British Sea Power are a six-piece band variously originating from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Ealing and Shropshire and are currently based in East Sussex and on the Isle Of Skye.
Yan Scott Wilkinson – vocals/guitar
Neil Hamilton Wilkinson – vocals/bass/guitar
Martin Noble – guitar/keyboards
Matthew Wood – drums
Abi Fry – viola/keyboards
Phil Sumner – keyboards/cornet/guitar
The Sunday Times: “The best band in Britain.”
“Fuck this puerile drivel, we’re off to see British Sea Power” – a Rolling Stone review dismisses the entirety of a Reading Festival line-up in favour of BSP.
Guy Garvey: “Not only do British Sea Power own the best name in history, they’re fucking great.”
In 2013, ten years on from their debut album, British Sea Power are hitting their stride. New album Machineries Of Joy is a creative high, a superbly composed, multi-stylistic tour de force. Beautifully mechanised rhythms sits alongside wind-blasted Brontë-rock cinematics. Brain-bent garage thrash hurtles in.
“Strings and guitars evoke the theme from Blade Runner and the ever-forward momentum of Für Immer by Neu!” – Q magazine on the title track from Machineries Of Joy.
A recent poll of BBC 6Music listeners – on the most important hundred tracks of the station’s lifetime – placed the British Sea Power track Remember Me at number nine, just above Radiohead, just below Johnny Cash. It’s a placing that indicates both the band’s longevity and the deeply dedicated nature of their audience.
This 6Music poll followed delighted press endorsements for the BSP soundtrack to the new feature-length BFI documentary film From The Sea To The Land Beyond. When the film was shown on BBC4 under the Storyville banner a Twitter-storm resulted in viewing figures twice the norm for this slot. This screening also drew impassioned praise in the press:
“Truly extraordinary… In place of voiceover was an exquisite soundtrack from British Sea Power – a band who were soaringly simpatico with the daydream drifts of what we were seeing.”
Caitlin Moran, The Times
“This wasn’t one to have playing casually. It was a thing to be immersed in, whisky poured, speakers turned up. The alchemy of precisely arranged visuals and sweeping music was mesmeric.”
Jack Seale, Radio Times
“Beautiful, mesmerising… gloriously cosseted with a British Sea Power score… “
Grace Dent, The Independent.
Good for the press corps. But newsroom exultation is only part of the BSP story. Let us take you through some of the highlights from the band’s decade in showbusiness…
BSP have enjoyed a diverse array of cultural endorsement. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead, Bill Oddie, the National Maritime Museum, Bill Bailey, Jeremy Vine, Julian Cope, Stella Vine, Flaming Lips, Caitlin Moran, Keith Allen, Peter Capaldi, Andrew Weatherall, Grace Dent and Brian Cox have all run up the BSP colours at one time or another.
BSP now have the longest ever tenure at Rough Trade Records – signed for a longer stretch than any other band or solo artist.
BSP established their own micro-festival, Sing Ye From The Hillsides, at the Tan Hill Inn, the most elevated pub in Britain, high up on the North Yorkshire dales. It’s the only place you are likely to see the Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys milling around between husky races and falconry displays. The Tan Hill weekends saw early-days performances from bands including Wild Beasts, Metronomy and Bo Ningen.
When BSP have given live-to-screen performances of their soundtrack to the 1934 survival-in-the-face-of-the-elements film Man Of Aran it has produced similarly emotional responses among wildly different demographics – tear-stained Norwegian fishermen in a 14th-century wooden church inside the Arctic Circle; a packed mass of ravers at The Big Chill; 2,000 ex-pat Irish at the Perth International Film Festival in Australia.
BSP are most likely the only band to have collaborated with all of Wilko Johnson, Daniel Johnston, the London Bulgarian Choir, Faust and The Wurzels.
The family of the late poet laureate John Betjeman made BSP the most prominent artists at the centenary of the poet’s birth in 2006. At the London gala evening, BSP played on a bill alongside Nick Cave, Ronnie Corbett, Barry Humphries and Prince Charles.
The BSP audience is unusual in its dedication. A good few have seen the band over 200 times. Captain Riot, a cross-dressing Midlands civil servant, has seen the band over 300 times.
The first time The Killers ever toured anywhere was supporting BSP in the UK in 2004. After they’d blasted to multi-platinum success the kindly Killers returned the favour by covering all expenses and flying BSP to the US to support them at packed stadiums.
BSP’s Do You Like Rock Music? album was nominated for the Mercury Prize. The album also reached the top ten in the UK albums chart.
The band have had a racehorse and an ocean-going yacht named after them – both by fans who asked permission.
BSP have produced their own-brand lager, bitter, sparkling wine, chocolate, tea and Brilliantine Mortality hair pomade.
BSP have played numerous striking shows: atop the Great Wall Of China and at London’s Natural History Museum. At Jodrell Bank and at London’s Czech Embassy. On the Scilly Isles and on Arctic islets. Down a Cornish slate mine and at the Chelsea Flower Show.
At these shows, the BSP stage bear Ursine Ultra has become a minor showbiz legend. The bear originated with Hammer Horror and was given to the band by a mystery benefactor. Numerous fans and friends have taken a turn inside this ten-foot metal-framed creature. The most infamous example was the so-called Newcastle Brown-Bottle Bear. Super-fan Geordie Mark had a go as the bear and had two bottles of Newcastle Brown taped to his paws. On stage he immediately smashed the bottles together and then rampaged around – unknown to him coming close to slashing the band with the broken shards.
Machineries Of Joy is British Sea Power’s fifth album – seventh including film soundtracks. The album was worked up in the Berwyn mountains in north Wales and recorded in Brighton with the engineer Dan Swift, produced by British Sea Power. The album was mixed by Ken Thomas in rural Hampshire and in Castleford in West Yorkshire. Ken has previously worked with musicians including David Bowie, Wire, Queen, PiL and Sigur Ros.