floor fillers, for this member of the audience. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that per se, and certainly the people dancing at the front of the packed crowd are having a great time. But there are bands around at the moment, Savages for example, who are approaching this type of music in a more interesting way to me.
It would be good to see Victories at Sea be a little freer, more organic – to give their songs the space they need to breathe. And they write good songs. But perhaps they could be a little less obsessive in their search for perfection.
And as for album number two? Well, getting it out before 2021 will be a huge step in the right direction.
For more on Victories at Sea, visit https://soundcloud.com/victoriesatsea
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