Fans' recollections of their first encounters with British Sea Power. Some of these posts originally appeared on the BSP forum.
Northern Pete: My mate Amanda goes out with Pete, the keyboard player and occasional guitarist with Chimp, Brighton lo–fi miserablists. I'd go and see them with her fairly regularly, and I was beginning to like them. In May 2001, they release their first single. There's much excitement in the Chimp camp, as there must be for any band finally getting their music out there to a wider audience. They arrange to play a 'single launch' gig at The Volks Tavern in Brighton. Amanda and I, plus our mate Paul, make our way down on an extremely wet May evening to lend our support. Nothing at this point suggests that this evening is going to change the direction my life takes in the years to come.
inside, I'm milling around, having a few drinks, chatting to a couple
of people I know, when I become aware of a couple of young men covering
the stage with branches and leaves. Next, what appear to be stuffed
birds are produced and are placed on top of the amps. I afford myself
a wry smile, and ask the guy I'm talking to if he knows who they
are. "British Sea Power" he says. "Oh, I read about
them recently, sounded interesting" I replied, recalling a
tiny article in The Source magazine in Brighton, mentions
of the sea, countryside, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc,
night continues in the normal manner, and then the lights go down
to signal the arrival of a band. Four boys troop on stage, and whilst
the guitar players plug in and make sure they're in tune, the singer
gives the audience, a meagre thirty people spaced out in front of
him, a salute followed by what I presume to be the call of a seagull.
The music starts and within thirty seconds I'm hooked. The sound
they make is fantastic and exciting, intense and intriging, the
way they look is like nothing I've seen for ages, if ever, and the
singer's stare is both scary and wonderful. I don't know where to
look, there is so much going on that my senses can't cope. I'm lost
in British Sea Power's world.
four or five songs in, the singer appears to have had enough of
the confines of the stage and marches out into the audience whilst
singing, that wide eyed stare piercing you if you dare to look at
him. People back away from him before he's within six feet of them.
I'm aware of a huge smile on my face. He walks towards me and screams
into my face. I laugh, and he moves on to his next victim. I look
at Paul and laugh; he smiles and shakes his head. There's an argument
going on behind us. Two mates are vigorously discussing British
Sea Power's merit, or lack of it, depending on where you stand.
"They're pretentious shite" says one, "THE most pretentious
bunch of cunts I've ever seen." "Fuck off, they're fantastic"
replies his mate. They continue in this vain for some time. I have
to say that this simply adds to my enjoyment of the whole spectacle.
In retrospect, I understand that only bands like British Sea Power
can inspire such passionate debate, even the hostile point of view.
into the last song now, and what's happening on stage is marvellous
and baffling. The bass player is attempting to play his bass behind
his head whilst doing star jumps, encouraged by the singer. Considering
that his guitar strap appears to be two red bootlaces tied together,
I fear that he is about to garrotte himself. He throws his bass
to the floor, which makes an alarming crash, and dives into the
audience and proceeds to do press–ups. The singer is running on
the spot, whilst the guitarist has scaled the mesh at the back of
the stage, and is stood in front of the DJ booth seemingly about
to take off. All the while, the drummer pounds out this incredible
beat. The bass player is back on stage now and accompanying the
drummer again, though he only has two strings left on his bass.
The singer and guitarist appear to be having a fight, and are rolling
around on the floor like squabbling schoolboys. There is a sense
of naughty, but not nasty children, looking for the next adventure.
They finally leave the stage, saluting one last time. I look at
the carnage that they've left behind, and laugh out loud once again.
did it all start? In about 1992, when I met Eleanor Ferguson,
one of the few girls at my new secondary school who wasn't a) painfully
quiet or b) a gum–chewing chavette from Hollingdean. She was dressed
up as Titania, queen of the Fairies. Fast forward ten years and
I'm sitting in the Foster refectory at Preston Poly masticating
on a plate of chips and pondering what to do with my Mickey Mouse
degree, which was being awarded imminently. Was reading the features
section of The Guardian and saw a piece about a band that
Andrew Marr apparently liked and who were "the most Cumbrian
rock band in the world". On my way home in the rain I passed
HMV and picked up a copy of The Lonely, which I played a
forward another year and a bit and the aforementioned Eleanor is
having a party at her house in Glasgow and would I like to go? It
would be rude not to; I only live about an hour's train ride away
now, in the Great Border City of Carlisle, which is Great unless
you want to go and see any live music. "You'll have to come and
see this band with me first, cos I don't want to go on my own. They're
called British Sea Power," she said.
was raining again, so we scampered along Sauchiehall Street and
through the empty streets of Merchant City, which in the daytime
pulse to the rhythm of posh Scottish boys called Ruaridh or Jasper
or Sholto who make lots of money. We got into King Tut's and had
some Budvar (a premonition if e'er one there was) while I tried
to convince Eleanor that she should do a "my friend fancies you"
job on her flatmate. "This is where Oasis were first noticed by
Alan McGee," says El.
wade into the crowd, and some random folk at the front* begin shouting,
"Alan! Alan!" For shits and giggles, we join in. Aghast as the stage
crew bring the now–familiar stuffed birds on, we start shouting
"Heron! Heron!" At the end Yan and Noble are hanging from the joist
above the stage and we are trying to regain our sensibilities. Quite
Mick Wright:January ish – 2002, Astoria (RIP in peace) – an NME showcase thing.
