Brighton's British Sea Power travel to Dublin on Tueday 7th May for a much anticipated headline slot in Dublin's Academy. The band's sixth album Machineries of Joy has just been released, named after Ray Bradbury's 1964 collection of short stories but do the band find the same real estate between whimsy and melancholy that the famous author did?
Karen Lawler spoke to the band's Neil Hamilton Wilkinson to find out more.
The album was launched with an event called ‘Boat, Bus, Guitars’ - a cruise of The Themes on a riverboat with communist table tennis, dancing girls and then a mystery Bus Tour. How did that go? And what exactly is 'communist table tennis'?
Dear Ireland/Motherland..The big event was ok thanks, beers on the boat slurp down lovely , the mystery being where is the mystery....and well the ping pongs was fun too.. communist in the way that if you lost or played in a too individual a fashion you were chained by the ankle and sent to Siberia where you would never play ping pong again.
The new single is the album’s title track ‘Machineries Of Joy’. It’s a very optimistic sounding track, but what is it actually about?
I am not sure what it's about fact, not being the composer of that one, but to me it's like all the cogs of creation spinning together gloriously.
How do you think the sound has developed since the last album, ‘Valhalla Dancehall’?
This album is more easy going and focused on the purpose of playing nice music together thinking more of the overall album flowing like a nice pint of pop.
The album was written in the mountains in North Wales. Did that environment affect the song writing in any way?
We went to Wales to try and channel some of welsh pauls unique meat power...there were thousands of game birds in the wood primed to be shot down by men in land rovers which seemed slightly depressing in such a beautiful area where jets flew over blasting out heavy metal, and one dewy morn we saw a ferret in a barn...it all went in there, this was also olympics time and we held our own olympics where woody stood on his head for 32 minutes while noble ate 62 dog biscuits
The new album features a cassette of demo versions of the album tracks. Where did that idea come from? Are you guys vinyl or cassette enthusiasts?
Tape is a nice sounding thing and real to touch and mangle plus it wobbles and slows down which can be a good sound, tape, vinyl ,and digibox is all useful.
The album’s track list was compiled from music off a series of six EPs, (BSP EPs 1-6) the EP’s were then released to the crowd at your monthly club night in Brighton, ‘Krankenhaus’. Did that become a way of road testing the material before the album’s release?
We just liked the idea of making records that could be a bit odder and up the wall compared to the albums, and it was nice to have a goal every month.
Lyrically this time around, you touch on everything from ketamine to Franciscan monks. Where does the lyrical inspiration come from?
Oh it comes from here and there there is plenty of stuff out there to make songs from.
As well as the studio albums, the band has done soundtrack work for projects like ‘Man Of A Aran’ (Man of Aran is a 1934 British fictional documentary film directed by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands) and the documentary ‘The Sea To The Land Beyond’ (a poetic meditation on Britain's unique coastline and the role it plays in our lives- Directed by Penny Woolcock). Any plans for more soundtrack work?
No more movie work planned though we here Robert Redford is a fan, so who knows?
In the 13 years since you began, there has been massive changes in the industry. Has it been difficult adapting to that as a band?
The main difference being we are more popular but sell less records... you figure it out.
In the past you guys have been known for your unique live shows - sets with foliage, plastic birds and an 8 foot bare, Ursine Ultra. What can audiences expect this time around?
Well this shows how much we adapted you may be lucky enough to see foliage, and an 8 foot bear another 8 foot bear and a raving horse...no plastic birds though. other than that, we will play music coming through us.
You have also played unusual venues like museums, libraries and sea forts. Where is the strangest venue you played?
i once played a gig in a shopping trolley at Reading festival, a small snake of people followed as i was wheeled through the campsite singing stand by me...that was fun.
Interview by Karen Lawler