Three years ago, Bastille went from being an underdog indie band to one of Britain’s biggest music exports. Their debut album, Bad Blood, topped the charts, and has been certified double platinum in the UK.
This year has seen them return with a vengeance, releasing their sophomore album, Wild World, which has again peaked at No. 1 on the UK album charts, as well as making the Top 10 all over the world, including the famously-impenetrable US charts. Tomorrow night, they will take to the stage at Leeds’ First Direct Arena as part of their mammoth world tour.
Bastille’s debut record exploded onto the scene in 2013, making them one of the hottest bands of the year. Speaking to the five-piece’s lead singer and songwriter, Dan Smith, a graduate of the University of Leeds, he explains that the band tried not to let the pressure of making a follow-up record weigh on their minds while recording their latest LP. “I think we really tried to not think about it that much”, he begins.
“With the first record, nobody, least of all us, really expected it to do anything like what it did. When we made it in my bedroom with our mate Mark, it was just us making some songs in tiny, windowless rooms, so the fact that it then went on to do what it did was completely mental and unexpected. We made this second album while we were touring lots of different countries. Making songs was just something I did after school, work and uni, and it was really just finding a way of making the second album the way I used to make music.”
Smith’s songs are heard by thousands of people each night and receive adoration from fans and critics alike. That being said, he admits that he was, initially, a little sceptical about letting other people hear his material when he first started out. “Our process of making songs is quite closed off and self-contained; I do a lot of writing and then I play stuff to the guys, and in that sense, nothing’s really changed, and I think it’s quite good for that. We still work with the same little team and we just get on with it. When I started writing songs, it never occurred to me that it would ever be anything I’d do in public, I had to be almost tricked into doing my first gigs in Leeds”, he laughs.
The remainder of this year sees Bastille touring the UK, playing to sold-out crowds in the biggest arenas in the country. However, 30-year-old Smith says that the size of the room is not what’s important. “I’ve seen our music described as ‘arena sized’, and I think that the scale of our music comes from the fact we made it in such a s*****, tiny space. The scale of our music from influence from films and soundtracks much more than just wanting to play on a big stage, that was never our intention. We’ve just done a tour of the US, where we just went back to the tiny clubs and theatres where we first played. It was sweaty shows and we were right there in the crowd and it was awesome.
“When we began, I made the band logo on Microsoft Paint and we’d drive ourselves around the UK and sleep on friend’s sofas – that’s how we learned to play live.”
Smith graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in English. It was this city which first welcomed his music to their ears and their hearts – does it still remain a special place to him? “Oh, it f****** totally does in Leeds, man. I would not be in a band if I hadn’t gone to Leeds University and if my mates hadn’t entered me into a Leeds Council-run competition.
“My mates are in this band called To Kill A King, and it’s because of Ralph, who I used to live with at uni... they won this Leeds competition, and the following year one of my friends entered my song, and it won. That forced me to do my first ever gig, a photo shoot and my first ever interview, which was with Time Out. For someone who’d just been making songs in their bedroom and never intended to play them to anyone, it was a big kick up the a***. I had the best three years in Leeds, it’s such an awesome city.”
Bastille play at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on November 4. www.bastillebastille.com
When I started writing songs, it never occurred to me that it would ever be anything I’d do in public, I had to be almost tricked into doing my first gigs in Leeds.Dan Smith