They were on first at about half–six but I made it specifically as FoD and Remember Me had been out for a bit. I was struck by the Bunnymen style in–a–line presentation. The stares got me too. After about 15 minutes they announced the last song. Shame, I thought, as I wanted to see more than less than 20 minutes.
15 minutes later, I'd had completed my first witnessing of 'Lately/Rock in A' and that was me completely sold. It was the tunes, the mayhem, the gymnastics, the foliage, the stuffed animals, Betjeman in between, those bits that we later knew was Kurt Schwitters. It was all very intriguing along with the invigorating tunes.
A month later I saw them in Oxford, supporting Clinic, and they were even better for the expanded set–list and intimacy of the venue. The pin–board with pictures of Tarn Hows. Old Sarge and conversations with them about mountains and that told me this band was worth spending some time getting to 'know'.
Efeelola: I first saw BSP at the Time Out Live Awards in January 2004. I was there to work – I was a National Theatre/Time Out student rep, and what's better than getting willing youngsters to staff the event, with promises of free booze, schmoozing around media types and a glimpse of celebs, plus a free gig.
If I remember correctly I arrived when BSP was soundchecking, I was assigned to cloak room duty, which turned out to be an extremely stressful and thankless task. It was a cold winter afternoon, they must have a good 150 guests, but we only had one hanging rail and about 50 hangers. Within 10mins, we were buried in coats and bags and endless irritable media types huffing and puffing, expressing in their utmost primadonna–ish voice, "Well, do you expect me to accept my award wearing my coat?"
The details of the gig evaded me – they only played 5 songs or so. They were oozing a kind of defiance, some sort of passive aggressiveness, sticking up two fingers musically at the nonchalant, rude and unresponsive crowd (which had, if I remembered correctly, thinned out significantly by then; most, having accepted their awards, sauntered off back to their office in Soho? Whoever left behind were certainly rather a bit too fond of their booze and chatting drunkenly, frantically "networking") I think I left my post at the cloakroom at that point and stood at the back watching the band, and felt hugely avenged when Eamon and Noble launched into the table of champers and sprayed broken glass and booze all over (and in my head, at those who never paid a second of attention to what's going on on stage).
The next time I saw the band "accidentally" would be a few days later at The Killers ICA gig where Eamon and Hamilton DJ'ed, and the encounter at Virgin Megastore also propelled me to go along to the High Wycombe gig (without knowing how I'd get back to London, having taken one of the last trains out to HW), thus meeting the Dunnocks, Optimistas, Cath, Cindy, Kevo et al – and that was the beginning of an awfully big adventure that has taken me all over the UK, to the most perfect festival in Japan where we had a near encounter with wild bears, to staggering around a nature reserve at the crack of dawn still intoxicated and singing Word Up in the absolutely freezing Carnglaze.
what I posted in my livejournal after seeing British Sea Power
for the first time, on 25 October 2003, 11 months ago, with little
previous exposure to their music. I'm surprised I remembered even
this much, since at the time I was taking some nasty antibiotics
that had me all spacey. I remember an odd little man with a puffin
patch standing in the crowd during the opening sets. Then he got
onstage and sang....
Let's put on a show. Eh? A good show
is hard to come by. I'm nearly jumping up and down, everyone onstage
is jumping up and down, waves of thick melodic sound crashing about,
and as I wonder for the fifth time why a peregrine falcon is peering
nobley down its plastic tackle shop nose at us from beside the heads
of several stashed guitars, a drummer boy dressed for WWI marches
up from behind me pounding away at a marching band bass drum strapped
to his chest. I pat him on the back and he clambers back onstage.
The real drummer has kookaburras or something on his t–shirt. The
lead singer, he of the thousand–yard stare, has a large embroidered
puffin badge on his chest. "NICE PUFFIN" someone shouts. In reply
he holds up a green leafy branch in salute and says "Yes. It IS
a nice puffin."
I'm just glad I got to know a few songs beforehand
in order to appreciate this spectacle with a bit of proper perspective.
Have I died and gone to post–punk bird watcher heaven? This is bloody
insane. I should backtrack. Rumors of oddball stage presence and
chaotic shows, pun–filled packed–lunch interviews at preplanned
Ordnance coordinates, nature themes and other charming eccentricities
intrigued me as far back as two years ago, so British Sea Power's
debut album and US tour arrived none too soon for my anticipation.
All this and self–described "decommissioned cabin boy" chic (swoon);
what is not to love? Would it be good fun or pretentious and annoying?
Would I even like it? The shirts for sale had bird–in–flight shapes
on them. I bought one. A falcon, an eagle, an accipiter, a buteo,
and a raven. We yanked down a beautiful promo poster depicting,
in silhouette, water, hills, various swimming ducks and a couple
of sinking battleships the same size as the ducks. I can't ID battleships.
According to various sources I've read, two of these guys really
are bird twitchers, and one studied zoology at university. Whatever
the deal is, birds are a very cool aesthetic, according to me.
anticipation heightened. The two opening bands were kind of a matched
set and neither did much for me. The Rotten Apples played straight
ahead loud "kickass" rock, little of which struck me as catchy although
it probably is to others. We recognized one of them from The Intelligence.
The second was The Catch, who were similar but more new–wavy, with
more tension and dynamics in their sound, Betty Boop vocals, and
more stage presence. Both bands played good time music and presented
assertive sex appeal, but it was all a bit one–dimensional to me.
