Henry Camamile smiles, thinking back to the packed nights and festival stages Sea Girls have called home over the past 18 months. It's a short timeframe that's quickly established a band that first came together around banned music departments and small villages across Leicestershire into a beloved indie force. "I'm sort of in love with the romance of everything that being in a band entails…"
It's something Henry is focused on. He'll stay up watching first album live shows from the likes of Kings Of Leon or At The Drive In tearing apart a performance on Later… with Jools Holland. The sheer emotion of capturing a moment in time, of being a band who makes every night matter - it's what this is all about. "When I would go and see bands I would always think, fuck I want to do what they're doing up there," recalls Henry. "That was the dream. I want to do that, and I want to do that with my mates."
Sea Girls have gone about doing just that. After hopping between various bands, various instruments and various locations - Henry along with Rory Young, Oli Khan and Andrew Noswad have created the band they've always wanted to be. Sold out headline tours, dates across the globe, a glue-like ability to stick to radio airwaves. You name it, and Sea Girls have covered it, with countless highlights in their scrapbook already. "There have been so many moments. Like playing Community Festival at Finsbury Park, standing out there and hearing a packed field scream back at you and sing your songs - like, you could just retire there, and you've done it" laughs Henry. "Headlining the Kentish Town Forum, it's been surreal. Surreal seeing people connect with what we're doing too, that kinda sneaks up on you, that feeling. Someone came up to me in Bristol and was like: thank you so much, your music just means so much - it got me through a hard time. It's like, oh right, you really get it and connect with it. That's the whole picture, right there."
For all the highlights and landmark lines in the sand so far, it's all led to this. Their debut album, 'Open Up Your Head' is exactly what you'd hope Sea Girls would fire off with. A fizzing record that's packed with the sky-high hooks and live favourites that'll be triggering pandemonium with every note and lick. The sort of album that demands to be played over and over, slotted into car stereos - it delivers on every promise Sea Girls have made so far. "We're entering a big moment," admits Henry. "You always dream about your debut album. Ever since we put out our first song, this is what we've been working towards, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves with it. This is what we're really proud of. We've finally done it."
The culmination of years of hard work, it's a statement of intent from a band hungry to drive their way to the very top; a record of bonding experiences between four best mates doing the very thing they dreamed of doing from the very start. 'Open Up Your Head' is all of those things, but it's also more than that.
For Henry, it's a frank and unflinching look at one of the darkest periods of his life, one he couldn't see a way out of. One that he's looked to keep hidden for years. Only now is the time for that story to be told. "For so long, I didn't feel like I was being true," he alludes. "To my friends, to the band and to my family about how I really felt. I think this album is really important because there's a shitload of truth there. It really is opening up mine and the guys' heads and pouring out songs and pouring out truth. I think it's really important, y' know? We're going to put the album out, and I'm going to talk truthfully about it.
"I'm giving you a story, really. 'Open Up Your Head' is a bit of a journal."
Henry's love of music came from a place of spotting hidden messages. The songs that would be covered in bright moments and huge singalong refrains, but on a closer look, would spotlight emotions and very real feelings, whether that's happiness or heartbreak. "I would listen and think, yeah they've experienced the same things as me," explains Henry. "Like The Wombats, for example. There are lyrics and songs that are super fun, but actually, he's getting out something in this big song full of colour. That's what hooks me into it and what drew me to writing music. I find it really powerful, that idea that it's okay to put whatever I like into a song and then other people in that situation, they're going to hear it even if it's not obvious. They're going to hear it."
Henry admits he's quite a shy person. When he first started learning how to play guitar with Andrew, he didn't dare tell his parents that it's what he wanted to do. Seeking out rock music on his own in secret, nevermind that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of the many bands he was listening to. It was only with 'Call Me Out' that he first found the confidence to pour real honesty into the songs he was writing. "In that session where we recording it, I said to the guys and those helping us record it - do you think it's legit, an alright thing to say how you feel in a song? Before then, I always felt bad about it."
It came at a transformative moment for Henry. In the last year of university, his first real relationship fell apart, and he recognises a real change took place in his demeanour. "At that point, looking back, I think something happened. I just lost all confidence in myself," he admits. "I was super down about it and the only place I acknowledged that was in music and everywhere else in life I just pretended to be happy."
