Interview: Bastille on Their Wild World
Bastille claimed success with their debut album Bad Blood selling four million copies and spawning monster hits such as Flaws and of course, Pompeii. After touring across the UK, America, Australia and pretty much the rest of the world, Bastille are back with their brand new album Wild World with hit songs including Good Grief and Send Them Off proving they’re no flash in the musical pan.
Now preparing for their first headline tour around the UK and Europe, Bastille are back with that same distinct vocal but a newly developed sound. Sixtynine Degree’s Ben Walker, caught up with Woody from the band ahead of their tour to discuss their success so far, how they have developed since Bad Blood and already beginning work on their third studio album…
So how did Bastille get started?
I met Dan Smith around eight years ago where he was doing his own solo thing in his bedroom, creating songs, whereas myself and fellow band mate, Will, were doing more left wing, weirder stuff. We then met Kyle in 2010 and we started to put together more accessible songs. We went away that summer, worked on a whole bunch of new songs and came back as Bastille. We borrowed one of our friends’ vans and started playing at various dive clubs around the UK, which built gradually from there.
So then came your debut album, Bad Blood which was a huge success. Were you expecting it to hit as hard as it did?
We didn’t expect it to happen. A few people at our label would say otherwise, but no one really saw it happening. We’ve now been away for three years doing different kind of things, catching up with it around the world travelling around America, Australia and South East Asia – all over the world, really. As we’ve been travelling so much and touring, it’s unfortunately pushed back the arrival of Wild World a little bit.
Are you at the point now that if you hear Pompeii on the radio do you groan? It was so big for sooooo long.
Not at all. People have asked me if I get bored of playing it but genuinely I don’t, I love it. That song pretty much changed our lives. The reaction it gets at festivals or gigs of our own: I’ll never tire of that. Hearing your song on the radio though is a little bit weird; you don’t really know what to do. Do you turn it off, sing along?
Was it a relief to start creating again?
Well it’s a weird one as how some bands work is that they divide up touring and recording, whereas we brought Mark (our Producer) through on tour, on and off from 2014. He and Dan were setting up writing rooms backstage or on the touring buses working on new material, so we never really stopped. We put downloads together over the past couple of years and when it came to Dan getting it down together it was more, putting together all the ideas, rather than doing it from scratch. We put out our mix tape in 2014, which scratched a bit of an itch for me as well. Like I said, we’ve never really stopped. It has been quite a balanced experience, creating and touring.
Did you all feel a big amount of pressure when it came to starting on your second album, after the huge success of Bad Blood?
The only pressure we got was to stay true to the fan base we picked up from the first album. Obviously, we had to move forward and do something new and progress it for ourselves really, which I think we’ve done. We are quite self-critical of our own work, so the only pressure is the one that we put on ourselves. The first album was written for ourselves and the second one was too, really.
The architecture behind the Bastille sound has developed since Bad Blood, for example guitars are used throughout the album. How did you decide to take your sound in this direction?
On the first album we got around half way through and realized that we hadn’t put in any guitar at all. It became a challenge for us, like how can we make an upbeat big indie album without a guitar? And it paid off. Will, our bass player is also a pretty sick guitarist too, so we started playing around with guitar sounds from the end of 2013. Guitars are pretty standard for most bands and we took it as a bit of a challenge to leave it out first time around. Guitar doesn’t really play much a part of Wild World either. There’s more electronic and reggae sounds, ridiculous bombastic horn lines and hip hop as well. I guess where the first album highlighted instruments a little bit, we’re now being a lot braver with our sound.
There are so many complex elements to the Bastille sound, that it’s hard to put it into any set genre. How would you describe the sound as a collective?
We intentionally stay genre-less if we can. I think especially these days with Spotify and Youtube, everyone’s trying to produce music, and people aren’t really restricted by genres as such. We’ve also enjoyed trying to confuse everyone but I think as far as our sound goes, as long as its Dan’s voice and lyrics on it it’ll sound Bastille. I think we can pretty much do what we want, without doing too badly. However I don’t really see a screamo album in the future.
How did the inclusion of quotes and dialogue come about in the inclusion of songs such as Good Grief and Send them off?
We’ve done three mix tapes now and we wanted to add that feel to the album; I guess that kind of draws to the hip hop side of our influences. Also it helps to frame the songs together as well as and it also give a break to the different hoarse tempo for ten seconds or so as well.
How involved are you all when it comes to the creative process?
Dan’s the principle song writer, always has been and every sound is different. He starts with different ideas, in his head and we would play around with each song in sound check. There were songs that we played live which changed and adapted all depending how they played. Other ones like An Act of Kindness and Glory, Dan has a clear idea of how it should go. It’s all pretty varied with everyone having an input.
How would you sum up the album as a whole?
We kind of describe it as if Bad Blood was about growing up in the world, now Wild World is how you deal with the world around you. Within that there is a lot of genre jumping as well, some songs that are simple, some deep and ones that tell imagined stories and also real ones. It’s about reflecting how crazy and mad the world is at times and finding solace in other people, friendships and relationships. We never explain what our songs are about. We like hearing what people think the songs about. We’ll leave it to everyone’s imagination.
You are heading out on your biggest headline tour yet. How’s the preparation going for that?
It’s on going. We’ve got a week ‘til the tour starts and we’ve got production rehearsals in the lead up to that, but it’s all going well. We’re trying to make it more of a show and this Wild World communication theme running through the campaign is like our own little made up thing about Evil Corporations, which helps push the album and engage fans. We’ve incorporated that into the live show. Without giving too much away, it’s going to be more of a show rather than your average gig set.
What can fans expect this time around compared to your last UK tour?
So, we’re going to have bigger production, strings and horns as well as well as, of course, new songs. It’ll just be a step up from the previous tour, we hope. Once people walk into the room, before the show even starts, we hope they are going to be engaged, as there are going to be a few things going on as well, before we perform. But again I don’t want to give too much away.
Who have you got lined up as a support act?
We have a guy who’s called Rational, who is a friend of ours. He’s got the most insane voice you’ve ever heard; a really talented singer, writer and producer. We’ve also got another couple of friends of ours: a girl band called Jagara, another band called Childcare and a Chinese artist called Leah Dou; it’s going to be pretty varied.
Over the summer you performed at an array of festivals such as V Fest and T in the Park. How do festival performances compare to your own concerts? Which do you enjoy more?
Playing at festivals is quite a nice respite from touring as by the time we’ve finished our own tour I really fancy that festival life, and you go out with other bands and meet new people. There’s also a chance to win over new fans that perhaps weren’t really into us before. It’s a great chance to almost convince them. I really can’t wait to play our own headline tour again though, as you can play certain songs that you couldn’t really get away with playing at a festival. We’re also more involved with the production and that sort of thing. I haven’t got a preference as such though.
Where can you see Bastille developing to?
If I’m being completely honest, I would love to keep doing this for another three or four albums, that’s as far as our ambitions go, really. I’d love to eventually do Wembley, headline Glastonbury and play other big venues and festivals. Our actual kind of goal is to keep moving for as long as we can. I absolutely adore doing what I do.
So will fans have to wait another three years for a third album?
I really hope not. Dan’s already put a few ideas down for album three; he often vanishes for a bit, kind of hides in a corner or behind a bin in the street, singing into his phone. That’s all kind of started again, but I kind of think the plan is definitely not to wait three years this time.
Bastille’s second album, Wild World is out now. www.bastillebastille.com