Since the release of their 2003 debut album, British Sea Power have become one of the UK’s most celebrated bands. But, perhaps unsurprisingly for a group who festoon their microphones with tree branches and are frequently joined on stage by a man dressed in a bear costume, they’ve never quite fitted in to the mainstream.
“Sometimes I don’t know how much of our stuff gets out into the outside world or whether it’s just people who are in touch with our music who know about it,” laughs bemused vocalist and guitarist Yan Scott Wilkinson.
“Everyone keeps saying they should stop playing our new single on 6music but every time I turn on the radio I never hear it.”
The song in question is Bad Bohemian – the first track from BSP’s latest album Let The Dancers Inherit The Party, which is released at the end of March, ahead of the band’s appearance at Wrexham’s Focus Wales festival in May.
“I’m pretty happy with the album,” says Jan.
“We finished it a few months ago so it always feels like we’re on a time delay compared to everyone else who thinks it’s brand new.
“We’ve always had this massive scale of things we wanted to achieve on a record which was fine but now I’m more interested in doing one certain thing as well as we can.”
For a band full of creative ideas and influences, this meant focusing in on a coherent mood and subject matter for the songs many of which deal with contemporary events.
“To me the world is a pretty mental place,” muses Jan.
“The way I’m thinking about it is in terms of recurring trends.
“The 80s came back a few years ago and we’ve had all the fashion and the music and now it’s time for another Cold War and a mental US president who brings some possibilities for the end of the world.
“I thought we’d try and do something that counteracted that in a positive emotional way - it takes it all in but doesn’t let it take over the world.”
Recorded in Sussex, London and on the Isle of Skye, the new LP follows the band’s five studio albums for the legendary Rough Trade Records which saw BSP become the longest continually-signed band in the label’s history.
As a result Let The Dancers Inherit The Party was funded by the band’s remarkably dedicated audience with pledges ranging from pre-orders for a limited edition box set version of the album to paying £1,500 for a tattoo that gives entry to all future BSP shows.
“I’ve never been divorced but it felt like I imagine that would,” says Jan, about the split from Rough Trade.
“There wasn’t a falling out or even a good reason to go but we just felt like a change because you’ve got to fight your habits and make something new happen occasionally.
“We got on so well with Rough Trade because they said we like you and who you are and just do what you want.
“If we’d had a label pushing us this way and that it probably would have been a disaster.”
Always doing things the way they wanted has been central to BSP’s ethos, with some of their more unusual releases including two film soundtracks and the theme to BT Sport’s European Championship coverage, as well as the 2015 compilation Sea of Brass (a kind of best-of-BSP recorded with the UK’s leading brass orchestras).
“I’m a bit fed up because people keep saying ‘you’ve been away for four years’ so I feel like I should have had a really good rest or gone on a cruise or something,” laughs Jan.
“We’ve all worked on a few projects and played the odd festival here and there so it feels like it’s never stopped to be honest.
“I wish I’d just put my feet upt!”
Anyone who has experienced BSP live will know their stages were often decorated with foliage and plastic birds, while former keyboardist Eamon Hamilton would walk around the audience beating his marching drum.
The encore would sometimes see an eight-foot bear, Ursine Ultra, join in the performance so what have the band got planned for this latest set of dates?
“There’s nothing amazing but during the making of our new video we went into this big old cupboard in our rehearsal room where everything gets thrown in and by chance we found this silver outfit which was really weird looking.
“It was made by the mum of one our roadies ‘Welsh Paul’ about five years ago. It’s a robot outfit and his mum has made us five more now, so we’ve got matching outfits to wear onstage.”
For a band fast approaching veteran stage is it really appropriate to be dressing up as robots?
“Veterans is a good word but I want to be a maverick rather than a veteran,” adds Jan.
“You feel like everyone else is getting older rather than you and it’s a bit of a surprise when I think about it but luckily I don’t really think about it.
“I’d never have guessed I’d still be doing this and would never have put the word ‘career’ next to British Sea Power.”
British Sea Power play Wrexham’s Central Station on Saturday May 13 as part of the Focus Wales Festival 2017. Tickets and information from www.focuswales.com/tickets/