Sea of Bees
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Sea of Bees

Sacramento, California, United States | INDIE

Sacramento, California, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Folk


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"Bee Here Now"

So the legend of Sea of Bees — aka Julie Ann Bee, aka Julie Baenziger, aka Jules — goes like this:

One day at the Hangar recording studio in Sacramento, the bass player of a small Central Valley band, an open-hearted coffeehouse worker, was on break from a session. The young woman, 24, who had little musical background before she took up with her friends' band, picked up a nearby acoustic guitar and was plucking and singing while recording herself on a laptop when John Baccigaluppi — the Hangar's owner, a producer/engineer and the publisher of sound-nerd bible Tape Op Magazine — walked by.

Baccigaluppi was smitten by the bassist's pristine voice. Did she have any demos? he asked. No, came the reply, she barely had any songs. Would she be interested in making some? Maybe. He gave her his card. A couple weeks later, Julie Baenziger dropped by the Hangar, and Baccigaluppi miked the studio's B room, gave her a quick tutorial in Pro Tools and left her to her own devices. By the end of the day, to his astonishment, she had recorded the first five Sea of Bees songs.

"I was expecting guitar and vocals," Baccigaluppi says, "but she had done everything, recorded a whole bunch of overdubs. I remember listening to it and being struck by the core of the songs. So I said, 'Let's just mix this. ' " And Sea of Bees had its first release, The Bee Eee Pee.

The full-length debut, Songs for the Ravens (just out on Davis-based Crossbill Records), reveals folk-tinged indie-pop that's so disarmingly sweet and guileless, so tender in its pleas for emotional connection that it can soften the hardest of hearts, or penetrate the toughest of filters.

Take Jason Lytle, the former Grandaddy frontman and a longtime friend of Baccigaluppi. "John sent me the record when I was on my way home from tour and not in the mood for anything, especially music. I went from being completely indifferent to really, really, really liking it," Lytle recalls. "She has a dainty but unique voice, and I love it that she's a bedroom songwriter, a nerdy, crafty type rather than some annoying waifish socialite."

Baenziger's bedroom beginnings are part of a prologue that makes Sea of Bees so compelling — her music seems to have arrived as some sort of immaculate conception. It's true, she says with an hearty laugh, she'd never heard the Beatles or the Stones until she was in her 20s. It's true she's self-taught on every instrument she played on the album (which is almost everything, except drums). It's true she's never heard of most of the artists name-checked in relation to her music — the likes of Björk, Joanna Newsom, Nina Persson, Beth Gibbons and Leigh Nash.

"I never really was exposed to music until I was 16, when I fell in love with the girl who was singing in our church," Baenziger says, remembering a turning point in what she describes as her "quiet suburban" upbringing. "I'd watch her hands and the way her mouth moved, and I'd go back home and try to mimic it." She privately cultivated her own voice as a means of dealing with "a lot of heartbreak and loneliness" before moving to Sacramento and meeting new, musically inclined friends.

"Wherever her music is coming from, it's unique. Songs come to her fully formed," Baccigaluppi says, marveling at how her instincts overshadow her blind spots. "When you make a record, there are times you can't help but say, 'This sounds like that,' or 'This is moving in such-and-such direction.' And she'd always say, 'What?'

"But I quickly found out how good a musician she is — I don't think anybody would call her a virtuoso, but her timing is amazing and her melodic sense is impeccable." (Baccigaluppi notes that despite never having played slide guitar, she added the slide part to "Strikefoot" in the final 15 minutes of a recording session.)

Baenziger knows enough now to cite music she admires: the passion of Sunny Day Real Estate, the textures of Sigur Rós, the simple catchiness of Coldplay. "And John started introducing me to all these classic bands that I'd never heard of," she says. "Even my girlfriend — she asked me 'Have you ever heard the Kinks?' And I said no. She looked and me and said, 'What do you mean?' "

Not that any outside influences could have mucked with the powerful confessional quality of "Songs for the Ravens." Love vs. infatuation, artifice vs. sincerity, need vs. want — Baenziger wrestles with all of them in a setting that ranges from moody ambience and sprightly folk to strummy balladry. "Like a little girl inside/I want to hug you day and night" Baenziger sings on "Skinnybone," and although she says she's in love now, she remembers well the ache of longing."There's a heaviness in the songs," she says. "But I think there's hope, too." - LA Weekly

"Songs for the Ravens review: "bound to be one of this year's finest records""

