Veteran British outfit The Boxer Rebellion decided to do something a little different when it came to recording their fifth full-length album, Ocean by Ocean. When it came to following up their 2013 album Promises, the anthemic, guitar-heavy, indie rock mainstay embraced bold new sounds and bright textures to try and offer long-time fans of the band something new and exciting. When we first heard the band's lead single "Weapon", we knew we had to catch up with the band for the first time since 2010 to see what the record was all about.
"This new sound came about as a result of a lot of experimentation," guitarist Andrew Smith explained during his recent visit to our offices with singer Nathan Nicholson. "When we wrote the song 'Weapon' [we knew] that was a keystone track. That was one that we realized was very different than previous Boxer Rebellion style of songs. Everything kind of followed after that." The result is a record that's punctuated with neon-lit swaths of synthetics taking the band's patented melodies to wonderful new heights.
Our newest Baeble NEXT Session may not focus on the band's adventurous new production. These are actually sparse and delicate presentations of three songs from Ocean by Ocean. But what's evident here is the baseline emotions Nathan and Andrew inject into their music. These are lovingly crafted songs and they will inevitably send your heart into a flutter as they cycle through...poignant, powerful, and undoubtedly The Boxer Rebellion at the core.
members of The Boxer Rebellion. I believe I know you better than you know yourself - I think the way we maintain being in a band for so long is we all get along really well. We're lucky that we found one another. And we all have a...this sounds cheesy, but a common goal. It's rare that you would find like-minded people wanting to do this for so long. For us, success is just being able to continue and make albums. Because even that in itself is kind of a hard thing. We count ourselves as quite fortunate to do what we do. Big ideas For the first time in my life I have seen The relevance of love When you don't have much When it's what you need And I have big ideas For you and me I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up I feel lucky With the worst luck Wish I'd met you now before we're broken in Big ideas You're the shadow stealing light against the wall. You're the dream I had just before I woke up. Am I running through that mind of yours at all? And I have big ideas For you and me I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up I feel lucky With the worst luck Wish I'd met you now before we're broken in I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up I feel lucky With the worst luck That I met you when I felt messed up And I have big ideas Big ideas Big ideas - Life for us for the last few years has been really good. For one, we had our first ever kind of real hit. We had a song called "Diamonds" and it ended up being big in the Netherlands. I'm no good next to diamonds. When I'm too close I start to fade - We had a really good experience with that. We wrote our fifth album and it was a really painless process. - Quite a while before we wrote the album we had already decided that we wanted bold artwork to go with bold new songs and textures. That's exactly the effect we were after. This new sound came about as a result of a lot of experimentation. When we wrote the song "Weapon" that was a keystone track. That was one that we realized was very different to previous Boxer Rebellion style of songs. Then everything kind of followed after that. We decided to kind of package everything in this new bold sound along with the artwork, as you say, and other elements. - We made a record that we're really proud of. It's a unique experience. - I'm proud of the fact that we put out a bold album. We were quite fearless about it and it's a new direction. - This song is called "Let's Disappear. " It's the mask you hide behind. But I can change your mind. We can bring this back from wrong. Bring it back to where we belong. There's a pressure to do what's good. I want to do everything I should. I should. Let's disappear, let's disappear. Let's get out of here, get out of here. We're moving on, we're moving on. I went out blind in the night, A silhouette to the light Even before the day could see I saw your eyes had strength in me And the pressure to do what's good I want to do everything I should, I should So let's disappear, let's disappear Let's get out of here, get out of here We're moving on, we're moving on We're moving on, we're moving on Let's disappear, let's disappear Let's get out of here, get out of here We're moving on, we're moving on. Let me disappear away, away with you Let's get out of here away to something new Yeah we're moving on Let's disappear, let's disappear Let's get out of here, get out of here We're moving on, we're moving on We're moving on, we're moving on Let's disappear, let's disappear Let's get out of here, get out of here We're moving on, we're moving on - I joined two years ago now. So first of all we did a tour together. We actually met when I was on tour supporting the band with another group. Then after Todd left I joined the band just playing the usual set. After that we wrote the album together. Now we're on tour playing songs that we've written together. This is a song that was written in a bit more of a traditional way. I think it was the two of us on keys and piano just working out some chords. We had a bit of a thing over this didn't we? You weren't so keen on it and I was very keen on it. - Basically until we recorded it in L. A. I wasn't so sure. But then I heard it in a different way and it had become one of my favorites. Don't cancel out, don't stop, don't wait Pull yourself together take everything you need open up to open arms and opt to disagree pull yourself together, pull yourself together for me Everyone, everyone is waiting for you, waiting for you from the other end, to the end you run to so pull yourself together take everything you need open up to open arms and opt to disagree pull yourself together, pull yourself together for me Pull yourself together, pull yourself together open up to open arms and opt to disagree pull yourself together, pull yourself together for me - Hi. This is Nathan and Andrew from The Boxer Rebellion and you're watching Baeble Music.
