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Interview: Bastille

With their album Bad Blood, Bastille have all but conquered international charts – going so far as to top the UK charts. But life isn’t all easy for the gang of four known as Bastille. We had a chat to Will about the pitfalls of fame, pressure for their new album and crying fans shaking in front of them – all in a day’s work.


Hey Will, how’s it going? Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.
No worries, don’t mention it!


Are you excited about coming to Australia for Field Day?
We’re always excited about coming to Australia, we’ve had nothing but fun there. It’s always good to get out there. Especially to escape the miserable European weather!


Yeah, hopefully we can provide some good weather. Is performing on New Year’s Day going to affect your New Year’s Eve celebrations?
We say it will because there’s a lot of flying involved, but I doubt it will. I mean its New Year’s isn’t it? (laughing) It’s going to be the first time as a band that we’ve been together for New Year’s Eve. So its going to be quite cool because although we spend a lot of time together, we’ve never been together for the new year – so yeah, its probably going to get a bit messy!


I can imagine! So there’s been a lot of talk in the media about how people are accessing their music – what’s your opinion on streaming services such as Spotify and how the music industry is changing?
I don’t think anyone who has resisted it is fighting a losing battle – we should probably move with the times. It’s definitely interesting the whole Taylor Swift thing, I guess she feels it’s important to her, to challenge the status quo. It reminds me of when the industry changed from physical CDs to online – it’s not as though we’re going to go back to cassette tapes or vinyl. People change, technology changes, that’s the reality of the situation.

Yeah sure. But do you know if these streaming services are at all comparable to a physical album sale for example?
No, but live music is perhaps benefitting more because record sales aren’t what they used to be. People would sell an album and then not have to go on tour at all, which in a lot of ways is a bad thing. I think a lot of bands these days earn a lot of their money touring. It’s a lot more work than just making an album. But we’ve only really existed in this world. It’s only been in the last few years that this has been relevant as a point of comparison. If we had been there when it was possible to make a lot of money from an album, it would be different. But it’s all we’ve ever known. We do a lot of gigs, we work pretty hard, but not as hard as working in a coal mine (laughing) so we can’t really complain.


Exactly! So do you prefer the process of making the music or performing it?
I really love to perform. We’ve had the album for over two years now and we’ve been touring ever since so it’ll be good to get another start with the second album. We should be back in London in February to April to have a long period of just being creative in the studio. I think we’re all looking forward to it because it’s been a while since we’ve all done it. We really enjoy both but it will be nice to be settled in London for a while, definitely.


Being on tour for such a long time, do you get sick of performing the same songs all the time? Do you feel like you’ve played Pompeii to death for example?
Yeah we’ve played it a few times but every tour is a bit different anyway. This tour we’ve had around three new songs, new lighting – I haven’t really got bored with it at all yet. When you’re performing it’s not just playing the songs, there’s a lot more involved and that can always be changed. Once you know the songs as well as we do, you have a bit more freedom. Sometimes I just need to stop jumping around and concentrate on what I’m playing (laughing).


Very true (laughing). So in terms of the new album, how’s it coming along?
Really well actually, we had two weeks blocked out in a studio in London and we recorded the best of five or six songs. We demoed maybe 15 to 20 as well, so we have a lot of new material. So hopefully we will get some more time when we get back to London to record the best part of an album and get the meat of it done. It’s just finding the time to get it done.


Is the sound very different from your first album?
We tried to progress. We added some more guitar stuff, some more bass. Dan, who didn’t really want guitar in the first album, reacted to guitars badly and got a bit worried we were turning into an indie rock band. So he just started writing these R&B songs. Hopefully, it will be an eclectic mix. But there are definitely some songs on there that are Frank Ocean style R&B, but there are others that sound like a trashy guitar band. At the moment we’re just recording on a song-by-song basis, and we’re not thinking too much about the overall sound.


Does it worry you how fans are going to react to what you release? Or is it more important what you guys want?
I think it’s quite stifling and counterproductive to start thinking about perceptions of people and whether it’s going to strike a chord or not. But because of our history, and the mix tape that we did, I don’t think anyone is expecting it to sound a certain way. It means hopefully they’re open to new ideas.


Do you feel a lot of pressure after the enormous success of Bad Blood? Few people have had such success so early on in their careers.
I guess, I don’t think we’ve thought about it that much. The questions becomes does it underachieve because it didn’t do as well as the first album, as it might seem to the public. But we’re of the philosophy that we never expected to have this much success anyway. The first album went to number one, does that mean that this next album has to go to number one? If it went to the top ten, it’s wonderful. If it goes in the top 20 its still far beyond where we thought we’d be two years ago. But having said that there is obviously this expectation that hopefully it will do quite well. So we’re not trying to think about it. The minute you start worrying about that sort of thing, especially during the creative process, it’s not good. I guess once it’s all done and dusted and your proud of what you’ve created, then you can start thinking about that. If you get mired in that sort of thing when you’re trying to create, then it can only really be detrimental to creativity I suppose – you begin to second-guess everything. You can’t be contrived. Either people connect to something or they don’t. The more contrived you are and the more you attempt to write their hit, the more people can see through it. Unless there’s something genuine there, it’s probably not going to do well.


On the other side of it, do you enjoy the fame aspect of it all? Do you like that you individually can hide behind a name like Bastille, or do you embrace and enjoy the fame?
Personally, I’m not too keen on being famous. I don’t consider myself famous, I’m the least famous member of a not that famous band. This kind of minor celebrity life has made me even more curious about it all. When I was young I always wanted to be in a band, I never wanted to be famous. But I think I always thought it would be kind of cool. Then you see all these TV shows where people want to be famous just for the sake of it. To me, it’s a negative side effect of being successful in a band. Which isn’t to say its horrible or anything and its not as though I’m being hounded by millions of people but it can be distracting. What is quite nice is that our fame is that it only really extends to fans at our gigs and if I ever do get recognised, its by real fans which is quite nice in a way – these people are really nice and interested in your life. I think that as one of those massive celebrities, such as David Beckham, people would always want to talk to you, even if they’re not that interested in you. The level that we’re at, the people that are interested are genuinely interested. There’s no preparation in life to meet 50 16-year-old girls who are too nervous to talk to you (laughing).


Must be so weird! (laughing). Do you have any crazy fan stories?
We’ve had a few people shaking and crying which is always unusual. When someone’s crying usually in life, its because they’re very upset, so its very strange.


It is always particularly awkward watching someone cry (laughing).
Yes! Nothing too crazy, I think our fans are pretty normal. I think because we’re not at the level as people like One Direction; I imagine they have all sorts of crazy fans. But we’re small enough that the fans aren’t in the stage of complete obsession that you get with One Direction. I think our fans are pretty well balanced. We’re really boring, you don’t want to devote your life to us!


Surely that’s not true! Anyway, thanks so much for the interview and good luck with the touring and writing.