"I don't know what it was. I was in a… I was sort of… I was pretty depressed, to be honest, and I didn't even realise it," he continues. "I just knew that I felt inadequate. I just decided that I wasn't good enough. I felt like as a band we weren't going to make it. We'd put everything behind this and nothing was happening. It's where 'Call Me Out' and 'Lost' came from. This was my safe space, this was my outlet, and over time, I would hide it all in these songs, but…"
Henry takes a deep breath in. This is one of the first times he's opened up in such a way, and the emotions are still undeniably raw. "Every song that has come out, I've been hesitant in case people work out what the song really means. I sort of had a state of being worried people would hear what I'm actually saying and think it was maybe too self-indulgent or too dark, but I would put it out so that someone else in my position might hear that and find comfort in that I think. That's why I thought it was alright and I hoped everyone else wouldn't notice…"
"I just kept writing and got on with it, but I didn't talk about how I felt. How desperate I felt. How down I felt," notes Henry. "I didn't talk about it because I didn't feel like I deserved to talk about it. That idea that everyone was just like, oh you're trying to be in a band, working in a pub, living the high life, you know?! I was full of inadequacies, and I put that into songs that sounded exciting. I just thought, as long as I can write music that sounds exciting and has truth in it then that's great."
What came next would define the next year of his life. It was while working in the pub that Henry was to experience a life-changing event that left a profound impact on him both physically and mentally. While collecting a delivery, the pub's trap doors slammed on top of his head, knocking him out in the process. Instead of going to receive medical help, he went back to work, swigging some coffees and Red Bulls to try and finish the shift.
"I was so embarrassed by it," details Henry, thinking back to the moment, one that sits front and centre in his mind. "I was such an idiot about it, but I was so embarrassed about what I'd done and if I'd be told off at work for it happening. So I pushed on and tried to finish, but I got sent home because I was feeling awful. Went into A&E the next day. Sat there. Didn't feel like I deserved to be there for some reason, so just left. I felt so fucking shit and then…"
His voice trails off. Henry gazes out the window as he comes to grips with what happened two years ago. "For five months after that, I had a really bad concussion and brain injury, but I daren't tell my family about it properly. I don't know why, I was in such an unhealthy headspace. Over that time, and I don't know why, but I totally lost any sense that I deserved to feel anything or take up anyone's time."
Instead, Henry carried on. He would tell his bandmates and managers that it was just a knock on the head and kept those feelings to himself. He threw himself into partying, an escape that worked to paper over the cracks when he was feeling low at university, but now not even that would work the same as it used to. It didn't feel like before, and Henry didn't know why. "We went on tour and weeks later it still wasn't any better. I was dizzy, felt sick all the time. I just kept thinking, why hasn't this gone? I kept saying to myself, 'Henry, you're imagining this. Come on. Man up and sort yourself out. What's wrong with you?'"
"I remember doing a tour, and after every gig, I would just cry. I would cry and hide away. I think the guys maybe thought I was drinking or something, but I wasn't very coherent either."
It's during this time that a large portion of 'Open Up Your Head' was written, as Henry struggled to understand what was happening in his own. You can hear the personal reflections, the uncertainty and fear ring out. 'You Over Anyone', a tender piano-led ballad that sits as a "fake love story about partying, being unwell in the head, being depressed and drinking not working," or 'Ready For More' which focuses on a time where Henry just said yes to everything as he came to grips with what's going on. "I was so scared that I would let people down by not doing a gig or not doing a tour," admits Henry. "It was a ridiculous thing to do [to keep touring] but I didn't let myself recover because I was so scared. Of course, everyone would have supported me and helped me to recover, but I just kept it secret."
That overarching feeling informed many of the tracks across the record, because Henry simply had to find a way to express what was happening to him. "It's partly why I called the song and the album 'Open Up Your Head', because after that injury two years ago, I poured out these songs and opened up what was going on in my own head. I was obsessed with how shit I felt and being too scared to tell anyone.
"I felt really scared putting out that song [‘Open Up Your Head'] because I hoped my family wouldn't hear it. I hope nobody listens to these words, but I have to get it out…"
That first connection to music, of being able to hide meanings and emotion in the same way bands he'd grown up listening to had was now a therapeutic way for Henry to be real. It's a core idea that pins 'Open Up Your Head' together, gazing into a period of his life with the sole purpose to connect with others feeling the same way. "I guess the whole point was that someone is going to hear this, someone has got to feel the same because I saw things in other people's songs. Someone else would feel the same way that I do. I felt like being honest, that is the only thing that feels right at the moment. Writing songs that mean something."
While Henry was hesitant to tell anyone just what he was going through, friends and family were beginning to take notice. He recalls speaking with a friend who noticed how his speech was all over the place, even though Henry hadn't had a drop to drink. Other friends asking what had happened because he was no longer speaking to them. "They would say, all you do is music - it seems like something's wrong and I would actually be thinking, yeah… something is wrong".
