Sea of Bees closes her eyes and sings
There was, at first, the potential for disaster. Julie Baenzinger, recording at The Hangar with her band Find Me Fighting Them, was flummoxed when a stranger walked through the studio.
Curious, Baenzinger called out, “Hey, who are you?”
The question was polite but the implication clear: Who are you and why are you walking into our session?
“I’m John,” the visitor replied. “I own this place.”
Baenzinger—Jules to her friends—laughs about it now (“Oh my gosh, I was stupid”). But that awkward first encounter proved fruitful when John Baccigaluppi, impressed with Baenzinger’s voice, asked if she wanted to record some songs.
And so Sea of Bees was born. Baenzinger, 24, didn’t have the money to pay for studio time, but she considered Baccigaluppi’s offer and finally e-mailed him a handful of songs recorded at home. From there, the producer/engineer offered to help her record a simple four-song acoustic EP. But upon completion of the Bee Eee Pee, Baccigaluppi knew it wasn’t enough.
“I was struck by her voice,” Baccigaluppi says. “I realized I would really regret not working with her [on a full-length record].”
It’s easy to hear what Baccigaluppi heard in Baenzinger’s songs. With a voice that’s clear, high and emotional and lyrics that weave fantastical images with bits of down-to-earth reality, the singer’s songs are equal parts fairy tale and bedroom philosophy, and her debut full-length, Songs for the Ravens, is rich with an ethereal wood-nymph spirit yet never overly precious. It is, thankfully, more Renaissance Woman than Renaissance fair.
The studio sessions, Baenzinger says, were relaxed and “organic.”
“It was just very experimental and fun.”
“Julie is a really gifted songwriter [and] one of the most intuitive musicians I’ve ever worked with,” Baccigaluppi says. “I would throw some instrument into her hands she’d never played and 30 minutes later we’d have some kind of really cool track done.”
Songs such as “Skinnybone” and “Sidepain” are built on layers of floating sound, but onstage it’s mostly just the singer and her guitar. Eventually, Baenzinger wants to add a small backing band and hit the road, but for now, the singer is shacked up at her parents’ Granite Bay house.
The move out of a roommate-infested Midtown flat, she says, was designed not to just save cash and sanity, but also to help her stay focused on the music.
“One of the first things John asked me was if I was willing to do this, make music for the long run. Was it just a phase? Or did I want to make it forever?”
The answer is simple.
“I’ve known since I was 15 that this is what I want to do,” she says.
All this from a young woman who, until just a month ago, had never played a “real” show in front of interested, cover-charge-paying people.
“I was really nervous then,” Baenzinger says of that inaugural Luigi’s Fun Garden gig.
“I’m comfortable, it doesn’t faze me at all,” she says. “You just close your eyes and sing as clear as you can.”