British Sea Power are a four-man indie rock band based in Brighton, England, although three of the band come originally from Kendal in Cumbria. Their style ranges from the sweeping, often epic, guitar pop sound to the visceral and angular. Critics have likened their sound to a variety of groups, from The Cure to the Pixies. They have most often been compared to Joy Division. The band consists of:
British Sea Power's Yan, Hamilton and Wood were school friends from Kendal in Cumbria. They were in a number of bands together while at school, but after finishing his exams Yan moved to study at Reading University, where he met guitarist Noble, who was originally from Bury, Greater Manchester. A few years later Hamilton and Woody joined them and formed a band. They have since been joined by Abi Fry, who plays viola for the band.
They played some gigs and produced a 4 track demo in Reading as British Air Powers, before relocating to Brighton in search of a more vibrant music scene. "British Sea Power" was actually the name of one of these demo tracks, and was eventually reworked into "Carrion". In Brighton, BSP amassed a strong local following, due mainly to their own club night called "Club Sea Power". The club nights featured many different support bands, and other forms of entertainment such as a 1930s fashion show, and were most frequently hosted at the Freebutt and the Lift (the latter has now closed down).
Their debut single, "Fear of Drowning", was issued in limited numbers of their own Golden Chariot label. The artwork for the B side "A Wooden Horse" borrows heavily from the dust cover of the 1950 book "The Wooden Horse" that details the escape of Allied POWs during WWII. Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records saw the band live and in September 2001 signed them to his label. A number of singles were issued on the label, and Eamon (Eamon Hamilton) was recruited to play live keyboards in autumn 2002.
The Decline of British Sea Power, the band's debut album, was released in June 2003 to critical acclaim. A single from the album, "Carrion", became the band's first Top 40 single. The album only charted in the lower reaches of the UK Album Chart but turned out to be a word of mouth success, shipping well over 60,000 copies over the following two years and allowing them to play sell-out UK tours to venues of over 1,000 people.
The follow-up, Open Season, was released in early April 2005, and also enjoyed wide critical praise. It showcased a more accessible, produced sound and charted at #13 in the UK Albums Chart. Lead single "It Ended on an Oily Stage" charted at #18 in the UK Singles Chart a week earlier.
British Sea Power have a reputation for elaborate and well-thought out live shows and won the 2004 Time Out London Live Band of the Year award. The stage is often decorated with foliage and plastic birds and sets generally finish with a semi-improvised song called "Rock in A", which sometimes lasts for over 20 minutes. Various members often climb riggings and tear down the foliage, Eamon walks around the audience beating his marching drum, and a ten-foot bear, Ursine Ultra, occasionally makes an appearance - often taking a beating from various band members. This has become one of the signatures of the band. Their tours often include unusual venues such as the Scillonian Club on the Isles of Scilly, Grasmere Village Hall, the St. John Boste Social Club in Kendal, Cumbria and Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall.
The band have built up an eccentric image in interviews and press releases; some of which is based on fact, other times merely whimsical building of outward personas. This has included giving journalists grid references at which to meet them, and expressing obsessions with Field Marshal Montgomery and bird watching. Similarly, they appeared on the day time TV show 'Countryfile' in which they discussed their love of the countryside and played an outdoor performance of the track 'Canvey Island'.
The band has a fiercely loyal and devoted hardcore fanbase, sometimes referred to as the Third Battalion.
At the beginning of 2006, it was announced that Eamon had left British Sea Power to concentrate on his own band Brakes . The group spent part of late 2006 working on new material in Montreal, and are preparing a DVD.
In 2007, American Laundromat Records announced that British Sea Power would record a version of the Pixies' "Caribou" for an album called "Dig For Fire - A Tribute To Pixies."
In October 2007, the band went on tour throughout the east coast of America to showcase their new 5-track EP Krankenhaus?. In November 2007, they toured a variety of unusual locations in the UK including a seaside cafe in Saltdean, East Sussex; a ferry across the River Mersey, Liverpool; the Tan Hill Inn, the UK's highest inn; All Saints Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and White Mischief, an indoor festival mixing live bands with unusual vaudeville acts.
Their Krankenhaus? EP was released digitally for purchasable download in October 2007 and was released on CD and vinyl on November the 20th. Their third album, Do You Like Rock Music? was released on 14th January 2008 in the U.K. and scheduled for release on 12th February 2008 in the U.S. Prior to their tour in support of Do You Like Rock Music? (visiting Ireland, UK, Belgium, Holland, Germany and US), Wood injured his back and had to be temporarily replaced by Tom White of Electric Soft Parade and Brakes fame.
In January 2008 the keyboard and cornet player ended up in hospital after being knocked unconscious when he attempted a stage dive. The crowd at Leeds Irish Centre failed to catch Phil Sumner, who jumped off a 12-foot PA system landing head first. The press department at Rough Trade Records reported "The impact knocked him out. Thankfully an ambulance was quickly summoned and he was whisked away, bloody and unconscious and despite a concussion, a broken molar and a maze of stitches in his chin, a very groggy Phil is expected to make a full recovery." In spite of this, he returned to the stage with the rest of the band a day later in Kendal.
In February 2008, the band appeared on Later with Jools Holland, playing "Waving Flags", "Canvey Island", and "No Lucifer". They were ably accompanied by a small number of the London Bulgarian Choir and a display of Cumbrian wrestling. The band are also scheduled to play at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park and Bestival.
The band played No Lucifer on The Late Show with David Letterman on the 12th of March 2008, performed and were interviewed on Countryfile, and had a concert filmed for the Canadian music series Beautiful Noise.
The band played a free show in Oklahoma at the First Annual Norman Music Festival on April 26, 2008, and on June 21, 2008, played a concert at the Natural History Museum in London, some of which was filmed.
On 22 July 2008, the band were announced as one of the nominees for the 2008 Mercury Prize. To coincide with their nomination they re-released their song Waving Flags on the 8th September 2008, which they also performed at the award ceremony the following day.