Featured, Music

Interview with British India Vocalist & Guitar Man, Declan Melia

November 7, 2017

If five successful albums and a decade in the music industry wasn’t impressive enough, the Melbourne indie rock band British India has gone on to further raise the standards, adding their recent album, Forgetting the Future to the now half-dozen stack of studio releases. Your head will bob, your feet will bounce, you’ll join in drunken anthems with your buddies, jumping in at the chorus when you don’t know the rest of the lyrics to tracks like Just Sing Like Everybody Else. Midnight Homie (My Best Friend) will bring out your inner-narcissism; you’ll shove your finger in the faces of people you don’t like as you chant, my night is better than your whole life with a fearless aura of sudden confidence. But then you might chill out around a fire or lie on the beach with Absolutely Disgusting playing softly in the background as you stare at the stars and have deep existentialist discussions. Whatever you’re doing or wherever you are, the 10 tracks on this album is sure to not only define your experience of a moment, but enhance your memory with the reverent instrumentals and passionate vocals, that defines the reputable energetic nature that is British India.

Inner Circle Magazine caught up with vocalist and guitar man, Declan Melia to reflect on the latest record, upcoming tours, and all things Inner North Melbourne.

Hi Declan, how are you?

Yeah man, I’m feeling super happy today.

Awesome to hear, so we’re a local magazine that covers topics of interest within areas of Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Great, that’s my stomping ground, so let’s talk bike paths and graffiti murals!

[laughing] Perfect! So first off your sixth album Forgetting the Future was released over a month ago. How has the response been?

Yeah, it’s been really good. With the process of making records…I mean, obviously when you’re recording and writing it, you think you’re onto something and it’s easy to get excited about it and then, you know, you get sales and chart placings and reviews, but I mean, the material for us hasn’t really been chemistry, until we’ve taken them on the road and seen how fans react. And I mean fans, in the real sense of the word, like our fans that connect to our music. Like, whether or not the record appeals to them is, for us, the real test of whether we’ve succeeded or not, or what songs have succeeded. We came off stage in Byron Bay and someone was like, oh, I can’t believe you didn’t play ‘I wasn’t looking back at you’ which is the last song on the record, and I just was so proud the way people kind of hear music and access music these days is very single orientated and song orientated; people using Spotify and Apple Music, so I’m so proud that people can still consume music from an album from start to finish. For me, that’s a huge success.

So if this album was a person, what sort of person would it be?

An angry person. I think if the record was a person it would need to seek professional help. It’s a really emotional record. We did more songwriting on this album than we’ve ever wrote on any other album because we kind of had to relearn what we knew all along which was the most important thing in a song is to be really emotive and to really kind of bring out an emotion. You know, it’s not just about having a sweet group or sweet melody. There are so many songs that, to all accepted purposes, look like radio hits – tick all the boxes and relatable lyrics, but it just didn’t have the emotion. In the studio we have a phrase: if it doesn’t hit me in the feels, like, I don’t know, I just don’t feel it. So a lot of those songs just have to be bought by the waist side; kind of almost counterintuitive because they were such great songs. So, yeah, a very emotional record, and if it was a person, they’d probably be an unhinged, untogether person. But that’s okay because that’s the difference between art and life. Art has to be emotional all the time but in everyday life it’s probably not alright to be like that.

Is your song-writing process reflective of your daily life? Or is it something that’s built up over time?

It’s a lot more subconscious than people think. The way that it’s often written is that we write music first (by that, the guitar, the sound of the song, the chords of the song) right? And, y’know, I think instrumental music is music that really has a message and has a meaning and has an emotion. So then it’s about finding the lyrics to fit the emotion of the song. So someone could probably say that when you pick up a guitar and you play the first thing that comes into your head, that is a reflection of your emotions on some level. But it’s pretty abstract, I mean…yeah, there were certainly frustrations in the studio and we turned a lot of that frustration into some of the faster songs like Midnight Homie and Just Sing Like Everybody Else and Precious, like, the aggression. So on that level, yeah.

So you played the one-off show at Howler earlier in August, can you tell the difference between Melbourne crowds and crowds elsewhere?

