British India - Rock and Roll Colonialism
Author: Jane Stabler
Friday, 23 November 2007
It’s hard to believe that Melbourne bred British India released their debut album only this year. Their name and sound has been bandied about to such an extent you would be forgiven for thinking they’ve been releasing records for a lot longer. The four-piece is about to hit the summer party circuit to promote their latest single from the album, and the best part about it is, it’s pretty much their party.
“It’s a perk!”, frontman Declan Melia says of their hectic tour schedule, which includes Homebake and a New Years Eve booking at the Pyramid Rock Festival. “If I can drag my friends along, then it’s the perfect New Year’s Eve. I get to play the gig and then have a party. It’s not really the case (of it being a job). The forty five minutes we’re on stage just goes – it’s too hectic to be considered work.”
Declan is, in fact, the only member of the band to still work outside of British India, and with such a musical colleague in their midst, he admits he can sometimes be an interesting co-worker to have around. “I have to start getting my head in a lyrical zone and someone will be making coffee and something will just come,” he reveals. “[Having the band and the job is] at the expense of your friends and the confidence of your colleagues, and I just say things out loud, whether it’s a lyric or a hook.”
Despite sometimes busting out with a tune at the water cooler, Melia admits he’s hesitant to give up his 9 to 5. “I’m the only one in the band who still has a job. I think my tastes are more expensive than the other three,” he laughs. “Because we’re trying to write a second album while we’re on tour, I don’t want to mess with my muse. We wrote the first album in this kind of environment, so I’m trying to recreate that.”
“But then, great music comes with change,” he contradicts himself.
And change is certainly afoot. With a new year almost upon us, and an increasingly busy schedule for the band, Melia admits he won’t be able to maintain his current double-life work arrangements for long. “We’re here with the double-whammy.” He pauses, laughing, “Did I just say that- A double-whammy- We’re recording in April, and then in May we’re going to the UK for three weeks so I’ll have little choice but to quit my job then.”
Travel is not new to the Melbourne foursome. With the recent release of their latest single comes a tour itinerary that looks like an outback special on Getaway. The boys have already been on the road for over a month, often with back-to-back shows or two shows in a night. Although the capital cities feature on their schedule, the band is definitely spending the majority of their time playing regional centres, and Melia concedes that there are distinct differences between a city crowd and a country crowd.
“You take the bitter with the sweet,” he admits. “You know you’re in a small town when you’re told by the bar that they don’t know how the gig will go because there’s a 21st up the road. We go all right in the cities, the kids get the intricacies of the lyrics, and the geekish thing we’ve got going on, but we’re also rock and roll and the country kids get that. There’s a fundamental difference between the country and the city, but we’ve been pretty lucky because we have the right ingredients for both. The perks of rural places are that they do things in the old fashioned way, they look after you a bit more.”
But despite the successful touring track record, Melia reveals that before their live gigs, he still worries that no one is going to show up. “Before every show I’m freaking out thinking we’re going to play to the bar staff,” he laughs, “and I promise myself that the next night I won’t panic but I always do. In Margaret River, when we first got there and we went into the town, I couldn’t see any kids anywhere. I saw two girls in the supermarket working and thought that was it, but then they were all there going mental, that was fantastic. It’s because we spent two and a half years fucking around and no one came and now we have the album out it’s different. It’s pretty exciting to do five or six shows in a row, and having to get to a different place every day is exciting. I just like playing shows and being in a group. Australians really respond to touring, they really respond to live music. Touring here works.”
With such a successful debut, and such a tightly knit tour schedule keeping British India busy into 2008, there is always the niggling concern that what comes next won’t reach the bar they’ve already set for themselves. Having already been nominated for a triple j J Award alongside the likes of Silverchair, the group have set that bar fairly high, but Melia is determined not to spend too much time thinking about it.
“You can’t worry about it,” he considers. “We’re gonna write songs, and I’m pretty confident in what we’ve got. It’s like all things musical; as long as you’ve got your head right it should work out, you should improve. The difficult thing about our job is how to expand on our debut. There are a lot of choices and avenues; we have to hope we don’t choose the wrong ones. I’m a big fan of music, so I’m just going to write the stuff that I like and I think a lot of people will want to hear it because I want to hear it!”
WHO: British India
WHAT: Plays Homebake in the Domain / Pyramid Rock Festival / Guillotine out through FP/Shock
WHEN: Saturday 8 December / Monday 31 December / out now
MORE: homebake.com.au / thepyramidrockfestival.com