L-R: Stuart Fletcher, John Squire, Chris Helme, and Andy Watts
|Genres||Alternative rock, indie rock, progressive rock|
|Associated acts||The Stone Roses, The Yards, Rick Witter & The Dukes, The Shining|
The band released their debut album, Do It Yourself in 1997, and began work on a follow up, before splitting up due to musical differences during recording sessions in January 1999.
Forming the Seahorses in 1996 following his departure from The Stone Roses, Squire first recruited bassist Stuart Fletcher who he saw by chance at the Fibbers venue in York where he was drinking with his guitar tech Martin Herbet. Fletcher was playing in local covers band, The Blueflies, as a last minute replacement for the band's regular bass player who had pulled out of the gig. He then auditioned two singers – Sean O'Brien, previously of Warrington band "The Steamboat Band", and Chris Helme, who was spotted by a friend of Squire's guitar tech busking outside Woolworths in York. Following several auditions and the prompting of his manager, Squire eventually settled on Helme, despite being hesitant because he "closed his eyes when he sang and only folk singers do that". And whilst Helme was a songwriter himself, Squire admitted early on that despite liking a couple of songs including "Blinded by the Sun" which he radically re-arranged for the album, "Yeah, he can write the odd tune but I don't really like them and it might be a problem later on if he wants to record them with the band".
In the summer of 1996, Squire rented a cottage in Coniston, Cumbria to write and rehearse with Helme and Fletcher. Several drummers were auditioned before finally recruiting Andy Watts, who had previously gigged with Fletcher and also knew Helme. The delay in recruiting a drummer was due to Squire's desire to get a drummer who, like Reni, could also sing backing vocals. It had previously been rumoured that Reni was set to join the band.
Just weeks after Watts joined, the band played secret warm up gigs in Buckley, Greenock and Lancaster, before heading to North Hollywood to record with David Bowie and T. Rex producer Tony Visconti.
The band's debut album, Do It Yourself, was released in May 1997 on Geffen Records with whom Squire was still signed to following his departure from the Stone Roses, and received mixed reviews. One of the songs on the album, "Love Me and Leave Me", was co-written with Liam Gallagher of Oasis, with whom the band toured in 1997.
Shortly before the release of the single "Love Me and Leave Me", it was announced that drummer Andy Watts was leaving the group to spend more time with his family. Watts later claimed that he was actually asked to leave by the band's manager Steve Atherton at a meeting with the band's accountants, on behalf of the band, because they did not approve of the drummer's excessive behaviour on tour, and felt he did not fit in with the desired image for the band. Commenting on the reason for Watt's departure, Helme stated that he had been "playing like an arse" with Watts later putting that down to his cocaine usage.
Watts was temporarily replaced by session player Mal Scott (who toured with the band throughout 1997 and played on the stand-alone Squire/Helme co-written single "You Can Talk to Me" in December 1997) and Toby Drummond.
In 1998, the band began work on a follow up album with another new drummer, Mark Heaney. The band previewed several new songs during secret fan club gigs and festival appearances including "City in the Sky", "700 Horses", "Tombraid" and two Helme compositions "Won't Let You Fall" and "Moth".
The band entered Olympic Studios with producer David Bottrill in January 1999 to record the album, with the working titles of Minus Blue and Motocade, and things came to a head between Squire and Helme – the sessions were abandoned and the band split after Squire walked out of the studio and didn't return.
The band's split was officially announced on 23 January 1999, with a press release citing musical differences. A spokesman for the band later informed the NME that Squire had "become increasingly dissatisfied with the material being produced by Helme until it reached a point where their partnership was no longer possible".
Despite having previewed fully formed songs including two of his own compositions, Helme would later claim in 2001 that his contributions were being ignored and that the songs the band were working on were "unfinished tunes with unfinished lyrics, and they're all John's songs". Squire has previously commented that "I'd say the ratio of songwriting is the same as before; Chris and I help each other out with songs, but we haven't done that many strict collaborations", and sources close to the band confirmed that the band had worked on a number of his songs that were set to appear on the album.
