Panic is starting to well up inside, as I feel any semblance of substance in the interview slipping away before my eyes. Foolishly I press on, determined to get statements that will somehow define the band. Nostalgia is a word that comes to mind when listening to them. There are subtle aural references to English rock’s eccentric past, with hints of Joy Division, the Smiths, or the less eccentric (and non-English) early U2. Romantics in search of a pastoral past, is it fair to say that Nostalgia is a motivation and inspiration for much of their music? “I like Cole Porter,” says Hamilton, while Yan interjects: “I just got into Tiny Tim. You can listen to all these old shows, and radio broadcasts on the internet now. There’s a lot of good stuff there. Last week I heard a documentary about Tiny Tim. He did Tiptoe through the tulips, but his story was absolutely mentalist, but he just kept going. That’s why I like him [laughs]. He had his ups and downs, but he kept going, you know”, all of which is delivered staccato, phrase followed by pregnant pause, which does nothing to quell my nerves.”He used to sing in a very high voice,” Yan continues, absent-mindedly. “He was very tall. Instantly, there’s a funny surprise for you. He walks on stage. Tiny Tim, you reckon he should be small”. The other two at this stage, take the ball and run with it.
Noble: “There should be more names.”
Hamilton: “People should adopt themselves superhero names. Like all those old blues names – Blind lemon etc.”
Noble: “But they were blind, weren’t they? Seeing-Eye Hamilton [all laugh].”
Resorting to the stock questions doesn’t help matters. Were they given the chance to work with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Without a pause, and with a straight face that is teetering on the brink of collapse, Yan responds “I’d like to work with Ken Dodd. He’s got an amazing opera voice. Amazing voice. You wouldn’t believe it.He’s surprising. Be nice to do the vocals while he touched you with his tickle stick. He is quite funny, funny and sad.”
They become slightly more conventional when the subject of Live 8 comes up. Should musicians get involved with politics? “Why not? Politicians aren’t that good at it,” responds Yan pensively. “If you say one stupid thing, though, to the wrong person, that’s going to be your quote for the year, isn’t it?” says Hamilton. “It’s a dangerous game isn’t it.” But, I push, doesn’t it say something about the nature of music today that despite an immensely unpopular war, there’s next to no protest-music. Noble begs to differ: “As crude as it is, there’s Green Day. Even Travis did that Beautiful Occupation. Rubbish song, but people still do it. It just seems a bit naff. It’s like another style box to tick in, isn’t it? Conscientious etc.”
“We’re very cynical people,” says Yan, in a Cumbrian monotone that resolutely refuses to suggest whether that’s a good or a bad thing. “Greenery,” he continues. “People used to comment on the aroma of some of our early shows cause we had such good branches on stage. I don’t think they’d thought of that before. Bushes smell nice.”
“That’s going to read very differently in print, you know”, I venture.
“I know, I kind of like it though,” he responds, with just a touch of demonic mirth.
And so, we finish up. Our questions exhausted, our interviewees undaunted. There’s a temptation to return seconds later, to see if they’re chalking up another kill on their interviewer board, but instead we head into the stadium for a well earned beer. The band are playing the annual Arezzo Wave Love Festival, a wonderfully eclectic festival, but one wonders how an Italian audience will take to these steroid enhanced levels of eccentricity.
A couple of hours later, the band trot out on stage, all now dressed in the colours of Arezzo F.C, a winning move from the start. They proceed to play a show that is nothing short of incredible. There are the obligatory tree branches on stage, but it’s the personalities of the band that colour the set. While they give away little in interview, on-stage they seem driven by a desire to give the audience their money’s worth. There are acrobatics, forays into the stadium audience, and tune after brilliant tune. Having survived the British Sea Power interview experience, I wasn’t quite sure whether I liked the band or not. Having seen them play, I’m convinced. The world needs bands like British Sea Power. And, from the audience reaction it would seem that I’m not the only one who thinks so.