Melbourne’s British India will be summoning an avalanche of garage rock goodness when they hit up the Come Together Festival in Sydney over the Queens Birthday long weekend. Ahead of this performance, frontman Declan Melia spoke to Killyourstereo about playing festivals, their new album and why The Blood Brothers matter.
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions for KYS. So, what’s your name, role in British India and the most embarrassing album in your record collection?
My absolute pleasure Jack. I’m Declan and I’m the singer from British India. The most embarrassing album in my record collection might be Chingy’s 2005 debut Jackpot– Which I’ll very occasionally put on at certain parties. I also, like so many unfortunates of my generation, own Air’s Moon Safari and for several years was able to convince myself it was a good listen. I heard it recently at a friend’s girlfriend’s place and have to declare that it’s simply awful!
You guys are playing the Come Together Festival at Luna Park in Sydney over the Queens Birthday long weekend. With this festival offering fans a great selection of Australian and international acts, what bands are you looking forward to checking out and what can fans expect from British India on the day?
I suppose I’ll try my best to see some of the bands that I’ve not seen before, particularly Boy and Bear and Last Dinosaurs, although I almost certainly won’t be there in time to see them which I regret in advance. We’ve just done an extensive tour with both Grinspoon and Kisschasey so we’re not feeling much gravitational pull towards the headliners. From British India, you can expect the highlight of the weekend. We’ll just be bringing the party.
While British India are now considered leaders in the Australian indie-rock scene, how important do you think a festival like this is for up and coming local bands?
Terribly (important), more than anything playing big stages to big crowds is one of the most fun things you can do. Just get onstage and enjoy the moment yeah!
I heard you guys cover a Nirvana classic (it was either “Dumb” or “Lithium”, sorry I can’t remember which one) when you played the Bendigo leg of the Groovin’ the Moo festival earlier in the year. Can fans attending the Come Together Festival expect some similar covers from you guys?
It was “Lithium”, yes. We try to keep our setlists as spontaneous as we can but we often pepper our setlist with the aforementioned Nirvana song, “Hello I Love You” by The Doors and “Fight For Your Right” by the Beastie Boys. I’m not sure which if any we’ll play at Come Together, it depends on our mood and the crowd.
Being an all-ages event, how important do you think events like The Come Together Festival are to your fans?
We so rarely get a chance to play underage shows so it’s great. But that said, we don’t mind what denomination our audience is, as long as they dance we’ll play in front of anyone. I suppose Come Together is a very good opportunity for our underage fans to see us live but I can’t relate personally, I spent my entire underage life studying!
If you could organise your own music festival what bands would you get to play and why?
Oh, just all my favourite festival bands to suit the mood I suppose plus a few from the wishlist. Maybe Bill Callahan in the afternoon followed by a heart-starter from TV On The Radio; a reformed At the Drive-In would headline and Tom Waits would bring the night to a close.
Your new album, Avalanche, debuted in the top 10 in the ARIA charts and has been receiving a flogging by everyone from Triple J to commercial stations like Nova FM. You must be happy with the wide demographic appeal of this album?
We are yes! I think when we were making the record we were quite confident it was a great record but we were never sure if the people who heard it would connect with it, so it’s a great relief to hear it so lauded.
Where does the title ‘Avalanche‘ come from?
Avalanche is the name of the terrorist organisation from one of our favourite games, Final Fantasy Seven, which I think we’d always wanted to reference in one way or another. We planned to take the homage a step further by imitating the game’s imagery on the album cover art. However, when we contacted Square Soft they assured us they’d sue! Yet, the title remained. It also refers to the tumultuous music found within the cover.
Avalanche gave you the opportunity to record in your home city of Melbourne for the first time (at Sing Sing Studios) with your manager Glenn Goldsmith. Do you think this hometown environment and working with Goldsmith (instead of your usual partnership with Harry Vanda- who produced Guillotine and Thieves) affected the overall sound and direction of the album?
In everyway! Recording in Melbourne lent the whole process a very relaxed and carefree attitude. We indulged in a lot of free time, drinking and had friends coming and going to the studio. The concept of having a seemingly unlimited amount of time to put the album together meant we paid a lot more time to getting the production right- big and intense!
You’ve also said on your myspace blog that you did a lot of experimenting “in ways (you’ve) never done before” with the songs on Avalanche during the recording process. What did this involve?
Not as much as the above statement would have you believe. Thieves and Guillotine were both recorded very clandestinely in a sonic sense; this one was more about finding fun weird sounds to texture the songs, something we wouldn’t have ever considered before.
What was it like recording the album knowing that Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas was in the studio next door? Did you ever have any humorous encounters with Mr. Thomas?
His presence was like a cloud of bubblegum steam in all of our minds whenever he was in vicinity. I avoided Mister Thomas under the superstition that his mediocrity might rub off on me. Matt (O’Gorman, drums) met Rob a few times though and they discussed American basketball.
I saw you guys programming Rage one night on the ABC and you were saying how much you like The Blood Brothers. I too think this band were friggin great when they were around, so I was just wondering how much of an influence they have been on British India?
The Blood Brothers are quite simply one of the most important groups of the past 30 years. Their record, Burn Piano Island Burn, is like a Rosetta stone of post-grunge rock and roll. The fact that they’re so overlooked is a symptom of our generation’s collective cultural blindness. They influence our music in everyway. Every song we write has borrowed from their body of work in some way, if more musicians could say the same the world would be a far less predictable place.
…and what do you guys think of Jaguar Love (the new band composed of former members of The Blood Brothers who were last in Australia as part of the Soundwave festival)?
I think they’re rather vile, a veritable Noahs Arc of over produced post auto-tune clichés propelled by Johnny Whitney’s towering ego and self assurance. Their second record in particular was so offensive to The Blood Brothers’ legacy that I shy away from its existence like a holocaust denier.
Recently, I read in a JB HIFI feature on British India that you said, “Lyrically, so many Australian bands are fucking inept”. Was this a spur of the moment statement (something taken out of context perhaps?) or do you really feel this way about the lyrical content of many Australian bands?
I quite honestly do, with few exceptions. Australian guitar music, and far, far too often guitar music in general allows the music’s lyrical content to take so little precedence that most of the music would be best left instrumental with an endless refrain of ‘come on baby‘ echoing like the ghost of a champion gladiator who has run out of innocents to slaughter in a swiftly emptying colosseum with a record company CEO sitting in the place of the emperor.
What does British India have on the cards for the rest of 2010?
After we do our own headline tour in support of Avalanche, we’re off to the UK for a tour before returning to play some summer festivals.
And just a few quickies to finish on…
What albums/bands are you really digging at the moment?
Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Raekwon – Cocainism 3
Broken Social Scene – Foregiveness Rock Record
Subway fresh or toasted?
Items found in your tour van/bus or backstage that probably don’t belong there…
hmm, if we will it- it belongs there.
Any final words of advice for Killyourstereo users?
Yes! boycott major labels!