hmv.com talks to... - February 4, 2022

"It was helpful to set it out as a science-fiction film in our heads..." - hmv.com talks to Bastille
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

"It was helpful to set it out as a science-fiction film in our heads..." - hmv.com talks to Bastille

Ever since the release of their chart-topping debut album Bad Blood in 2013, Bastille have been almost relentlessly on the go. Originally the one-man project of the band's frontman and chief creative force Dan Smith, Bastille has grown into a four-piece unit that have emereged as one of the UK's most successful exports in recent years, enjoying almost as much chart success in the US as they have back home.

That has meant exhaustive touring, and Bastille have always been a band that writes and records new material largely on the road. The last couple of years though have, for obvious reasons, forced a slowdown for the band, but they've adapated to all that extra time by using it to amass a huge pile of new material, the fruits of which are set to arrive in stores this week in the form of their fourth album, Give Me the Future.

Based around a sci-fi theme exploring our relationship with technology, their new album lands in stores on Friday (February 4) and ahead of it's release we spoke to Dan Smith as they gear up to unleash their fourth full-length offering...

 


You must be busy on the promo trail Dan, how’s it all going?

“Yeah it’s pretty busy, we’ve just taken a little break to sign some albums and now we’re back at it. We’re going on Radio 4’s Front Row later and I don’t think my mum and dad have ever been as aware or as proud of what I do as they are right now. Not since I sang with Craig David on Strictly.”

 

When did you start putting together material for this new album?

“The whole thing actually started at the end of 2019 while we were still touring. We’d planned to take a year off from about March 2020…”

 

That is just outstanding timing…

“Yeah, exactly. We’d been recording a bit while we were touring, but then obviously we got back to the UK and the pandemic hit, and so the year off that we’d planned obviously turned into something very different for us and for everyone else in the world. So the album had already kind of begun, but we used lockdown to keep recording remotely and keep busy, and that massively changed and informed what the album was about. It was always going to be about the way people escape and the forms of escapism that we look towards to take ourselves out of our own heads for a bit. And that can be great, it can be a coping mechanism and it can be a whole load of other things, but there are complexities that come with that as well.

“And then throughout the pandemic we made this huge, sprawling collection of songs, so we divided it into couple of different bodies of work, and the set of songs that became Give Me the Future were much more about escapism as it relates to the future and technology. It was helpful to set it out as a science-fiction film in our heads, with a bit of a narrative and a concept. That really helped us push the sounds in a much more extreme way and be a bit bolder with it."

 

So is this a sci-fi ‘concept album’?

“I guess it really helped to define it as a sci-fi, because we kind of thought: ‘Look, we’re never going to make a science fiction album again, so let’s just really go there.’ And we did, lyrically, thematically and sonically as well. It was a really helpful sort of project to be working on in a really strange time, and we always with our albums speak to what’s going on in our lives at the time, try and hold a mirror up to the world as we see it. So making an album about our relationship with technology wasn’t a stretch over the last couple of years, by any means, but we’ve also dived back into all those classic sci-fi books and shows, and that was really interesting. Science-fiction talks about the reality that we live in by imagining other realities in the future, so there was a lot of really interesting stuff to dig into.”

 

Do you tend to have a clear idea of what you want to do with each record at the beginning?

“I think we start by just making songs, and often a theme just sort of emerges because there are a lot of similar things cropping up in our songs. During the last album I wrote a lot about hedonism as a form of distraction and the world seeming increasingly fucked, so we took that and heightened it into this sort of apocalyptic party album about avoiding apocalypse happening outside. This one was more about plugging in, into your fantasies or your dreams, or a video game, and the different ways that we escape from what we see in the news all the time. And I guess, stepping back, the lives that we all lead and the way we use technology could be seen as some sort of weird, dystopian sci-fi in a lot of ways.

“But we also wanted to make a really fun album, and I guess the other thing about sci-fi is that it’s used to make these comments on how things are, but it’s often done in a really fun and escapist sort of way. So we wanted the album to make points that matter to us, but we still wanted it to be fun. Hopefully we’ve done that Trojan horse thing that we always set out to do, making escapist pop music that just happens to also be, hopefully, be talking about some challenging things.”

 

Was there any particular song that kicked things off on this album?

“I think probably the song ‘Give Me the Future’, which is obviously the title track of the album. I wrote it with one of my best mates called Ralph, who I worked with on To Kill a King. We’d been friends from Uni, and also I’d been working on songs with people in the US, over Zoom, people that I’d met while writing songs for other people, basically, and wanted to bring into the world of Bastille for this album.