With all that's befallen them, London-based quartet The Boxer Rebellion have a history that reads like a grand, intricately woven design. For a band who have been together almost ten years - during which their first (and, to date, only) label went bust shortly after their debut release and a key member had a near-death experience - such fluctuating fortunes would surely see most bands imploding in frustration. So what marks The Boxer Rebellion out from the rest? How have they endured in relative obscurity, held down day jobs to self-release a follow-up, and arrived at a kind of renaissance so far down a jagged career path? Well, one could point to the quality of the songs or the almost wanton uniqueness of their sound, but that would be remiss - they've always had the talent. Perhaps it could be faith in their own abilities - a bloody-mindedness that refused to go away? Not so - every band that has ever existed (or not) tends to think they're the reincarnation of The Beatles. The simple fact is, the reason The Boxer Rebellion have endured thus far resides in a single word, a concept that was the insignia of their second album: Union.
In an industry replete with egoism, showmanship and self-aggrandisement, The Boxer Rebellion have always remained refreshingly understated, whilst producing a musical output that is anything but. Comprising a line-up that neither eschews nor basks in the spotlight, what you get with this band more than any other is a sense of shared purpose - a unity impervious to external influence or critical sloganeering, which divides itself into equally vital parts of a greater whole.
"We've always been a band that's had a sense of seclusion, which has helped us extract the essence of what we are as a unit," guitarist Todd Howe reveals of their working process, a point succinctly and wryly punctuated by frontman Nathan Nicholson: "I think if we were solo artists, we'd have all quit by now."
It's this sense of alliance that has allowed The Boxer Rebellion to navigate a path beset with industry indifference and financial hardship to forge a career that has set industry landmarks from the base materials of undeniable talent and a cast-iron will. One such landmark came in the band's recent live appearance on the silver screen in Going The Distance, a Hollywood feature film starring Drew Barrymore. In the movie, the band play themselves and effectively superimpose their name into the popcorn-chomping eyes of movie-going audiences throughout the world - performing two tracks from the Union LP ('Evacuate' and 'Spitting Fire') while also providing an original song, 'If You Run', for the film's finale. All this on the back of a chance encounter with film industry spotters at a showcase in LA, who were so impressed with the band's sold-out performance at The Troubadour, they promptly nudged the film's director, Nanette Burstein, to make them the movie's musical focal point. Since then, the band have found themselves attending red-carpet premieres in Los Angeles and London (in a location literally around the corner from where two of the band used to work in a shoe shop), before launching into a packed-out 20-date US tour in September 2010.
Having self-released and virtually self-financed the follow-up to debut Exits, the band's Union LP saw them make history by becoming the first unsigned band to enter the US Billboard 100 Albums Chart (no. 82) on digital sales alone. By the end of 2009, iTunes US declared Union their Alternative Album of the Year. A fitting climax to a year of toil and tussle, after this The Boxer Rebellion were primed and ready to embark on their third studio record.
Enter producer Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne), whose unorthodox approach to recording became the perfect foil to the Boxer Rebellion's almost tunnel-vision creative perseverance.
"There's no conventional approach or formula to how I work," the producer states. "But working on this album, I felt there had to be some natural way of recording, because the tracks were coming fast. So recording it live seemed like the logical thing to do - there was a synchronicity to writing and recording, and the way it all came together so naturally I think adds to the whole feel of it."
The result of this dynamic - and the first album The Boxer Rebellion have handed over to a single producer - is the forthcoming breathtaker that is The Cold Still, an album that might never have seen the light of day from a band of lesser conviction. And beyond everything that has sought to restrain them, this is one band who have taken the trials of their formative years and built themselves a future that glows from the resurgent embers of the determination that refused to be extinguished all those years ago, and burns ever brighter still.
For The Boxer Rebellion, what's past is their prologue. Here's where their story truly begins...