During that time, the band were going from strength to strength. They'd captured attention and adoration, picked up award tips and were beginning to feel momentum take them higher and higher. After years of working away, driving onwards even when they felt like things weren't going to change, keeping that passion burning - a record deal finally dropped on the table in front of them. A goal they'd always dreamed of, it was then that Henry realised he had to get help.
"Right when I was at rock bottom when it comes to my feelings, we got that record deal," remembers Henry. "The chance to be able to keep doing this, to keep making music, to live through being on stage just means the fucking world. I spoke to my mum, and my mum said, 'How was it? Amazing that you have a record deal, did you have a nice time celebrating?' and I was like, 'Yeah, loved it and so happy about it'."
"I put the phone down and just thought, I'm not fucking happy. I'm lying. I'm constantly lying to the people closest to me who I have the right to ask for help from. I picked up the phone again and said, 'No, I'm not alright. I'm really unhappy, and something's wrong'. I've just signed a record deal, and my life can't carry on like this. This opportunity is so big, and it's what I want - I need to feel like I'm alive."
Together, Henry got the support and love he long thought he didn't deserve. Out of the other side, tracks continued to formulate themselves - 'Weight In Gold' is one that particularly stands out as "the first little bit of peace and calm" he'd experienced in a long time. The summer that followed was full of the biggest shows of the band's career, completed with a headline run that cemented a long-known fact: that Sea Girls are bound for the very top.
"Right now, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life," reflects Henry. "I can write referentially to how I felt and some songs are quite dark, but they're looking back on a time and how much pain I fucking went through. Ridiculous trauma that I didn't talk about, I didn't complain about. I didn't dare talk about it unless it was in songs, something's so bad with my brain. There was a time where I didn't believe I would be out of the darkness, out of crying. I'm just talking about myself here and from my own experiences, but there is calm after the storm. I can feel it.
"Like with everything going on in the world right now, it is going to get better at some point. I'm sitting here now and thinking, this isn't going to remain bad forever."
In 'Open Up Your Head', Sea Girls have the blueprint for their next golden moves. A record full of tracks born for mass singalongs and immediate earworm bliss, it's not a question of if they'll make it big, but simply how big things could get. Standout singles 'Violet', 'Damage Done' and 'All I Want To Hear You Say' sit pride of place alongside the U2-esque euphoria of 'Forever', the shining pop keys of 'Do You Wanna Know?' and the call and response lifts of 'Transplant' alongside many more. It fully embraces the spirit of 00s indie in a fresh new jacket. "It just feels so right," Henry points. "It all slotted into place perfectly. It's a record we're so, so proud of, something that's really come together over three years of being a band.
"We've done this from the very bottom. Jamming, learning to play better and better, playing shows, working really fucking hard and improving as songwriters too. It's just super, super important. These guys are my best mates, and we've done it. We've done it together. This is us."
They're already looking ahead to the big shows that have fuelled their desire to this date. Where every part of their story pays off big. A special tour that includes a big ol' night at London's Brixton Academy looms at the end of 2020, and the sheer scale of things isn't being lost on the band. "I thought when we first started that if we could headline Brixton Academy, then we could die and go to heaven and be very happy with ourselves. It's so fucking cool and a dream come true, at one point we thought it would never ever happen. Writing old songs like 'Lost' in my bedroom and thinking that nothing was going to happen to me and now we have all of this. We're not taking any of it for granted. There won't be a day where I don't think - fuck, I'm so grateful people like us. I'm so grateful I get to pick up a guitar and go on stage and sing."
"It's about taking this all in and recognising just how fun this all is," smiles Henry. "We're putting out a debut album. Let's have fun doing it and really enjoy every moment. Make every show the best it can be and have a really fucking good time."
There's already talk of where they go next musically, a vigour to keep creating and ride the waves heading in their direction. Travelling around the globe to play in countries they haven't so far, and getting back out to play in destinations they've only briefly popped their head into. It's ambition written loud from a band hungry for every second. A story that reached from the very bottom to savour the gold on top. It's time to crank open the windows, and the let the sunshine in.
"The place in my life where I've been the most honest is my writing and the band's music," Henry says, as he glimpses out the window once more and what the next day will bring. "The fact people are going along with it, and it means something to them is really powerful."
He smiles again, a knowing nod of acknowledgement for what he and the band have been through. "I can't wait to get out there, lose myself in that music, lose myself in that fucking journey, fucking feel alive and hope other people feel alive for a minute too."
Taken from the May issue of Dork - order your copy below. Sea Girls' debut album 'Open Up Your Head' is out 14th August.
Featuring Sea Girls, Perfume Genius, PVRIS, Empress Of and loads more.