Um, I’ve thought about this before…I can’t really. I notice more than anything that the way our audience reacts to the songs changes over time. There was certainly a period where, y’know, they were kicking the hell out of each other and banging their heads together and that’s lessened now. I think our audience has kind of learnt to stand back and listen to us. The Howler show was a great show but it was a great show because they were real fans – people who came out on a Wednesday night and there were only 200 tickets available so they were snapped up by people who were really watching the Facebook waves starting to happen.

Do you have any favourite places in the Inner North?

Yeah, well until recently we had a studio in Preston and there’s a café in Brunswick called Wide Open Road. Literally everyday we would meet there at midday and have a coffee and kind of discuss what we were going to do with the studio that day. Driving through like Lygon Street and that side of the North; I mean, even over that period of five years you watch how much it’s changed, in good ways and bad ways. But our favourite place to hang out, we love pubs in Fitzroy, The Catfish and The Standard. We got to The Gasometer a lot to see bands. I’m always hanging around Melbourne Uni – I’m there all the time and I think that’s a great space and a great building and great gardens. I run around Merri Creek. But yeah, it’s a great part of the world and without a shadow of a doubt, the best place in Australia – those few bunched together suburbs – and I’m not just saying that because it’s your magazine!

Is there a song on this album or other albums that resonates with you above others and why would that be?

It’s kind of strange with the records, once you release them, it feels like they’re no longer your property and they kind of become public property, so I don’t genuinely feel a huge emotional connection to any of the songs once they’ve been released. I feel a sense of pride when we really got it right like the song 90 Ways To Leave Your Lover – that turned out exactly how I wanted it to turn out, so that’s really pleasing. I mean, more likely is there are some songs that the four of us have written together, never properly recorded, and the only people that really know them in the world is us. When we play them together that’s really emotional, that can kind of be the connection we feel towards each other because it’s our private moment. Only we know the meaning of it and it conjures up the ten years we’ve been together. It’s really loaded and resonant. There’s probably a dozen songs like that. Curiously, once we release them in the world, it’s almost like they belong to everyone else and not us. We perform pretty energetically and, y’know, it’s a pretty corny term, but passionately, but still there’s a kind of emotional disconnection, curiously. I don’t know, I probably answered that question too honestly. I probably should’ve said like oh no, I scream in passion every time!

[laughing] Well, in saying that, is there a song that you’re sick of or that you can’t stand playing?

Well, there’s no songs that I hate playing – if there was a song we hate playing, we wouldn’t play it. There’s a few singles that people will pop you up for that we just don’t play very well so we don’t kinda’ play them but I’ve still got a soft spot for them in my heart and if people shout for them loud enough in the shows, we’ll bring them out and everyone screams in applause so there must be something great about them. It’s just like, a few songs, just what I was talking about before, they look like they would ostensibly be good as radio hits but they just feel a bit disingenuous, but not disingenuous, it’s just that the emotion isn’t really there and for some reason British India just can’t do that. We’ve really learnt on this new record that it has to be really loaded with emotion – we’re just big emos at heart, I guess.

Who is your dream musician to collab with or support?

The bar’s set pretty low for us. I dream to work with Beck – he produced this great Charlotte Gainsbourg record that I really like, he also produced a Thurston Moore record I really like. I just think he’s such a musical chameleon; that he can really make the sounds of your head come alive. I’ve always been a huge admirer of his music. As far as supporting goes, we supported The Rolling Stones a few years ago so it really doesn’t get any better than that for me. The funny thing about supports is that it’s so fucking fun, it’s so easy, there’s a real ease of it not being on your shoulders, it’s kind of not your responsibility so you kind of just play for your own sake – it’s almost like you’re playing for you, but you still get so much out of it. It almost doesn’t matter who you’re supporting – everyone in support has always been friendly enough and just enjoyed it so much. But if Brandon Flowers or Julian Casablancas happen to be reading, know that we’re up for it.

Perfect, so we’re running out of time, but is there anything you’d like to add, any hopes for the future?

Yeah just hope that we can continue to make records together and tour together. We’re not in anyway satisfied – I’m really proud of our back catalog – but there’s still so many things we’ve yet to achieve and want to achieve. Yeah, we’ll just keep continuing.

You can catch British India in Melbourne, on the 10th of November. Tickets available online: http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/british-india/97444

Forgetting the Future is also available instore and online now!

Be sure to keep up with everything British India on their Facebook page.

Feature Image Credit: British India Facebook



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