Class Of 2013: Bastille

With Bastille selling out venues before their debut is even finished, Coral Williamson checks how they’re coping with the pressure.

The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, mostly used as a prison by the Kings of France, back in the 1400s. It was also a symbol for the French Revolution, after it was stormed in the late 1700s. The storming of that fortress is celebrated on Bastille Day on the 14th of July, which commemorates the first Fête de la Fédération, held exactly one year after the event. And, as luck would have it, July 14th also has one more point of significance; the birthday of Bastille frontman and founder, Dan Smith.

Now that we’re heading into 2013, you can probably forget all that history stuff I just told you; all you really need to know about Bastille is that they make great music.  As Dan himself tells us, “It’s probably kind of cinematic, indie, alternative music. It’s harmony-led and there’s lot of different instruments and electronic things, there’s string arrangements and bleeps.”

It’s been a busy year for Dan and Bastille, and it’s not over yet, with another mini-tour and mini-album to get through before the year’s out. Oh, and a trip to Hong Kong to play a festival. But let’s rewind a bit first. If we’re going to welcome Bastille into the class of 2013, we ought to find out a bit about them. “Bastille started as I was making songs,” Dan begins, “and wanted to find a way to put them out that didn’t mean I’d have to be a singer/songwriter, or confined to tour with the usual set-up of a band. So I was working with songs by myself in my room, and at the same time I was working out how to play them live with my friends.”
“I try to think of each song as its own little world.”
The enthusiasm - and slight disbelief - at how popular Bastille has become is evident in Dan’s voice, as he explains how they felt during their last tour. “We’ve been really lucky,” he enthuses, “in that a lot of our shows have sold out. But every time that happens we can’t really believe it. And this last tour was like our first ‘proper’ tour, and it sold out before we left; it’s such a bizarre feeling because for an upcoming band, one of the most stressful things is wondering if anyone’s going to come along. Knowing that the gigs were sold out just totally changed the tone of the tour in our heads. Every night just felt unbelievable.”

The ‘Bad Blood Tour’, in support of their debut album, is still “bloody ages away”, but that doesn’t mean Dan hasn’t been thinking of ways to please the audience, particularly considering how quickly tickets have sold for a lot of the dates. “One of the Shepherds Bush dates has already sold out,” he tells us, “so we’ve announced another one, and we’ve upgraded other dates to bigger venues. We’re still completely baffled by the fact that people are buying tickets to see us, let alone for five months away. We’re hoping to step things up for this tour, improve it from last time.”

Before their main tour starts though, 2013 is still going to be busy.“In January and February we’re going on tour with Two Door Cinema Club, which should be a lot of fun.” Smith says, “We’ve never really gone on a support tour with anyone else, we’ve always been lucky enough to play to our own crowds; it’s going to be really interesting seeing how a bunch of people who’ve paid to see someone else react to us. And that’ll take us up to our next single, ‘Pompeii’, and then our album, and our tour, and yeah! It should be quite a busy time.”
‘We’re hoping to step things up for this tour.’
Ah yes, the album. “As far as I’m concerned it’s done,” Dan states,  adding that “the finishing touches, and the boring, finite things that have yet to be done.” Apparently, he’s already struggled with the tracklisting. “I just couldn’t do it,” he confides, “I know that sounds ridiculous but these songs have been quite private and I’ve been working on them for ages. For them to suddenly be put in an order, put out, and I’m never allowed to touch them again is quite a daunting prospect.”

At least he can tell us what ‘Bad Blood’ will be about. “There seem to be elements of growing up a bit, and looking at what kind of person you’ve become. There’s also lots of stories, little narratives. I try to think of each song as its own little world, with its own little story in, or its own little conversation.”

When I wrap up our chat by jokingly welcoming Bastille into the class of 2013, Dan laughs, and says: “Hopefully we’ll be graduating next year, in to…something!” We can’t wait to see what that something is.

Taken from the December 2012 / January 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.