Bloc Party: “We haven’t really spoken about the future”

Ahead of an appearance at Future Music festival and a recently announced tour, Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke tells PERRI CASSIE that the band’s in-fighting is a thing of the past. Photo by DANIEL BOUD.

Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke isn’t the biggest fan of modern media – most know that. Misleading comments and attempts to knock a journalist off their paths have most of us, pen in hand, quivering at the thought of 15 minutes with Bloc Party’s frontman. I can confirm that none of this is urban myth. Speaking to FL from his dressing room in Atlanta, Georgia, Orekeke indeed cuts a cold figure. But despite the frostiness, he still found time to open up about the band’s two-year hiatus (they made a comeback in 2011), learning how to open up to each other, and writing a novel.

Before you came back off of hiatus [in 2011] there was a big joke about how the band were looking for a new singer. If you could pick any other vocalist in modern music to replace you, who would it be and why?

Hmmmm … who would it be. I would pick Old Dirty Bastard. Not really a singer, more a rapper but I think he has a cool style. It’d be interesting to hear him take on some of Bloc Party’s music. I think he’d do it justice and take it somewhere else, I’d actually be really interested to hear that.

What has been your favourite white lie that you’ve fed to the media, everything from Madonna being dragged from your dressing room, to you being fired from the band?

Probably the Madonna one, the reach of that was really quite impressive. It was interesting to see how far that rumour spread, so that’s probably my favourite of the “half truths”. I haven’t really been doing it so much of late because everybody knows, so it’s not as much fun

So what’s next for you after Bloc Party wrap up the Four tour, will you guys go back into writing another album or another hiatus? or are you thinking about putting out another solo effort?

I don’t know. I think we’ll know that closer to the time really. I think we’re just concentrating on getting through this year and doing the best shows we possibly can. We haven’t really spoken about the future, I think that will be a conversation to have once we get to the end of this road.

Are there certain precautions you guys are taking to keep the relationships from fraying like they did before?

Just talking to one another about what we’re feeling. That’s something that we said before we started making the record and that’s how this process was going to be different. As a band we’re not the most confrontational of people, so in the past when there have been issues we’d tend to just bottle things up, so towards the end of our time in 2009 that lead to miscommunication and a bit of resentment. We’re lucky now because we’re all very open with each other and what we’re feeling and that’s been good. We’re talking a lot more about what’s in our head. That’s made touring this record a lot more pleasurable to be honest.

Was the ever a point during your hiatus where you honestly thought Bloc Party might not make music together again?

Yes. I had no designs on making any music with the others in that year between 2009-2010. I knew that we said we were going to take a year off, so I didn’t let myself think about it. I knew one day we’d have to get together and talk about what we were going to be doing. I became quite good at not thinking about it, so to be honest I wasn’t really think about it. It wasn’t until December 2010 when I started to entertain the idea of us making music together again. I was really happy doing my own thing.

So you guys are playing Future Music Festival, how does Bloc Party plan to compete with ‘Gangnam Style’? Have you been inventing some dance moves?

[Dead pan] I don’t really plan to compete with anyone. I think we’ll do what we do and it’ll be nice. I think it’s not a competition, but I am excited to play a touring festival. I didn’t even know he [PSY] was playing … I’m looking forward to The Stone Roses that will be nice. I haven’t seen them live before.

And you’re doing your own shows as well.

Yes, we’ll be playing the Hordern Pavilion [in Sydney], Festival Hall [in Melbourne], and the Riverstage [in Brisbane], I think.

When Bloc Party released Silent Alarm (2005) it was a very fresh, new sound, completely different to whatever else was out at the time. Who are some new bands that you think are doing something different and exciting in the way you guys did?

To be honest I don’t really follow so much new music, but there’s a new British electronic duo called Disclosure who I’ve been listening to a lot. I think what they do is pretty cool. They recently had a hit out in the UK called ‘Latch’. What’s exciting to me about them is that they’re so young, they’re barely in their teens, and they’re making music that sort of looks towards the past, but it’s very much about the present. I don’t know much about new bands, but there’s definitely something happening in the UK right now with electronic music that feels very exciting, so that’s what I’m more interested in at the moment.

Four is a document of all four of you highlighted on record, and as such it comes across as very diverse. What single song from Four best reflects the current state of Bloc Party as a collective?

I think probably ‘Real Talk’. That’s the song on the record that really signifies where we’re at musically, it feels really unfussy and strident, and it sounds like we’re all listening to one another, and we’ve never really had that before. For me our music has always felt like we’ve been competing with one another in terms of arranging. A song like ‘Real Talk’, to me, is easily the best that we’ve done and it suggests where we can go as a band, that’s the thing that’s most exciting. It’s this area that’s still new ground, and so I think that’s the best song that signifies the current state of Bloc Party.

I’m really interested in the book of short stories you were writing last year. Tell me about them.

They’re just a collection of short stories that I started writing back in 2009. They’re pretty much almost done now. I think three more need to be edited and then we’ll start sending them out which is pretty exciting. For me right now it’s quite interesting because I’ve been sitting on the stories for four years now and I’m not really in the space I was when I started writing them. I’ve already started writing a novel, that’s more in my timing now. It was a really helpful experience writing down these short stories, but I’m also conscious of the fact that this novel is going to say a lot more in a far more direct way. I’m kind of in two minds as to whether to put in all my time into getting this novel finished. At the moment it’s just me and my agent who have seen the short stories, so it’ll be interesting to get some feedback.

I started making them in 2009 and they were just ways of documenting human interaction, like people in quite isolated situations and how they went about their daily lives. That was the plan, but when I moved to New York I realised the ideas I was having would be far better to fit that scenario. So now they’re a collection of short stories inspired by people of my time in New York City, and it’s just the things I was overhearing, the conversations I was having, and the premise that inspired me to take the story further. In New York it’s so easy to be alone, and the people that live there are quite wilfully isolated. I wanted to write something that reflected that – the idea of being in the fastest, most vibrant city in the world and being alone. But I’m not the best guy to ask, I like people to make their own interpretations.

Have you let any of this bleed into your music?

I was conscious about trying to keep it separate from Four, but it was hard because I was finishing off writing these as I had started writing Four. It was a really liberating experience in a non-traditional sense – like when you’re writing a song you’re kind of grasping at what’s there, you’re only really filling the blanks, but with a story you’re taking someone from A to B and there’s no space for any gaps. You have to take someone on a journey. To me that was a very fulfilling way of being creative. I really enjoyed it and I hope to do more of it.

Have you got a title?

Yeah, it’s called Midnight On A Bicycle.

FL presents Bloc Party:

Tuesday, March 5 – The Riverstage, Brisbane

Wednesday, March 13 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Thursday, March 14 – Festival Hall, Melbourne

Tickets on sale January 25

Future Music Festival dates:

Saturday, March 3 – Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane

Sunday, March 4 – Arena Joondalup, Perth

Saturday, March 10 – Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney

Sunday, March 11 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Monday, March 12 – Ellis Park, Adelaide