Sometimes a band comes along that captures the spirit of the moment, tapping into popular culture whilst managing to bring with it something fresh and exciting. Bastille is most definitely one of those bands.
Where some acts spend years trying to get themselves noticed, Bastille – named after the historic French Bastille Day that songwriter and frontman Dan Smith shares as his birthday – are a tour de force that have immediately grabbed the public’s attention, and for all the right reasons.
From humble solo beginnings in 2010, Dan hooked up with drummer Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, with Will Farquarson and Kyle Simmons completing the line-up shortly afterwards. Following a string of buzz-building releases on MySpace and YouTube, in 2012 Bastille were thrust into the public eye with the release of their Overjoyed single and, less than a year later, their debut album Bad Blood had topped the UK Albums chart.
‘And it all began with an SW postcode!’ Dan laughs. ‘I came back from university and moved back in with my mum, so it was either housework or songwriting, and housework suffered.’
His bedroom base in Putney at least served as an inspiration for something meaningful, although influences were widespread, with Smith a self-confessed David Lynch nut which anyone familiar with the American director of Blue Velvet will recognise through their similar hairstyles.
‘I’ve always wanted to take a global look at music and incorporate it into our music, but it comes back to an indie heartbeat, and there are so many bands around South West London. As an area, its not Camden, and its not Shoreditch, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Here, music is less thrust upon you at every turn and in every shop window and every doorway, and more whispered through the cracks in the pavement.’
‘Personally, that means I can use its hints and mix it in with a style of artwork and image and yes, Lynch’s Lost Highway included, that means the finished product is subtle and approachable.’
Indeed, where Lynch certainly isn’t mainstream, Bastille’s fusion of alternative rock and synth-pop has found itself right in it, even if the band find this and their chart success surprising. ‘Well, I’d never have thought the charts would have been anything we’d have any kind of involvement in,’ smiles Dan. ‘Maybe our place in them has slightly undermined the charts!’ Kyle chips in. ‘To be where we are at this point is something that I never thought was a possibility. So I suppose we must have been doing something right.’
Dan continues: ‘We’re actually waiting for someone to whisper to us, Got you! You’re actually number 5,742.’
Bad Blood, the album, received a hugely positive critical reception when it was released earlier this year. The trappings of fame have followed along not far behind, but Dan is just happy to share the music. ‘I’m excited for the people who like our music and who want the album,’ he says. ‘Everything we’ve done up until now is out there, and that increases the pressure to find the next thing, but we’re up to the task!’
Dan, who has been crafting lyrics since the age of 15, admits he always aims to tell a story in his songwriting, whether on his laptop in his London bolt hole, or with co-producer Mark Crew at the group’s windowless Battersea studio.
‘All our songs are like stories and a bit self-contained I guess,’ he says. ‘There’s always personal stuff in there, but these are themes that everyone can relate to. We like to look outwardly, but also back in on ourselves.’
Such character assessment, thankfully, stops short at Googling themselves these days. ‘If you read 100 things that are nice about you and one thing that’s bad, you’d only remember that bad one,’ Kyle says. ‘Using social media is great for maintaining a sense of fan interaction, but its weird to look into peoples minds, and to have such an immediate and non-separated platform for acclaim and criticism.’
‘But at the end of the day, we’re so appreciative of people that like our music. We want to make the whole experience as involved and interesting as possible, which was why we always put loads of effort into our videos and apps and our artwork.’
And 2013 continues to be a major year for Bastille. Their music now acts as a soundtrack to the likes of Made in Chelsea and Fifa 13, and even prior to the release of their most recent single, Laura Palmer, the track had notched up over 1.25 million views on YouTube.
Across October and November, Bastille will embark on a sell-out winter tour, titled Bad Blood Returns, in 14 UK venues. By then they will already have supported Muse at stadium shows in Coventry, London and Manchester, played several European dates, plus a raft of summer festivals, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, T Festival, Reading and Ibiza Rocks included.
‘We’re just going to keep on working hard. Its a dreadful cliché but there’s no time to sit back and relax when we’ve got so many different strands to our music. Yes, we’re creative for ourselves, but after a while it becomes a duty to keep giving people what they’ve come to expect. That said, if you know people enjoy your music, it makes putting tracks together a lot easier. Long may that continue…’
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