FAITH’S IN THE MUSIC
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
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.