(Photo Credit: Ray Flotat)
London’s own newly revamped Bloc Party jumped right into the SXSW shark tank ready to share its new album Hymns, released January 29th of this year via Infectious Music, BMG, and Vagrant. We were lucky enough to meet the whole band including singer/frontman Kele Okereke, bassist Russell Lissack, guitarist Justin Harris, and new drummer Louise Bartle. Though they were a bit exhausted from all the traveling and heat, we were able to chat with them for a few moments in the shade before their show at Empire Control Room and Garage. Okereke casually entertains us with the craziest thing he’s seen at SXSW, a little dish on Hymns‘ creation, and his general intention of “good vibes” all around.
mxdwn: How’s your SX experience been? Is it all business and no play?
Okereke: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s kind of the way to do it, though, isn’t it? Because it’s so busy, you’ve just got to get in and out.
mxdwn: Any fun stuff you’re going to try to do while you’re here besides playing some shows?
Okereke: Possibly. I mean, we didn’t do anything yesterday, but we’re in town now. So possibly, yes. The Deftones are playing and Justin really is a big fan of The Deftones.
mxdwn: Are you guys meeting up with any friends while you’re here?
Okereke: Possibly, yeah.
mxdwn: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen so far? Does it feel a little tamer this year?
Okereke: In the venue we were just in now where we’re going to be performing, I walked out back to catch some air and there was a guy defecating on the floor. That was pretty real.
mxdwn: You caught that by yourself?
Okereke: I caught that by myself, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself because I knew that was a very delicate time. He might want his privacy.
mxdwn: Let’s get down to business. We’re excited about Hymns’ release. How’d you progress to this new expansion on your sound?
Okereke: I feel like every record we’ve made is an evolution of sorts. I feel that this record is the same situation. It’s the sound of what we wanted to make in 2014 and 2015. But you know, it’s just a document of where we were. It’s like a creative peephole.
mxdwn: How has the new band lineup changed things?
Harris: There are new people. Louise didn’t play on this record. We only met her kind of when we finished making it. So, it’s still an ongoing process of change.
mxdwn: What’s it like for you jumping onto the project Louise?
Bartle: It’s good. I think it’s just starting really. From where I’m concerned, I just jumped in a few months ago, so I guess the writing process has just kind of started and under way. That’s exciting to see where it’s going to go next.
mxdwn: The new music does carry a sincere quality. This seems to be a rather spiritual direction for you to go in. Do you feel like that was the intention?
Okereke: Yeah, I think it was intentional. It’s the first record that we’ve ever done where we had the title of the record before there was even any music. So that in itself kind of helped focus at least the aesthetic of the record. I don’t know where it came from. I just feel that it was what I wanted to sing about and write about at the time of making the record.
mxdwn: It’s been said about you that you’re the type of “outsider genius making sense of a corrupt world through music.” Do you agree?
Okereke: I can’t really comment on what other people say. I can only really comment on what I say and what my intentions are. I’ll give them that much.
mxdwn: What are your intentions?
Okereke: Good vibes. Good vibes to all.
mxdwn: You have a lot of side projects going. How do you manage it all?
Okereke: I think that we’re all creative people and I think anything that we do sort of enriches our experience in the band. So, we support other stuff that we’ve got going.
mxdwn: What else can we expect from you this year?
Okereke: Well, we’re secret about the fact that we’re going to be recording some of these songs we’ve been writing over the past few months in a few months’ time.
mxdwn: So you’re already working on the next album?
Okereke: Pow! That’s how we do.