Explore Liverpool music writer Matthew Jacobson interviews Sean Butler from The Pelican Band ahead of gig at The Everyman.
The younger years – what music did you listen to and become interested in?
My dad brought me the Neil Young box set ‘Weld’ for my tenth birthday from Bold Street and I cried as I wanted something else like a laser tag set, but then I borrowed my uncle’s acoustic guitar. It had the letter ‘A’ masking taped to the back of it. I wondered whether it stood for anarchist but I think it meant ‘Alan’. After that I learned the Neil Young songs from that set, the Beatles songbook, Dylan 3 chord songbook etc. I also used to play a two and a half hour Oasis set in my bedroom each night alone, B-sides, everything. Then I discovered things like Sparklehorse. Spiritualized and Jeff Buckley so learned those kinds of things too. I guess they’re all in the mix somewhere in my mind. Country I got to a little bit later via Gram.
And did you go to many local gigs and do you recall any that stand out?
From the age of 14 I played in Liverpool. I got my first amp from Danny Roberts (Sixteen Tonnes) who worked at Cranes on Hanover and didn’t stop playing shows until maybe 19. Lot of shows for Tony at Zanzibar, The Picket and Heebiejeebies so played alongside alongside so many local bands. All just widening the mind each time..
How did the band form, and what was the connection that brought you together?
Myself and Andy met via Phil Bridges (mind map) at football and have a similar taste in music so we would listen to similar stuff at parties then I decided I was going to make a solo album (another on a long list of things that never happened) and wanted him to play bass. Then we just started playing together and realised that our voices met each other gently so we decided to write some things specifically for the two of us that highlighted this two part bopsidy a bit more. We started just practising at weird Wirral open mic and folk nights. One time we got locked in at New Brighton with lots of older, sea shanty folks and had to escape as it was so intense. We were both pretty nervous. The guys we play with are all friends, I find that this is most important now. We need to like each other to want to spend time in a room together so those that play along with us also play along with us in real life outside of music.
How do you write, together or individually?
Kind of a mixture, some songs start with Andy’s guitar as it’s really light and nice to sing over, then work out harmonies on top or then songs are just fully formed by me and practiced aloud, this is the old way that I’m used to but I’m not always happiest this way. I hate the load it brings.
Are you constantly thinking about writing or do you stop and say, it’s time to write a song?
I’ve always dreamed of songs really and I guess that’s why we’re slow compared to other bands. They have to be formed in your mind and you can hear it all for you to know it’s right. Sometimes you will then have to doctor things to make them more dynamic etc but as long as the essence of the dream is still preserved then it’s gonna sound right out loud.
How did lockdown impact – did it provide more time to write or halt creativity?
Lockdown was like heaven for us because we would sit and play in the garden or outside generally. We certainly practiced more than we ever have since and I think it helped us write and develop the songs we play now. Through that stillness in time we could distill things more than you can now.
For those who are yet to listen to the band, how would you describe your music?
Would say it’s pretty melodic and harmony based and mostly always about loss, pain or want. It’s very pretty sounding though too pretty painful music.
Has Liverpool influenced your writing?
I think in this project a lot of the lyrics are about things that I have observed, people I’ve lost and times that we’ve had and they have all been in Liverpool and Wirral so I guess from an experiential point of view, the geography has everything to do with the songs.
And what next for the band?
We always need to get much faster! That’s our thing, we only play when asked for example. We need to try and believe a little bit more and then the universe will believe in us too. The music’s really good so we need to get it produced properly and it gives it the depth of sound that it needs to be realized. Daniel Lanois would make our album sound great so let’s hope he reads this!
See you Thursday Sean and very best wishes for the future!
Thanks to Sean and Mellowtone Records / Dave McTague