I normally approach interviews in the same way, and once the interview is done I will write some elaborate paragraph outlining who the band I’m interviewing is, what they have achieved, and an overview of what is spoken about during the interview. The British Expeditionary Force contain a member of now de-funct band Yourcodenameis:Milo, who happen to be one of my favorite bands so I have to say I was pretty excited and nervous about the responses to the questions I had about his old band, his new(er) band, and everything else… but nothing really prepared me for what was to come.
I’ve spoken to a lot of successful musicians in my time writing for God Is In The TV Zine. In this time I’ve spoken to those who take themselves too seriously, those who are arrogant, those who are serious and arrogant (Papa Roach), and those who treat this as a hobby and perhaps aren’t quite serious enough (yet). I’m not quite sure where Justin and Aid from The British Expeditionary Force fit in this spectrum of attitudes, I didn’t know before the interview, and perhaps I’m even more puzzled after, but I have to say after giving their latest release, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, a 4.5 out of 5 review, that not only have they written a brilliant album that I’m sure will make my top 10 list for the year, but they are also extremely witty guys with a lot to say, although perhaps also, maybe not enough.
So on with the usual pre-interview paragraph. The British Expeditionary Force, formed in the demise of Yourcodenameis:Milo, released Chapter One: A Long Way From Home via Erased Tapes Records way back in 2007 to critical acclaim. 2012 sees the return of the band and their sophomore album, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu. I caught up with Justin Lockey and singer Aid Burrows to talk about the band, the new album, and the pressures of being successful.
Justin, coming from Yourcodenameis:Milo, the style of The British Expeditionary Force is completely different. Was that a conscious decision when you created the group, or something that just happened naturally?
(Justin:) After a fairly lengthy period of standing in various rooms and playing really fucking loud music with 4 other people who could, in theory be playing a totally different piece of music at the same time and nobody would be any wiser I decided it was probably time to calm the fuck down for a while.
This led me to the revelation that music could also be rewarding even when everything is not turned up really fucking loud. The idea that you could string notes together via the silky tones of a choral patch on a keyboard from Argos and you could randomly programme aurally rewarding sounds into a computer which would then spit it back out in some kind of order was to me, a relief. Having hid behind a distortion pedal and detuned guitar for so long I was more than happy to try something a little different.
So it wasn’t really a conscious decision as such, more a happy accident of sorts. To be honest it was a piece of piss, it’s an awful lot easier throwing two nice chords together and kicking back as opposed to counting in sevens all the time.
Your first album, Chapter One: A Long Way From Home was critically acclaimed by the music press. When you were writing that album, did you expect people to “get” it or was there a lingering thought that due to Justin’s previous band, you would be unfairly compared?
(Justin:) It reminded me of that time when Aid took me to one of his Chess Jamboree’s for moral support. It was here, in a middle school on a perfect summers day in Wigan that Aid executed the Indian-Nimzo Defence perfectly against his opponent (a mere 12 years his junior) to a rapturous response.
Aid crushed the 9 year old like a polystyrene cup in his triumphant defeat in the semi-final and it became clear that it was the 9 year olds fault for not being clever enough to ‘get’ Aid’s fucking masterful strategy.
Thus, even though Aid has had more life experience of the game and enjoys a superior wealth of knowledge to the kids’ pitiful display of rank amateurish chess playing, you can’t expect people to ‘get’ anything you do, so you might as well not really give a fuck.
(Aid:) Perspective and editing is everything. It’s hard to care too much about what a handful think as they’re just people, and we’re just people, floating as a mote of dust in space suspended in a sunbeam (to openly steal from Sagan).
The perspective depending on the framing angle is everything. But then again bloody ‘ell that’s amazing we’re people! The odds against that are pretty astronomical, I really do care at times how others feel, the privilege to be someone and along with the chorus of billions of cells in the body we’re hard wired to generate and be creative and make the atoms come alive and be understood with these obscure shared experiences of music among all else. It’s all very strange under the microscope. It’s hard to get the essence of the elephant at all. Always useful to shift perspective, who knows what’s lurking.
From the first album to your latest, Chapter Two: Konstellation Neu, there is nearly a five year gap. Most acts release an album every two years, is there any reason why Chapter Two took so long to create, and what have you been up to in the interim?
(Aid:) It was something that Justin just felt he had to do. I was patient, I waited, I was sympathetic to the ‘process’. Justin later suggested we crack on with Chapter 2. ‘Konstellation Neu’, I said inexplicably. We had a beginning….
This is your second album released through Erased Tapes Records. What can you tell us about your relationship with them, why do you keep releasing music through them specifically?
(Justin:) I worked on The BEF’s Chapter 1 in my spare time in between training sorties flying up against the mega piloting skills of ‘Viper’, ‘Jester’ and ‘Iceman’. Erased Tapes stuck with me as I lost my RIO and best friend ‘Goose’, slept with an awesome civillian blonde lady instructor bizarrely called ‘Charlie’, and basically pissed everyone off with my ‘Reckless Flying’ and ‘Buzzing the tower’.
It was this strong bond between Label and Artist that is still as strong today as it was the day I summoned the memories of my late friend Goose mid-flight to eventually overcome a zillion baddy MiGs and save the day. This is why I specifically release music via Erased Tapes.
