New look: A brief guide to… Bloc Party’s new members

With Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong departing the band, say hello to Bloc Party mk. ii.

Today (5th October) sees the launch of the all new, shiny Bloc Party. New songs, two new members, a new album in the works - it’s all happening. #BlocPartyDay kicked off with a special fans only show at Maida Vale for BBC Radio 6 Music, and it saw frontman Kele Okereke declaring this to be “our first day back at work” and the beginning of “Bloc Party mk. ii.”

Across a short lived but eye-opening set, it did feel like witnessing a different band. Old favourites shared space with notably more simmered down, grandly-arched cuts. ‘Exes’ has a purposeful build, and opener ‘The Good News’ even has a hint of country about it. What’s clear is that drummer Louise Bartle has her own absorbing technique, a million miles from ex-man on sticks Matt Tong, but just as striking. Bassist Justin Harris is a future indie dreamboat in waiting, and he’s given a starring role on the heady chug of ‘Exes’.

Before “Bloc Party mk.ii” goes in full motion, here’s a very brief guide to the new members, and what they’ve been up to in the years preceding.

Louise Bartle

Matt Tong’s relentless energy on drums is a tough bill to replace (he suffered a punctured lung back in 2006 after going too gung ho), but 20-year-old Louise Bartle fits the bill.

Before Bloc Party, Bartle appeared in an episode of Skins’ sixth series (‘Rich’), playing a character named O’Malley. That’s not her only acting stint, although the other was brief, starring as a drum double in ‘Toast of London’ (“yes I can hear you, Clem Fandango”).

As for the drums, she’s played as part of backing bands for Selena Gomez and Eliza Doolittle, after studying at The Institute of Contemporary Music. The Gomez gig wasn’t long back - she joined the star for a cover of Magic’s ‘Rude’ in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge last month.

Justin Harris

Justin Harris is one of two remaining members from Menomena, so he’s had his fair share of experience prior to Bloc Party. Both bands toured together back in 2009, after Kele and co. released ‘Intimacy’. With Brent Knopf leaving Menomena back in 2011, Harris is technically holding the fort with Danny Seim, although 2012 album ‘Moms’ looks to be their last for a while.

On the basis of their Maida Vale set, Harris is going to take on fewer vocal duties than ex-bassist Gordon Moakes. The latter also led synth parts, but guitarist Russell Lisack took charge for opener ‘The Good News’. All change, then.

Bloc Party are set to debut a new track tonight on BBC Radio 1, from 7.30pm.


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