How Bloc Party got its groove back

August 12, 2015 11:22 pm 3 comments Views: 1
UnBloc’d ... Kele Okereke says without a line-up change Bloc Party would be no more. Pict

UnBloc’d … Kele Okereke says without a line-up change Bloc Party would be no more. Picture: AFP
Source: AFP

IF you have a problem with Bloc Party continuing on after replacing two original members, you may prefer it to the alternative.

The UK band’s frontman Kele Okereke says it was either a new Bloc Party line-up or no more Bloc Party.

“If things hadn’t changed we wouldn’t be making any more music,” Okereke says flatly.

He and guitarist Russell Lissack are the last men standing in what Okereke calls the “Bloc Party reboot”.

Drummer Matt Tong left the band after touring Bloc Party’s Four album in 2013. In March this year bassist Gordon Noakes tweeted he’d also exited, concentrating on his new band Young Legionnaire.

Okereke admits touring Four saw tensions within the fourpiece come to a head — they went on a hiatus soon after, and Okereke released his second solo album last year.

“At the start of 2013, when we were touring Four, I had kinda had enough of this vibe,” he says. “I felt like if things didn’t change it was the point for me to step away and do something else with my life. But things did change, I feel better for it.”

Rebooted ... Kele Okereke is excited about injecting two new musicians into Bloc Party

Rebooted … Kele Okereke is excited about injecting two new musicians into Bloc Party
Source: Supplied

Okereke says he and Lissack planned to keep Bloc Party going, with two new members making up the rhythm section.

“On some level I’d missed the band but I knew we were coming back together again, that’s what Russell and I wanted. It wasn’t a case of not knowing what was going to happen. I knew at the end of us touring Four that I wanted to make another (Bloc Party) record, with Russell. It felt like finally this big weight had been lifted from us as a band, we needed to make a record.

“Obviously everyone is aware of the line-up situation, this stuff is just coming to light now but we dealt with this two years ago. We had our fights and our conversations two years ago. It was a mutual decision, to be honest. I knew two years ago this is where I wanted to be, I wanted to be making a record with Russell. I’m looking forward to the idea of touring.”

The singer is careful when asked if there were any battles to keep the Bloc Party name.

“How do I say this tactfully? I think Russell and I are Bloc Party and always have been. We write all the music, we always have done. I wasn’t anticipating there was going to be an issue with the name, it’s kind of a fact. There wasn’t any problem about that.”

Okereke and Lissack are now finishing the fifth Bloc Party album.

“We recorded the album with some people, we’ve been rehearsing with other people. It’s been an ongoing process”

Happier times ... Gordon Noakes (far left) and Matt Tong (second from left) have now left

Happier times … Gordon Noakes (far left) and Matt Tong (second from left) have now left Bloc Party.
Source: Supplied

While he’s tight-lipped about the new members, they’ll be revealed when Bloc Party their first shows with the new line-up in LA on August 22 and 23.

“I’m of the mindset that we should take the forward-looking perspective when it comes to new material,” Okereke says. “Obviously we’re a band who have released four albums and we have a name but I think it would be equally exciting for us to re imagine some of our back catalogue into a way that we will feel comfortable about performing it now.

“That’s the amazing thing about working with (new) musicians, everybody expresses themselves in a completely different way. No two drummers or no two guitarists play in the same way. It’d be nice to maybe give some of our back catalogue a different feel, so the other musicians feel like they’re part of the process rather than just hired hands.”

However fans should not fear unrecognisable versions of Bloc Party anthems like Banquet, Two More Years, The Prayer, So Here We Are, Flux or One More Chance from the new line-up.

Okereke recalls seeing the Smashing Pumpkins at Wembley 15 years ago in one of the last shows featuring the classic line-up.

Guitar hero ... Russell Lissack is trying new tricks for the fifth Bloc Party album.

Guitar hero … Russell Lissack is trying new tricks for the fifth Bloc Party album.
Source: Supplied

“They reworked their hits into kind of salsa versions,” he recalls. “It was very underwhelming as a fan. I thought that if this was the last time I was ever going to see them it wasn’t fair that this was their parting gesture, to rob the audience of the chance to enjoy the music. I felt that was quite a selfish thing to do.

“I definitely feel there’s a balance to be struck between the musician’s need to express themselves versus the audience’s enjoyment of the music. We’ll see. Luckily with us we have enough material that has been recorded in a certain way that it allows us a certain freedom to reinterpret the music. That’s what we’ve all of our done with all our records. There’s usually more stuff going on the record, more stuff than four musicians can recreate live on stage.

“We’ve always had a certain amount of flexibility. I’m not talking about anything drastic, but I feel like we’re a different band. I was listening to A Weekend In the City yesterday, I have to relearn that music, but I feel like I don’t recognise the person who made that music, if that makes sense. Obviously I recognise the music, but it feels like so long ago. I wouldn’t have made A Weekend In the City in the way we made it in 2007 if I was making it today. There’s got to be a certain amount of evolution in the process.”

Party starters: Bloc Party pictured on stage in Adelaide in 2008

Party starters: Bloc Party pictured on stage in Adelaide in 2008
Source: News Limited

When touring Australia promoting his solo album Trick earlier this year Okereke was vague when talking to Triple J about the sound of the new Bloc Party album. A few months on and he’s still cryptic.

He isn’t sure if the album will come out this year (“I’m not the most business-minded person”) but says the new-look band have recorded 15 songs to choose from.

“The range of the songs is quite extreme and quite diverse. Right now I have no idea what’s going to be on the record. I have some idea, or I think have some idea, but it’s not only my choice. We all have different ideas about what is good.

“In terms of an overall aesthetic, it definitely feels like we’ve moved into a different place in terms of recording and arranging. It’s us but it feels like it’s us in a way that we haven’t ever been before. It’s been very interesting watching Russell play the guitar, he’s using his instrument in a way I’ve never seen anyone use it. He’s always had a mind for effects and gadgets and whatnot, but with this record he’s taking his playing off the fretboard and it’s something else. I’m excited to get in front of people. When we go in and listen to the new songs they feel like they’re coming from a different place. That’s a good feeling to have.”

SEE: Bloc Party play each Falls Festival in Lorne, Marion Bay and Byron Bay, between December 28 and January 3.

Ticket ballot closes tomorrow

Any leftover tickets on sale August 26.

Bloc Party play Southbound Festival, January 8-10, Western Australia. On sale now, Moshtix.

www.news.com.au/entertainment/music

Leave a Reply