Guitar-poppers Saltwater Sun have today (Friday, 5th April) unveiled their new three-track EP, ‘The Great Deceiver’. It’s a short release that packs a punch via a trio of heartfelt and disarmingly honest tunes that tackle everything from silly, unnecessary rows, to believing in yourself, to losing a loved one.
Vocalist Jen Stearnes talks us through the release, track by track.
'Trying' is about the futility and pettiness of alcohol-fuelled arguments with a loved one, particularly someone you otherwise don’t fight with. I’m sure most of us have been on a night out where something just switches and suddenly a couple who were happy half an hour ago are in the midst of a huge row.
It seems to be a trap that a lot of us fall into in our lives, impairing our judgement and then letting said impairment plant tiny toxic seeds in our brains from which a negative thought process grows, leading to arguments that can ruin otherwise great nights with someone we care about. Not to mention the regret and shame about what was said that comes afterwards.
Despite this, ‘Trying’ is an optimistic and uplifting song, which we’ve tried to convey with the music side of things, as well as lyrically, as it focuses on being aware of your own shortcomings, ‘we know I overreact, got more conjecture than fact’ seeing the positive in situations and ultimately the mellowing out that comes with getting older. It’s a bit of a reflection on youth, in some ways.
Affectionately known as 'Steve', the initial idea for this track started as the vast majority of our songs do - with guitarist Dan and the intro guitar lick. It’s apparent when the collective are approving of an idea as everyone rapidly piles in over the top of what Dan is playing. The song was written in a matter of minutes.
Lyrically, ‘The Great Deceiver’ is a direct message to my younger self. I’ve always been musical - I was that irritating, often snotty child playing piano at every assembly at school as people made their way into the hall - but I never saw music as a viable, pursuable option for me. I was crippled by complete hatred of my appearance and the idea of other people being as harsh about it as I was myself. Being vulnerable in that way was just too daunting for me. I was desperately hard on myself.
After being bullied when I was very little, in secondary school, I was often closed off and angry a lot of the time, as a defence mechanism. Funnily enough, Dan (guitarist) was one of my best friends at school, despite all that. The opening lyrics are, ‘You’ll never know your power in the world unless you trust yourself to yield it, you’ll never know all the love in the world unless you open yourself up to feel it’. It’s really about being warm and how much strength there is in the vulnerability of being open and kind and the happiness and power you achieve in the relinquishing of that rage, hurt and some control. I still use the song in the set to bolster me, almost as an affirmation that I am deserving of doing something I love.
I feel as though the landscape now is so much more accepting of performers of different shapes and sizes and of non conformity to the beauty ideal, which is wonderful to see, but I am sure there are people out there holding themselves back from doing something they dream of because they don’t think they are good enough. This song is for them, too - ’The Great Deceiver’ is self-doubt - that nagging voice in your own head that puts you down and makes you believe things that aren’t true - things that the vast majority of people would never be so unkind as to say. It’s about self-love, self-acceptance and being open to letting yourself love and respect others.
‘Blood’ is the oldest song on the EP. I wrote it about my dad who died as a result of pancreatic cancer 10 years ago this year, and the effect this has had on my already small family. In the immediate aftermath of his death, my sorrow was all-encompassing and selfish - I was hard work to be around, and awful things kept happening to me, exacerbating the whole situation. Everything was especially difficult for my poor mum as she had the stress of looking after me to deal with on top of trying to cope with the loss of her partner of 35 years.
Something shifted when I joined the band as it gave me a healthy outlet for all the emotions that had been crippling me. I’ve known the boys for a long time, but in this capacity, they’ve become a second family to me and an amazing support structure. They are all very family-driven people, so I wanted to write something that I knew would resonate with them too, almost by way of thanking them for what they’ve done for me.
In time, I’ve learnt to remember all the wonderful, funny things about my dad without ending up in tears. When I think of him now, I smile. My sadness has never left me but has changed to a more contemplative kind of grief in which I mourn for all the things he didn’t get to see or do. I mourn more for his loss than for my own. Now, whenever I do something interesting or fun, I think of him and almost talk to him in my mind, so that in some small way, he maybe gets to experience it too.
We’ve had permutations of the track floating around for some time, but because of the subject matter, we kept it on a back burner until we were completely satisfied with it. A massive part of getting it right was the production. Our producers Alex and Tom are our friends, and it felt like they went above and beyond to actualise our vision of this song, because they knew how important it was to all of us. Alex has said before it’s his favourite mix he has ever done - so much love has been poured into this song from everyone involved and we think it shows.
Despite the subject matter being incredibly personal, it is also completely universal as sadly, bereavement and loss is something that will come to us all. More than anything ‘Blood’ is about family, inherited or chosen, and how our love for each other sustains long after death. ‘Blood’ suggests that we might transcend death through these connections.