"So I thought if I’m working with all these different people this time, why not bring in Ralph as well? We’re really good friends and I guess we were just thinking about the tempting allure of living in a digital world, where you can be anyone and do anything, and how addictive that can be. There are endless possibilities, but there’s a darkness in there as well. So wanted to write something that felt expansive and cinematic, and that song just came really easily. We loved that song and all the others started falling into place.”

 

Was that different to how you’d usually work, given the nature of this album and the way it was made?

“A lot of the time, with us, we’ll have the bones of a song, and then when the concept or theme of the album starts to come together I will go back and re-assess everything, sometimes re-write all the lyrics. There’s a lot of drafting and redrafting to pull everything in line, but I think in knowing that this is a concept album we felt more able to explore the details in a lot of things, so that was fun."

 

You’ve worked with Ryan Tedder on some of this this record, was that part of you going for a particular sound?

“We wrote and recorded one song with him on this record, but we played him the album and he was just a really useful set of ears, we’d been working on it for a year or so and he was really encouraging. A song like ‘No Bad Days’, which we loved but didn’t think would be a single, but he was really excite by and encouraged us to go away and work on it some more. So he was very briefly in and out of the process, but a really helpful outside voice. He’s done some really amazing things with Beyonce and various other people that we massively admire.”

 

Riz Ahmed appears on one of the tracks too, how did he get involved?

“We’re massive fans of his, his albums are brilliant and he’s obviously great as a creative person and as an actor, but also as an activist. He’s really inspiring and he’s such a smart guy. It was important to us that there were other voices on the album, and I always want to hear what he has to say about things, so we sent him a bunch of stuff from the album and we talked about the track on Frank Ocean’s Blonde where Andre 3000 just sort of takes over. We liked the idea of giving the microphone to someone else in the middle of the album and hearing what they had to say about it all. He was really up for it, I think he was interested in the themes we were talking about within the music we were making, so he responded to it with that track, and I love it. It’s one of my favourite parts of the album. But as well as Riz there’s also Bim on the closing track as well and a bunch of different musicians doing solos in various places on the album, and in the interludes, just a host of different friends and musicians weaved across the record. It’s a Bastille album still, but I wanted people to hear how collaborative it was as well.”

 

You mentioned separating songs into two bodies of work – what happened to the second one? Will that form the basis of the next Bastille album?

“Maybe, yeah. I think one of the things that emboldened us with this album, pushing it as far as we did with the sound and the ideas, was knowing that we also had this other thing on the go, which is almost the complete opposite. I guess at the moment we just feel super lucky to be releasing a fourth album and still be making music, but what the last ten years have allowed us to do is maybe have a bit of perspective, that each album album should be its own self-contained moment in our career and justify itself through its points of difference. Whereas before I think we were always trying to do everything in the space of one album. This album has got no ballads and no quiet moments, we wanted it to be propelling you forward through into the next song, and in that respect it’s kind of different from other things we’ve done.

"But at the same time we were doing an MTV Unplugged album and re-orchestrating things, and working on a bunch of other stuff for other projects that are maybe a bit quieter, more introspective and acoustic. One of the things I love about this band is that we’re able to jump from doing an electronic, mixtape kind of thing to a sci-fi album and then something more acoustic and intimate like an Unplugged album. So who knows what we’ll do next?”

 

Have you been able to road test much of the new album yet?

“We’ve just been rehearsing and getting really excited to play all of this stuff live. We’re actually playing the album in full for the first time this week. We’re a band that sort of live in the studio, but we’ve always toured relentlessly too, so it’s always been about juggling the two, and it’s been a really interesting shift over the last couple of years, almost like going back to the beginning, taking the live element away entirely and just focussing on creating music. So it has been quite strange and detached not being able see how these songs go down, but we did a gig last week and there’s a song called ‘Shut Off the Lights’ on the album which went down so much better than we ever could have expected.”

 

You must be excited to get to play the whole thing?

“Yeah, we are, definitely. I mean, usually there’s the option to play an easier, crowd-pleasing set, and those shows for obvious reasons are likely to be more satisfying in terms of audience reaction, but I think at the moment we’re just keen to play this album and to premier it live before people of heard. It’ll be good to see how that goes down, there might be a few puzzled faces.”

 

You’ve got some UK dates coming up, what are your touring plans beyond that?

“Yeah, we’ve got a small run of shows over the next few weeks and then a bigger arena tour later, just before the summer. Then we’re going to the US for a month and a half, and there are more plan to go to Europe and other places. We’re going to Brazil at the end of the year, which is quite exciting. But like everyone, I guess, we’ll just have to see where we’re at after that, what is doable and what is safe for everybody involved. So we’ll see, but we’re excited to finally get this album out and get to play it live.”

 

 

Give Me the Future is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store

Give Me the Future
Give Me the Future Bastille

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