Interview: Kele Okereke of Bloc Party

March 01, 2007 01:30 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Bloc Party singer/guitarist Kele Okereke was surprised that anyone bought his band's latest album, "A Weekend in the City." After all, it was leaked on the Internet in November--far ahead of its Feb. 6 release date.

So Okereke was shocked when the album debuted within the Top 20 on The Billboard 200 album chart, and at No. 2 on the UK, Japan, Australian and Irish charts.

"It's nice to know that people still like music," Okereke said via telephone from Dublin. "It did do well in the States. ... But it's nice to know the leak hasn't affected people buying the record so far. We were all a bit panicky about it."

Okereke--who is joined in the band by guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong--said he is unsure why Bloc Party was able to break the States when so many other English bands have struggled.

"Maybe it's because we're so excellent," he said with a laugh. "No, I have no idea. All over the world, we seem to be getting a really amazing reaction from people. People don't see us as an English band in a way they see, say, Oasis or something, as being quintessentially English, always having a chip on their shoulder. We don't really have that. There's none of that arrogance that people associate with English music and they really respect it, I think."

After soundcheck before a recent gig in Dublin, Okereke talked to LiveDaily about the forthcoming US tour, playing the South by Southwest music festival and the sometimes bleak lyrics on "A Weekend in the City."

Are you looking forward to the US tour?

Yes, I am looking forward to the US tour. We always have a very good time when we play in the States. I'm sure this time won't be any different. We've been asked to play some new songs to the fans in the states and gauge their reaction. I think the last tour of the States was probably my favorite tour ever, actually.

Why is that?

Because we were playing very large venues, with 5,000- to 8,000-capacity venues. It was just great. A year and a half after the record came out, we could see that people had taken our music very much still into their hearts. It wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan novelty. People were certainly excited about what we were doing.

You're playing South by Southwest this year. Are you excited about that?

Yeah, I guess so. The first year we played it, though, we literally played too many shows. We played about six shows in three days, and that was right at the start of our American tour. I've got some bad memories of South by Southwest the first time we played it. But it will be nice to do one show this time. It'll be nice to play one show and be done with it.

What do you get out of playing South by Southwest?

I guess it's a press event, really, so it's important in terms of all the magazines that are there. I don't know why it's important. It's not important to me.

This album has a few songs with really bleak lyrics. Is that something you were kind of feeling at the time? Or did that come about because of the storyline of the album.

I wouldn't say bleak. It is quite pessimistic about human nature--that's very much a result of where I was at the end of 2005, really. I was going out so much and having traveled the world and such, going out and partying a little more often than I should have been. I was hungover a lot of the time. I think that really fed in to how I viewed what I wanted to talk about. That was two years ago. I'm a different person to the person I was then.

So you started writing this album two years ago?

Yeah, we started writing it at the end of 2005, whilst we were kind of touring. This was the end of our touring schedule. We didn't start recording it until 2006. We finished it six months before it came out. That's why it leaked so early.

That's so frustrating.

Yeah, but it's part and parcel to what happens when people release albums in this day and age. There are no records that don't leak. Or there are very few albums that don't leak.

This album seems to be very influenced by electronica, despite the fact that "real" instruments are used.

Yeah, it is. We're all big fans of electronic music. Just because we're in a rock band it doesn't mean that's not a discipline we can adhere to. It takes a lot of focus, but that's part of the challenge and that's part of the enjoyment: Trying to think like a computer or trying to kind of minimalize your expressiveness so there's a certain rigid aspect to the sound.

We were all fans of electronic music. We [dabbled] in that a little on [our previous album] "Silent Alarm" in songs like "She's Hearing Voices"; perhaps we became a lot more confident about what we do as a band so we were able to explore it a little more. We've always been fans of electronic music.

Have you started writing new material?

Yes, I started writing. I've starting writing works and putting some ideas together, but nothing concrete yet. I think we're going to be recording in the middle of the year, and then do little bits of recording instead of full months of recordings. I think we'll do it bit by bit. I hope it'll be more fun.

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