Kele Ok­ereke’s par­ents won­dered why he didn’t have their faith but the tal­ented mu­si­cian re­alised that what they got from re­li­gion, he found in mu­sic and saw that its ef­fect on peo­ple was sim­i­lar

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD - KANE YOUNG

Kele Ok­ereke would sooner jump around at a con­cert than sit si­lently in a church pew. He’d rather lis­ten to a DJ spin records than hear a preacher de­liver a ser­mon.

But the Bloc Party front­man re­cently re­alised the un­der­ly­ing in­flu­ence that re­li­gion has on his mu­sic, and de­cided to ex­plore it on his band’s new al­bum, Hymns.

“My par­ents are very re­li­gious peo­ple, and grow­ing up with them I saw how faith was such an im­por­tant part of their lives but not nec­es­sar­ily mine,” he says.

“I felt like the joy and the con­nec­tion and the fel­low­ship that they felt from the church was some­thing that I felt when I lis­tened to mu­sic or went to see a gig or went to a club. That’s where I felt con­nected to peo­ple, where I felt a higher love. That’s where I got my sense of joy.

“Be­ing in a band and tour­ing the world many times over, see­ing the ef­fect the mu­sic has on peo­ple, how it brings peo­ple to­gether, I re­alised that what my par­ents get from re­li­gion is maybe what I get from what I do.

“I think this record Hymns was really me try­ing to ex­plore some­thing that I al­ways thought in the back of my mind but had never ar­tic­u­lated. I think this record is really for my par­ents. They would al­ways ask me why I don’t have the faith that they do, so I guess this is an at­tempt to ex­plain to them that this is the faith that I have.”

Ok­ereke may have dis­ap­pointed his par­ents with his stance on re­li­gion, but they’d have to be proud of the suc­cess of their son’s band, which has sold more than three mil­lion albums.

Com­bin­ing in­die-rock with el­e­ments of elec­tron­ica and house mu­sic, Bloc Party’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed, plat­inum­selling 2005 de­but al­bum Silent Alarm – fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar tracks Like Eat­ing Glass, Ban­quet, He­li­copter and Pos­i­tive Tension – was named NME Al­bum of the Year and short-listed for the Mer­cury Mu­sic Prize.

Albums A Week­end in the City (2007) and In­ti­macy (2008) were also big hits, be­fore the band went on hia­tus in late 2009 to fo­cus on side projects in­clud­ing Ok­ereke’s solo and DJing ca­reers.

They re­united in Septem­ber 2011 and re­leased their fourth al­bum, Four, soon af­ter. But trou­ble was brew­ing within the Bloc Party ranks, and orig­i­nal drum­mer Matt Tong left the band dur­ing a world tour. It was a low point for Ok­ereke, who feared that there may never be an­other Bloc Party al­bum.

“Our re­la­tion­ships had got­ten so bad, as a band, that I didn’t want to make an­other record,” he says.

“We’d had a break and come back to­gether and we were still feel­ing like that, and I re­alised that it was al­ways go­ing to feel like that and maybe wasn’t worth it any more. Then in 2013 we parted ways with our drum­mer, and ev­ery­thing changed. I felt like ‘OK, this can be fun. It should be fun, let’s make an­other record now’.”

Bass player Gor­don Moakes also left the group, with Ok­ereke and guitarist Rus­sell Lis­sack re­cruit­ing bassist Justin Har­ris and drum­mer Louise Bar­tle – a 21year-old they dis­cov­ered on YouTube – to round out the line-up be­fore making Hymns, which is set for a Jan­uary 29 release.

“They’re dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and the way they play is dif­fer­ent – even play­ing the same songs, they ap­proach them from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive,” Ok­ereke says of his new band mates.

“I feel that we’re really only at the start of our re­la­tion­ship with each other. We haven’t toured prop­erly yet, and that’s when you really get to know each other.” As for the fu­ture? “I’m definitely look­ing for­ward to trav­el­ling the world and shar­ing this record with peo­ple, and look­ing for­ward to making new mu­sic,” he says.

“But aside from that, I can’t tell what the fu­ture is go­ing to be. We don’t have any plans be­yond tour­ing this record, be­cause I think when you try to make plans, that’s when God shows you who’s really the boss.

“I’m just try­ing to live ev­ery day and enjoy ev­ery day.”

Bri­tish mu­si­cian Kele Ok­ereke, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the in­die rock band Bloc Party, will play the Falls Fes­ti­val at Byron on New Year’s Day.

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