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      The Storming of Bastille

      The Storming of Bastille

      If you haven’t already heard of Bastille, then I suspect you probably will do soon enough. I'm not talking about the pre-revolutionary French prison that was stormed in 1789, either. I’m referring to the London based indie-pop band that are making a history of their own.


      I caught up with lead vocalist and songwriter Dan Smith, who initially started Bastille as a solo project and sheds light on the band’s name:


      “I was born on bastille day, july 14th, but other than that I don’t really have any other connections to france.”


      Forming in 2010, the recognition and commercial success has only just risen to the surface for the quartet that consists of Dan Smith, Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, Will Farquarson and Kyle Simmons.


      They started off at independent record label Young & Lost Club, and although this paved way for the release of their first EP featuring tracks ‘Flaws’ and ‘Icarus’; the modest release gave little hint of the monumental success that was to come. The band kept flogging their music via social media networks and YouTube, finally securing a deal with Virgin Records in 2012.


      Their debut album Bad Blood (demonstrating 80’s themed melodies, anthemic choruses, and literate verses), was released in March of this year and reached No.1 in the UK charts, thanks largely to their mega-hit single ‘Pompeii’. Smith credits hard work and non- stop touring to their recent surge in popularity, and when asked about coming to terms with this seemingly overnight success, he humbly tells me:


      “We’re not really aware of things like that, we feel kind of weird about it all, really. We’ve been around for four years releasing EP’s and mix tapes and now we just feel lucky I guess. We feel lucky that people actually come out to see us and that we have the fortune to play gigs and tour around the country. We work really hard, rehearsing and touring, and it’s finally paying off and making people aware of us, so that’s always good”.


      With a headline slot at this month’s Sound City Festival, and appearances scheduled for the likes of Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festivals you’d think there would be no room for nerves and stage fright. Apparently not, as Smith reveals the bout of anxiousness that swept over him during Bastille’s recent Radio one Live Lounge set:


      “That was really surreal, I always get nervous so I was terrified, obviously with the live lounge, we have all listened to it when we were younger and growing up. It was a very surreal day. We really went for it though, we wanted to try and do things differently with the songs we played, you know, experiment, so we got a friend who plays the violin and cello to record with us too. It was a fun day but terrifying!”


      Evidently, collaboration is key to Smith. When I asked him about the pros and cons of working alone and with others, he says;


      “I’ve always written songs by myself, I always experimented with my laptop when I was younger as a way to get the ideas in my head down in music form, but when it comes to playing live it’s definitely better in a band. It’s good to have your mates hanging out with you on tour and to have that sense of collaboration and support. As I said, I get nervous too, so it’s good to have company, so in that sense I wouldn’t change things at all. Who wouldn’t want their mates with them sharing all of this stuff?”


      Speaking of sharing, Bastille have given away free exclusive tracks packed onto two mixed tapes. Other People’s Heartaches - Parts 1 and 2 - features covers of classic songs performed by the band, and both parts are available for free download as a way to say thanks to loyal fans. With a mix of originals, and covers ranging from Adamski’s ‘Killer’, ‘Adagio for Strings’ and TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’, I’m excited to know about a possible third installment, as well as hearing about the inspiration behind these tapes:


      “I guess, at first we just wanted to mess around with different sounds, and it was an excuse to use other people’s songs, and songs that we like ourselves. We used these as a starting point and just experimented in production, collaborating with other musicians, and bringing different sounds to the table. It was basically for fun and for ourselves at first. We didn’t know people were going to respond to them like they did, we didn’t think people would care”


      “We just like to be geeks I guess. In an ideal world, if we had the time we would like to put them out every year, so a third is definitely going to happen. It would be good to put one out for free around Christmas time, as a little present to our fans. Last year we were lucky, we had a lot of time in the studio but this year we’ve only had 4 days at home so far, so it’s a little hard to find the time to do things like that, but we love doing it”.


      The mix tape also pays tribute to one of Smith’s other interests, film. With references and soundbites from American Beauty, Taken and Back to the Future it’s clear that film has influenced the way Smith writes music.


      “I love films, books and all that stuff and I like to make references to the things I read and watch in my songs. I’d much rather write about my interests and popular culture than write about myself and my relationships, that could get quite boring. It’s good to imagine situations and present characters to people.”


      I push Smith to divulge more into his love for film, and he reveals that if it wasn’t for music he’d like to be a film journalist:


      “I’d like to interview David Lynch. I think he’s an amazing director and producer. I can imagine him to be very difficult to interview, though - he’d terrify me. He’s incredibly intelligen t and I’d be afraid of asking him lots of obvious, generic questions,” he laughs.


      Their first EP Laura Palmer pays homage to the director’s cult TV series Twin Peaks, in which Palmer is teenage murder victim at the heart of the mystery.


      Back in the real world, Bastille started off supporting bands like Keane and Two-Door Cinema Club; but who would they really like to share a stage with? John Lennon, Bowie, Bob Dylan?


      “Oh God, I wouldn’t know, I’d probably freak out. I think most guys would probably like to be in a room with Rhianna, most of us have a special place in their heart for her, she seems really cool too. Yeah we’d like to get to know her”


      Right now it seems as though anything is possible for Bastille. With a chart-topping album, devoted fans and major headlining slots, things are starting to rocket for them. What is their magic formula? Smith sums their sound up:


      “I’m really bad at describing stuff like this, but I’d say we have elements of indie, cinematic pop. Our album is quite a mix, quite epic sounding with big strings, some minimal sounding parts and some aspects of electronic.”


      Bastille will be play the Garage on May 2nd, and when asked about what they expect from the Liverpool crowd, Smith says:


      “We’re looking forward to it, really excited, definitely. We’ve already done a few shows
      in Liverpool, as we’ve just finished our tour, and the first gig of our tour was in Liverpool. It was so much fun, one of our biggest gigs. The crowd were really fun, dancing, jumping and singing along, we just hope the crowd always have as much fun as we do, you know?”


      See Bastille play as part of the Sound City Festival www.liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk


      ANNA KENNEDY ||

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