Bastille – Dan Smith // Interview

Bastille have defied everything that usually stands in the way of boys with guitars and synthesisers (including defying that thing called gravity with ridiculous hair gel). Unlike the thousands of budding bands in the UK, they’re one of the few to have firmly rooted themselves in the Radio 1 playlist and also have a number one album to boot. Oli Ford chatted to frontman Dan Smith ahead of their sold-out show at the O2 Academy Oxford, learning that it’s not all down to luck…

You guys debuted your first single, ‘Flaws’, back in 2011 and since then you have gone from strength to strength. 2013, in particular, has been a real springboard for you and you now have a number one album. This must have been a pretty hectic few months?

Yeah, I think it has been for all of us. It has been fun, but really busy I guess, but in a good way. It felt like we had been gearing up to release the album since we started out and it would be worrying if we didn’t have a lot on at the moment. I think the last few weeks on tour have been really good because all we need to concentrate on is playing our music.

How are you finding the tour so far? Have you had any stand-out moments?

The tour has been amazing though last night in Nottingham was particularly mental. It was the biggest headline gig we have ever done (about 1,900 people). There were mosh pits, fights, people getting carried out, but also a lot people not watching, but it was a really nice atmosphere and people were singing along to most of the songs which was great.

You have a busy summer coming up after the tour with lots of festival bookings already. Do you prefer a festival crowd or a more intimate venue?

A bit of both really. Festivals are definitely a bit more of a challenge because people are more likely to just come and check you to see what you’re all about as opposed to actual fans so you have to work a little harder to win them over. We are really lucky because this tour has sold out and we get to play to people who are there to see us and who like our songs and there is nothing more gratifying than playing to a group of people who have bought the album and like it and want to see you live. Festivals can be really fun and the atmosphere can be really good, but I am relatively pessimistic so I worry that someone might come and bottled us/boo us off stage! We will see after the summer…

What is the strangest place you have played so far?

There is a pub boat in London called Tamesis Dock, we did one of our first gigs there and it was pretty cool.  We also did a gig in an old cinema museum a few months ago which was pretty weird. It was this old building, kind of like a private museum filled with old cinema memorabilia. Our bass is quite heavy when we play live and when we were sound checking, all of this black soot started raining from the ceiling. Obviously, the venue had never had a gig there before or a proper sound system! By the end of the gig my keyboard was pretty much black and we were covered in this weird dusty, ashy soot. We also played in EMI’s reception, where we were getting irate neighbours banging on the glass telling us to shut up. That was crazy.

You have been supporting bands such as Two Door Cinema Club on their recent tour. Is there anyone you would particularly like to tour with?

We always ray Rihanna, but that is for reasons other than music! I don’t know really. Two Door Cinema Club was our first support tour in two and a half years so it was a really interesting experience for us and we had a really good time with them. We were really lucky because you hear all these horror stories about what it is like supporting a huge band such as them, but their crowds were wicked and people were singing along to our songs which was great. There are loads of bands that I love and musicians that I love but I don’t know if we would be appropriate to support them so I’ve got no idea really. We have got something lined up for the summer though which is something that I never thought we would do, ever!

Can you tell me about it?

No, sorry. But it is two of the last people in the world that I thought we would ever support. It is going to be very fucking weird, but I am really excited about it.

It is not uncommon to hear a Bastille track on almost every Radio 1 show at the moment. I do feel partly responsible for this as I requested Flaws to be played on Greg James 10 minute take over in December and it was played out. You are welcome for that!

No way! Thanks mate, that is amazing. I met Greg James after playing Reading and Leeds and then a few days later Bad Blood was played on the radio when I was driving and it was the first time I had heard it on the radio, which was really fucking weird, but amazing. Thank you!

How important do you think the Radio 1 coverage has been to getting you to where you are now?

Totally, we are so lucky to have the support from Radio 1. It is amazing that part of their remit is to bring new bands through and it is has really helped us progress to where we are at. Everyone at Radio 1 has been outstanding. Of the media, they are really the only ones who have really got behind us.

Congratulations on achieving a number 1 album. Did you ever think it would make it this far when you were writing it?

No, never. It was never really like an aim or anything that we thought about. Every band, us included, starts quite humble and you just sort of get on with it. I wrote ‘Flaws’ in my bedroom and demoed it there, mainly to my Mum and I never thought about the charts or anything like that. It has kind of taken us all by surprise.

I am not keen on pigeon-holing bands, but if you were forced to, how would you describe your music?

I don’t know, err. We are never looking to make music of a particular genre and I like each song to sound slightly different. Some are epic string filled indie tracks and others have auto-tuned harmonies and loops with electronic beats. We don’t like to repeat ourselves too much. I suppose broadly speaking it is like cinematic, hopefully credible, pop!

There have been a lot of remixes of your tracks. Is it something you encourage?  Do you have any particular favourites?

Yeah definitely, there is a remix of Pompeii by two DJ’s called TYDE which is wicked and there remix by Yeasayer which is awesome. It is always fun to hear other peoples interpretations of our music.

This year is going to be huge for you guys and you have been tipped as one of the ones to watch in 2013. Who are your ones to watch this year? Who are you listening to?

I just downloaded the new James Blake track and I can’t stop playing it. Obviously, he is already massive, but I am so excited about that album. To Kill A King, who are supporting us are awesome too. I am a huge fan of theirs. I have to mention Ella Eyre too, keep an eye on her for sure.

Oxford is bursting at the seams with talented musicians and songwriters, what advice would you give to those trying to break into the industry?

I don’t really feel like I am in a position to give advice like that to be honest. The only way we know how to do it is how we did it and there are so many happy accidents and false starts. It is a tough one really. I think the most important thing is to totally have your shit together and to take time to write enough good songs. Then once you think you have enough, write some more. The best thing that happened to me was someone telling me I wasn’t good enough. It inspired me to work even harder. Try not to think about it too much. Just get on with it and keep trying.

Debut album Bad Blood is out now on Virgin Records