We first became aware of Southend on Sea digital post-punks BAIT through their links with long-term Joyzine faves Asylums, but the tracks on their debut LP Sea Change are different beast from the high octane pogo punk thrills of the band with whom they share a label (the reliably ace Cool Thing Records) and a couple of members. Drawing together disparate elements of electronic dance, post-punk, industrial and metal alongside frontman Michael Webster’s vocals – sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, sometimes screamed – which chronicle his experience of two years in and out of lockdown in his home town.
We caught up with Michael to find out more, and he’s given us his track by track guide to the record.
‘Sea Change’ was written when the grip of the pandemic briefly loosened. We were allowed out, but only in pairs. I was sitting in the park and imagining what things might look like if this really was the end of the world! My mind created a dystopian, bleak world full of nothing nice, everything rusted & spoiled. The ‘T2’ style power drums and electric shock like synths brought this world to life for me. It seems drastic now but at the time, the idea that a ‘plague’ was chomping its way through the human race and there was no cure was quite frightening. I resigned myself to the fact that there was fuck all I could do about it so ‘might as well go with the flow’.
The main groove from this song came from an experimental synth session. The title was inspired by the term some people use to describe their family ‘that’s my tribe over there’ etc. Lyrically, it got me thinking about protecting my family from Covid, tribal activities, the mundanity of lockdown… it’s all there in some form. Musically, to me it’s euphoric, beautiful, low & brutal. The outro is one of my favourite sections, thanks to Jim twisting the drums up and putting a rocket up its arse!
This track is one of the most melodic and upbeat from the record. There’s a real simplistic ‘big beat’ drum pattern that just drives the whole track throughout. Someone described it to me as an ‘angry pet shop boys’ which I think is pretty accurate. The end section of this song is possibly my favourite part of the whole record (maybe). It was totally influenced by ‘Night Time’ era Killing Joke and Depeche Mode.
DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA
The most intense track on the record. Riddled with the anxiety and impatience many of us experience in the modern world… oh and I did see a ‘man walking into town carrying a plastic bag with no trousers on’.
No Sleeping For Light Sleepers
This one is for those who lay awake at night reliving every embarrassing moment of their life, planning every next step and then doing it all again. The only track that is entirely electronic on the album.
The Weight Of The Water
The water / sea theme is a constant throughout the record, totally influenced by my location in Westcliff on the Thames Estuary. This time I’m in the water, chained, crushed and in the hands of the bends. This is just how I felt of course!
Musically the hypnotic pulse reminds me of ‘Meantime’ era Helmet and sad chiming guitars reminiscent of Jordie’s playing in Killing Joke (again).
Somewhere To Be
This album totally turns me inside out bringing the subconscious to the conscious. It’s the most honest I’ve been as a lyricist and ‘Somewhere To Be’ is probably the most blatant of all. It sounds like a man on a mission, who doesn’t have a mission. This one has nods to the KLF & winks to Afghan Whigs.
One of the strangest and coolest tracks on the record, kinda fusing Deftones and Depeche Mode. It’s sinister but fun. This was written towards the tail end of the pandemic when I was taking a leap into self employment… I think the lyrics speak for themselves.
‘Head Like A Hole’ era Nine In Nails vibes on this one with a spoon full of Depeche Mode for good measure. Similar to alot of the record, the vocals were totally delivered in a low register as we were locked down and living in a flat… it helped me explore that part of my voice and become comfortable with it.
We Will Learn To Bark
The final track and one of my favourites on the record. It has a ‘Devo on punk rock prozac’ vibe. It ends the record with a more positive message being, that although the world is a shit show we will adapt, learn and survive. With this sentiment in mind and stuck in isolation with nowhere to express myself, I took my laptop and a microphone, drove out into the middle of nowhere and recorded myself barking like a dog in the front seat of my car… true story.
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Introduction by Paul Maps
Photograph by Danny Rowton