Just not my thing. Strange lineup to support British Sea Power,
but then, what on earth is appropriate for billing with BSP? The
Catch whisked their gear off the stage and on came BSP's stuff,
to be festooned with fresh tree cuttings and what looked like a
lot of fennel. I kept waiting for the fabled heron to appear, but
no. The foliage just kept on coming until the stage was a veritable
thicket, the drumkit enshrouded, Marshall stacks in a forest. This
in a very small club mind you...
Some monks sang over the PA, like
on the album, and out came the band, a short and skinny crew, and
plunged into something pretty. This was followed by "Apologies to
Insect Life," a frantic Pixies–ish freak–out, and if you've seen
a picture of Yan, the lead singer, well there you are. When he's
not screeching maniacally, he sings in a Bowie–like half–whisper
that is growing on me rapidly. So there's nothing original about
singing like David Bowie. But when your singing and the music around
it come off like tromping around breathless on the Isle of Skye
or suchlike, that's worth something. Oh look, a fake falcon! So
they did bring a decoy or two. World War I guy is the keyboardist,
huddled stage left in a leafy copse, with a look of fanatical concentration
on his face and one of those flattish helmets perennially slipping
off his head. What plan is he drawing up over there? Why, all of
them have that look on their faces, including the guitarist, in
a military jacket and one pants leg raised above the calf as if
he has a peg–leg. The bass player sometimes wears a crown of foliage.
They play a unified slashing wall of sound that manages to stay
mostly intact as their behavior becomes increasingly chaotic over
the course of their set.
"Carrion" is ecstatically pretty, as is
"Remember Me." The music is surprisingly ebullient for a band pegged
with dour influences. Cool but shimmering bright, with a good deal
of Suedey Britpop appeal. They run all over the stage. The bass
player stares at the ceiling and spins in circles in place. The
keyboardist gets up, helmet and all, dons his drum and marches through
the club. The grand finale is "Lately", a 15–minute moody and eclectic
track on the album that rocks and dissolves into utter chaos live.
The Peregrine Falcon. There she is. All in a day's work... Puffin
guy's head is on my feet. He stage dove backwards, I didn't see
him coming, but now a bunch of us hoist his stiff body back onto
the stage. The guitarist climbs the stacks. One guy is on another
guy's shoulders. One by one they all relinquish their instruments
and engage in something weird, leaving various feedback hums to
fill the air. The end. Good thing they have the substance to match
the shtick. Because I could follow them to California right now
to see this again. A warped higher power detected my peculiar obsessions
and let them have a sinister pillow fight, feathers and all.
I tend to rave about shows, but British Sea Power really are something
to behold. Non–stop thrills and spills. It was the rare kind of
show that I walk away from in a glowing reverie, all hopped up.
And "Favours in the Beetroot Fields" wins for most creepily evocative
song title currently on my mind, an ephemeral honor to be sure,
but think of the opening scenes of the movie version of "The Tin
Tonight We Fly: My first ever BSP gig was when they supported Gene at The Astoria. I seemed to remember Yan coming on (and singing what I think was Apologies To Insect Life) in a funny costume, but Iíve always wondered whether this was perhaps my memory playing tricks on me?
However, unlike most (by the sounds of it) my first ever exposure to BSP came sitting down. Iím guessing that the gig must have fallen towards the latter part of 2002, because I was training for the London Marathon at the time (April 2003) and Iíd already been running before going out that evening, so with stiff legs decided that Iíd go and sit down upstairs during the support band.
Someone had told me beforehand that BSP were on the bill because they had the same manager as Gene; I didnít know if this was true, but Iíd heard the name buzzing around for a while and was interested to hear what they sounded like. In the void between when Xfm was bought out by Capital Radio and 6Music being born (unless you stayed up late enough for Peel) there didnít seem to be anywhere to discover palatable new music on the radio, so I would only usually come across new bands if they were supporting someone else that I already liked.
I didnít really have a ďfavourite bandĒ at the time, because Hefner (the previous incumbents to this position) had just thrown in the towel, and Iíd not come across anybody else that I was keen enough on to go and see at every opportunity. That night at The Astoria I thought Iíd found something, but was a bit wary that judgment can sometimes be clouded according to the circumstances and timing of the occasion. It was a while until I got to see them again, but after the next couple of times I knew that I had.
pb21: May 17th 2002 @ The Freebutt in Brighton
I had seen a flyer around for the last ever ĎClub Sea Powerí and for whatever reason it piqued my interest (probably one of their early logos and some quote or another) so I headed there with a couple of mates. Even before the band were on you could tell there was something going on, there was a buzz and the atmosphere suggested something different. The first act were the Copper Family from nearby Rottingdean, some kind of old folk singers, it was different, and I was still quite young and impressionable.
Then they came on and to start off with I wasnít blown away, they were OK. But it was building, as a couple of others have said the stares and the stage were very intriguing. For some reason I think it was when they played The Lonely and the line ĎJust like Liberace I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffsí that I was really hooked and I was really in the moment. No Red Indian was another hook, and they just kept on giving and I just kept on lapping it up. It ended with the typical raucous breakdown and by the end I was blown away and hadnít had enough.
Lancashire Fusilier: I'd seen them at I think their first show in Holland, the London Calling gig in 2002(?) and they were okay. Mates in the UK kept saying "Oh you should love them, very Bunnymen, look at their artwork, etc etc" and that's what made me suspicious about them. Cos the Bunnymen were THE band for me, bar none.
And this was the point when every younger person I know was trying to borrow Go4/OJ's LPs off me to nick for their own band sound, blah blah, so I thought hmm, not another set of wannabes.
