“The Raconteurs, Manu Chao, Amy Winehouse, Jay Z.” Bastille frontman Dan Smith is reeling off the Pyramid Stage run at one of his first visits to Glastonbury, in 2008. “My mates and I wanted to be at the front for Jay Z, so we went down and hung out around the front, and by the time Jay was on, we were lung-crushed, up against the barrier. He came out, strumming along to ‘Wonderwall’, middle fingers up in the air, and absolutely killed it. A really fucking fun two hours of my life.
“It was a set of undeniably massive hits, but it also felt so important, seeing in a big shift in people’s mentalities when it came to what kind of artist should and can headline festivals.”
He is, he tells us, on the band’s tour bus, somewhere between New York City and Uncasville, Connecticut (“Er, it’s in America, if that narrows it down?”), just a couple of weeks ahead of US super-festival Coachella. It’s there he’s looking forward to watching another hip hop giant (“Kendrick in a fucking polo field in the desert?! It’s gonna be pretty surreal.”), someone who also provided another of his stand-out festival memories.
“We were right at the back,” he remembers, of Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Reading Main Stage appearance, sandwiched directly between the twin indie behemoths of Jamie T and The Libertines. “My housemate’s in a band called Childcare, and he was playing on the BBC Introducing stage. I hadn’t articulated it, but I remember wondering what the crowd will be like, in a field in Reading. And moving towards the stage, as Kendrick started playing, I was so blown away. It was by far the busiest set, in my opinion, of the whole weekend. Everybody was singing along, and I was like, ‘this is fucking amazing’. Here’s an artist who made, obviously an incredibly important album, but also a really challenging one - ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is not an easy listen, in a lot of ways, and that’s what makes it so great - but to see a massive field of British people shouting along. If you’d have suggested this would’ve been a Reading & Leeds moment however many years ago…”
“I’d chew my hands off to see Eminem play.”
— Dan Smith
If it’s not clear by now, Dan - and the rest of Bastille, he’s quick to add - loves festivals. He’s cleared a weekend in his jam-packed 2017 diary to attend Glastonbury, just to “go hang out and watch a shitload of music.”
“I’m like a kid in a candy store…” he pauses, before correcting himself. “Shit, that’s such an American expression! A kid in a fucking sweet shop!”
“We try and get in as early as possible,” he continues, of his band’s on-site antics, “find out who’s playing, and try and see as much as we can. Sometimes sets coincide with us playing, and that’s a pain in the arse.”
They can’t, he ruefully points out, see Eminem at this year’s Reading & Leeds, because he’s on opposite days. “I’d chew my hands off to see him play.” There are, at least, a few others, he can catch this summer.
“Future Islands! I really wanna see Lorde, and Lana Del Rey. Radiohead are playing a whole bunch of festivals that we’re doing and that’s going to be very, very exciting. Also Haim! I am so excited about their new record, I can’t wait to hear it.”
Katy Perry at Glastonbury?
“Oh mate, that’s gonna be fucking amazing, can you imagine what it’s gonna be like, having THAT many people screaming along to ‘Firework’?! It’s gonna be insane!”
“We play before Rod Stewart! ‘Maggie May’ is a tune.”
— Dan Smith
Last year, at Poland’s Open’er, before Bastille made their way on to a storm-ravaged main stage, it was impossible to miss the many carefully-constructed, well thought-out banners awaiting the band. ‘We love Bastille more than I love my future husband’, read one, the a’s all, obviously, replaced with the band’s signature triangle. ‘We love you more than pizza.’
“Getting to play at festivals where it feels like a headline show is totally surreal, and a wonderful thing to have,” Dan says. “Open’er was very much like that, and it’s awesome. I think of times I’ve gone to festivals, and all I could think about was ‘fuck, have I got enough alcohol and loo roll?’, and to have factored into that, ‘oh, have I also got my amazing hand-painted banner for one of the bands I want to see?’?!
“To see someone at a festival with a niche, curated banner about us is an amazing compliment, and particularly there. It was kind of overwhelming how many signs there were. It’s a whole other level of dedication.”
2017, meanwhile, has them returning to Reading & Leeds, a series of appearances across Mainland Europe - Pukkelpop, Lowlands, Northside and Rock am Ring - and a curious slot at the Isle of Wight Festival.
“We play before Rod Stewart,” Dan laughs, at the hilarity of performing directly before the nation’s grans’ favourite. So obviously, we ask, what’s his favourite song from the crooner’s extensive back catalogue? “Maggie May! Maggie May is a tune.”
Bastille play Pukkelpop (16th–19th August) and Lowlands (18th-20th August), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.
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