Vive la revo­lu­tion

Brand­sare re­plac­ing mu­sic la­bels, their se­cond al­bum is mad weird, and rock acts have a lot to learn from hip hop when it comesto busi­ness, a fizzing Bastille tell Shilpa Gana­tra

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

Hid­den in the leafy sub­urbs of west Lon­don is Metropo­lis Stu­dios: a large ware­house build­ing, with flight cases scat­tered out­side and a hive of low-key ac­tiv­ity in­side.

At the end of a long day, bands, en­gi­neers and pro­duc­ers re­flect on their progress in the mez­za­nine bar. But in a room of no par­tic­u­lar pur­pose, the four mem­bers of Bastille are found, still a ball of pro­duc­tive en­ergy de­spite the late hour. It’s tir­ing just lis­ten­ing to them.

The ex­cite­ment sur­rounds their se­cond al­bum, Wild World. Shar­ing more with their de­but Bad Blood than pro­ducer Mark Crew, their forte of lean sounds, bold hooks, and a dark touch has been de­vel­oped.

“I hope it sounds like us ex­per­i­ment­ing,” says lead singer Dan Smith. “We wanted to make a big, mad, weird, al­ter­na­tive pop al­bum that takes you on to a weird jour­ney through lots of routes and gen­res. Creatively, we wanted to scratch the itches of the dif­fer­ent things we wanted to do, be it in­flu­enced by

Raek­won or The Ex­or­cist or Othello or Capote’s In Cold Blood, or old films from the 1980s, or old doc­u­men­taries.”

Pol­i­tics plays a part, too. You don’t have to be Sher­lock to fig­ure out the in­spi­ra­tions in The Cur­rents, with the re­frain: “Still liv­ing in the cur­rents you cre­ate/Still sink­ing in the pool of your mis­takes/I wish you’d stop fir­ing out the cra­zies”. “We seem to have carved a niche of mak­ing quite hope­ful-sound­ing songs that, lyri­cally, are quite ques­tion­ing and po­ten­tially quite dark,” Smith says. “If the first al­bum was us grow­ing up, this one is us fig­ur­ing out what the f**k’s go­ing on.”

Their re­cep­tion fol­lows a sim­i­lar in­cline – while the first cy­cle saw them de­liver chant-in­duc­ing songs such as Pom­peii and Things We Lost In The Fire to theatre-sized shows, they’re now firmly in arena ter­ri­tory, as proven by their 24-date tour across Europe.

Sweatyshow

“It’s ter­ri­fy­ing,” says Smith. “But it’s made us more con­scious of mak­ing our pro­duc­tion in­ter­est­ing. Last year, we had this fall­ing man, and this year it’s go­ing a step fur­ther and we have two wire mesh peo­ple to re­flect our al­bum cover. It’s nice to have vi­su­als, to off­set four guys play­ing songs.”

“We’ve yet to talk about it fully,” chips in drum­mer Chris Wood. “So, I’m just throw­ing it out there: a spin­ning, flam­ing drum riser. It can hap­pen.”

It’s neat tim­ing that al­most four years to the day of their sched­uled 3Arena show, they played their first Dublin head­liner at the Academy 2.

At that point, they had just three sin­gles to their name, and had yet to notch up four mil­lion al­bum and 11 mil­lion sin­gle sales. “It was a men­tal, sweaty show, where the stage was half a foot off the ground and ev­ery­one was on the stage,” Smith re­calls.

“When we got to go back to Ire­land, we played the main room up­stairs, and our minds were blown we were do­ing that. And then we played the Olympia Theatre. Even in Lon­don, it was the Barfly and Scala, then Koko, where there were touts out­side.

“We were like ‘oh my god, this is an ac­tual thing’. Then it was Shep­herd’s Bush Em­pire, then Brix­ton Academy, then f**king Ally Pally [Alexan­dra Palace]. And, weirdly, now it’s the O2.

“At no point did it feel like we un­fairly jumped ahead. We went up through the ranks and we’re still pleas­antly sur­prised with where we are.”

The band are prag­matic about their work. “We’ve al­ways been pretty hon­est with what we do,” says Will Far­quar­son. “Even with our pub­lic im­age, we don’t want to be the guys that slag off other bands.”

They are also quite open to cor­po­rate col­lab­o­ra­tions, from branded shows to pub­lic events such as a Mercedes Benz Evo­lu­tion Tour of the US.

“Es­pe­cially in the hip-hop world, the re­la­tion­ship with busi­ness is per­ceived in a dif­fer­ent way than in the al­ter­na­tive world,” says Smith. “I guess now, brands are the bene­fac­tors that record com­pa­nies used to be. But it has to be a care­ful part­ner­ship. There are really taste­less ex­am­ples where artists throw in head­phones in their videos and it’s really clunkily pre­sented. And then there’s bril­liant ex­am­ples where it’s fa­cil­i­tated the most amaz­ing mu­sic videos or a really cool show. OK Go are an amaz­ing ex­am­ple of that.”

“We’ve part­nered up when it was the only way we could play places, like Mex­ico,” says Far­quar­son. “Same with the Mercedes shows – we got to play free shows to our fans in the US, and while that wasn’t quite what we ex­pected, I don’t think we’d ever do some­thing shame­lessly for money.”

For Bastille, Pom­peii de­liv­ered an easy break­through in the US. With the ra­dio and in­ter­net do­ing the work for them, the Lon­don­ers had only played a few show­case gigs be­fore the sin­gle peaked at num­ber 5 in the Bill­board charts.

“What’s in­ter­est­ing about Amer­ica is it’s really de­fined by genre, so we im­me­di­ately slot­ted in as an al­ter­na­tive band,” Smith says. They have these ra­dio sta­tion-backed fes­ti­vals, so half our sets would be these mas­sive out­door shows, along­side peo­ple like Foals and Alt-J, but also Foo Fight­ers and Kings of Leon and Arc­tic Mon­keys.”

Pa­tro­n­ised

“But no one can really know if it’s go­ing to take off,” says Far­quar­son. “It’s the thing of be­ing in the right place at the right time. And, after the fact, a lot of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in record com­pa­nies, try to fig­ure it all out. There is an el­e­ment of some­thing hap­pened that meant we con­nected…”

“And f**k knows what it was,” picks up Smith. “On pa­per, we make big, weird pop songs, we make mad videos that our la­bel tear their hair out about, and we weren’t warmly re­ceived by con­ven­tional me­dia.

“But we’ve al­ways not pa­tro­n­ised our fans and tried to be as cre­ative as pos­si­ble. And that’s worked so far.”

Wild World is re­leased on Septem­ber 9th. Bastille play SSE, Belfast on Novem­ber 9th and 3 Arena, Dublin on Novem­ber 10th

On pa­per, we make big, weird pop songs and videos that our la­bel tear their hair out about but we’ve al­ways not pa­tro­n­ised our fans and that’s worked so far

Bastille Kyle Sim­mons, Dan Smith, Will Far­quar­son and Chris Wood

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