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Interview: British India

Thursday 4 April 2013

Interview: British India

“It was the perfect storm of bad luck, really. A lesser band probably would have called it a day.”

That pretty much sums up the last three years for British India if you ask vocalist Declan Melia. The last few years have been a shitfight by anyone’s standards for the Melbourne four-piece. Back in 2010, just after the release of their third record Avalanche, they found themselves caught up in the mess of the liquidation of their label Shock Records, their long-time rehearsal space flooded, and tensions within the band were at an all time high.

“It was a real huge case of the morning after the night before. After the headiness of the Avalanche tour we’d become horrible little monsters,” Melia reveals.

“Writing songs was kind of the last thing on our mind. You know when you watch those music documentaries like Behind the Music and you see bands like Blur or Metallica kind of fighting and you’re like, ‘Get your shit together,’ that was me. Writing songs was kind of the last thing on our mind. We’d really lost focus on what should be the most important thing to a group. I hope that anyone reading this would avoid the same pitfalls because they were all too easy for us to fall into.”

“You’ve got to remember we’re all 25-year-old men so we don’t talk to each other, like, ever. I remember there was a moment when me and Nic [Wilson, guitarist] had to meet up and just sort of remind each other how much we still wanted to be in the group because we really don’t talk and you know, you kind of get paranoid that everyone wants to quit expect you and that no one cares anymore. These were all deep rivers that we had to cross and that’s why it took three years [to make this record].”

The record in question, Controller, had been a long time coming for the band who put out there first three records, Guillotine, Thieves and Avalanche in almost the same amount of time fans had to wait for their fourth LP.

Melia says there were plenty of times when the band thought there might not be a record, but stopped short of ever doubting the future of British India as a band. “It was possible to see a time when the band wasn’t what we did full-time or we wouldn’t release another record again but we’d always get together and play something. But yeah, no label, no record. We weren’t going to get into a situation where we would release ourselves so we sort of had to look at each other and say, ‘Well, what do we need to do here? We need to get a record label.’”

“And we went and got one,” Melia says with a laugh. “We’re that generation and we’re upper-middle-class little punks who are kind of used to getting whatever we want when we stamp our feet – we had to make it happen.”

After all that the band have been through, Melia describes Controller as a way to exercise the misery of the last two years through song and take back control of their music career. “With Avalanche there was work involved, certainly, but the road was just so clear for us. It was just so easy for us to do. We just had to write the songs, record them, release them and tour them and it just came so naturally to us.

“Honestly, after the Avalanche tour, sitting down and talking about the band was really the first time we had talked about the band since we were 15. Really, everything had just been on autopilot.

“I don’t want to say Controller is a crisis record because there’s been a lot of positive included on there and its message, if anything, is just to go out and enjoy life and take control and live life passionately, etcetera. But it was born out of a conflict and it was created with our backs against the wall and I think that definitely shaped it.”

Another notable influence on the record that Melia is all too willing to talk about is the band's signing to indie-label Liberation Music. “It’s really an irony that signing to a label helped us take risks,” says Melia.

When discussing the surprisingly soft and completely beautiful album closer Crystals, Melia reveals it was actually the label execs that encouraged the band to shed their garage rock skin and explore new sounds.

“That’s actually one of the cool things about Liberation, they kind of said, ‘We like this Crystals thing’ – whereas if we were left to our own devices another track like Another Christmas in the Trenches would have ended the album – ‘You should put that on the record.’ We’d say, ‘Well, that’s not really what we’re about.’ And they’d say, ’Well you fucking wrote it. People want to hear what you do. You’re ten years into your career, if not now, when?' So we were like, ‘We'll give it a shot.’

"It’s the biggest sin in alternative rock to say this but signing to a label really changed the way we approached this record for the better, I think.”

Controller is out now

- Amelia Parrott