(Aid:) 100 per cent true.
I understand the story was turned into a sort of documentary movie around the time.
Sophomore albums can be notoriously difficult for bands, especially successful ones, as you don’t want to copy the debut album but yet, don’t want to alienate your fans too much on the second. Personally I think you have bridged the gap between the two perfectly, but how do you think Chapter Two both compares and contrasts to Chapter One?
(Justin:) The great film American film director Reginald Hudlin’s seminal think piece ‘House Party’ (1990) was arguably the best film released in 1990. It effortlessly gave us a breath-taking insight into its two main protagonists ‘Kid’ and ‘Play’s minds whilst still expertly dealing with the controversial issues of ‘grounding’ and ‘parties’. It was hands down the best film about a House Party ever. The simplicity and marriage of title and plot showed an uncanny fluidity and expert knowledge and craft of narrative cinema that seemed untouchable to anything that had gone before.
That was until “House Party 2′ came along, Hudlin this time taking a writers role and handing over directing duties to George jackson and Doug Henry. Wow, what a sequel, it not only took the premise of ‘House Party’ to some next level shit, but also on an aesthetic tip, ‘blew the fucking doors’ off the franchise. Again we followed with baited breath the story of our two main protagonists ‘Kid’ and ‘Play’ (played again by Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin respectively) but this time it centered around a Pyjama party and introduced us to the ‘Pyjama Jam’. It was this magical narrative sleight of hand that single handily saw ‘House Party 2’ beat down the original ‘House Party’ like a grossly mismatched bare knuckle boxing match, each plot point savagely disfiguring the face of its predecessor into a mangled mess of bone and flesh.
(Aid:) We realise it might seem arrogant to seem so at ease creating a metaphor in which we suggest our creative growth mimics that of the cosmic leap between ‘House Party’ and ‘House Party 2’. We hope that in thousands and thousands of years the history books will vindicate this view.
There is the obvious electronic sound of the group, but I can hear post-rock influences too, while in the press release both indie and prog-rock are mentioned. What music inspired you when creating Chapter Two?
(Justin:) I think ‘Indie’ and ‘Prog’ are mentioned as they are probably truer references to what the band is influenced by. I am a kid who grew up in the 1990’s having two older brothers who force fed quality Indie tunes down my throat until i violently threw up. What was left was of this period etched into my very soul was a fully formed expert knowledge of the entire back catalogue of The Wedding Present, a penchant for Pixies and a dab of Pavement to boot. I’d say every band I’ve ever been in I would try and convey that it sounds like The Wedding Present to me, even if it sounds nothing like The Wedding Present.
I don’t think we’re that influenced by Post Rock as that would mean I dig all that ‘Epic’, ‘Crescendo’ stuff, and I’m not really a fan. I’d rather get to the point a lot earlier than have to drag it out for hours upon hours of emotional guitar notes before something happens, it’s like having to sit through the whole of the director’s cut of the Lord of The Rings trilogy in Turkish back to back in one sitting just to hear an E major chord.
Fuck that. I’d rather eat my own toes.
(Aid:) I on the other hand had an older brother who was force feeding me Aerosmith’s Pump and Permanent Vacation, along with a prescription from Motley Crue’s Doctor Feelgood. This was before doing something of a sonic skid into 808 state and Sub Sub.
That’s taught me contradiction is important. I see it reaffirmed often. Purism and perfectionism can be claustrophobia inducing. We’re social creatures and need to belong to some kind of set. It feels so comforting to have somewhere to stand and a place to be, perhaps even a direction to head in but the doors are wide open these days. Who knows what’s next?
It’s exciting to think there are many ways in which to go for Chapter 3.
Do you have any plans in terms of playing Chapter Two live?
(Justin:) Promoting is a chumps game, and playing live is for losers. Fact.
The music industry has changed a lot not only from Justin’s days in Yourcodenameis:Milo, but even since The British Expeditionary Force’s first release. What keeps you creating and releasing music when it would probably be easier to just work a 9-5 job?
(Aid:) Working a 9 to 5 job is bloody hard. That’s often when the shops are open for starters. Where’s the time to get things done. Before you know it, it’s Sunday night and then the snake eats itself and around and around we go. Plus in this climate of shrinking shores and increasing demand for them 9 to 5 jobs it’s no simple slice of life to take. This is why we live in a fantasy land.
Beyond this release what plans do the band have?
(Justin:) I’m about to take the position of Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities at Louisiana State University (Go Tigers!!!) as for the rest of the band, I don’t know, and don’t give a fuck. They’ll probably go back to doing what they do best, which is all anyone can really do isn’t it?
(Aid:) I’m going to have a bit of a sit down. Then I expect I’m going to have a bit of a cry because in order to play these songs live I’m going to need to work out some crazy Vocoder 8 part harmonies. Bruce Springsteen didn’t have or use a vocoder. I’m so kicking myself right now.
And last but not least, you have five words to sell your record. Go!
(Justin:) Five words?? This isn’t enough.
(Aid:) Justin used up all the words, let’s have a rewind. How about ‘Indie, post rock, alternative electronica’? That sounds edgy enough to me.
You can buy the new The British Expeditionary Force album via Erased Tapes here – http://www.erasedtapes.com/store