The way Declan Melia tells it, British India had to destroy their world in order to live in it. After five hugely successful albums, the Melbourne four-piece found themselves at a crossroads. They could continue to explore the afternoon guitar contemplations of 2015’s Nothing Touches Me, which debuted, as with their previous three albums, in the Top 5 of the ARIA Albums Chart. Or they could blow it all up and start from nought.
They chose the latter.
Forgetting The Future is the explosive sixth record from one of Australia’s most cherished and esteemed rock bands. Recorded with Holy Holy’s Oscar Dawson, the album pushes the walls out with trilling guitars, careening rhythms and fleeting hooks that twist into bouldering choruses. Throughout, acting almost as a conduit in the centre of the electrical storm, Melia breaths and howls manifestos for a world – and a man – with little certainty for what’s to come. “Nothing’s waiting beyond right now,” Melia calls out two songs into the record, on ‘Kiss Me Again’. As the album title suggests, it’s less an act of reinvention as it is a celebration of the transient nature of creation.
“We were tapping into the same ferocity you feel when you first start writing songs as a band,” Melia says about writing Forgetting The Future. “Just going for it, getting songs out without overthinking them, fast and hard. And Oscar was pushing for the same thing we were pushing for. The way I see it, the sound is futuristic but it’s still raw.”
Before reaching for the reset button, however, Melia had to weather a crisis of faith. Early in 2016, when talk of writing another album began, the guitarist and vocalist was questioning where he and the band were heading: weighing up what they had created and what it meant. British India formed when all four members – Melia, guitarist Nic Wilson, bassist Will Drummond and drummer Matt O’Gorman – were 16 and in high school. Together they’ve seen no less than eight of their songs voted into the triple j Hottest 100, had their ‘I Can Make You Love Me’ single certified Gold, played every festival from Byron Bay to WA, toured, toured and toured again.
As the band turned the corner into its 12th year together, the music world looked different. The world looked different. Melia wasn’t sure where British India fit into the new landscape or what he wanted to say. He experienced a long period of “shocking writer’s block” that had him doubting whether he would ever pen another song.
“I was questioning where I belonged, and not only in a musical sense. I was questioning where I was in my life and what the future held for me, where I wanted to be. I had to go to the guys and say, ‘OK, are we going to make another record?’ because I wasn’t sure that we would.”
The answer to Melia’s question was a collective “yes”, so as the premise for writing was set, the band rented the front room of Sing Sing Recording Studios in Melbourne’s south and settled in. No time constraints, no limitations – and then, with the band together again in a room, the writing flowed quickly. They recorded demos as they wrote, turning out riffs and ideas for no less than eight months before Oscar Dawson stepped in to work with them on turning the unbridled ideas into a record.
During that time, Melia realised that his own struggles mirrored those of the world at large – or, as he puts it, “the whole world seems to be having a crisis of faith” – and so he began to write, his lyrics taking on a “micro-verses-macro form: me thinking about my own life, then weighing that up against everything else that’s going on”.
First single ‘Precious’ is perhaps the most clear example of Melia writing away his uncertainty, the frontman yearning to accept the brevity of life and that each scene of beauty should be valued. Another standout track is ‘Absolutely Disgusting’, one of the album’s few tender moments, which sees Melia exploring starkly honest relationship failings.
Front and centre of the album is British India’s signature melodic chaos, more unhinged than ever in the frenetic yet danceable rhythms of ‘My Love’ and ‘Kiss Me Again’. ‘My Love’ was the first song fully completed for the record, and when the band gathered around the studio speakers to listen, they knew they were making the album they needed to make. “We were rapt,” Melia says.
Dawson’s fondness for sunburnt guitar tones and layered production lends warmth and richness to Forgetting The Future beyond the frenzy. Part of Dawson’s work with British India was in helping them reimagine songs while in the studio, breaking things down and rebuilding them as they recorded.
“We were really surprised with how well it turned out with Oscar, to be honest, because it was a new way of recording for us and it was a risk,” Melia says. “There’s an intensity to the production that addresses the lyric world of the album. I think we were heading a certain way with the writing and Oscar was able to catch us on that road.”
Where that road will lead British India now is anyone’s guess, though there’s no doubt their league of admirers will be watching intently. It’s perhaps ironic that in breaking apart what they had built, the band has made one of the most ambitious albums of its career. If there’s one thing to be gleaned from Forgetting The Future, though, it’s that British India are living for the here and now.