Aaron Flood chats with Bastille’s lead singer, Dan Smith, about the band’s debut album, having a quiff full of wee and being a part of the musical hype machine
There are two ways to put this: either you know of Bastille and have a certain degree of coolness and hipster about you, or you don’t know of Bastille and therefore have neither of these ‘qualities’. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t, because Bastille aren’t giving you much choice as to whether you’ll hear them. Since the release of their first single ‘Flaws’ in June 2011, Bastille have gone from strength to strength.
On the foundations of numerous rave reviews of their live performances, and critical and popular acclaim for their songs, they are set to explode into the scene in a big way. However, lead singer and composer, Dan Smith, remains firmly grounded despite the massive praise the band are receiving. He laughs upon hearing of the bands “newfound fame,” and claims that: “We’re not massively aware of the fame. We’re really just getting on with things, gearing up to the release of the new album and touring.”
The group have received plaudits including “Best New Band” and “Future Biggest Band in England” thrown at them. Smith says: “It’s quite weird to hear. I guess in a way it’s nice but it doesn’t really mean anything!” This down-to-earth tone continues, as he describes the band’s experience over the past two years: “We’ve enjoyed a lot of it and had fun, and just worked really hard and built things up to where they are now. We’re really lucky as to how people have discovered us and gravitated towards us. I think we’ve never really received a huge amount of media attention; a lot of our fan base is very genuine and just quite like the songs. So, I guess we’ll see what happens from here. We’ve no idea what to expect from it really.”
Bastille has built up an established fan base by advertising themselves through the Internet and social media. Despite this warm embrace of the internet, Smith finds it a mixed blessing: “What’s difficult with the internet is that it’s so ridiculously huge and there’s so much stuff on there. Anyone can upload anything to the internet and it can just sit there unseen forever. It’s quite a daunting prospect but as I’ve said before we seemed to be quite lucky that people found us and liked our songs and videos and that kind of thing.”
Bastille have also used more traditional media to advertise themselves, with songs ‘Flaws’ and ‘Oblivion’ appearing in Made In Chelsea and The Vampire Diaries respectively. “It’s interesting the thing Made In Chelsea thing happened very early on, we hadn’t really been around that long. The reaction was interesting… we had one song online called ‘Flaws’ which they used a small clip of in the show along with a lot of different music, and in one night we got over 10,000 views on YouTube, which, for us, was a big deal. It was interesting to make fans from something you wouldn’t really associate yourself with.”
Stylistically Bastille are very hard to define. There’s the electronic influence heard in songs like ‘Flaws’ and ‘Bad Blood’, while other songs like ‘Overjoyed’ are more stripped back. When asked about how he would describe the band’s sound, Smith replies: “I wouldn’t. I don’t know, I guess for me it’s just about I wanted each song to be individual and to try out different things from song to song, and to try and not repeat myself too much. I always find it really hard to describe the sound of our music.”
This indefinability returns when Smith is asked about Bastille’s upcoming debut album, Bad Blood. When asked if he could describe the album, Smith states that, “In my mind it’s composed of different songs that I like and different sounds I wanted to touch upon. It’s quite difficult to step back and sum it all up.” The release of the album is obviously going to be a landmark moment in both Bastille and Smith’s life. “It’s so weird to think that it’s coming out though. I can’t really get my head around the fact that quite soon it’ll be out. Finishing and handing it in was quite like handing in a dissertation.”
Bastille’s live performances are lauded by both fans and critics alike. Yet with this enviable live reputation, Smith maintains his grounded attitude. On their Reading and Leeds performance, Smith notes that: “I’m somewhat of a pessimist, I thought we’d be performing to a tent with four drunk guys throwing piss at us! So to walk out on stage to a tent full of people, it felt like one of our own gigs.”
Despite their warm reception, Smith and co. didn’t escape the traditional Reading “piss-bottling” that occurs every year. “I remember we either went to V or Isle of Weight festival like last year, and we were just wandering around watching acts, and Rihanna was on the main stage so we went to watch a bit of that. We wandered into the crowd and there’s just like beer and piss flying around everywhere. You just hear people going like “Awhhh Rubbish!” and suddenly you feel this wetness on your head, and everybody looks around at each other and they realize it’s actually warm… and it’s not beer.”
Finally, before finishing the conversation Smith tells us about his hopes and wishes for the year. Staying true to his grounded self, Smith merely hopes that: “People that already like us like the album and it attracts a whole lot of new people. I hope we have time to write and record the second album… it depends on the success of this one and whether or not we get the chance to make it.” Somehow, they just may get that chance.
Bastille play The Academy on April 4th. Their debut album, Bad Blood, is out March 4th .