British Sea Power - Interview May 2017

British Sea Power – Interview May 2017

Just as often as we despair about the music industry, especially in this day and age, shaping the tastes of people who in turn then support those artists that would not really be in need of support (yes, I am oversimplifying here) – just as often there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope. The bands that lately have given interviews to Offbeat Music Blog have defied the trends, the labelling and the media hype by continuing what they do and do it well. Here is another one that shines in all areas: British Sea Power! Before their gig at Cologne’s Gebäude 9 (wonderful support by Pictish Trail) and recovering from their stay in and trip from Munich, they kindly took some time for: British Sea Power – Interview May 2017.

British Sea Power have consistently delivered great albums from the start and stuck to their own specific brand of indie infused rock. In this field they have diversified their trademark sound to upbeat songs, tender tracks, sad and dark melodies as well as real rockers. Topped off with a sheer cornucopia full of lyrics that sidetrack you to new areas of interest and not a platitude in sight. And then we have the live shows: Unusual locations, unusual decorations and sheer craftsmanship from start to end.

By the way, you don’t get constant change of band members with British Sea Power. And all who were travelling with them were involved in the show and having a great time. Why is that important? Because this is my blog:-) I love that kind of thing. Kind of restores your hope in humanity, yes, on a small scale, but it is there.

Not following any trends, British Sea Power convince with their high-quality albums and intense live shows and have thus earned (and well-earned) a following that will follow them for times to come. Some follow even to all gigs and it is a joy to witness the mutual appreciation of bands and fans alike at tonight’s gig in Cologne. Yes, the bears were there, too, dancing and hugging and so welcomed. (Even though especially the polar bear must have been dissolving in that heat).  And as much as they were distracting from the stage, who can resist them?

Before the gig Offbeat Music Blog spoke to Yan Scott Wilkinson and Martin Noble. A big Thank you to Jack Bradford from Caroline Records and David Taylor, Management.

British Sea Power - Interview May 2017

British Sea Power – Interview May 2017

Offbeat Music Blog: Everyone waited desperately for your new album. Inbetween you did “Sea Of Brass” and re-issues. How did the album-making process go? Did you have setbacks?

British Sea Power:
Yan: The actual album was reasonably fast really. We just did as you said a lot of other things in the meantime, “Sea Of Brass” and a re-release or a celebration of our first album, a really big box. We did…
Martin: “From The Sea To The Land Beyond”.
Yan: A computer game, a couple of weird documentaries. Then we got bored of experimenting and thought, let’s make a pop album.
Martin: Yeah, it felt like drifting away and you were wondering, when we are we going to get down and do the album. The more that goes on, you sort of feel a bit anxious that you need to do an album.
We went into a local studio called Brighton Electric and kept on going in there for little periods just to do a few demos, a few tracks. During that time – I can’t quite remember the timeline – we had our mind on it.

OMB:
You nowadays are not all located in Brighton and work via modern technology. How does that feel compared to the traditional way?

BSP:
Yan: Yeah, it’s okay really. I think for when you send music up to the Isle Of Skye, it just means Abi has got more time to do her string parts. In a studio it is a finite amount of time. So it is quite good really and it is exciting to hear it. When it comes down, you load it up into your computer and see what the hell is happening.

OMB:
You probably take in more influences from all over the place as well rather than when being confined to a neutral space like a studio where you don’t know what’s going on outside.

BSP:
Martin: Yeah.
Yan: Neil has his weird instruments, hasn’t he? What’s it called? A bonga.
Martin: A bonga. Yeah, it is like a giant bath tub with springs.
Yan: There is no way he could get that down to Brighton.

OMB:
You left your label a while ago. Are you still happy doing everything yourself?

BSP:
Martin: We haven’t done everything ourselves. We have licensed the record to a record label, so that takes care of a lot of work.
Yan: We made it ourselves, funded all that but once it was finished…you don’t want to be spending your life doing…you are in a band to sort of not sit at a computer and do lots of paperwork and deals and work out all sorts of fact and figures. That’s what we found out. Because we did “Sea Of Brass” and the re-issue. You think this is going to be so much fun (laughs). It is nice originally when you think what it should be like and all that. And then it comes down to getting it out into the world and then it becomes…

OMB:
A grind?

BSP:
Yan: A grind is the perfect word.

OMB:
Just last week I was interviewing two bands who are very different but they both face this situation that their music cannot really be placed. They are between genres, one has a distinct gap between music and lyrics or so it seems. Once people come to see them play live, it is fine. But the industry and the media have a problem with that. You also have got really really famous through word of mouth and playing live. Is that labelling thing a problem for you?

BSP:
Martin: I think it is a lot easier if a band is fairly simple in terms of the aesthetic, the sound and repeating the same things so that it is easy to cotton on to. They have less of a problem getting known. We are a bit more difficult, I think.

OMB:
You are famous for your live shows, lots of drama, lots of extraordinary ideas?

BSP:
Martin: It is easy for people to be confused and think we are just that.
Yan: I think for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to put obstacles in (laughs). We have been trying to remove them ever since.
Martin: We still do have a problem there but I think, gradually, people come round. They realise it is not that difficult after all. It’s taken fifteen years for people to come round.

