Have you heard Sea Fever yet? A Manchester band comprised of members Beth Cassidy (Section 25), Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham (both of New Order/ShadowParty), with Elliot Barlow on drums and lead man Iwan Gronow. You may know Iwan from Haven, The Mutineers and in recent years playing bass for Johnny Marr. During yet another lockdown we took the opportunity to speak to him (virtually) all about his exciting career, releasing solo material and new band Sea Fever…
THE JOURNALIX: How did you arrive at this point in time?
IWAN GRONOW: I arrived at this point in a white transit from St Just Cornwall with my bandmates and all our belongings.
THE J: Are you a Manc born and bred?
IWAN GRONOW: No. I was born in Sidcup Kent and moved down to St Just in Cornwall when I was 3 years old. I grew up in Cornwall and moved to Manchester in my early 20’s.
THE J: Who inspired you to be a musician?
IWAN GRONOW: My Dad was heavily into music. He was a lead singer in a London punk band called ’The Wolfboys”. There was always guitars and vinyl in our house growing up in Cornwall. I immersed myself with them from an early age.
OUT ON A LIMB
THE J: You’ve released material solo and as a member of a band… Which do you prefer?
IWAN GRONOW: It’s all music. I enjoy it all. There are obviously different processes in music, writing, recording, gigging etc. I would have to say gigging wins. There’s nothing like it and I can’t wait to get back to it. Fingers crossed it will be soon.
THE J: We loved your debut EP Out On A Limb (2020) but how did you overcome the challenge of promoting a record during a global pandemic?
IWAN GRONOW: I realised I wouldn’t be able to go out and shoot a full video. I’d already released three videos so thought I would compile a montage of all the footage I had. Some from the videos, some from my travels and also some singing footage, I recorded at home on my phone. I trawled through all the footage and learnt how to sync and edit it together.
I had some help from my friends, Rich and Tom, for the release. It definitely felt different. Musicians have had to really think on their feet through these times.
THE J: Did you ever get over the fact you were sharing the stage with Johnny Fuckin’ Marr?
IWAN GRONOW: I joined just after the first album ‘The Messenger’ was recorded and pretty much went straight into touring that album. It was a really exciting time. I had a small gap from music and to go straight back on the road with my friends Johnny, Jack and James was ace! It can be surreal sometimes. Johnny makes playing look so effortless. I’ve learnt so much from him. As a band we’ve been together for over 8 years and have really hit our stride.
THE J: Have you worked with any other legends during your career?
IWAN GRONOW: I’ve been lucky enough to play on the stage with some legends. Johnny invites musicians to come on stage with us. I think playing with Ronnie Wood at the NME awards has to be right up there.
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THE J: What guitar do you play?
IWAN GRONOW: I play a 70’s Fender Precision with a Maple neck with Johnny. In Sea Fever I play guitar. Phil Cunningham has kindly lent me one of his Telecasters for the time being, as I have quite a few basses but not many guitars. Ha! I think a 6 string will be on the wishlist.
THE J: You’re now a part of Sea Fever, including members of New Order and Section 25 – how did that come about?
IWAN GRONOW: It came together very naturally. I’ve known Tom and Phil for quite a long time now and we’ve all been writing in different forms but not together. It just felt like the right time to do it. I’ve really enjoyed singing on the tracks. I’ve learnt a lot from it and am really pleased with how they’ve turned out.
THE J: Where does the name Sea Fever come from?
IWAN GRONOW: The name Sea Fever comes from the John Masefield poem. It’s a beautiful poem and fits really well with our sound.
THE J: For anybody who hasn’t heard the band yet, what can they expect to hear?
IWAN GRONOW: The music is a good combination of synths and guitars. As a band, we’re all into melody. Since I’ve moved to Manchester melody has been very important to me. The songs are quite varied most are up-tempo. We do like a good backbeat. There will be more releases this year. We’re excited to see what people think of them. It’s been a lot of fun putting these songs together.
THE J: You have lead vocals on the new single Crossed Wires – will that always be the case with the band?
IWAN GRONOW: It will. It feels funny to say that. Beth Cassidy sings with me and we’re really pleased with how our voices sound together. We both have different styles of singing but they sit well together.
THE J: Stephen Morris also guests on the single, right?
IWAN GRONOW: He does. It’s the only track on the album he plays on Elliot Barlow plays on the rest. It was an absolute pleasure to sing on top of Stephen’s playing. We’re really pleased with how it’s turned out. We feel ‘Crossed Wires”’ is a good representation of things to come.
WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK
THE J: How has the past 12 months been for you? Have you formed working “bubbles” or has it all been virtual?
IWAN GRONOW: We did a lot of mixing virtually and some bits in the studio when it was safe to do so. It’s been an awful year for everyone. Personally, I’m missing gigging so much. It’s going to be so good when everyone can get out and go to venues again.
THE J: You’ve toured the world playing music, what have been your highlights?
IWAN GRONOW: There’s been so many. Glastonbury in 2019 was a great day. The band played a lot in the U.S. We played Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Fest in 2018. That was a memorable day also. Eddie came on stage with us and sang ‘There’s is a Light’ with Johnny.
THE J: Which is your favourite Manchester music venue?
IWAN GRONOW: It has to be Night and Day. When Haven moved to Manchester Yan Oldenburg looked after us. He gave us a rehearsal room and allowed us to have a residency there. They were really good times. Joe moss our manager and Jan were really good friends. Both are sadly not with us today. I’ll always remember the Night and Day days back in the early 2000s.
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THE J: Can you recommend a film, a book and some music that have influenced you of late?
IWAN GRONOW: I’ve recently been reading a lot about breathing and cold therapy. The Wim Hof method book is really good. I’ve also been reading Scott Carney’s book ‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’. In such unsettling times, Wim’s breathing has really helped. Recently I’ve noticed there’s been quite a bit about meditation. I notice it more and more which can only be a good thing.
THE J: What does the future hold for Iwan Gronow?
IWAN GRONOW: Well, fingers crossed it will soon be full-on gig mode. But until then there will be more recording and writing. ‘Crossed Wires” comes out on the 26th of Feb which is ace. Sea Fever are looking forward to finally getting some music out.
Crossed Wires is out now!