British India: Stronger Than Ever

Melbourne indie rock Gods British India return with the release of their fifth studio album Nothing Touches Me. Their first album Guillotine was full of raw, teenage angst, and short and punchy songs. While still holding on to their punk infused sound, Nothing Touches Me has a polished quality, blending their familiar energetic sound with melancholy ballads. This proves the boys have progressed and matured in their musical abilities. We sit down with lead singer Declan Melia to chat about how they’ve been going, what they’ve been doing, and where they’re going next.

Your new album is out and you will be touring it across the East Coast soon. What has your reaction been to the release of Nothing Touches Me?
Making the record was a bit of a mad dash. I think when we’re stressed out and under pressure it brings out the best of us. We were recording right up until New Years Eve and since then it’s just been the quiet before the storm and a lot of waiting. Since the record came out we’ve been listening to people’s reactions and gauging how it has gone, seeing what works and what didn’t. It’s the most rewarding time because we sit there wondering if the record is ok. Once you put it out there, it’s no longer yours. It’s out of your hands.

You mentioned there were a few obstacles when trying to release your last album Controller. How was it this time around?
It was much better. After the success of Controller the songs were coming really easily and we were in a more positive place. On tour we could see people really liked the more complex and sophisticated songs, rather than just the punky stuff that we also do well. That gave us more confidence to surge forward with more complex song writing and more subtlety in the music, so it gave us more direction with this record. We knew what we wanted to do and it was just a matter of doing it, so it felt really good compared to the last record. It felt like a real victory lap. We were just popping champagne every five minutes and when the songs come more easily, it frees you up time wise to get more creative with the production, so that’s why on this record you hear a lot more pianos, strings, and synths.

Avalanche and Controller were great, but you gained serious success with Thieves, particularly in regards to where it charted. Your sound really has progressed and changed across the years. What has taken you in this direction and where are you hoping to go?
I think the only thing that’s taken us in that direction is confidence in the studio. The first few times you go in the studio, it’s a really foreign, stifling world and you’re unsure of what you’re doing. Especially for us, we’re a live band first and foremost, but as we got used to the environment we could stretch out a little. We’ve always wanted to make these kinds of records, it’s just taken us a long time to get where we wanted. As to where we will go next, we’re just focused on getting this record out and touring it. As musicians we’re really varied, and we’re kind of limited in our ability, but as we get better, we’re better able to represent what we want and I think our music is just going to get weirder and weirder.

You’ve mentioned the fact that you guys are kind of quirky: do you think that sound forms your personality as a band?
I think the fact that we’re four very different dudes, with four different tastes in music, and four very big egos, definitely shapes our sound. When a song is at its genesis every one has very strong ideas about how the end product should sound and pretty rarely does anyone back down on these thoughts, so it becomes a compromise between your vision for the song, and for Matt’s, and Nick’s, and Will’s. You get this hybrid at the end. Obviously sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Clearly there’s been a bit of tension with getting the album out. Is there still that passion involved in your music?
Absolutely. On the way to the studio I’ll listen to whatever song on the radio and be like, “Yeah, that’s the shit. I wonder how British India would sound doing a song like this”. Every time I hear a song I feel reinvigorated to make more music. It’s something that never goes away. I don’t think we ever think in terms of, “Ok, we need a record, let’s record a record”. We’re just constantly writing, and then we compile the best songs from the last few years.

Nothing Touches Me is almost a defiant title. What inspired that?
Our other records are all one-word titles. It’s become a theme and a tradition, a superstition almost. We felt like we were keeping up the little interesting quirk, but this record we wanted to do something completely different. We are firm believers that you have to treat everything like it’s your first project, like it’s the first time you’ve stepped into a studio. It was about reinvention and saying we’re a different band to when we first started, and here’s where we are now. We didn’t want to make a whimpy, emo album title, and ‘Nothing Touches Me’ seemed like a bit of a tougher, bolder statement than all the others tracks. We’ve also been doing this for nearly 10 years. You see a lot of bands we consider our contemporaries break up or fall apart, so we are feeling stronger than ever and I think there was an element of that with the title as well. When we are together and at our best, nothing touches us.

You guys are going to be hitting the road and going on tour soon, so what can your audiences expect from you?
We’re not the kind of band that’s going to show case our new album. We’ll just see what works from the new record, but I think it will be a lot of old favourites, a lot of old singles. We’re in a position now where there’s songs we have to play and we love to play them but I think the audience should just come down and expect to party. It’s not like watching jazz or classical where you sit there stroking your chin and appreciate perfect harmonies. We are about getting pissed, having a dance, and letting your hair down. We just want to bring the party to wherever we are.

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