British India: Life Exaggerated

From an awful first gig with a sound guy who spoke nothing but German, to having their songs played regularly on Triple J and Rage, Declan Melia, frontman of Melbourne band British India isn’t quite sure of how they got so far. But their formula somehow works. And with the release of their album Guillotine at the end of last month, and their upcoming Australian tour, there’s more than enough to occupy their time.

These four like-minded individuals met at high school, but didn’t form a band until they’d all left. “We’d have the day off, hang around in car parks and ask each other what we were gonna do,” remembers Declan.

It just seemed like natural progression, and their persistence has paid off. Leaving for Perth, the first stop of their Aussie tour on July 27, one can’t help but feel excited for them. I ask Declan how they’re getting to Perth. “Flying… I would like to drive, I’m very keen on driving to gigs, but the other guys don’t want to… It’s a beautiful drive, though. It’d be good to do that with the other three guys.”

So, how did it all begin for them as a band? What was their first gig like? “It was awful. We weren’t allowed to be in a pub cos we were all underage… It was this horrible venue, didn’t really have bands on, [and] the sound guy spoke nothing but German. And me and Nic had a huge fight, because he had his guitar too loud during soundcheck.”

British India’s debut album Guillotine was a featured album on Triple J recently, with tracks from the album played every day for a week.

Their album was a work in progress for a few years, with songs being written from the time they formed as a band. Declan says, “It was about three or four years before we started recording the album, which was good because we had a lot more songs for the album, and we picked the best ones from that whole period.”

What experiences contributed to the song lyrics? “They’re not really written a lot from personal experience,” explains Declan. “They’re kinda just written about the kind of things I would like to write a song about. But with the lyrics, I didn’t wanna write this whimsical poetry or anything, you know… We wanted to make it easily accessible for the listener, but at the same time I didn’t wanna hear about real life, because at the end of the day, life is f***ing shit. You just wanna hear about life expanded and life exaggerated.”

The song Teenage Mother was inspired by something Josh Homme [QOTSA] said in an interview about the Rolling Stones’ song Live With Me. ”…It has the lyric, “You’d look good pram pushing down the high street”, which is basically Mick Jagger saying, “You’d look good as a teenage mother.” …I didn’t flat out say it in this song, but the song itself, I guess…” The other thing that inspired it was an interview with Dave Rowntree from Blur. “He said that the new Blur album was a bit about the similarities between cutting off heroin and breaking up with a girl, matching the frustrations of going cold turkey to coming out of a relationship, which was a very frustrating, angsty sound… So I thought, well, if he’s gonna say it, or write an album about it, I could at least write a song about it.”

There are no current plans to release a second album. “We’re not planning anything, we’re just writing… We manage to write one or two good songs a month or so, and that’s just the same rate as it was before the album.” But they do have a few new tracks they’re eager to show off at their upcoming shows.

The tour kicks off in Perth on July 27, with support acts You Will Die Alone (“an awesome 90s, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Nirvana kinda band”), and Reptiles (“like Children Collide with lots of dirt rubbed into them”). Check it out, and see first hand why they’re ripping up the local music scene!

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