Sea of Bees: Sweet and sad songs with a sting in the tale

Sea of Bees is Julie Baenziger, an acclaimed new singer who's writing an album about her girlfriend. Gillian Orr meets her

In a Shoreditch café, 26-year-old Julie Baenziger, who records and performs under the moniker Sea of Bees, excitedly relays a story about the day that changed her life. Like slews of musicians before her, Baenziger got into music to impress a girl. Aged 16, the cripplingly shy Californian was dragged to a church youth group by her sister and cousin, where she was met by a girl who immediately hugged Baenziger, the closest contact she'd ever had with anyone outside her family.

After watching this girl sing in front of the group, Baenziger vowed on the spot that she would one day perform with this "angel" and consequently rose every morning at five o'clock to practise on her brother's one-stringed guitar. She is only too aware of the significance of that day; it gave the teenager, who felt like she had nothing to live for, a sense of purpose.

And it is this dizzying effect of falling in love, as well as feelings of loneliness and not fitting in, that permeates Baenziger's emotional debut album, Songs for the Ravens, which has just been released to much acclaim in the UK, as well as winning over a number of high-profile fans, such as The Decemberists.

Combining elements of folk, indie and Americana, and featuring a host of unusual instruments such as the glockenspiel, organ and marimba, the unique album is held together with Baenziger's sweet and often childlike vocal. She sings songs about unrequited love, often using nature as a metaphor.

For a Catholic girl from the small town of Roseville, California, wanting to be a singer was not the done thing. She grew up in a house that only played Christian music, never even hearing The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but still the world of music always fascinated her.

"In high school everyone was into wearing Abercrombie and Fitch," Baenziger recalls. "And it was expected that you follow a certain path: you go to school, go to college, fall in love, get married and have babies. I never felt normal like that. I wanted to play music and I wanted to grow old with a lady but that was all totally wrong."

Aged 23 she moved to Sacramento, where she still lives, and started to play bass in her housemates' band. Then one day a studio owner, John Baccigaluppi, overheard her practising her own songs and convinced her to focus on her songwriting. He introduced her to his library of genre-spanning records and educated her in rock'n'roll.

It was a formative time and one that, by all accounts, saved her. She often describes the period before she started taking music seriously as being "caged". "My brothers and my sisters don't condone how I live, with music and being gay, but it's always been who I am," she shrugs.

Recording the album was a suitably laid-back affair. She would go down to the studio on a casual basis and songs would just come out. The beautiful "Strikefoot" came after crying in her room one afternoon about an unreturned love. "This album is definitely my little piece of life, you know?"

Since then she has fallen in love for the first time. Her new girlfriend will be the focus of her next album, which she says could take any direction musically; she doesn't want to confine herself with "boundaries". It is perhaps this openness that people respond to. She's not afraid to be herself, with all her quirks and vulnerability.

At the end of our time together she tells me that she's particularly proud of a new song about her girlfriend and decides to sing it to me in the middle of the busy café, which turns the heads of some of the more fashion-conscious types in there. After her impromptu performance she turns to me earnestly and says, "Can I ask you a question... do I have anything in my teeth?" before collapsing in a fit of giggles.



'Songs for the Ravens' is out now. For tour dates, see www.seaofbees.com

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern