Interview: Bastille

bastille

Dan Smith, lead singer of Bastille

This article was originally written for, and appeared in, the Metro Herald.

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Dan, Bastille began as a solo-project before progressing into a full-band set up – why the change?

I quite like working by myself as a songwriter but obviously, it’s a lot more fun playing with your mates. We started writing together and then we started touring and we quite naturally became a band.  I was quite comfortable with that as opposed to just being one person. I’m lucky in that respect, we work together quite well.

There’s a distinct lack of guitar on the album – why so?

I don’t and can’t play it! Starting off I was just trying to use beats, vocal sounds and synths to fill the space and to be a bit creative with it. And then halfway through the album we realised that there was still none there so it became a bit of a stubborn challenge! It’s never been a problem – it was about finding other, interesting ways of doing things.

What can we expect from album number two?

Loads of guitar! With the first album we wanted to try and make every song slightly different but we want to do it to a much more obvious degree on the next one. We’re messing around at the moment; we want to push things into the electronic side, into the indie side and make music that people wouldn’t necessarily expect us to make. Hopefully the songs are good enough and then it shouldn’t really matter how we choose to present them.

And when can we expect it?

We’re still at the demo stage; we’d like to go somewhere to develop them a bit but I want to get as much finished over the next few months as possible. We’ve just had a week of recording and it’s been so much fun – I’ve forgotten how much I’ve missed it because we’ve been touring so much. I’m actually quite chilled out about the whole thing.

There’s a real cinematic aesthetic that permeates everything you do – is that a personal interest?

The cinematic side of things is something I love in a really obvious, cheesy way and I don’t see why that can’t completely overlap into the music. We’re still finding our feet when it comes to making music videos and things but we’re trying to make something that feels more interesting than just four guys in a studio playing a song.

Is there a danger of that clashing with the label’s interests?

When we joined the label we continued on exactly as we did before. It was still me and my mate Mark in this tiny little studio in a council estate making the music that we wanted to make. We’ve had very little outside push from the label. The songs that I like to write have got choruses and they’re songs you can get into and in that respect the label just let us get on with it. We feel very lucky. It’s been quite nice just doing it off our own backs.

Your first releases were mix tapes – what was the process behind making those?

Obviously they’re filled with covers and samples but we treated every one as if it was our own song. We tried not to listen to the original, to the point where I’d even remember the words wrong! We made them quite quickly and we treated it as if we were making an album. There was a real sense of ‘anything goes’ and that’s how we’re trying to look at the second album; we want it to sound more like one of those mix tapes in terms of genre hopping.

How did it feel to have your debut album go straight to the top of the charts?

Very weird…very strange. It’s our only experience of releasing album so we weren’t expecting it all. We feel massively humbled and very lucky for it to happen. We still find it quite hard to really engage with the fact that it happened.

You seem a touch more grounded than your average popstar…

I’m pretty pessimistic and I’m also not particularly ambitious – I don’t think further ahead than a month away. I’m just a pretty normal guy – I don’t think that you have to be some extraordinarily big, annoying personality to make music that you love. I don’t think that being in a band and having a minor level of success needs to go hand in hand with turning into an arsehole or being really arrogant. Obviously people are different but in the saddest possible way this is like a hobby that luckily turned into what it is at the moment – my job.

Are you getting used to the acclaim?

We’ve been touring and travelling non-stop so we’re not really aware of it. My only perception of it is when I’d get texts from my mate and they’d say ‘I was just watching the football and your song is on the montage!’ That’s when I realise how fucking strange it is…

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