Mark your calendars now because Songs for the Ravens, the debut full-length album from Sea of Bees, comes out on June 1, and it is, without a doubt, fucking fantastic. Following up last year's The Bee Eee Pee EP, Sea of Bees—the project of Central Valley's Julie Baenziger—have crafted a haunting, ravishing record that contains infinitely sumptuous layers. Baenziger's voice ranges from a child's meow to a wise old woman's incantations, while the songs' gorgeously bone-chilling backdrops feel like a sturdy house being restored to its former beauty after years of neglect—there's some dust and rot and maybe some overgrown vines creeping their way up the walls, but the foundation and frame are as strong as ever. Songs for the Ravens is bound to be one of this year's finest records; as soon as you hear it you're not going to be able to shake it. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury

"Sea of Bees: Marmalade"

Took me about 50 seconds — the length of the woozy, haunting intro to “Marmalade” — to completely fall for Sea of Bees, the nom de tune of Sacramento indie-popper Julie Baenziger. Her debut album “Songs for the Ravens” sounds folky in some places, gauzy and ambient in others and twee as hell in still others, but beautiful throughout, and a potent reminder that emotional virtue is an artist’s most precious commodity. This one’s special, folks, let’s not screw it up. -

"Sea of Bees - Songs for the Ravens review"

There’s something of the Scandinavian about Julie Baenziger and her one-woman band, Sea of Bees, which may come as a surprise to this Californian native but I can assure her that it’s a compliment. Perhaps it’s the ethereal quality to her voice or her penchant for the deep twinkly sound that our European cousins do so well or the fact that her voice on Songs for the Ravens has a distinct twang of a more laidback Nina Persson. Whatever it is, it works.

While this is Baenziger’s debut full-length record it was the recording of her EP ‘Bee Eee Pee’ which turned her into something of a legend when it was revealed that the five-track was recorded a mere 24 hours after Baenziger was shown how to use recording software, ProTools, by producer John Baccigaluppi.

‘Bee Eee Pee’ was so beloved because of its low production and high emotion factor and those qualities have only been expanded on for Songs for the Ravens. The record projects itself as a hybrid of tunes all tied together via the lazy warmness of Baenziger’s voice. “Gnomes” kicks it all off with a wail, backed by a surfy drumbeat while “Skinnybone” drifts along with lilting vocals alongside the echo of an organ and lyrical musings on wanting to ‘hug you day and night’. “Marmalade” has a much darker and deeper beat as does “Sidepain” with its talk of whisky-drinking and broken hearts, which is what keeps this record so interesting and moreish as you witness the tracks tumble between dark and light.

Songs for the Ravens is, I suspect much like it’s author, sweet and complex and the debut album that fans of her EP will be have been waiting for.

Words: Nikki Dodds - For Folks Sake


Bee Eee Pee, 2009, Digisqaued
Songs for The Ravens, 2010, Crossbill



Julie Ann Bee (referred to by most everyone as, simply,"Jules") is an epically rare musician who has crafted Songs For The Ravens, her first LP and follow-up to Sea of Bees' debut Bee Eee Pee EP, with the kind of intuitive knowing and organic talent that defies logic and defines great artists. The strength, innocence, honesty and purity of intention that flows throughout all 12 tracks manifests itself compositionally and technically-most immediately with the laser beam pull of Jules' captivating voice. She's so versatile, not only as a vocalist but as a songwriter, that Songs For The Ravens finds her masterfully navigating Americana-tinged stompers ("Sidepain"), heavy, trotting expanses ("Marmalade"), soaring harmonic rock sorrow ("Wizbot") and keyboard-brightened musings ("Willis"). Aside from the drums and a few other instrumental lines, Jules wrote and played every single bit of the entire album-including handheld percussion, glockenspiel, guitar, bass, keys, marimba and slide. Many of the tracks on the record are first or second takes, with nothing edited in; no screw-ups to hide.

These facts, understandably, blew publisher of Tape Op Magazine and producer John Baccigaluppi's mind. John met Jules when she was at his studio, The Hangar-she was singing in a room, he heard her in the hall, and immediately stopped to see who it was. "She's incredibly talented and intuitive in a way that I've only seen in a small handful of musicians," John, who has worked with countless thousands, explains. Shortly after meeting, John showed Jules how to use the recording software ProTools in a B-room of the studio, and by day's end, she had recorded the entirety of the five-song Bee Eee Pee. The recording of Songs For The Ravens was a different story, being a completely fleshed-out work that builds upon the stellar songs Jules started with.

This is a record that will soothe your broken heart, commiserate with you when you're angry, befriend you when you're lonely and celebrate life with you through the pure joy of its being. Longing is expressed with hope; sadness with understanding. Its scope, intensity and solidity would be considered stunning for any weathered artist; it's simply astounding here. Get ready to hear a lot from and about Sea of Bees from here on out. It's her time.