Then ended up interviewing them in Jan 2005, and I thought "blimey they're a bit unhinged aren't they?" This isn't a pose. And I liked that, I could sense the mental, creative nature of them. And then I sort of kept up with them. And then people started sending me BSP live bootlegs & "packs". I was well into this. Back like the days f Echoing the Bunnymen fanzine. The first time they really, really hit me was at Haldern. I still can't believe that gig actually took place. wrote this at the time about the end (possibly to this day the greatest last part of a gig I've seen, and I include the Bunnies in their Imperial phase in that).
Other people have already described the last, (unscheduled) twenty minutes of this performance elsewhere on the web. These writers have, for the most part, depicted the following events as ones that verged on insanity. I wholly concur with their estimation. It was insane.
Read the rest of Richard's Haldern review here
Cath Aubergine: October
2002, Manchester Night & Day... You
never forget your first time, do you? I'll be the first to admit
that whilst my familiarity with the latest of the Manchester music
scene is second to none, I'm a bit slow to catch on with bands from
outside the M60. Now my mate Hairy/Scary/Crazy Bob had mentioned
BSP to me a couple of times and they sounded interesting, and I've
always had a soft spot for bands that do brown T–shirts, however
you have to realise that Bob's recommended about 675 bands to me
over the years, and about 674 of them have been rubbish. But having
purchased the Fear of Drowning single in preparation I knew they
had at least two good songs. What transpired was the best gig I
had been to in ages, and I even went without a drink (I mean even
a soft drink!) so I could stretch my at–the–time somewhat depleted
finances to a nice sew–on patch.
people can say honestly, without the interference of hindsight and
subsequent experience, exactly what their first thoughts on a band
were. Unless they happen to be reviewing the gig... and this is
what I found myself submitting to a (now defunct) website I used
to write for the next morning.
Obsession are one of those bands that seem to play every week in
Manchester either supporting someone or on one of those mixed–bag
new bands nights and as ever were... OK. Nice little indie–punk–pop
tunes, enthusiastic frontman, all the ingredients were there but
not much in the way of a memorable song. (A few of) the kids seemed
to like them though. I think I'm getting fussy in my old age. I
can't be doing with OK any more.
Sea Power clearly do not want to be seen as just OK. God only knows
what they want to be seen as. As their accessories were loaded onstage
– heron, owl and other ornithological specimens, a large quantity
of foliage – I knew at least I wouldn't forget them in a hurry.
Is it a gimmick, an art statement, a piss take, or just stuff they
like? Who knows, but it works. The idea is carried further by the
merchandise stand, which as well as the usual CDs and T–shirts,
has a fine selection of sew–on patches (yes, course I did...)
the scene is set – what are they actually like? Well often they
sound quite a bit like Echo and the Bunnymen. Sometimes they sound
a bit like Stump. And at times they sound a bit like Spacemen 3.
It did strike me that the only thing the three above mentioned bands
have in common is that they are legendary for partaking in lorry
loads of chemicals.
British Sea Power I'm really not sure – I suspect they are just
naturally that strange, although the bassist's Bez–esque eyes would
imply at least a passing familiarity with recreational pharmaceuticals.
The fact that his bass only had three strings, his sturdy outdoor
trousers were tucked at mid–calf–height into equally sturdy beige
farmer–socks, and he had a leafy branch tied round his head all
added to the effect. A great focal point and a lovely voice too,
although he only had the lead vocal on one song. The main singer
looked like a Venture Scout leader, albeit one who mainly goes on
the camping trips for the mushrooms. Both look about 14.
another young band with 80's guitar band influences. Yet unlike
many, they don't plagiarise directly, they stir their influences
together to make a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts,
but the parts are all still identifiable. A bit like a good quality
curry – you know, where you can pick out each spice used. By the
same token The Obsession were, sadly, a slushy post–pub Rusholme
madras – loads of familiar stuff but little to tempt you to go there
for the last song British Sea Power really give it plenty. It changed
tempo about three times (or was it three songs? I dunno!), the bassist
staring madly at the audience whilst other band members wandered
on and off stage at random hitting things, the guitarist stood up
on the front speakers for a while until he got bored of it, the
one in the tin hat banged a large drum and, for almost definitely
the first time in many years of gig going, I found myself waving
a four foot piece of tree in admiration.
were bloody good anyway, basically. Musically enjoyable and visually
ridiculous. Go and see them soon before they either calm down or
perish in some kind of accident involving abseiling or something..."
the time I got home it must have been rather late out in Madrid
where Bloke was working at the time, but I phoned him anyway. "I've
just seen this fucking incredible band..." – I can't believe that
was all only 15 months ago! Meanwhile The Obsession still play Night
& Day every other week and still haven't written anything memorable...
5 Not Out: It
was exactly 12 months ago today. Queasyjet flight to Hamsterjam with my son Tom.
Chips and mayonnaise. Stalking fellow fans Doll and Madison in Dam Square. Taking
gin in an actual gin palace. Swilling beer and eating cheese balls. Being joined by a man in a suit.
Who was that exactly? Walking in the drizzle to the Paradiso. Did it ever
stop raining? Acquiring foliage en route. Removing the poster outside
the venue. Thinking that the hall was smaller than my kitchen.
Wondering where the crowd was. Seeing Woody sat on the floor before
the gig and having a chat. Receiving apology for shortness of set.
This is not a rock star, he's just pleasant young man. Men together
starts. Euphoric anticipation develops into ecstasy. As mad as cheese.
Over too soon. Back to the bar. Avoid the herbal smokes. Castigated
for tapping foot to Eastern Lane. Kebab shop at 3 in the morning.
