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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Interview: Bastille At Capitol Studios

Joyce Jude Lee |
December 23, 2013 | 5:12 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The author with the band (Joyce Lee/Neon Tommy)
The author with the band (Joyce Lee/Neon Tommy)
“We’re... failures and losers.”

This isn’t something you’d expect to hear from the English quartet Bastille, the band who has had a No. 1 debut album (“Bad Blood”) in the U.K., global chart success, and a sold-out, non-stop tour in Europe and America. Between playing massive festivals like Glastonbury, remixing for other artists, and touring the world, 2013 has been nothing short of a successful year for the group.

The band, which consists of lead singer Dan Smith, keyboardist Kyle Jonathan Simmons, drummer Chris “Woody” Wood, and bassist Will Farquarson, possess enormous talent and commercial appeal, but you wouldn’t know it chatting with its members. Their down to earth nature and overly modest demeanor make them all the more laudable.

Their infectious single, “Pompeii,” topped UK charts earlier this year and reigned over the Billboard Alternative Charts for four weeks before entering into American Top 40 Radio. The music video for the monster hit has also passed 50 million views on YouTube.

If you haven’t heard of this indie-synth-pop sensation, then get listening. Bastille is the UK’s most streamed artist of 2013, and BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James has even likened the band’s sound to early Coldplay. It’s not an undue comparison--Dan Smith’s haunting London vocal and their tunes’ radical rhythm will make you subconsciously sing and head bang along as you’re listening. 

2014 will again be a busy year for the band. It was just announced that Bastille will perform at the BRIT Awards in the new year. “All This Bad Blood,” a re-release of their debut album, will be released on January 14th, 2014 in America. The album will include tracks off Bastille’s mixtapes (new U.K. single, “Of The Night”) as well as new tracks “The Draw” and “Skulls.” In March and April, the band will embark on their “All This Bad Blood” Tour in America with U.K. band To Kill a King as their opening act.

Neon Tommy had the opportunity to chat with the busy quartet about music, tour, and more at Capitol Studios.

Could you talk about how the year has been? Has there been a moment when you’ve realized “Wow, we made it!”?

[They all shake their head in unison]

Woody: Not really... I think to say you’ve made it would then imply that you’re finished.

Will: Woody’s got work to do.

Kyle: Oh, Woody’s a busy man!

What ambitions do you have for the next year?

Kyle: This has already gone past anything we have ever… [imagined]

Dan: I think the things that we have done this year...have gone beyond anything we thought about so... it’s been crazy. I think ambitions wise, we just want to make another album and have it hopefully be good.

Have you guys started on a second album? How is that coming along?

Dan: Yeah, it’s good... I mean no I’m literally saying the word ‘good’ quite a lot in a row... It’s fun, I’m really enjoying the process. We just need some time to record something [laughs].

You guys have been gaining fans really quick here in the states, have you guys noticed a change in the energy of the shows from when you started to now? Is it scary to perform in front of really big crowds now?

Dan: We’re lucky enough to have played in a whole bunch of different countries. It’s always really fun. I mean [not only] from city to city, but from country to country as well…to see how different people respond. In the U.K., our crowds are kind of completely mental, like moshing around and people get carried out unconscious... when we go to parts of Europe, it’s much more respectful, like concert culture. People will clap at the end, but they’ll just sort of listen…. In Japan as well... totally silent…

Yeah, I’ve heard Japanese people are very polite.

Dan: Yeah, at the end they’ll clap for a bit then stop. But so quiet to the point where when we walked out on stage, we were playing at a festival, there was no music playing... literally you could’ve heard a pin drop.

Kyle: Yeah! We thought, “No one’s here!”

Will & Dan: We thought it was empty!

Dan: There’s a room full of people but...

Woody: It’s like “Oh, thank God!”

Dan: That was nuts. But so far, over here, we’ve been really lucky, you know. All the shows we’ve done... have had people at them. And I... I think..

They’ve sold out too!

Dan: Yeah, we are so, so lucky. I think because we were around and had music online for quite a long time before we actually did our first gig here, I think we’re lucky in that when we did come, people have been waiting for quite a long time. Like it’s nice to meet fans after our gigs who’ve got the UK version of the album cause they got impatient and ordered it.

What would you guys say to people who haven’t heard your music before? How would you sum up Bastille to get them interested in the band?

Dan: Uhm.. I’d say...“Hello [waves], I’m Dan.”

Woody: If you listen to us you will be very rich.

Kyle: [Laughs] That... That’s bold... very bold move. I mean, I see what you’re going for, but I don’t want loads of angry fans knocking on my door.

Dan: ‘It didn’t work!!’... I don’t know…

Kyle: Give it a listen, if you like it... keep going!

Strongest pitch!

Will: That’s it... give a listen. [laughs]

Kyle: I don’t know... what can you do... listen to the music, if you like it, you’re a fan! If you don’t... don’t tell anyone.

Dan: Yeah, keep it to yourself. [laughs]

Do you guys have any advice for college kids? About life, music, etc.?

Kyle: No…

Woody: Student loans are NOT free money! You have to pay it back.

Dan: Life tips? Or music tips?


Dan: Because we are not in a position to offer any... sorry, I said we... we... are failures... and losers.

That is not true!

[Kyle nods to agree with Dan]

Dan: I... the only thing I would say to someone who wants to write music... is just to write songs…

[Kyle bursts into laughter]

Dan:... just to write as many songs as you can... well as many as you can…  just make sure they’re good and every time…

[all start laughing]

Dan: I think songwriting can take work...when you’re writing you might have a lot of songs that you think are done but you can always try to write a better song... And that’s the most important thing because regardless of what genre of music it is or what style you’re trying to do... if someone listens to it and thinks it’s impressive and stuff... I... I’m so sorry I’m just waffling on.

Reach Staff Reporter Joyce Jude Lee here.



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