Blue Robot

Interview with a Rising Star: Bastille

Posted by Rachel Garman on 07/13 at 11:25 AM

The UK has brought forth many great pop artists over the past decade, such as Coldplay, Adele, and Ellie Goulding, to name a few. Amidst these established acts, a newcomer emerges from the underground pop scene: Bastille. Led by front man Dan Smith, Bastille is comprised of Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, Will Farquarson and Kyle Simmons. Smith first noticed the potential for the band when he uploaded a video online for his song “Flaws” in early 2011. As the song began to gain attention, Smith released more of his songs including the free mixtape Other People’s Heartaches and the Laura Palmer EP. On December 1st, 2011, Bastille was signed to Virgin Records and has since begun planning a full-length album due later this year. On June 29th, 2012, Bastille posted the video for the song “Bad Blood,” which will officially be released as a single on August 20th. Bastille mixes indie-pop with R&B soul, and Smith’s voice has a wide range that seems to effortlessly rise and fall with each catchy hook. I recently had the opportunity to interview Dan Smith about matters such as touring, signing to Virgin, and his obsession with Twin Peaks.

1.    What first prompted you to upload your songs online?

Dan Smith: I wanted to test if I’d get any reaction to the songs I’d been working on, so thought putting them up online relatively anonymously would be a good way to do that. 

2.    How are you adjusting to touring and performing for audiences?

DS: I’ve been playing gigs for the last few years, but it’s been a lot of fun taking these songs out and playing them as a band. We’ve been lucky enough so far to have quite receptive crowds who know quite a few of our songs. 

3.    Is there anywhere outside of the UK that you plan on touring?

DS: We’re heading to Norway to play at a festival, and we played in Paris a little while back so it’d be great to head back there. We’d love to do a bit of a European Tour and maybe head to the US as soon as we can. 

4.    How has the recording and producing process changed since being signed to Virgin?

DS: Not at all. That was one of the things that attracted me to Virgin and EMI - that they were into what I was doing and wanted to help rather than interfere. So I’ve been producing the album with my mate Mark Crew in the same place that we recorded all of the songs before a label was involved. 

5.    What is the song-writing process like?

DS: I record ideas into my phone whenever and wherever I get them while at the same time trying not to look too mental. I often either write at a piano or start with some ideas on my computer and work through production and song ideas at the same time. 

6.    What musicians have had the greatest impact and influence on your music?

DS: Loads of musicians have really. I like the ambition, variation and scope of people like Damon Albarn, Kanye West and Jack White. I also love songwriters with distinctive sounds like Antony & The Johnsons and Bon Iver. There’s no one specifically I can think of because I guess I try to bring in a very wide range of influences in the songs and production. 

7.    The song “Laura Palmer” is named after a character on the nineties television show Twin Peaks, created by David Lynch. What is it that fascinates you about Lynch and film in general?

DS: I think it’s his ability to present the everyday and mundane and then massively subvert it with darker elements. I also love his visual and audio aesthetics. When it comes to Twin Peaks, I guess one of the things that interests me is the way Laura Palmer’s story is presented, and the way we never see her alive but learn so much about the her life and her secrets as they are slowly unravelled. 

8.    Have you noticed any differences in your lives since Bastille started gaining attention?

DS: I guess the only tangible differences are that we are playing to slightly larger crowds which feels like a really satisfying profession. Other than that, just that our lives feel a lot busier which is awesome. 

9.    Besides music, what other hobbies and interests do you enjoy in your free time?

DS: I’m obsessed with film and cinema, in fact we all are really. Books and running and squash, weirdly. Some of the other guys have just got into boxing as well, so hopefully we’ll see some black eyes on tour. 

10. How would you describe the songs you’re working on for the full album?

DS: …As quite varied. I’ve tried to make each track distinctive through the songwriting and through varying the production and trying new things. I think the album will potentially feel quite mental because of that, some songs having big epic string arrangements and live drums and other being quite minimal and electronic. It’s all held together by lots of vocals and some of the themes that run through it though. 

Bastille has been gaining Internet attention for the past year, and hopefully we will be hearing more from Dan Smith and the group in the coming months. Based off of the sampling Bastille has already released, this brand of rhythmic, indie-pop music is sure to gain fans in the UK as well as the US. You can find more from Bastille on the band’s websiteYouTube, and SoundCloud.

And check out these notable songs:

Flaws:

Laura Palmer:

What Would You Do? (City High Cover):

Overjoyed (Acapella):

Of the Night:

Bad Blood:

{name} Author: Rachel Garman
Bio: Rachel Garman is a sophomore studying Journalism and English at Penn State. She enjoys writing, reading, photography, discussing the characters of Mad Men, and tasting menus. Her favorite genres include indie, folk, alternative rock, and hip-hop. Some of her favorite artists are David Bowie, Tom Petty, Jack’s Mannequin, Childish Gambino, Dead Man’s Bones, and Bon Iver.

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