The Brighton-bred boys from British Sea Power (alliteration!) remind us of this kid we knew back in middle school. He had the best treehouse on the street, and he used to smuggle bottles of Jack Daniels into it. Now, though, instead of the old treehouse, British Sea Power have moved into an abandoned water tower, climb trees with Jarvis Cocker, and will probably still get drunk with you in the woods.
Eccentric personae aside, British Sea Power isn’t all gimmick. While often decorating their stage with tree limbs and plastic birds and having a ten-foot bear (tenderly named Ursine Ultra) make casual appearances, they have had the wherewithal to produce chart-topping singles, win a slew of awards, and prepare for the release of their third highly anticipated album, Do You Like Rock Music? Greeted by their mischievous smiles, we pull up a stool and discuss trees, wolves, and drinking and climbing.
BLACKBOOK: Tell me the story about the nightjars. BRITISH SEA POWER: Oh you mean with Mr. Jarvis Cocker?
BB: Yeah that’s the one.
BSP: Well, we asked Jarvis to come along with us to go see the nightjars—which are birds—in a forest near where we were doing a show. But really we just went out to get a little loaded in the woods. Anyways, Martin [Noble, guitarist] really likes climbing, so he started climbing this tree like usual, a bit drunk, quite good fun, then suddenly this big beam of light shines on him and a voice comes out of nowhere and says, “One more move and you might die!” He was fine but they wouldn’t let him come down. They had to call in this whole operation and bring him down with a harness. He didn’t get stuck, it was just because he was a bit wankered, and they thought it was dangerous. He always climbs trees.
BB: How did you become so one with nature?
BSP: We were raised by wolves, so that has a lot to do with it. You’ve seen White Fang? It’s exactly like that.
BB: When were you on the road last?
BSP: We’ve done shows here and there, but we’ve been very busy doing the record, which has been taking a bit of time. BB: Tell me about it.
BSP: We recorded it in Montreal, finished it in a Czech forest. We started it in about -20 degree weather, and finished it in +30 degrees. So it’s international, plus it spans temperature as well.
BB: Again with the forest.
BSP: We didn’t want to make it too easy. Add a little physical hardship, it’s a good thing for a record I think. We started off in a water tower, which we loved. It had a big opening so that when it rained we had to quickly cover everything so we didn’t get electrocuted. We thought about buying it for a bit. BB: Why didn’t you?
BSP: Old empty water towers are surprisingly expensive. But we would have sealed it up and lived and recorded there. It had great acoustics. But yeah, we started off in a forest, then the water tower, then ended our recording in a forest. That’s how we are so one with nature. It’s great. You could go off jogging with the possibility of getting attacked by a wild boar. It’s surprising how scared you can get in a forest when it gets dark. Maybe I’m a wimp, but I was quite surprised. All your childish fears of the night suddenly come back.
BB: Do you always record under such interesting conditions? BSP: No, the first time we did it in a London studio, and we thought, well, we can do better than this. So, six months in a Canadian forest, then the water tower, the Czech Republic, then six weeks in a fort whilst there were army maneuvers going on. We’d be recording and a helicopter would land. Sometimes we’d look out onto the ships and they’d be doing something special. Basically, all they did was turn. Then you have these fully camouflaged guys walking by the window, laughing at you. They thought we were quite funny. According to the English army, we sound like a dead cat.
BB: Would you record like this again? BSP: We can go anywhere we want now to record, we have that freedom. Just grab our equipment and go, without anyone telling us otherwise.
BB: Does this have a little to do with sounding cool to the press?
BSP: Yeah. We figured we’d better have something to talk about.