DAN SMITH

OVER SALAMI PIZZA, THE BASTILLE FRONT­MAN DIS­CUSSES THE PER­ILS OF FES­TI­VAL SUN­BURN AND HIS CON­STANTLY THWARTED PESSIMISM.

Q (UK) - - Incoming - PETER ROBIN­SON

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, south London’s Mer­cato Metropoli­tano, an ur­ban farm­ers’ mar­ket set in a 45,000 square foot for­mer fac­tory, is both “a vi­brant space where ev­ery­one shares the same pas­sion for food and so­cial re­la­tion­ships” and “an ex­pe­ri­ence that goes be­yond eat­ing.” Al­ter­na­tively, as Bastille’s Dan Smith puts it when he ar­rives 10 min­utes late for our lunch date: “Any­thing in London that’s vaguely in­dus­trial or can be re­claimed has to be turned into some­thing be­spoke and pop-up.” The com­plex started off with Ital­ian food, he ex­plains, “but then they got cold feet and whacked in a Viet­namese.” Smith seems to know this place pretty well. When was he last here? “Er, last night,” he laughs. “I live just round the cor­ner, which is why it’s to­tally in­ex­cus­able for me to be late. I’m the kid at school who lives next door but al­ways turns up late.” Food-re­lated awk­ward­ness weighs heav­ily on Smith’s mind. Dur­ing the course of to­day’s lunch he ad­mits that he lives in fear of go­ing to din­ner at some­one’s house and there not be­ing enough food and some years ago he got into the habit of tak­ing his own hot sauce to such soirées. Mainly, he ad­mits, “be­cause I’m an aw­ful per­son.” Our lunch date rep­re­sents rare down­time for Bastille, who’ve been mak­ing the most of 2017’ s fes­ti­val sea­son. Five days ago they were in Den­mark sand­wiched be­tween Run The Jew­els and Frank Ocean; two days later they were sec­ond on the bill to Rod Stewart at the Isle Of Wight fes­ti­val. When he talks about his band’s Coachella slot in April, he presents a se­ries of vi­gnettes that un­der­score this un­likely pop star’s en­dear­ing hap­less­ness. For in­stance, he was look­ing for­ward to see­ing Bey­oncé but she can­celled. He then didn’t go to see sub­tlety-free pro­ducer DJ Snake’s set (“for ob­vi­ous rea­sons”) only to miss Lau­ryn Hill ap­pear­ing as a sur­prise guest. In ad­di­tion to this he “changed colour from pale white to lob­ster red within five min­utes”, men­tion of which trig­gers a flash­back to what he says is the most em­bar­rass­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of his en­tire ca­reer. Two years ago Smith was half­way through a huge, glob­ally-livestreamed fes­ti­val set when a roadie ap­peared on­stage and smoth­ered him with sun­screen, “like a sur­ro­gate dad putting sun cream on a child.” So how was Bastille’s Coachella show? “I didn’t think any­one would come,” Smith says, half­way through his salami pizza. “But they did. The les­son here is to stop be­ing such a neg­a­tive twat, but I can’t help it.” The prob­lem with Smith’s neg­a­tiv­ity cru­sade is that good stuff keeps on hap­pen­ing. Last year Bastille’s sec­ond LP, Wild World, be­came their sec­ond Num­ber 1, and he’s al­most fin­ished writ­ing its suc­ces­sor. Af­ter lunch he’s off to record a song for a Hol­ly­wood film sound­track and in two days he’ll find out if another’s been ac­cepted as the theme for a ma­jor US TV se­ries. Then there’s the side-project he’s been work­ing on for seven years and which might now fi­nally be com­ing to fruition: a con­cept al­bum that draws on post-rock and hip-hop with heav­ily vocodered vo­cals and nu­mer­ous guest artists, which Smith has “no in­ten­tion of fronting” and is, he says, “pretty ridicu­lous”. Added to which there’s also Bastille’s own record la­bel, Best Laid Plans. It al­ways felt like some­thing of a well-in­ten­tioned hobby so when Smith notes to­day that “one of the guys on it is do­ing quite well at the mo­ment” it seems like he means ris­ing star Ra­tio­nale, who’s just scored a cut on the Katy Perry al­bum. He ac­tu­ally means another BLP artist, Rag’n’Bone Man, who first toured with Bastille four years ago and for whom “do­ing quite well” means win­ning a Brit Award and hav­ing the fastest-sell­ing de­but LP by a male solo artist this decade. “I’m con­scious of tar­ring the artists with as­so­ci­a­tions that might come with Bastille,” Smith be­gins self­dep­re­cat­ingly, “but it’s un­de­ni­ably ex­cit­ing that this project we be­lieved in from the very be­gin­ning has gone on to be crazily huge. Not to take any credit for it.” At the risk of sound­ing gauche, has Rag’n’Bone Man’s suc­cess made him rich? “Um, no. Er… No.” That’ll be a yes then. As we leave the “ex­pe­ri­ence that goes be­yond eat­ing” and walk to­wards Ele­phant & Cas­tle round­about, Smith talks about yet another on­go­ing project: Bastille’s new stu­dio, si­t­u­ated in a re­claimed vaguely in­dus­trial lo­ca­tion a few miles away. Its completion has taken longer than ex­pected, he ad­mits. And then he sighs. “Lo­gis­tics are bor­ing, life is an­noy­ing.” Dan Smith’s life may be pretty mag­nif­i­cent at the mo­ment, but as po­ten­tial epi­taphs go, this “neg­a­tive twat” might have stum­bled onto an un­likely win­ner.

“The les­son here is to stop be­ing such a neg­a­tive twat, but I can’t help it.”

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