Do you know this man? Good, he likes it that way
Sleeperbloke’ was an accurate, if unflattering term coined in the mid-1990s.
It originally referred to any one of the three anonymous men who stood behind singer Louise Wener in the band Sleeper, but has since come to be used to describe the nameless members of any band. Bastille are essentially four Sleeperblokes.
Even Dan Smith, the main songwriter, founder and de facto face of the band isn’t instantly recognisable.
They’re sitting around a table in the dressing room of a venue they’re due to perform a secret show at later on, under a fake name.
“We’re listed as Chaos Planet,” says Smith. “The new album is called Wild
World, so it’s a bit of a code.” There’s no denying hardcore fans would recognise Smith, along with Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson and Chris Wood, but it’s highly unlikely any van drivers would be beeping their horns on sight.
“I love it that way,” says guitarist Farquarson. “I was in a shop buying a jacket only this morning and there was a Bastille song playing. The person serving me was singing along, but she had no idea who I was. That was a great moment.
“I very rarely get stopped by someone, and by the virtue of being almost unknown, it means that the person stopping is a massive fan of the band and only has nice things to say. Imagine being as famous as someone like Britney Spears.”
Considering their success, it’s staggering they’ve managed to keep such a lid on things. Their debut, Bad
Blood, was released in 2013 and went on to become the biggest-selling digital album of the year.
Follow-up Wild World, released on September 9, went straight to No 1 in the UK and No 4 in the US.
London-born Smith said: “At any given point, we’ve tried to dodge the fame that comes with the success of what we do. We’ve managed to make it work, and we have to go to award shows and things occasionally, but we don’t have much interest in that showbiz world.
“There have been a few things that have made it easier to put myself out there,” says the 30-year-old.
“The things that have made it really easy for me are, and this is cheesy, that there are amazing fans coming to our gigs.”
He winces, aware how he might sound, but there is nothing about Smith to suggest he’s not sincere. Bastille may not be an overly serious bunch but they are genuine, and hugely likeable.
“Getting on a big stage is terrifying, but as soon as everyone sings along, it’s not like a trial, it’s an amazing thing and we’re all in it together, people are on our side,” Smith continues.
“We started off touring in Woody’s car, where I’d be in the boot because the instruments took up the seats. We’ve gone from that to where we are now, with an arena tour ahead of us, with the same crew from the beginning.
“We’ve normalised the most bizarre situation.”
The tour includes two dates at The O2 in North Greenwich and they agree having familiar faces around them is a key to staying grounded.
Lyrically, there’s more mystery. In an age where exposing your soul is rewarded, Smith removes himself from many of Bastille’s songs.
There are stories, or current events used as leaping-off points, but not much candour.
“This time around, I wrote about how it feels to be watching the news and be knocked sideways and overwhelmed. There’s plenty of that this year. How do you process the news at the moment?” There’s a song on the album, The
Currents, which is aimed squarely at the likes of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.
Warped, is about that feeling of not knowing how to react to horrific news events, feeling lost and looking for a person to be your crutch when you need support ( “That is in itself a personal thing, just not with me at the centre of it”), while The Stakes is about the temptation to drink to escape the awful things happening around us.
“We had some early feedback on the album from a journalist in Germany, who said, ‘It’s so much more depressing than the first album’,” says Smith. “I didn’t think we could get more depressing than the first, but there we are.
“I suppose I wanted to ground the album in the confusion of the current time and it obviously worked.”
From left Chris Wood, Will Farquarson, Dan Smith, Kyle Simmons