An Interview with… Bastille

BY TARA McEVOY

If you’ve been anywhere near a radio in the past six months, chances are you’re already acquainted with the music of Bastille. From topping the charts to selling out a forthcoming European tour, 2013 has been a monumental year for the quartet and their unique brand of electro-tinged indie pop. As the band took to the stage at QUBSU’s Mandela Hall, The Gown caught up with frontman Dan Smith and keyboardist Kyle Simmons to discuss how they’re coping with fame, the new bands they recommend, and the influence of some of their favourite directors on their music videos:

How’s the tour been so far?

Dan: It’s been good!

Kyle: It’s been a lot of fun yeah, it’s always nice to get back to Ireland.

You’ve played Belfast before (at the Oh Yeah Centre) – how did you find it first time round?

Dan: Yeah, it was good. It was the first night of our tour, so we were ironing stuff out. It was nice to chat to people after, they seemed quite surprised that we’d come to play a relatively small gig. But it was really cool, it was a really nice crowd.

How has it been to meet your fans on tour?

Dan: It’s been really nice. It’s always really interesting, you never quite know who’s going to like the songs. But anyone who does, who’s willing to come to a gig, to buy an album, it’s a massive compliment for us – we don’t take it for granted. We always stick around after gigs, and meet as many people as possible. Everyone’s been really funny, really nice.

What can crowds expect from a typical Bastille show?

Dan: It’s a lot more upbeat than people would expect!

Kyle: It’s both similar to and different from the album…

Dan: I think it’s quite faithful to the album. But we kind of progress it a bit, it’s tougher… we just jump around and try to have fun. I think it’s a reflection of everything we’ve done, the album, the mix-tapes.

Dan, you’ve previously spoken about being a reluctant performer – is that still the case?

Dan: We’ve been touring constantly. I still get very nervous, but to get to be onstage with your friends makes it so much easier. We’ve been really lucky so far, having really great crowds who know all the songs and seem to be having a good time, singing the words back to you. That makes it an easier experience.

And your upcoming European tour has just sold out – are you looking forward to it?

Dan: The European tour will be really interesting – there are countries on it we’ve never played before. We’re kind of used to what it’s like playing in the UK now, how we’re responded to. So we know going to Europe is like starting from scratch. We would never take for granted that we could, you know, go to a city that we’ve never played before and expect there to be anything like what we have in the UK. So we’re excited, and looking forward to the challenge of potentially starting from scratch.

Amidst the success of your live shows, you’ve also been met with chart success – but have there been any particular highlights for the band so far this year?

Kyle: There’s a combination of highlights. We found out the album went to Number One while we were in Leeds, which is where me and Dan went to university, and we were playing in this club where we used to go when we were in Leeds. It was really weird. Then the next day, we went to drive from Leeds to go to Heathrow, to go play SXSW. That, as a combination, was such a weird series of events, just one on top of the other.

Dan: Then we went to LA to make a video. It’s those kinds of situations which are totally absurd… we feel like massive competition-winner tourists, wide-eyed and wandering through these situations. We’re obviously really busy, we’re so lucky. Being able to have a private tour of the Pompeii exhibition at the British Library was amazing… I’m actually going to stop talking ‘cos it just sounds like we’re bragging. But we’re so, so lucky, so fortunate to be able to do the stuff that we get to do.

Kyle, you just mentioned having spent time in Leeds for university – as a band, are there any words of wisdom you can lend to current students?

Dan: I loved uni so much, but I’m definitely in no position to give any words of wisdom to anyone. It’s the time where you can just do whatever you want pretty much, we wouldn’t be in this band, I wouldn’t be writing songs if I hadn’t gone to uni.

Kyle: It’s kind of like stepping out of normal life, for three years or however long your course is. Everything’s different – and you get all this free money, where’s that from! Have as much fun as you can, spend as much money, deal with it when you’re older.

Would you say your university days have had a marked influence on your sound?

Dan: Everything has an influence, as cliché as it sounds. Uni, yeah, you’re always meeting new people and sharing tastes with them. So uni, stuff I listened to before then, when I was a kid, up to stuff I’m listening to now, more electronic producer-heavy kind of stuff, that’s influenced me.

Are there any current artists you’d recommend?

Dan: We saw Aluna George this week, she was wicked. We saw Flux Pavilion DJing too, and that was amazing. And To Kill A King, who toured with us, are amazing – and Ella Eyre. Her voice is just insane, so good.

Can you tell us a bit about your next single, Laura Palmer?

Dan: I’m a bit obsessed with David Lynch. There was a period a couple of years ago, when I wrote the song, where I was watching a lot of Twin Peaks. I just wanted to write a song that would nod towards it… it’s a song about escapism, but also weird. I hope I pulled it off.

It must be quite an ask to come up with a video for a song inspired by David Lynch…

Dan: Thinking about that video, we very nearly went down that route – of doing a homage to Lynch, but I think we came to the consensus that…in our culture, it’s hugely important to me, but loads of people would have absolutely no idea what it was. So if we did like a proper homage, a lot of people wouldn’t know what that meant. And people who did know what it meant would probably think it wasn’t good enough, including myself. So we decided to go down an entirely alternative route. And I hope people like it! It’s going to be quite weird again, but good weird.

Have you become more comfortable with having a starring role in videos since you’ve had to act in more?

Kyle: I was there, this time, and no he’s not. It’s as bad, but he knows that he has to do it more.

Dan: The video that we’re about to put out is meant to play entirely on how uncomfortable I am. Like Pompeii, I’m in the whole thing, the whole time. It’s got like nine million views, I’m so embarrassed – it’s awful. I can’t run, and that’s now immortalized. Let’s hope YouTube crashes one day.

Can you tell us a little about the concept behind the video for Pompeii?

Dan: At the time, we were kind of thinking of kind of an apocalypse film. Like the book of I Am Legend as filmed by the director of Drive. It sort of progressed and deviated from that but you know, but I wanted it to feel apocalyptic, to nod towards the events of Pompeii, and just make something that felt like a little film. But I was distracted enough when we were making it by how much we had to do, it was quite a hectic shoot.

Have any films you’ve seen recently inspired ideas for future videos?

Kyle: I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but I don’t think that will help.

Dan: We have a dream, and our dream is for our next music video to be a remake of Tremors. But I don’t know budget-wise if that could happen.

Kyle: It’s not going to happen, but you know, come on!

Dan: Just us, in the desert, pogoing from rock to rock!

Kyle: We’ll pay for Kevin Bacon to come and be a part of a tremor.

Dan: You won’t see him, but he’ll be there in costume!

Finally, what’s on the horizon for Bastille?

Dan: Touring, writing, travelling!

Bad Blood is currently available on EMI.

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