Sleeping on station and airport benches. Back in the office Monday
lunchtime. 24 hours of madness. Never to be forgotten.
Angela and I'm a BSP addict. I'd like to tell you a little about
loved BSP since the first moment I heard them a year and a bit ago.
I read a review in NME, downloaded what I could (Carrion
and Fear of Drowning were my initial favourites) and made
sure i watched them on Later with Jools Holland, where they
were stunning. I was hooked and bought the album Decline...
as soon as it came out.
whatever they do there is this sense of enjoyment and fun. Some
people (deluded) seem to think they are pretentious, but to me they
come across as wanting to have a good time; to not take everything
too seriously. That doesn't mean to say they don't make much effort
however. They are master craftsmen in an age of mass–produced rubbish,
of shallow noise. They are the most exciting thing out there at
the moment. Anyhoo, i digress...
first time i saw them was in the Paradiso in Amsterdam. Yes I travelled
to another country. It was amazing, the most beautiful setting for
a concert I've ever seen (in case you haven't been, it's a huge
converted church, complete with a high, beamed ceiling and stained–glass
windows. There were lights glittering up to the ceiling through
the smoke; they looked like stars. And when the sound of the spitfire
was played, it fitted beautifully). I knew most of the songs, although
I'd only just come across Spirit of St Louis, so that wasn't
so familiar, but it came over really well anyway. It was a quite
short slot , 45 mins–ish, so they couldn't decorate the stage or
go nuts unfortunately.
that I managed to download a few more B–sides and live versions
of things. Moley and Me is one of my absolute favourites, as well
as Childhood Memories. I saw them in Bristol at the Anson
rooms, which was my first experience of the Bear and the foliage
and the projections and the jumping. Fantastic! Bought a British
Tea Power mug which pleased me immensley. Every morning I have my
ritualistic cup of tea from said mug. Then there was Glastonbury.
I was up there, four rows from the front, in the centre. On my own,
but happy. Lost two friends getting through the crowd, and the rest
of the gang that I'd convinced to come with me stayed back at the
edges, boring lot. So I moshed and sang along with everyone, strangers
yet friends in our love of BSP! "Sea Pow–er, Sea Pow–er..." The
bear looked a bit tatty, I thought they'd play more songs, (short
slot again), and I thought the new songs were a little predictable
(sorry), but Yan stared like his life depended on it and it was
fantastic. Some of my friends were a bit bemused, and I lost several
items in the mud, but I was glad I was there. No TV coverage apparantly.
Shame. But that's the Beeb for you. That's me done. I live in Bath,
I'm 25, I'm an artist, potter and florist, I live with Paul, fellow
BSP fan. Glad to be a part of it.
Blir: At a real "record store" in Boston sometime in 2003. The right great proprietor had Decline on one of his listening stations. The name and cover looked interesting so I popped on the earphones. I was simultaneously exhilarated and crushed. The music was incredible...but "Decline of"?? Fuck, had I been asleep the entire 90s, only to discover this incredible band as they penned their swan–song? Oh the tragedy and missed opportunity. Yet, there were no other British Sea Power CDs in the stacks. Quick check with the proprietor on what their other material was..."There is no other material – first album". EXULTATION!...
Exactly as it happened. Never heard a stitch about them. No friend knew of them. Not seeking them out. No knowledge of shrubery or their live greatness. Just pure chance and then...musical salvation. Hallelujah.
7–inchers, CDS', Japanese EPs and all that followed shortly after.
Comrade Kevo: Mine
was Reading Festival in 2002. I used to work as a researcher
in a newspaper library and when I was bored would often search our
various databases for stuff I was interested in. Being a bit of
a Joy Division obsessive, I would sometimes type their name in to
see if there'd been any recent mentions in the papers anywhere. One day, given
the inevitable JD comparisons, I came across British Sea Power (I
think it was the article which appeared in The Independent
in autumn 2001), and was immediately intrigued – first by the
name, and then by everything else I read about them. I was soon
searching for mentions of them in the press, too – and on the web and elsewhere
– and continually telling myself I'd have to go and see them. I
think I came on the official site a few times around then as well.
I remember seeing an early picture of the band, confusing links to Vogue and Dazed & Confused magazine, and the logo featuring 'guns as agricultural implements'...
whatever reason, it took me ages to get my act together. I'd meant
to catch them at Glastonbury, but wasn't there the day they played
– so it wasn't until Reading, when I dragged my mate Darren along.
The line–up at the festival that day was possibly the best I can
remember – The Strokes, White Stripes, Pulp, Mercury Rev and others
– but luckily BSP clashed with the abysmal Weezer. As we arrived
in the tent, I was interested to note that the rest of the audience
were considerably older than the usual festival crowd (in fact,
they were my age!) – and seemed to comprise mostly of what used
to be called 'the long overcoat brigade'. Maybe they had been partially
attracted, as I had, by the Joy Division comparisons...
the foliage and bird–bedecked stage were four women (the Patrick
Mooreheads) dressed as landgirls clutching rifles. I found this
rather disorientating to say the least (I knew enough about them
to know they weren't an all–girl band, had we got the wrong tent?).
