British Sea Power formed in 2000 when brothers Yan Scott Wilkinson and Neil Hamilton Wilkinson and school friend Matthew Wood, all from Cumbria, met guitarist Martin Noble from West Yorkshire. They released their first single “Fear Of Drowning” on their own Golden Chariot label and soon were gaining a reputation as being outstanding live. “All of them have crazy acid-fried stares, the bass player is wearing tree branches on his head and one deliriously psycho-delic tune concludes with singer Yan beating on the drum-kit with a large stuffed owl. British Sea Power rule.” – Rolling Stone

'BSP’s inventive live shows have become a latter-day rock institution: Atop the Great Wall Of China. At London’s Natural History Museum and Czech Embassy. On the Scilly Isles and on Arctic islets. Down a Cornish slate mine and at the Chelsea Flower Show. On ships at sea and deep in Polish forests. BSP have been acknowledged by the great institutions: David Bowie, the National Maritime Museum, Jarvis Cocker, the British Horseracing Authority. They are a band who tour giant American stadiums with old pals The Killers, but a band who also make singles with ancient West Country hitmakers The Wurzels. BSP play forests and giant rock halls as specially requested guests of The Flaming Lips, The Strokes and Pulp. But they’re also a band who stage their album launch parties in remote Sussex pubs where their own special guests are The Copper Family, a clan of Sussex folk singers who’ve been going for 200 years. No other band did this. Most likely no other band could…

Their debut album The Decline Of British Sea Power was released in 2003: “Stadium-sized melodies and exquisite songwriting,” said MOJO. The NME was in accord: “Out of this world… a dazzling debut.” The Sunday Times was unequivocal: “The best band in Britain.” The band were joined on keyboard and marching drum by the great Eamon Hamilton, all the way from Laurie Lee country, Stroud in Gloucestershire and toured LOADS. There were concerts from St Petersburg to San Francisco – including tours with the Flaming Lips, Interpol, Pulp and The Killers. In 2004, Time Out made BSP Live Band of the Year at their annual awards.

In 2005, BSP released their second album, Open Season. “A marvellous album,” reported The Guardian, “a triumphant lesson in sweeping toward the mainstream with your imagination and mystery intact.” Rolling Stone said that: “The first few songs are so jaw-slackeningly great it can take days to get to the album’s highlight, the epic eight-minute medley of “Please Stand Up” and “North Hanging Rock”.” The NME said: “Wonderful… breathes with originality, poise and grace.” In the wake of Open Season, BSP made a single with The Wurzels and jammed on stage with German avant garde enigmas Faust. The latter engagement concluded with an energetic fist fight.

British Sea Power’s third album, Do You Like Rock Music?, was recorded in the Czech Republic, Canada and at Fort Tregantle – a 19th Century redoubt up on the Cornish cliffs. It was released in 2008 and went straight into the top ten of the UK chart. Subject matter included floods on Canvey Island, economic migration, Slavia Prague FC, heartache, Big Daddy and the Apocalypse. The album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and again the press shouted the record’s virtues from the rooftops. “It has the unity and sweep of a great film or novel,” said The Independent On Sunday. “British Sea Power are emperors of the elegiac.” Q magazine detected numerous strengths: “Ambitious, impressive, genuinely moving… chock full of epic tunes and seductive melodies.” The Observer homed in on the band’s blend of the eccentric and the everyman: “This is rock that’s both arcane and populist, built for huge halls yet awash with references to the Carpathians and ‘Czech ecstasy’.” The album didn’t win the Mercury but victors Elbow added their name to the list of BSP admirers. In Uncut magazine, Guy Garvey declared that, “Not only do British Sea Power own the best name in history, they’re fucking great.”

By the time the band made Do You Like Rock Music? Eamon had left to front his own band, Brakes. BSP live players Abi Fry (viola/keyboards/Ealing) and Phil Sumner (keyboards/cornet/Shropshire) became full band members. The new line-up recorded the Man Of Aran soundtrack, a new largely instrumental score for Robert Flaherty’s fascinating 1934 film of the same name. The album was again well received. “Stunning… breathtaking,” said Ireland’s Hot Press. “Chimes perfectly with BSP’s fascination with lost ways of life,” said The Independent On Sunday. Fittingly, BSP played their new soundtrack to screenings of the film on a series of islands: Jersey, the Hebrides, and a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle.

BSP’s fourth studio album, Valhalla Dancehall was written and recorded on Skye and in a remote farmhouse in East Sussex. The title hints at some wild internationalist daydream – a mix of glowery Norse mythos and jam-happy Jamaican discos… The album has a glorious scope, moving from the windswept nine-minute meditation of “Once More Now” to the neat electronic pop of “Living Is So Easy”... beside the atmospheric, reflective Hamilton songs “Baby”, “Cleaning Out The Rooms” and “Once More Now” – tracks that form a link to the Man Of Aran album – Valhalla Dancehall can be seen as a bit of pop fantasia. The band like to imagine there are hints of Kraftwerk, Abba, Winfred Atwell and Slade. All lined up beside an all-new Norse/Kingston pantheon and a mood of sweet, intoxicating sparkling wine. On the sleeve sits a picture of a three-legged horse. The horse is a nod to some inspirational thoughts from the late Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal – his suggestion that there’s nothing to beat placing bets on three-legged horses with beautiful names.

Such bewitching Central European musings and the band’s tripod horse, of course, only exist in the world of art and imagination. But, in the real world, British Sea Power really do have a horse. Or, at least, the racehorse British Sea Power, a recent runner at Kempton Park, was named after the band (the owners were kind enough to ask permission). Somewhere out on the oceans there’s also a big three-masted yacht named after the band. These transferences of dreams into reality are maybe emblematic of this most audacious of bands. Here is a group who have sung of the Carpathian mountains, atomic particles and Scandinavian sea lanes while playing some wonderfully idiosyncratic concerts. Yet they’ve also reached the top ten of the album charts and sold out prestigious shows across the globe. In the words of Bohumil Hrabal, BSP are a band where “the unbelievable came true.” '


British Sea Power by Westbury Music