British Sea Power's Yan is so cool that he doesn't need another name. When not talking to Street on the phone in a sometimes indecipherable accent, Yan scours the forests for trees and shrubbery to adorn BSP's live act. Yan and the rest of his group will be invading Philadelphia with greenery and military outfits tonight at the Khyber. Be sure to check out this buzzed British act, and be on your best diplomatic behavior.
Street: What's up with the trees and shrubs on stage?
Yan: We used to go on hiking adventures... We'd go bird watching and see the scenery and stuff. We just started compiling what we'd see on our walks.
Do you fear it might become a gimmick and overshadow the music?
I don't know, I think maybe for a little while, but the CD will be around for hundreds of years, you know? All the bushes will be gone by then.
What was it like to tour with the Flaming Lips?
They're fun, they're very helpful and friendly... The show was fun for all.
What are your favorite albums of 2003?
Um, this year? Did Interpol come out this year? Was that last year?
No, that was 2002.
I can't think of anything then.
OK. Your favorite bands to come out of Britain?
The Libertines are good. Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. They're pretty good. That's about all. There are average bands, but those are the only two that I think are really good.
Do you not like the British and American distinctions?
I think we're kind of asking for it really, with a name like ours and sounding like we do. But it's not that big a deal, really.
With all of the references and allusions, is this a radio-friendly album?
Kind of maybe on the side of not quite radio friendly.
Everyone seems to compare you to different acts, like Bowie, Joy Division and the Pixies. Do these comparisons create any extra pressure for you?
I don't know, we decided when we started recording that we were going to make a record to feel like a William Turner oil painting and to me that's a much harder thing to achieve than sounding like any of those bands.
Has fame hit you yet? Can you still walk down the street without being noticed?
Haven't really gotten to anything like that yet. I can't imagine it anyways. I'm not trying.
Any major differences to you between the U.K. and U.S. in terms of playing and recording?
Everything's different really. Generally I don't find that countries vary that much, but they vary a lot here... In San Francisco, we thought that they maybe didn't like us but then we got told that it was one of the best responses they've seen in months. Certainly it's hard to read when it's the first time you've been to a place.
How's the touring going? Do you ever tire of it?
I think the touring is holding up fine... If you're starting to get bored of it, it means you're being a bit boring and you need to get out and do things a bit more. But the shows are going good, I think they're getting better.
With the costumes and the trees, is it spontaneous or are you dedicated to doing it? Will it stop one random night?
I think there's going to be a night - probably quite soon - where we'll probably stop everything. But we'll do something else. I think the tree thing has become a bit much. People started to bring their own trees in England. I would like to see the whole city transit decimated. I think that can stop. I don't know, it's not really an act, we're not trying to be something, it's just things that we like.
Where do you get the trees from? Do you pick them yourselves?
We pick them ourselves. When we were trapped in New York we were trying to get a few trees for our stage for our event last night.
When you started your act, were you laughed at or was it accepted?
There's usually a bit more of an extreme reaction one way or the other. Like some of our first gigs, people who came together were arguing because one of them liked it and one of them thought it was shit. Fairly love and hate.
Any U.S. or U.K. venues that you really want to play?
Not really. We've played some nice places. CBGB, maybe. Nothing really, just venues. Nothing where you'd know it before you go there.
Best group working today?
The Silver G's.