But soon BSP took their place.... As for the gig itself, it's fair
to say I don't remember very much about it! (although I definietly
recall them playing Remember Me, and a couple of young guys
near us getting well into it). What will mostly stay with me was
the sheer cacophony of noise and intensity of performance. It was
an all–out assault on the senses, the like of which I hadn't experienced
at a gig for a very long time. It was exhilerating
and utterly compelling.
they went a bit mental and trashed the stage at the end of Lately,
my friend and I concluded that maybe they were upset because they
thought it could have gone better (Hamilton had his guitar–playing
arm bandaged up). It wasn't until later that I realised all their
gigs ended this way.... We both concluded that they were one of the
strangest bands we had seen. My initial response was that they
were stiff–upper lipped, ex–public school boys (!) – there was something distinctly English and even vaguely paganistic about them (I think Hamilton may have been wearing antlers
on his head). They looked like characters
from a film that crossed Lindsay Anderson's If... with The Wicker
of all, perhaps, it was the stares and their refusal to communicate
with the audience – the way they were so completely focussed on
creating this amazingly visceral experience. Tony Wilson once came
out with a great quote about Joy Division in which he said "Some
bands are on stage because they want to be, Joy Division are on
stage because they have to be." That's exaclty what I thought about
BSP – and I couldn't wait to see them again.
Avocetboy: I remember reading an article in one of the Sunday Papers in 2003 regarding The Wicker Man and how various bands had been influenced by the Film. BSP were mentioned and both this fact along with the name intrigued me. I donít think I had heard anything until I bought Decline and I loved every minute of that album, I remember staying in a cottage on the West Coast of Ireland listening to it almost continually. Driving round Achill Island, through sea spray rainbows whilst listening to Carrion is about as magical it can get....
At Glastonbury I built myself up into a frenzy of excitement at seeing them headline the Leftfield tent, but a combination of red bull and vodka and one or two other things resulted in my only memory being of Buck 65.
Forward 3 months and, having initiated myself on the Forum, 22nd September, The Delph in Lincoln was announced. I remember seeing the band in the audience watching the support and was beginning to get pissed off as I knew it was going to a late finish and Avocetgirl was tired. Two hours later, the pair of us walked out the venue speechless... I still cannot find the words to describe how I felt and what I had experienced.
Raumfahrer: I was quite late to the band. The Decline of British Sea Power had been out and about for some time. I'd bought the album in the damp, dark early months of 2004, entirely on a whim, having never heard the band before and simply because I liked the name, the self depreciating wit of the title, the look of the cover and the names of the songs. I won't lie and say that I fell in love on first listen but I did become interested and by the second listening, fascinated. over a relatively short space of time love grew and the record became one of my very favourites. But whilst I loved the record I didn't love the band. they were at that point simply a band who had made a wonderful record. Different, but not special, not truly, not yet....
No, love for the band didn't start to develop until a few months later. I was off to University and decided to go back to the Midlands which my family had left some 6 years earlier. I met up with my best friend from school who i hadn't seen in 5 years. Nervous about all the usual things (ie. in half a decade, has he turned into a cromartie?) I was pleasantly surprised to see upon his arrival that emblazoned on his shirt was a British Sea Power patch. It's things like that that make you wonder if a band is more than 'just' a band.
A few months after that we heard the band were touring. Nothing major, just 4 dates I think. None in Birmingham or anywhere near sadly (not that I blame the band. the crowds in Brum tend to be a bit lacklustre) but they were playing in Nottingham. the Rescue Rooms to be precise. So me and my best friend (and 1 more) took a trip to Nottingham. Tuesday the 2nd of November 2004. Smuggled in some folliage. as you do.
So, the stage was set with all the things that we've come to expect; herons, owls, a few model aeroplanes, etc. and 2 drumkits. one made of drums (as you'd expect) and one made of just about anything; pots, pans, beer trays. as it turned out this one was not for BSP but for Mystery Jets who were supporting (back when they were making music with, well, pots, pans & beer trays instead of deciding to be like every other indie band of the age and wishing they were living in the 80s). Still, it added to the general atmosphere which was already far different to any gig i'd been too.
From here on in the memory is a bit fuzzy. I'm pretty sure that they walked on to the sound of Men Together Today before launching into The Scottish Wildlife Experience. Pretty sure they played a song called Shit Factory and Elegiac Stanzas as it was then known. I remember a rendition of Tugboat too. And of course, all the general craziness; Eamon banging a big fuck–off drum. Noble stealing that said drum and using it to surf on the crowd (many crowds toe the line of raucous, joyful abandon and outright, dangerous chaos, but none toe it as close without ever crossing it as a BSP crowd. Well done the 3rd) before abandoning the drum (it was here that the tradition of always laying a hand on Nobby at every gig first started. curiously enough, it tends to be on his arse, more often than not. In fact, on all but one occasion). And of course, Rock in A in all its glory.
By the end of the night i was in love. I think we all were. And it didn't matter that we hadn't checked to see if trains ran back to Birmingham after gig's end (they didn't) or bothered to book a hotel and ended up forking roughly £70 for a taxi between the 3 of us back home. all that mattered was that hazy, glorious memory. I listened to The Decline of... on repeat, exclusively, for the next week.
Savilerrogue: I first noticed them on the Jools Holland appearance late 2003. I immediately (well, not immediately as the Virgin Megastore wasn't open at midnight, at least not in the Midlands, but you get my drift) went and sought a copy of Decline, and very much liked it, especially Carrion and Lately....
I don't think I really 'clicked' totally though until one day True Adventures popped up on an iPod shuffle during a walk I was taking along the cliffs from Dover to Deal. I had just completed the ascent from St Margaret's Bay and gone past the Dover Patrol Memorial, the wind was rattling the rain in horizontally and blowing huge chunks of chalk up and over the cliff into my face. I then went back to the albums and spent the next few months devouring all their recorded output.
