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Bastille: ‘The Pressure to Release a New Album Comes Completely From Us’

Bryan Steffy, Getty Images

English synth-rockers Bastille made 2013 their banner year, powered by the hugely popular crossover hit, ‘Pompeii.’ The group started out as a solo project by singer Dan Smith, but soon grew as Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson and Chris Wood joined the roster. Bastille released their debut studio album, ‘Bad Blood,’ last year to much critical and commercial success.

What followed the acclaim were opening gigs for Muse, appearances at major music festivals like Coachella and T In the Park, and practically non-stop headlining tours. We recently caught up with Smith and Farquarson before Bastille’s show at the historic Masonic Temple in Detroit.

It’s been over a year since ‘Bad Blood’ was released. Obviously a lot of great things have been happening to you guys. Has it all settled in?

Will Farquarson: It’s kind of weird. We’re getting a little more used to what’s happening, but we don’t really reflect on it that much. It’s one of those questions that we get asked a lot, but it’s not like we sit around and are like, “We really made it!”

Is it because you’re touring all the time so it hasn’t all sunk in yet?

Dan Smith: It’s partly that. We drive in a bus with four of us and a bunch of our crew who we’ve toured with for days on end. I guess we always got to focus on what we’re doing, so at the moment this tour, it’s making a second album, it’s the mixtape we’ve been put together and putting out. I think it’s probably healthier and much more fun to focus on what we’re up to at the moment or doing. We’re lucky enough to be just completely busy. [Laughs]

Farquarson: I have a creeping suspicion it’s one of those things that in hindsight when we’re old, it’ll sink in then.

‘Pompeii’ was your first single in the U.S. but it was actually the fourth from ‘Bad Blood’ in the U.K. Why was that?

Smith: The U.S. is just a very different place and things work really differently. In the U.K., single cycles are like three months, which obviously in the U.S. quite short. We didn’t know any of this when we came to the U.S. We were just always re-releasing stuff. Our first anything that we put out was a 7-inch vinyl — we did a 300 [copy] run. I think as we progressed we started putting out proper singles. I think in the U.K. it’s kind of just an excuse in the beginning, an excuse to do a tour, an excuse to put out an EP.

We’ve sort of built things as we went over the course of 2012, and then sort of built up to ‘Pompeii.’ That in the U.K. was the first major successful track from the album. We weren’t really expecting that so it was kind of a surprise. Then when the album came out last year, ‘Pompeii’ seemed to just blow up country by country around the world. I think the reason that we put it out in the U.S. as the first single is because it was doing really well everywhere and it made sense.

At the beginning of the year you guys said that if you weren’t touring so much, the follow-up record would be done by now. Do you feel like you’re forced to tour so that you are still in the public’s view?

Farquarson: When we said that, we weren’t complaining that we had to tour. It’s a massive part of what we do. It’s afforded us the opportunity to do it on a global scale. I think it’s just one of the interesting dynamics of reaching a certain level we’ve never seen before. There are only so many days in a year and there is a lot to get done. But we’ve kind of found solutions. We just brought our producer on tour with us and did a whole lot of recording while we were in America around May.

How close are you to completing the new album?

Smith: I feel like if we wanted to, there’s a record we can put out. It’d just be not finished. [Laughs] It’s a real cliche, but everyone says you got your whole life to make your first record, and then you got like eight years to make the second one. The nice thing with us is that we never stopped writing. There are songs now, that when the album comes out, they’ll already be a couple years old. The first album we had a collection of songs that we loved and we worked on them over time, and some of them, particularly sonically, changed totally from when they were written to how they ended up on the album.

It’s kind of happening again with a whole bunch of songs that we really like — and we’d like to write some more. We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves and actually, everyone around us has been really cool. The pressure to release a new album soon comes completely from us, not from anyone else. I think it’s important to just have fun with it. We don’t want to repeat anything we did on the first album. Currently what we have sounds, to our ears, like nothing from the first record.

Are you afraid you’re going to alienate fans of the last record?

Smith: I don’t think so. There’s a song called ‘Blame’ that we play at the moment. One of the big things for us is that we didn’t have any guitars on the first record and we’ve started using guitars. We’ve been playing those songs live, and some of them are heavier, but people aren’t turning away shouting, “Judas!”

The thing with us, we’ve never really wanted to be one thing, you know? Like, “Oh, we’re indie rock,” or whatever. We’ve never really defined ourselves. The thing that excites me about being in this band is that we feel that we can kind of go in any direction we want. I think we really made that statement by putting out mix tapes and putting out the album. With the next record, we want to do different things. I think the core thing is the songwriting. That’s not going to change.

You’re releasing your third mix tape, ‘VS. (Other People’s Heartache, Pt. 3)’ later this year. Is releasing these mix tapes your way of appeasing fans who are waiting for the new album?

Smith: I think it’s not really there to serve a purpose, but if we had to say that it was, it’s because we’ve always set a precedent of being quite generous and releasing as much music as we can — obviously with quality control and not just producing s–t. With the mix tapes, it’s for us. It’s really just quite a fun alternative lane in which we can, in parallel to our actual albums, we can mess around and be slightly more self-indulgent. Be really collaborative, experiment with genres in a much more extreme way. I think some people will love it, others will be a bit surprised by it.

It’s important to emphasis that this is not our second record at all. I think a lot of people may not know about the first two mix tapes that we made. This is part of a lineage from then that’s kind of come forward.

You’ve been selected by Zane Lowe to be on ‘Radio 1 Rescores: Drive.’ Is the song you contributed more in vein of what you’re doing now like on the new mix tape?

Smith: I’m excited for people to hear it. It’s just another thing we’re doing at the moment. It quite nicely mixes the guitar side of things and the electronics together. And it was just such a fun thing to be involved in. We all absolutely love ‘Drive’ and we love the soundtrack as it is.

Who doesn’t love Ryan Gosling?

Farquarson: That’s the only reason we agreed to it because we might meet him. Turns out we’re not going to meet him.

What are you guys dressing up as for Halloween?

Smith: We’re in the U.K. for Halloween, and I’ve always wanted to spend Halloween in the U.S. because it is such a bigger thing here. In the U.K., you have to dress up, if you choose to, as something ghoulish.

Farquarson: I don’t like dressing up. I’m a grumpy old man. I was forced to wear a skeleton costume.

Smith: He was furious about it.

Watch Bastille’s Official Music Video for ‘Oblivion’

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