Sea of Bees returns with four Sacramento gigs this week

SN&R catches up with NPR-approved local phenom Sea of Bees in advance of this week’s four Sacto gigs

The suspense is over for local Sea of Bees fans: After months away, Julie Ann Baenziger plays in Sacto this week.

The suspense is over for local Sea of Bees fans: After months away, Julie Ann Baenziger plays in Sacto this week.

Sea of Bees plays four Sacramento gigs this week: an acoustic set Thursday, June 7, with Little Wings at Bows & Arrows, 1815 19th Street; 7:30 p.m.; $10.
With Sister Crayon on Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9, at Luigi's Fun Garden, 1050 20th Street; 8 p.m.; $10 in advance, $12 at door.
And an acoustic set with Andy Cabic of Vetiver on Sunday, June 10, at The Fifth String, 3184 N Street; 2 p.m.; $10. All of these shows are all ages.

A mild burn stings Julie Ann Baenziger. And she seems kind of stoked by it. “Look at my sunburn!” she exclaims, extending her arms. Her smile widens, her shoulder-length russet hair bobs. And quickly, she changes the subject.

“Do you want a coffee or something?” she offers, politely. Interviewees seldom extend such generosities. She returns to the table with an iced drink, takes a sip, and immediately praises its caramel notes. Then she smiles, again.

Such a lively, inimitable buzz, this girl.

Baenziger, better known in town—and especially in England—as indie-folk singer-songwriter Sea of Bees, is quick to tell stories. She talks with a perennially upbeat, catchy animation, almost popping out of her chair. This makes you want to hear every last detail: recording Sea of Bees’ National Public Radio-approved sophomore album, touring Europe over the past year and, in general, what it’s like being a 27-year-old who’s fortunate and talented enough to earn a living making music.

The Sea of Bees backstory goes something like: Three years ago, Baenziger met Sacramento producer John Baccigaluppi; he took her under his wing, and together they put out a debut on Michael Leahy’s Davis-based Crossbill Records. Quickly, Baenziger was leaving the hive for gigs on the East Coast and in Europe, then English label Heavenly Recordings (Beth Orton, Saint Etienne) inked her. NPR’s All Songs Considered picked the debut, Songs For the Ravens, as one of its top-10 albums of 2010. Boom.

And this was just a first act. Last month, she dropped a sophomore effort, Orangefarben, which was written and recorded in a whirlwind four months last year in Sacramento. The 11 songs speak of love found—Baenziger came out to family and friends and wrote of her first true relationship—and ultimately love lost.

Is she still heartbroken? “I’m past it,” she says. “Because you are on the road. Two months on the road is like an entire year.”

This tour-years analogy might explain Baenziger’s wisdom, maturity. Her friends see a change, too. “There’s been just tremendous personal and professional growth,” shared Leahy, who calls himself Sea of Bees’ No. 1 fan. “This is her career, and she’s so much more focused and dedicated, and just more pro.”

Yet he still admires her down-to-earth style. “That’s the most impressive thing: offstage, she still wants to connect with everyone, she still wants to engage her fans and still genuinely wants to make some sort of deeper connection.”

Baenziger finally came back to Sacto a couple of weeks back—and likes what she sees: how her peers are “becoming passionate” about what they do, whether it’s their band or art. She also points out how cool it is that youth culture, during the worst economic depression in 80 years, is perhaps motivating people to take new risks—since making money at a regular job is no longer a regular option.

This all speaks to a European ethos. “You have to make time for yourself,” she reminds, echoing what she’s learned from those months—years!—across the pond.

Making time for friends is big, too. Her buddies—Baccigaluppi, Amber Padgett, Jake Mann, Jen Norero—flesh out Sea of Bees’ lineup for this week’s spate of Sacto gigs (will Leahy cameo on tambourine?). Sister Crayon, who also just returned after months on the road, will join for two nights in Midtown. The two acts even recorded a track together, a cover of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back to Cali,” to commemorate additional road-tripping later this month. So, will Sea of Bees ever stop?

“I want to take a year,” she admits. But for time off or vacation? No, she wants “to record the third record here in Sacramento.”