Bloc Party's Back and Refreshed With Four
Bloc Party is back, and the post-punk outfit is Tempe bound.
Hailing from London, the band is closing out its 2012 comeback tour here in the Valley. The buzz kings benefited from the early 2000s "rock is back" craze, but it stuck around, outlasting the hype and incorporating soul, post-rock, and pop influences on increasingly diverse records before splitting in 2009. The band reunited this year for its fourth album, not-so-coincidentally titled Four in August.
Up on the Sun spoke with drummer Matt Tong about the mature split and reunion of the band, how remixes have become cynical, and how Wikipedia can lie to us all.
Up on the Sun: Bloc Party's sound has always been different, sort of a cross between The Cure or Radiohead. Do you believe that there is any connection between those bands?
Matt Tong: It's kind of hard to tell where our inspiration draws in from. In all honesty, we weren't always that great on communicating about musical ideas with each other. It often felt like we were all coming from a different place. It was kind of understood passively. It didn't really matter where we were drawing inspiration from because it all added up to be a pretty interesting sound, or what we considered a pretty interesting sound to be.
I like all kinds of music, but me as a drummer -- I'm kind of more influenced by the '60s and such. One of my favorite drummers happens to be Keith Moon, [so] I've always wanted to bring that kind of chaos and energy to the albums. In fact the other guys don't listen to The Who. Some do say we sounded like The Cure, but I've never really got it. There may be a few qualities that seem the same, but I don't know. However, people may make that assumption with our bass player Gordon Moakes; you're going to get that post-punk vibe [playing bass the way he does]. But then [lead singer] Kele was always going on about R&B. We just have a whole array of different tastes.
Bloc Party has always seemed to have a lot remix work done by DJs.
Me personally, I'm kind of less interested in the whole remix thing. I kind of feel like it is messing with the creators [of original songs]. It's become just more of this kind of promotional thing. Apparently everyone needs to have a remix so that it can get played in the club or something.
I think earlier on in our career, things were a bit different. Remixes weren't really making such a huge effect upon our musical inventions. It was all more about learning. But I do think that the whole idea of remixing things has become a bit cynical. It's a new factory line or something. I think it's the danger of that -- an artist will come out with a break out hit, and a remix is immediately made. But then the danger of "which one becomes the more popular one" becomes a threat. I find it a bit arbitrary.
What brought you into the Bloc Party family? Wikipedia lies. I want the truth.
I kind of just fell into it really. I know that the Wikipedia page says that I was auditioned, but actually that's wrong. I don't really know who made our Wikipedia page. Should be changed, but can't do anything about that. At the time I joined, Kele and Russell were already on the band path and Gordon wasn't living in London at the time, so he was coming in every weekend or so to rehearse, since he was living in Oxford at the time.
I knew Kele for a year before I joined the band. He used to work with a friend of mine. There was a bar there that you could get cheaper drinks if you knew someone. Kele was introduced to me as someone who was really serious about doing a band. He was far more focused than anyone I had met at that point. He was always walking around with his three-ringed binder with lyrics and such. I had never really met anyone like that. I think I was kind of intimidated by it for a long time, because I never had such a huge drive to become a musician.
I was sad to see y'all step out of the light for a bit in 2009. But you're back with Four. What did this amount of time off allow for you and other members to accomplish?
It really wasn't about doing solo projects as some assume and say it was. I think we just needed some time alone from each other. We weren't really getting on very well. We were just tired and stressed out and needed a break from everything else. We had just been doing it for so long and we felt the smart decision would be to kind of tear it back a little bit. Shift the focus to something else. There weren't any concrete plans to create another record. We finished all of our contractual obligations from record companies, but we felt that it was a good time to pause anyway.
I think it really helped. We all really learned a lot during our time apart and I think we all grew up. I feel like we have a bit more sophisticated approach upon things now.
What really went into the new album and the development of it as a whole?
Well, I feel like we stored up a lot of conflict. [Laughs] But when we finally did meet up, we discussed that with this album we wanted to express more of a live performance. When it comes to it, I don't think we're ever going to be that band that sounds just like our record, because I think we're more interested in doing a show that is fun. As far as I go, I can't actually focus that intensely for an hour and a half. I'd rather have fun. There have been some subtle changes from what the live set will be compared to what it has been in the past. I think we've just matured and figured out how to make a more pure expression.
Bloc Party is scheduled to perform Sunday, December 9, at the Marquee Theatre.
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