Pomfob: I was probably aware of British Sea Power before, but the first time I would have been properly conscious of them was 16 January 2003, supporting The Flaming Lips at the Manchester Academy....
And I didnít think that much of them.
Oh, I liked the stage set and the costumes, they made a good old racket and hey! any band with a midget in WW1 uniform marching through the crowd banging a big drum as a finale canít be that bad. But it didnít all come together for me, and I distinctly recall thinking the singer was another Ian Curtis wannabe, and distracting at that. So, ho hum, bring on the animal costumes and the nun hand puppet.
They must have slowly oozed into my head over the next year or so however. Apologies To Insect Life turned up on my best mateís end of year compilation CD, which is interesting as he swears he never liked their music Ė everything else about them is great, just not the tunes.
So, on 29 July 2004, I bought The Decline Of in Virgin in Leeds. I also picked up Hope Of The Statesí The Lost Riots in its limited sleeve, so I guess I was mainly after that and BSP were a bit of an after thought. Listened to it at the weekend while painting the bathroom. Up the ladder, paint roller in hand, it sort of drifted over me, but there was a definite sense that it was pretty good. Bit short though. Then Lately kicked in...
Fast forward on to 8 April 2005, and BSP are playing the Blank Canvas in Leeds. Not a great venue, but hey, letís give them another go. A bunch of us went along, them more fans than me. Sort of stood in the middle, letting them do their stuff, when the crowd starts being a bit lively. I let the surge pull me forward, till Iím down the front, staring intently at the backdrop Ė the stag logo with the strap line Cíest Magnifique, Mais Ce Níest Pas Musique. By the end of the night, I agreed with the first part with all my heart.
Burgh Blue: For me it was at The Venue in Edinburgh, April 2004.
I'd bought The Decline Of well before, entirely on the back of reading somewhere that this was a band from Cumbria, which is where I'm from before I moved up to Edinburgh for university. Such creatures were so rare back then that I bought it out of a sort of Cumbrian solidarity. However, this was when I was buying CDs in batches of 5 from Fopp and I'm sorry to say I hadn't given it much of a spin before I saw that BSP were playing The Venue, just ten minutes from my flat. I bought the ticket anyway, seeing as I liked The Venue and wanted to give them some business.
I was knackered from playing hockey (and getting thoroughly beat) that afternoon and pissed off as a spiraling–from–the–Football–League Carlisle United had been beaten at home (2–0 by Lincoln City the internet tells me), so I needed some cheering up. I tucked into a couple of Budvars from the bar and waited for the band in the middle of what seemed to be a pretty expectant crowd. BSP took to the foliage–rich stage and started with A Wooden Horse. Not the most obvious of openers, but I was sold there and then. For whatever reason, perhaps my crappy day, this song seemed to be the most yearning and comforting thing I'd ever heard. The rest is a bit of a blur, but I do remember loving Carrion instantly, Hamilton doing A Lovely Day and Eamon parading across the stage beating the hell out of his drum and then doing a full loop of the audience, playing the drum above his head, during Lately/Rock In A.
It was fucking great. I left The Venue with a huge smile on my face and a new favourite band.
Wally World: The lights died down a little. There's was an overwhelming smell of fresh pine and old theatre. The opening scenes of "A Matter of Life and Death" began to play on the big screen at the side of the stage. People looked on intently, genuinely puzzled as to what was happening. BOOM. The lights cut out, and suddenly we're in the middle of a 1940's WW2 Air–raid. Searchlights scanned over the crowd, as though looking for an enemy bomber in the night skies. Then, from out of nowhere, the mighty roar of a Lancaster Bomber's Merlin engines screamed overhead. Before ya could say "greatest stage entrance ever seen", the band were revealed on stage, playing the beautiful "Heavenly Waters".
They looked like they'd just parachuted out of the Lanc that screamed over. Song after song of pure perfection was played. It was all so timeless. So full of wide eyed wonder and excitement. The band looked genuinely dangerous and unhinged. By the time they walked off at the end, it didn't feel as though they were just going back stage, it genuinely felt as if they were beaming back across time itself, to their lives in a long since forgotten land. It felt as though they were the past, present and future of music all rolled into one.
Dr Jules: In
bed, 7.00am. Christian O'Connell on XfM talking shit, then girlfriend
disappears. Good, more space for me. Stretch out. "Tonight, British
Sea Power play the Highbury Garage..." Ooh, that sounds fun. Zoom
seven hours forward. "Hassan, d'you wanna
see British Sea Power tonight?" "D'you like them?" "Dunno, I just
like the name." "Erm, ok." Zoom
five hours forward. "Pint of Starapramen please..." Oh shit, the
band are starting. This sounds mellow (they
began with Heavenly Waters) – they must be one of those slow,
melodic bands. They seem very calm on stage, not moving about much. Zoom
40 minutes forward. "What the f***'s going on?!" People
banging drums everywhere, a man in full camouflage, mock–WWI gear,
the singer and bassist going ballistic, some blonde geezer with
a broken arm on stage. Zoom
one hour forward – by now under the heavy influence of many more Starapramen – I go online and discover there is a British Sea Power forum. Zoom seven hours forward. I check said forum. There is a post from someone calling themselves 'Dr Jules'. It reads "I am willing to dedicate my life to following this band..."
Irish Blood English Heart: I
discovered British Sea Power in June 2003 in, of all places, Aberdeen.
