Bastille on the blurring of indie and pop

After signing a deal in 2011 with Virgin Records, London band Bastille launched into the music stratosphere with the chart-conquering hit ‘Pompeii’. After this came a number one debut album (2013’s Bad Blood), four BRIT Award nominations and huge main stage slots at Glastonbury, T in the Park and V Festival.

With their recently released second album Wild World riding high in the charts, Daniel Jeakins caught up with vocalist Dan Smith and keyboardist Kyle Simmons backstage at Bestival to talk genre bending, film soundtracks, and blind dogs.

Hey guys. You’re sharing the stage with Wiz Khalifa tonight – are you excited?

Dan Smith: “Yeah, that’s going to be amazing! Originally it was going to be Kendrick [Lamar] headlining. Don’t ask us how we know that…”

Your new record Wild World has just been released and it’s at number one as we speak. How have you found the reaction to it?

Dan: “I feel like a massive weight has been lifted from me. I’ve not read any reviews. With the first album the media didn’t really engage with us, so when I did read a few things that weren’t so nice it turned me off a bit.

“What’s been amazing is reading our fans’ reactions because it’s been three years. The first album is an album that means quite a lot to a bunch of people – which is f******* amazing for us.”

Dan, you wrote an article for The Line of Best Fit about your love of cinema, and the new album contains a lot of snippets from film history. Why did you choose to do that?

Dan: “It comes from a few places. Our mixtapes were filled with quotes – things that were sort of inspired by Tarantino soundtracks as well as some of the hip-hop we listen to. It’s a really nice, effective way of adding texture to a record.”

It’s funny you mention Tarantino because there were moments on the record that reminded me of Fun Lovin Criminals, and the way they used snippets on ‘Scooby Snacks’.

Dan: “Yeah! I love ‘Yoshimi Battles With Pink Robots’ – that Flaming Lips record – for the same reasons. So many of the hip-hop records we love have other voices coming in and out too.”

It’s no secret that the lines between indie and pop have been blurred a little in recent years by bands like yourselves, The 1975 and Blossoms. Why do you think that is?

Dan: “I think it’s because bands like us and The 1975 are as into production and electronic music as we are guitar music. We’ve never labelled ourselves as an indie band.

“I also think both ourselves and The 1975 are similar in that we’re about as DIY as you can get. We’ve both toured everything from the smallest toilet venues to arenas and nurtured a fanbase from the ground-up.

“I don’t think it’s possible to label us. I had an argument with a journalist who was trying to define what we were – we’re trying to do all kinds of different things with our music. Our main influence has always been wanting to make film soundtracks – I don’t think you can put us in any kind of genre.”

Kyle: “It’s more of a perception coming from the other side and not from us. Pop music now is full of massive trap influences – it chops and changes with the times.”

The lack of new headline acts breaking through is something that’s been bemoaned a lot recently – do you have aspirations to headline major festivals like Glastonbury in the future?

Dan: “Not really, no. We love festivals because it means we can come and watch other bands. Playing at Glastonbury this year was the perfect slot for us – we were so lucky.”

So when you’re recording you don’t have festivals or large venues in mind?

Dan: “No, not at all. If you listen to the records there’s some quite small, depressing R&B songs on there. ‘Wild World’ is an album we made in our friends shoe-box of a room in South London. Making music has always been about imagined fictional scenarios for us – I think the largeness of the sound comes from an imagination place.”

Bestival rounds off festival season this year – what’s your best memory of the summer?

Kyle: “We’re all just fans of music so the chance to see loads of bands is great.”

Dan: “It might be an urban legend, but I’m going to choose to believe the story of the girl who dropped her ring in one of the toilet pits at Glastonbury and went for a swim to get it back.”

We asked for fan questions on Twitter, and got bombarded with responses. The first we picked out is from Meghan, who asks “If you had six days and 23 hours to live and a blind dog you have to carry everywhere what would you do?”

Kyle: “Where are we?”

Bestival, I suppose.

Kyle: “Hang on, so has everyone been given this news? Or just us?”

This isn’t my question! I don’t know.

Kyle: “First thing, get back to London.”

Dan: “Then I’d go and pick up one of those baby carrier things to carry on my chest.”

Kyle: “Yeah, pick up one of those, strap in the dog, get a little feed bag. Then get drinking.”

Next one from Al – what new song do you most enjoy playing live?

Dan: “‘Fake It’. It’s got a great bass in the chorus and it sounds great when we play it live.”

Lastly, from Ewa – is Annie Oakley Hanging, your side-project with To Kill A King, an ongoing thing?

Dan: “Yes! We’ve made the album.”

Thanks to both of you.

Bastille’s latest album Wild World is now. The band tour the UK in October and November. For dates and info, head here

More music interviews