Wellington Sea Shanty Society to Release EP of ’70s, ’80s and Modern-Day Shanties

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The Wellington Sea Shanty Society (W.S.S.S.) is ready to drop anchor on their new EP Sea Shanties of the 70s, 80s & Today! on Aug. 30.

Following the slowed sea balladry of the lead single, “A Sailor Needs a Boat,” the six-track EP is inspired by old-school and modern shanties, featuring three original tracks and three covers.

“Each song a mysterious oyster lovingly shucked,” reads a descriptor of the EP. “These new shanties were committed to memory (human and digital) in the earthquake-prone bowels of an empty Wellington office block. A windswept shelf overlooking a dark harbor, what better place to prize joy from salty oblivion.”

Using some salty aliases, W.S.S.S. is comprised of main songwriters Vorn Dont le Père Etait Marin, from the alt-pop band Vorn, and Lake Davineer of the electro-folk group Lake South, and rounded out by musicians Nick De La Mer and Thomas Un Copa.

Formed in 2012, after Davineer returned from singing with the French shanty group Croche Dedans in Nantes, France, W.S.S.S. has performed shanties across the globe as a four-piece with drums and strings and vocalists Davineer and Vorn, who also plays accordion, and released their debut Sunday Star Times in 2013.

The group’s sixth release, Sea Shanties of the 70s, 80s & Today! also features backing vocals from The Salty Waters on three tracks and a shanty cover of the Eurythmics 1983 hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Initially, the band had a revised version of the Eurythmics’ classic—Some of them want to loot you / Some of them want to be your loot / Some of them want to board you / Some of them want you overboard—but couldn’t get clearance to use the alternate lyrics and recorded the original, shanty-style.

“We chose the covers as they mention the sea and we’ve been singing them live for a while,” Davineer tells American Songwriter. “We also had a version of [Pink Floyd’s] ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ [with] ‘Another Ship in the Squall,’ but couldn’t get clearance for that so we scrapped it. ‘Whaling’ is a New Zealand classic by the captain of New Zealand pop Dave Dobbyn. ‘Sailing’ was a no-brainer.”

Davineer adds, “We sang traditional shanties, but being songwriters we naturally wanted to make things more interesting for us by having a go at writing in the shanty style. These days we broaden the definition of shanty to songs that make mention of the sea.”

Recorded in an old office in Wellington, New Zealand that Davineer transformed into a studio, the EP was also mixed and produced by the singer, who wrote “A Sailor Needs a Boat” and the more indie-rock leaning “Mates at Sea,” while Vorn penned shanty chanter “Hand Over Hand.”

“They’re not strictly shanties but I do try to encompass the spirit of the shanty—adventure, insubordination, struggle, kinship, the magnificence of the ocean,” said Davineer of his songs. “Vorn’s song follows the more traditional route of call and response and wouldn’t be out of place on a ship in the 18th century.”

Following the release of their EP, Wellington Sea Shanty Society will tour across New Zealand from Oct. 27 through Dec. 3.

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Sea Shanties of the 70s, 80s & Today! Track List:

1. “A Sailor Needs a Boat” (featuring The Salty Wailers)
2. “Hand Over Hand” (featuring The Salty Wailers)
3. “Mates at Sea” (featuring The Salty Wailers)
4. “Sailing”
5. “Whaling”
6. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

Photos: Courtesy of Wellington Sea Shanty Society

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