QUICK CHAT W/ BLOC PARTY
It’s been a bumpy ride for Bloc Party, whose numerous ups have come with plenty of downs over the years. The band burst onto the scene in 2005 with the critically acclaimed Silent Alarm, but along with all of their success, a heavy touring schedule and numerous hiatuses eventually split the band in half, with bassist Gordan Moakes and drummer Matt Tong both leaving by the end of 2014. In 2015, fans were introduced to Justin Harris and Louise Bertle, which as guitarist Russel Lissak explained, was quite nerve racking initially: “The first show we did with them was in Los Angeles… everyone was really nervous as it was literally our first show. But everyone was really receptive to Justin and Louise and could see how good the chemistry was… as soon as we got past that first hurdle, we could see it worked and people could see it worked. Once we broke the ice, it took off any nerves about going forward.”
It is a big move reshuffling a band that fans have been following avidly for over ten years, but the decision to continue with new members was “always in the back of (Kele & Russels’) mind”, as they were eager to take their new material on tour and play live. Unlike the last time they were in Australia though, their album was still unreleased when they performed a series of Falls Festival sideshows. The band’s visit in 2012 followed the release of Four, but this time round, fans were treated to a whole collection of songs that they had not heard yet. “It’s always kind of tough playing new songs to people” Russell said, reflecting on the band’s first Australian shows in years, “I think we struck a pretty good balance when we played, introducing some new songs…It was like a double debut (new line up & new material)”. The fact that Bloc Party can return to Australia after so long, with unheard material and new members and still pack out venues like Festival Hall, really proves the loyalty of their fanbase.
Despite their clear ability to persevere, there have been numerous times where it felt like the band were on the verge of calling it a day. Their first hiatus came in 2010 after the release of Intimacy and their second in 2013, off the back of what initially seemed like a triumphant return. Although the band kicked back into gear with 2012’s Four and the later single, ‘Ratchet’, their immediate break suggested that perhaps things weren’t so smooth behind closed doors. While things looked pretty grim from the outside though, Lissak was optimistic that the band’s second hiatus was different to their first. “From my point of view, I knew we were already working on stuff, we just weren’t public about it… Kele and I were talking about what we wanted to do next…It was very different to where we were in 2010 when we took a couple of years off. At that point it felt really uncertain, we didn’t have any plans and no-one had spoken to one another.. it felt like ‘maybe this is over…This time round, from the outside it probably looked quite different, but from the inside we knew what was happening”
“That’s never really been our way of way of operating”, said Lissak, referring to the band’s decision to keep their activities fairly private, “everyone’s got their social media profiles and if we wanted to, we could have uploaded our studio photos and everything, but we’re kind of private people in many ways”. This decision definitely allowed Bloc Party to progress with their work, without any expectations or pressure from fans and media and despite reemerging quite differently to what people expected, their focus and perseverance has to be admired.
Bloc Party are currently continuing their world tour, having knocked off Europe and appearing in the US until May, but behind the scenes they’re already working on a follow up album to Hymns. “It’s the first opportunity the four of us have had to write together” Russell revealed, “We’re hoping to put out new music from the four of us this year… that’s the plan”. And will we be seeing Bloc Party in Australia again this year? … “Hopefully”. That’s as much info as you’re going to get for now Bloc Party fans, but keep an eye out for new music and some big news from the band in 2016.
By Dean Valentino