The Melbourne foursome released their first LP in 2007, shortly after exploding onto the independent music scene. Guillotine featured the brash punk of Black & White Radio, the lo-fi rock of Tie Up My Hands and the #22 ARIA single Run The Red Light. It took out the AIR Award for Best New Independent Artist and received a J Award nomination for Album of the Year. Coupled with the band’s ferocious live shows, it cemented their arrival.
The very next year, Declan Melia, Will Drummond, Matt O’Gorman and Nic Wilson returned to the charts with their second release, Thieves. I Said I’m Sorry, God Is Dead (Meet The Kids) and This Dance Is Loaded highlighted their lyrical and musical growth and landed Thieves comfortably at #5 on the ARIA albums chart. An ARIA nomination for Best Independent Release backed up their growing reputation as a formidable force.
Less than two years later, in 2010, British India had their third long-player ready to roll. Avalanche burst with brilliant pop melodies and high octane rock n roll, exemplified by the singles Vanilla, Avalanche and Beneath The Satellites – a bonafide commercial hit. The album backed up the success of its predecessors, debuting in the ARIA Top 10 and rounding out British India’s successful independent trilogy.
With their position in the Australian musical landscape now firmly galvanised and a work ethic like no other, no one could have predicted that we would have to wait nearly three years for the release of their fourth album, least of all the band.
“After the Avalanche tours it took us a long time to regroup. Certainly we were writing a lot of material, but we were suddenly without a label and a work space,” says the band’s singer and chief lyricist, Declan Melia.
As it happened, British India’s distributer had gone into receivership around the time Avalanche was released, and whilst the LP sold well over 20,000 copies, they ultimately lost out.
A fresh start was needed. The regroup began late in 2011 with drills, hammers and nails, when the boys converted an old shopfront in Melbourne’s northeast to a rehearsal studio, by constructing a room within a room. It was named Josif K Studios, in honour of a used car yard nearby. This was to become the band’s new creative space, where they would come together to write and jam every weekday.
In mid 2012, British India’s story took another noteworthy turn. After a brief and amicable courtship, the band put pen to paper and signed to a label for the first time in their career – Liberation Music.
“After doing three records independently we were interested in getting more people involved. Our apprenticeship was over and we were ready to make the album of our careers.”
With the pieces once again in place, it was back to business for the band.
The result is Controller, an album loaded with potent drum beats and layered, exhilarating guitars, hip-shaking melodies and a lyrical genius from Melia that is too often lacking in rock albums. Four albums and in and the band have harnessed all of the attitude, poise and swagger that made their past three offerings so successful. The 10 tracks on album #4 see British India in their finest and most assured form to date, filled with a mature confidence and resolve.
Album openers Plastic Souvenirs and Blinded explode with brooding energy, setting the album’s mood of barely contained excitement, whilst new single Summer Forgive Me – an original and explosive rock song with an unforgettable chorus – pulses with frantic vigour. Four tracks deep and the band’s first single I Can Make You Love Me still smacks you full in the face. The song struck a chord with listeners upon release, ultimately selling over 25,000 copies and placing at #41 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2012. We Don’t Need Anyone is brash, unbridled rock, with a shout-it-out-loud chorus. Twice Inna Lifetime and Another Christmas In The Trenches prove the boys have lost none of the punk-rock furor that defined them in 2007. Slower, moodier tracks including the 60s-esq Your Brand New Life, the pensive Swimming In Winter and the otherworldly Crystals provide depth and dynamics to the album, balancing the overall flow.
With any good album release comes touring. Controller will bring the four friends back to their humble beginnings, giving back to the fans who first helped them earn their stripes. The band will tour nationally throughout April and May, taking Controller live to both city and regional centres. They are something else live, their current show a fervent display of the camaraderie and musicality that still endures today, six years after they first caught our attention with Guillotine.
Time can take its toll on musicians. Some bands get softer, some bands get more palatable. British India simply get better.
And Controller is worth the wait.