Helme admitted in 2011 that he had been unhappy with Squire writing the majority of the band's material and, therefore, picking up the majority of the band's publishing money. He claimed that due to this, he attempted to launch a solo career whilst still in the Seahorses, but that the Seahorses' management informed him that they would sue him if he started touring playing his own material whilst still in the band. This, subsequently, led to trust issues between Helme and Squire, and Helme began drinking heavily and turning up for rehearsals "hung over and stinking" to the increasing irritation of Squire.
Squire later commented on his reasons for ending the band that "I thought 'This sounds shit, we don't deserve to be in this place.' The band sounded complacent. I don't suppose it was anyone's fault. Maybe it got far too much attention for very little effort in the early stages, because of what I'd done in the past." He also added that the "band wasn't working out cos the singer, Chris, wanted to pursue a solo career in tandem, there was no way that that was going to work for me".
The origin of the name The Seahorses has been the subject of various conspiracy theories after a pair of NME readers spotted it was an anagram of He Hates Roses, and wrote in to the paper. Other anagrams include The Rose Ashes, and by dropping the definite article, She's A Rose. Squire responded "That's pure coincidence. I chose the name because at the time, I kept seeing them everywhere and because some people think they don't exist. They are unusual because it is the male of the species who gets pregnant."
Following the controversy, Squire changed the band's name The Seahorses to simply Seahorses. The name change was short lived however, becoming the subject of a dispute when another band revealed they had already been performing as Seahorses for several years.
Following the demise of the Seahorses, Squire continued work with drummer Mark Heaney on a new project with ex-Verve members Simon Jones and Simon Tong, vocalist Duncan Baxter as John Squire's Skunkworks, but left prior to the band releasing material as The Shining. He later released two solo albums and toured both, before announcing he was quitting music to concentrate on his art. Squire later recanted and rejoined The Stone Roses in 2011.
Following the split of The Shining, Heaney carried on working as a drum teacher and session musician, appearing on Squire's first solo album Time Changes Everything. He Joined Post Punk Icons Gang of Four in 2005 and continued working as a session drummer for artists such as Badly Drawn Boy, Klaxons. and many others.
Helme pursued a solo career and went on to attack John Squire in the press, describing his material as "muso wank". He then formed The Yards with Stuart Fletcher and former Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks in 2001, who released two albums on their own "Industrial Erotica" label before splitting in November 2009 and has since resurrected his solo career with the self-released album "Ashes". He later commented on his relationship with Squire that "I don't have any contact with him now, I didn't really when I was in the band – he was quite elusive.
Fletcher is still active in the local York music scene. He regularly performs in covers band "The Mothers" and also played with Rick Witter in his short lived post-Shed Seven band Rick Witter & The Dukes. In 2015 he joined Heather Findlays band, Mantra Vega.
The band's first drummer Andy Watts went on to front the short lived Mozer, who split prior to releasing anything. In 2004 he began performing sporadic solo acoustic shows around London. Since then, he's worked with the likes of Stuart A Staples (Tindersticks) and Roger Goslyn. Watts was also commissioned to write for a BBC radio documentary celebrating 30 years of Bohemian Rhapsody. Rhapsody in Bohemia won Best Documentary: Directors' Choice Award in the 2006 Third Coast awards. In 2014 he released a solo EP, Fragments of Bone on his own imprint, Meraki Records. In 2016 he and his partner released their debut children's book Cloud Cuckoo Land under the moniker Wavey n Snotts, leading to a tour of Waterstones book stores and invites to several literary and music festivals.
- "Love is the Law" (28 April 1997) – UK No. 3
- "Blinded by the Sun" (14 July 1997) – UK No. 7
- "Love Me and Leave Me" (29 September 1997) – UK No. 16
- "You Can Talk to Me" (1 December 1997) – UK No. 15, US Modern Rock No. 30
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