The songs on ‘Victoria’ belong pressed between the pages of a work of fiction, wherein adventure, discovery, love and reflection bind a story from some other time and place, albeit based on real events. It’s escape-ism. Stories in songs that will take you, over the hills and far away, from the stairwells of neon lit hotels to where highways turn to sand, with sunshine melting through your windscreen. From mirror balls in regional halls and sunsets on suburban front lawns, travels through the past and visions of the future, weave through glistening threads of electric guitars and pedal steel. Sean’s poetic, visceral songs always sound perfectly poised. A gentle tumble of thoughts and emotions draped in timeless melodies.
“Rolling through the fields of rain, pushing the tide away, here comes the golden hour, on my windowpane” (‘Speak To Me’)
Some of the initial songs on Victoria were conceived on long weekly drives from the city to South Gippsland, where Sean was working following his 2019 album You Will Know When You’re There. As the early morning, late summer sun rose, so did Sean’s creative spirit – ideas began to form and melodies rolled around, seeking out words to graft themselves to.
The energy of those open spaces and Sean’s connection to the countryside spoke to him. “It was then that I was forming a solid idea of what kind of a record I wanted to make,” he reflects.
Early in 2020 the pandemic arrived and Sean’s world of pastoral expanse retreated to a metropolitan lockdown. “For most of the recording, and a lot of the writing, the idea of leaving Victoria any time soon seemed like a precarious ambition. And I think we felt isolated as a state in our experience of the whole ordeal… So here’s to Victoria!” says Sean, revealing part of the meaning behind the album title.
One of the positives to come from the lockdown was having the luxury of time to spend on songwriting and recording. “It was a really interesting and rewarding experience having all this time to chip away at a record,” Sean says. “A year or so later once I felt like I had arrived at the finish line I realized the sound had developed so much, just from refining things in the mix – reverbs, synth sounds and so on – that I had to go back and completely remix it to bring it up to sit with the rest.”
Written, performed, recorded and mixed by Sean, with just some final mix assistance from Alex O’Gorman and mastering by Mikey Young, Victoria is truly a solo project. “I did everything on this album myself. I loved doing it. I just try to make whatever I have work – whether that’s limited skills on certain instruments or using a $200 drum kit. I think those limitations are part of what makes something unique and true. It wouldn’t have the same kind of energy if I’d got in the best musicians to perform it. I don’t like ‘refined’ so much.”
Across the album, Sean’s songs are laden with lyrical beauty, weaving vivid storytelling, confessional narratives and abstract musings, conveyed through timeless sounds inspired by classic vintage folk, rock and cosmic country.
At times you’ll be reminded of the poetic sway and strum of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, the dreamy and surreal jangly rock of David Kilgour (The Clean) and The Byrds on ‘Remember The Trip’, the loose ramble of The Grateful Dead on ‘Speak To Me’ and the melancholic croon of Ron Sexsmith on songs such as ‘Two Days’, described by Sean as a song about “waiting for the song to form, waiting for it to arrive.”
“I’m really proud of the songs on this record, I think they’re the best batch yet. They feel more like me, closer to what I’ve been trying to create ever since I started to write songs.”