Before the four buddies – formerly of St Bede’s College – head overseas for a well-earned break, Melbourne’s British India are preparing to hit the road again for a handful of very special shows. “We just want people to come out and get excited – these shows are going to be like one big party,” says their affable front man Declan Melia. “We’ll be playing some new songs and some old songs. Will and I will most likely be slightly drunker than we should be – it’s going to be awesome!”
After months of non-stop touring, Melia says he is keen to let his hair down, but he acknowledges that for him, the New Year is always a time of reflection. “This last year has gone really fast – although it’s fresh in my memory, it feels like it was over in a flash.”
2016 was a banner year for the indie-rockers, as they began working on their sixth studio album and headed out on a national tour in support of their upcoming record’s lead single ‘I Thought We Knew Each Other’. “When we finished the final show of that tour, it was a bitter sweet feeling,” Melia says. “Of course there’s a sense of relief that you don’t have to go out and drink yourself silly every night – and you can give your vocal chords a rest – but it feels like another chapter of our lives is closed. I’ve felt that more as I’ve gotten older. I wonder ‘Did I make the most of it?’. It becomes somewhat annoying.”
Determined to recharge and reconnect with his three bandmates before they hibernate for the winter to finish their new LP, Melia says they’ve planned a trip to one of the world’s busiest and most fascinating metropolises. “After we play these Geelong and Bendigo shows, we’re all going to Japan together – not to play, just to take a holiday and for no other reason. We just want to catch up and hang out with each other – and because we don’t have any other friends,” he jokes.
From humble beginnings rehearsing in their school’s music room at lunchtime and study periods, to dominating Australian airwaves and amassing millions of fans around the world, British India have remained a solid front and the epitome of creative cohesion, while other bands have fallen by the wayside. “Our bond is as strong as ever. I guess our lives have taken a very different track to our [other] friends’ lives. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but these are the three guys that really know what we’ve been through, and I think that’s become really important as the band has gone on.”
With the follow-up of 2015’s Nothing Touches Me due for release in late August, the ambitious quartet have been working hard in their rare down time. “We’ve been working on this album since winter – in fact I’m going into the studio today to tinker with something and to try to close the book on a song.”
Clearly Melia knows a thing or two about song-writing as all five of their studio albums have debuted in the ARIA Charts Top 10. However, despite their recent progress, Melia admits things got off to a shaky start as they adjusted to a new space. “We’re in a new studio, but I think it’s going to be a one-off job because it’s a bit too professional for our liking,” he laughs. “For this record, we had to throw the rule book out because we felt like we were re-treading old ground, or repeating ourselves, so we leased a studio at South Yarra. It’s kind of the polar-opposite to where we were before, in Preston. It’s much shinier, much less funky. So there were a few teething problems at first, but I think we reacted against the space by writing these brash, angry, disco punk songs, and that’s where the record is sitting.”
Thankfully we won’t have to wait long to hear what they’ve been working on. “Some of the new songs are in our set-list already. It’s always challenging to find that ratio between old and new because it’s always exciting playing new songs when we’re on tour, and I think our audience expects to hear older songs – so we’ve planned a good mix of our back catalogue.
“There’s a real sense of respect for touring within this band,” Melia adds. “We don’t take what we do for granted, and we’re very honoured to do it. That’s why we try to fit in as much as we can, and suck the marrow out of the band experience, because we’re more conscious than anyone that there’s no guarantee this will last forever – but we want to take this as far as it can go.”
Written by Natalie Rogers