"This is an album reflecting the mundane and the more horrific elements..." - hmv.com talks to British Sea Power
As they release their new album Let The Dancers Inherit The Party (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page), we spoke to British Sea Power frontman Jan Scott Wilkinson about how they put it together, their brand new label and why this is an album that's half personal and half political...
How did you want Let The Dancers Inherit The Party to move on from what you’ve done in the past?
"It’s a bit more together possibly, although there wasn’t a move away from our past albums particularly. It's more of a reaction to the world at present. Accepting the confusing state of play we are all in and defiantly being energised by the lunacy and chaos rather than letting it get us down. It's more Brett Easton Ellis or Houellebecq than General Monty."
You came into this album having covered yourselves on Sea Of Brass and two film scores, did working in those different ways influence how you approached the making of this album?
"I suppose It's fairly human to get a bit bored of things after a while. Those film projects were pretty free in musical structure and great fun but personally, I found myself listening to Joe Meek, the more pop Talking Heads or the even the Bee Gees and feeling a bit jealous of the energy. These more concise songs seemed pretty brave to me and also gave me a happy feeling I couldn’t deny I liked a lot. I wanted some of that feeling without losing depth. Some of it is deceptively simple at first glance but there is plenty going on."
You’ve described it as your “most direct” album to date. Was that a conscious choice in how you went about writing the songs? Or a natural evolution?
"It was a conscious decision, as conscious as we are able to make as a band. Often it seems we are like tentacles of an octopus that aren’t communicating too successfully with each other. There was more of a team effort in some ways. Also working with Cam Blackwood was interesting. I think he did a great job mixing and producing the later stages although not an obvious choice for BSP. He is a very likeable fellow. I think our future albums will be more distinctly different and extreme than our past albums were. We’ve done that and now let's do something else."
You recorded in Sussex, London and on the Isle of Skye, which bIt's of the album were made where?
"Most of it was recorded in Brighton at Brighton Electric where we often rehearse. All the drums and most of the tracking too. A lot of vocals and some overdubs were done in London with Cam at his studio. The two spacier and sadder tracks were recorded in Skye by my brother (bassist Neil Hamilton Wilkinson) and Abi (Fry, Viola) using instruments called things like the “bonger” and “skye lady” which I can only imagine is a strange set of instruments. A few extra bit's were added to these in Brighton or London like a drum or guitar part."
This is your first studio album since you left Rough Trade and partnered up with Caroline International. How is the new set-up working out so far? And why did you decide to release the album this way?
"We love Rough Trade but sometimes you just want a change to see what’s out there and to experience something different before it's too late. It's perhaps possible to feel too comfortable in our shoes. It was quite sad making that change but as expected they were incredibly kind about the whole thing which only made it sadder. We had released a couple of projects on our own Golden Chariot label and recorded the record in this way with the help of our extremely supportive fans who crowd funded us. Whilst this freedom was great we wanted someone else with a bit more savvy to do the hard work of getting the record out there so we went to Caroline International for help. They are great and so far it’s a lovely relationship."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a common theme running through it?
"Just an effort to be truthful in how life is and understand where we are or where I am in the world at this point in time. This is an album reflecting the mundane and the more horrific elements whilst trying to keep some perspective and not get too dragged down in the process and confusion which results from opening up your eyes a little. It's fair to say there have been difficult times on the macro and the micro scales of daily life through the last year or two."
"Little things can be as stressful as world events. For example, it's easy to feel like you’ve got no money and still not have any spare for those increasing numbers sleeping in shop doorways and simultaneously be worrying that nuclear weapons and war are more fashionable than ever whilst still being a little stressed that you haven’t done the hoovering you promised you would."
How did you channel that into words?
"It's a case of who to believe? What to worry about most? It seems we are revisiting a time of 80s paranoia and fear mongering on a hyper scale and our personal lives are under siege too.There is more information than ever and It's confusing but it is possible to make sense of things and to try and not be a dickhead. Sometimes it's good to step over the fence and have a look around without being judgemental. You don’t have to be in one gang or the other. So yeah, something along those lines!"
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"That would be 'Praise For Whatever'. It's actually my favourite now but it struggled live and was the last one to get finished. A bit of an underdog but to me very important for the album."
And which came together most quickly?
"Probably 'Saint Jerome'. It came more or less fully formed one morning and stayed that way."
When did you settle on the title of Let The Dancers Inherit The Party?
"It's always the last thing, the naming. I’m a big admirer of Ian Hamilton Finlay and something about his poem of the same name seemed to fit just right for me."
Were there any other titles in contention?
"Yes there were. Celestial Fields, Nude Intruder, Binomial Headcase, We Heart Europe and Lady Europa spring to mind."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"We have a tour beginning on 6th April in Bristol. Dates in Manchester, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Leeds and London. After that, we look forward to a trip round Europes major cities and Glastonbury and Wrexham amongst other festivals. Later in the year, we hope to get to Ireland and more in Wales to complete the Uk tour."
How is your live set looking for this run? You’ve got a lot of songs to choose from...
"Yeah, I guess there will have to be a bit of a shake up. I doubt we will do a Rolling Stones style marathon set so a bit of a change somewhere. We start rehearsals any day now so that’s when things become clearer."