British Sea Power: Wind in their sails

British Sea Power's idea of rock'n'roll involves Charles Lindeburgh, khaki and taxidermy. Alexia Loundras meets the band ahead of their UK tour
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Eamon, British Sea Power's keyboard player, looks pleased with himself. "Homogenise the world and the scum rises to the top - y'know, instead of the cream," he says proudly during a brief lull in conversation.There's something uniquely surreal about British Sea Power. They possess a timeless, enigmatic air borrowed from another age. A band of nature lovers (frontman Yan, brother and bassist Hamilton and school-pal drummer Wood all hail from just outside of Kendal in the heart of the majestic Lake District), this unfeasibly quiet bunch prefer to explore the rolling South Downs that border their Lewes, Seaford and Hove homes than indulge in any rock'n'roll clichés.

In appearance, the band transcend time. With the exception of Yan, who opts for the marginally less retro, 1960s flares option, British Sea Power are wrapped in threadbare jumpers and patched-up flannel trousers - some too short, some too baggy - which lend the band a sort of mossy, 1942 look. "We believe in mending not ending," explains guitarist and birdwatcher Noble, turning Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dictum on its head.

But this is not all that sets British Sea Power apart from their contemporaries. With the release of their astoundingly confident debut, The Decline Of British Sea Power, earlier this year, the band marked themselves out as an exceptional and ferocious talent - their vast ambition matched only by their sheer musical finesse. However, despite their sonic pioneering, British Sea Power's social outlook is still rather old-fashioned; the lads would consider it the height of rudeness not to properly welcome guests at Yan's Seaford beach-front home, where a fine spread awaits us.

British Sea Power inject this same instinct for hospitality into their notoriously thrilling live performances. "We want to make it so that when people walk in they know they're somewhere special," explains Hamilton in his soft Cumbrian lilt. And no energy is spared in the endeavour.

Dressed in anything from old naval uniforms and First World War helmets to clothes straight out of The Talented Mr Ripley, they fill the stage with twigs, branches, stuffed animals and birds and unleash an explosive sonic assault of elaborate Joy Division-esque swoons and vibrant guitar-crashing brightness that is completely at odds with their off-stage personalities. Their shows are hangovers from their early Brighton-based Club Sea Power club-nights where, alongside showcasing local acts as varied as the raucous Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Polyphonic Spree and traditional family folk troupe the Copper Family, they nurtured the burgeoning British Sea Power ethos - an early pledge to "bring honour and diligence to a depleted art form".

"There's so much information you can pass on in songs and if you just sing about being in a rock'n'roll band doing rock 'n' roll things it's not very interesting. It's much more honourable to spread interest in good things."

True to their word, British Sea Power's anthems are influenced by the band's heroes - "people who have done something great in a particularly stylish way," says Yan. The gang call on a motley crew of muses - from the vast land that spawned them to adventurers like Charles Lindbergh and Thor Heyerdahl and the "brave-spirited" Czech people.

Further inspiration comes from 1960s musical innovators like Joe Meek and his sometime songwriting partner, Geoff Goddard, who the band were lucky enough to work with - though not in the traditional, songwriting sense. In his latter years, just for something to do, the eccentric Goddard had taken to working in the kitchens of Reading University, which coincidentally is where student Yan also had job. "I worked with him for about a year before I realised he was a genius. He just seemed like a wacky old guy," remembers Yan with a chuckle.

BSP are genuinely excited by the world around them, and channel this passion into everything they do. It infects their fiery shows and every frazzled guitar chord, impassioned feral yelp and haunting, hair-raising melody of their sensuous debut. To this band, capturing emotion is paramount.

"Everything else is an add-on," says Yan. "It's hard to pin down when a song becomes real but there's a strong feeling that goes with it and that's what we're trying to record. I don't know how it actually works, but our feelings really are recorded onto our songs. I hate records that slowly get smaller and smaller until you're left with nothing to discover. Our music is just our way of recording what we think about the world we're in." says Yan. British Sea Power have set their sights rather lower than wanting to grace the annals of rock history. "If we could just have a bench somewhere dedicated to us," continues Yan. "There's a really good spot up on Seaford Head - you can see the cliffs and sea," adds Hamilton.

British Sea Power are touring the UK (; 'Remember Me' is out on 20 October on Rough Trade