I was on a family excursion and developed a strange aversion to
actually wanting to spend any time with my family, so
took myself off to the local HMV and with £20 in my hand decided
perhaps it really should be the first time in about three years that I bought
a CD. There, on one of those special offer plinths, I spotted what was to be
an awakening for me, a turning point in life. There was this CD
in a card gatefold, with just the most fantastic name...
heard of this band and I have no idea what made me purchase
this CD, but I did and even as I paid for it I felt strangely proud. I paid
the lovely Scottish lady behind the counter and walked out of the
shop. It felt like for the
first time in years I wasnt being a revisionist when it came to
music. Now all I could do is hope this CD lived
up to the epic proportions of my love at first sight hopes! I then
retired to the nearby hostelry and purchased myself a pint of Budvar
while reading the local paper and staring at this new CD in my hand,
waiting for the call from my family to tell me the time of the train which would take
me from this beautiful and never before (or since) visitied city
back to grim reality, which for me was university in glum, soul–destroying Newcastle–upon–Tyne. This turned out to be not any ordinary train journey, though. I managed
to bribe my little sister into lending me her discman which until
that point had been spinning to the sounds of her latest
love (I believe at that time it was Tatu – and, by God, hearing them
butcher "How Soon Is Now" made me cry).
Anyway, as we pulled over
the River Dee (or is it the river Don?) I decided I wouldn't be speaking
to my family again on this journey and I put on this new CD and turned the volume up to
100%. Within seconds the sounds of Men Together Today were pouring
into my ears, not usually my kind of thing I will grant you, but
I listened intently still and did not make the classic mistake of
skipping to find a track I liked (how many of us own hundreds of
CDs we have never listened to fully, I ask you?), then came Apologies
to Insect Life, and then Favours... Something was happening here,
this is far heavier than I would ever normally listen too and yet
I am liking it, really liking it, lets keep on listening, Daniel...
Then comes Something Wicked, beautiful. I make a mental note to
come back to it should the rest dissappoint, then Something turns
into Remember Me, Now I am in heaven. Again, I note down another track
to come back to in the event of disappointment. Then Fear
of Drowning starts up: "Jesus Fucking Christ, Oh God No!" At this
point I am in love and realise that I have an album in my possession
of epic proportions, have I just discovered the new... Punk? Electronica?
Indie? What is going on here? All my life I've had to buy and enjoy
records from my past, records from before I was old enough to be
a part of it, and unfolding in my ears is a record which is changing
all that, how the hell did I get so lucky, to buy this LP at random
in Aberdeen (of all places) and here it is on the GNER making me feel more special than The Smiths, or Joy Division, or
The Jam or any of those other bands that have soundtracked my life,
ever did. What is going on?
Fear of Drowning turns to The Lonely,
ah yes, I now have a new favourite, there wont be any skipping on
this CD happening! Carrion, again another perfect pop song, up there
with anything The Smiths ever did, and I'm hearing it now for the
first time. Why has this not been foist upon me before, like all
the crap that masquaraded as good music, as 'indie' during the 90's
was? Why is this a secret? (a question I ask myself to this day).
Then Blackout, Lately... and A Wooden Horse. The CD
is immediately put on repeat and played a further three times before
we reach Newcastle Central, the only slight break being when I informed
my mother that I would not be joining her in the buffet...
got back to Newcastle the LP was put on heavy rotation, I had nothing
else to do. At the time I was too busy putting all my effort into
escaping Newcastle and making the big move to London, I had no friends
to share this with, so I shared it with my family and online and
tried to convince everyone who I could to buy this album. I really hope I
succeeded (at least my mum did buy the LP). Driving down to London,
all I listened to was the Decline... on heavy repeat on my mum's
car stereo. What followed was four miserable months in London where
I failed to make it and realised the city had nothing more to offer
than my beloved Manchester except an ever expanding overdraught
so I built a hasty retreat to Newcastle around October 2003. But
the four months in London were soundtracked by the sounds of BSP
(along with a little Morrissey.... especially Hairdresser on Fire), What
followed was three more miserable months, this time at the Inland Revenue until what
would end up as my new friend circle and the axis of my future band
formed and I left the IR for a temporary life of unemployment
and mushroom– taking in Newcastle while I planned my return to Manchester.
During that time, I did finally manage to introduce my friend to
BSP. Taking him to the gig at the university was
what really did it, and now he like me believes that BSP are the
best band in Britain in the last 17 years!
The gig itself was life affirming.
It actually showed their was human life in this depressing city.
Unfortunetly we then headed to one of Newcastle's only indie nights, to get the
usual response of "We dont have any British Sea Power" or "Who are
they?" from the DJ. Still I shouldnt be surprised. I've
never even heard Joy Division in this town (the DJ at one indie
night said he didnt have any and played New Order instead). Anyway, that is nearly my tale of woe, and love, and freedom complete. British
Sea Power mean everything to me and have, along with the resurgance
of Moz, convinced me that I should persevere and ressurect my own
attempts at song crafting. So myself and my best friend and future
bassist are now returning to Manchester in September to try and
emulate in some way the beauty and majesty of what I discovered by complete
chance in a record shop off Union Street in Aberdeen. Thank you for your patience and keep enjoying the best band
to have graced these shores in years, if not all time (only time
will tell that I guess). Oh, and thank you British Sea Power for soundtracking
a part of my life – and for the memories of a crazy night in Brighton
last August where I missed the train back to London and slept on
the beach in the company of some bizarre people. Brighton truly
is a beautiful city and along with Manchester is one of only two places
I would live on this magical Isle.