British Sea Power - Salty Water

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Interview with Yan & Noble

There you are sitting in your room reading about some rather obscure figure in European history, say Louis-Charles Bréguet. You've got reprints of Henry Darger paintings hanging on your walls and an unreleased Fassbinder movie on the telly. Suddenly, you hear some chirping outside and reach for your camouflage binoculars and spot a Honey Buzzard, also known as Pernis apivorus. (You are very pleased that you know the Latin name and give yourself a high five as no one else is in the room.) You've got, like, a lot of plants. Your wit is drier than your martini, which is not your drink of choice because that would be too obvious. You are congested more often than not. What's on your stereo? British Sea Power, of course, a band that knows how to exercise as much restraint when it comes to fonts as interviews. We met up with them in Berlin and sweated a few answers out of these charming lads.

How are you?
Yan: Fine. We just woke up about an hour ago.

Are you enjoying Berlin?
Yan: Yea, but I've been sweating a lot, for some reason.

The new album is called 'Open Season', are you pleased with the way it turned out?
Noble: Very pleased. I think one of the things we wanted to do was get the feeling of springtime, and I think we sort of did that. It's a good effort. It's a very optimistic kind of album, about renewal, and stuff like that.

Can you tell me a bit about where the album was recorded?
Noble: It was recorded in the contrasting environments of Wales, in the countryside, and East Acton which is a dirty part of London.
Yan: We only did two tracks in Wales, and they do have a fresh feel about them, but I don't think the tracks we did in London sound much harder. We demoed and knew what we were doing. We'd spent a month in a barn rehearsing and writing, and then we just recorded it quite quickly in Acton.

From a writing perspective, did you approach this album differently than your debut 'The Decline of...'?
Yan: Well, yea. You can't really help it, because the first album was written over a period of 5 years. You've got all of these weird collection of memories from different times. The new album is much more concise, and I think it hangs together more. The emotion on the first album was kind of like a schizophrenic ride, quite an obstacle course. The new one is a smooth ride.

This is your first major tour in Europe, are you finding language to be a difficulty?
Yan: I'm realizing, that unless you're a multi-linguist, language can be quite an obstacle. But I'm realizing how a everyone, everywhere like a good melody.

Indeed, you seem to have a penchant for eastern European cities, Prague in particular, where you played several shows with Czech band 'The Ecstasy of St Teresa'. What is the big attraction?
Yan: The romance... and all the pretty girls.

Are the girls in Cumbria not quite as attractive?
Yan: No, not quite. [laughs]

Would it be fair to say that to some extent, this album was partly inspired by David Dimbleby?
Noble: [laughs] Partly, yes. The barn that we recorded in was opposite his house, and we tried to keep him awake as long as possible.

Did he ever drop in for tea?
Noble: No, but he sent a letter complaining about the noise.

Do you think that some musicians are becoming more dependent on electronics and digital technology these days?
Yan: I do think so. But I appreciate digital technology. You can get small machines with sixteen tracks that you can just have in your bedroom. On the other hand, I think there is a lot to be said for being able to stand in a room with a band, and be able to play a song and it sounds good before you record it. I think to strive after perfection is the wrong thing. Making music is about feeling. But I'm not one of these purist people who are obsessed with recording on tape. I think digital stuff can capture emotion just as much. It's just about how the technology is used.

Do you think that all this technology, like entertainment centers, huge TV and whatnot, do they mean that people are spending less and less time outdoors? Are people neglecting fresh air?
Noble: I've got this guy who lives upstairs and hr raps and he's a fitness fanatic. So he pumps his body up and then he raps. And I think 'what kind of life is that?'. Physical fitness is not a bad thing...rapping can be good too.

So do you spend a lot of time looking after your physical fitness?
Noble: No, but I'm trying to.
Yan: That's probably why I'm sweating so much.

How do you prefer to listen to your music? Do you listen to vinyl or have you gone over to MP3s?
Yan: My favorite method is vinyl, but then, I've recorded most of my vinyl onto my laptop. The only problem with vinyl is that you have to get up and turn the record over. Which is not ideal if you're being romantic. Modern technology solves that problem.
Noble: I haven't got a record player, but I've been collecting records for years. I'll get one soon. Computers are good because you can put all your songs in and then it can play the whole day.

I've heard that there are some members of the group who are very into making videos with 8mm film. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yan: That's Hamilton, my brother, who's into that. We've always made our own videos, except one, which was 'Remember Me' where we got a professional in. We used to make films before we were in a band, just for fun. Comical, stupid videos. It's a good excuse to go off somewhere for a bit of adventure, and film it. Get paid.

The live shows have become the thing of cult legend. Will you be doing anything different on this upcoming tour than in the past?
Noble: Hopefully not injuring ourselves! Oh, and I've got a new pair of trainers.
Yan: We lose everything at concerts. We seem to attract collectors and people will steal anything. They take away braches with leaves on after the gig, and you think 'well, you've walked past so many bushes on the way here, yet you didn't take a branch from them. But this one, that's been trampled on, you want to take away with you?'. They'll steal your guitar pedal, your leads. I had my socks stolen off my feet whilst playing a song!
Noble: Someone tried to pull my trousers down and take them. I was holding onto the rafters and they were pulling my trousers down. And I didn't want to let go, because I thought I'd hurt myself. I was holding on with one hand, and pulling my trousers up with the other.

What you say is your favorite Bob Dylan song?
Yan: Ohh, I do have one... what's it called. It's on 'Nashville Skyline'. Hang on, I'll play the first four chords [get his guitar out and starts playing 'Girl of the North Country']. Anyway, that's my favorite.

Author: Daniel Westerlund
Source: Rockbeatstone
Date: 21st March 2005

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