OMB:
To my ears there is a lot of eighties’ influence in your music. The good times, when nobody cared whether it was indie or rock as long as it sounded fine to them whereas today that has changed. Influence from bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs.

BSP:
Martin: We like lots of music and there is a lot of music from the eighties that we like. From The Fall and The Smiths and lots of really good bands.

OMB:
Then we have the lyrics…I sometimes wonder, did you really all know that, did you not have to look that up? You have all that in your head, all these references and make us all feel stupid because we have to look it up?

BSP:
Yan: it used to be more like that. There used to be more book references and things like that. I liked that kind of a thing at the time but in a way it became sort of: Oh no, not again. Also you think, if you are doing the same thing over and over, it is getting boring. So I tried to get rid of that a bit. It is more in the background, not a in-your-face kind of thing anymore. I am trying to get the emotion of things across and a personal element really. That’s what I enjoy these days. The new album is more like that. (Loud fan goes on). Ah, that’s just another obstacle (laughs). I think the new album is easier. You can go below the surface if you want to.
Martin: I think it is more of a present day album. It does not reference a lot of older things. There might be a few bits and bobs in there.

OMB:
In your songs you find up to now a lot of, kind of, British nostalgia. Lots of historical, literary and even natural references. Do you sometimes get employed, you know, by the wrong people?

BSP:
Yan: It is sort of true. But at the same time we probably have more songs about other countries than most British bands. Poland, Czech Republic…
Martin: Russian writers…
Yan: But then, if you call yourself British Sea Power, you ask for being pigeonholed in that kind of way. It is one of those names. In one sense it is a lovely name. It is possibly too clever for its own good.

OMB:
Then again you are envied by Guy Garvey for the name. He only has “Elbow”.

BSP:
Martin: It is two opposites. Sometimes you think, oh maybe we should have gone for “Shoulder” to make it easy.

OMB:
British Sea Power to some reeks of “Make Britain great again.” I think it is a lovely name.

BSP:
Yan: Especially in the way the world has changed since we started. It seemed we were headed for quite happy times in those days. Progress…but it has kind of gone a bit wobbly. We thought we maybe could have a bit of fun with these things and recycle them and make them into something cheeky and fun instead of horrendous politics.
Martin: We thought with the name of the first record “The decline of British Seapower” it would have been obvious from the start. But then for people who came round to us and did not know the first record, it is completely different.

OMB:
You said somewhere in an interview before making the new album that you could not write about Europe so much as there was not much happening…sort of pre-Brexit timewise.

BSP:
Yan: It may have been a flippant comment…Well, I am sort of fed up with it now, I can’t be bothered. You are probably better off without us (laughs).

British Sea Power - Interview May 2017

OMB:
You moved to Brighton initially because of the music scene. How is it now? Can you still be a part of that?

BSP:
Yan: Not really. It is not like in Manchester or Glasgow where you have a certain sound. It is not like that in Brighton. You have got quite a lot of artistic people and there’s lots of small venues, not many medium ones. It is quite good for people starting out or people who are…never going anywhere (grins). It is by the sea. It was probably going to be either that or London. I did not really want to do London.
Martin: It is good to be more outside the music industry. When we first moved to Brighton, we were trying to get started and playing all the venues and meeting all the different bands. So we were more in a scene then.

OMB:
You did your music nights as well?

BSP:
Martin:
We did another one, the “Krankenhaus” night. We did have a few Brighton bands on there. GAPS for instance who are really good. But now as we are not gigging every week in Brighton, we do not know that many.

OMB:
Is there anything about the new album that you would really liked to be asked? Sort of, if you imagine an interview, you’d go, wow, I’d really make my point on that. Or say, to state what British Sea Power is right now, at the moment?

BSP:
Yan:We probably spend more time talking about vegetables at the moment because Martin started doing it first – we got into allotments..We spend a lot of time talking about digging and getting our first crops through. So I just learned a couple of tips from him how to keep the blackfly away.
Martin: Ah, it is a big problem this time of year. I have a cherry tree covered in blackflies and you have to hose them down.

OBM:
You have to get the ladybirds in..

BSP:
Martin: Yeah, but they come when they want to come.

OBM:
But are you happy with the result of “Let The Dancers Inherit The Party”?

BSP:
Yan: Yeah, very happy. It is nice to play live. It is probably the album we played more tracks of ever really. When we started touring in the UK, I think, we did every track of the album. We curbed it back a little bit because we haven’t been to Europe for a while and people want to hear the older songs too.

OBM:
You brought Pictish Trail with you? Love what they are doing, all from the Isle of Eigg! If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere!

Yan:
Oh yeah, it is his last gig with us tonight, the band are off to Edinburgh and we are going to Amsterdam. He’s a good lad!

OBM:
Thank you very much for your time!

Yan and Martin: Cheers!

British Sea Power - Interview May 2017

 

 

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Alice

Host of Offbeat on novum FM and Kaleidoskop on ByteFM

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