Having first spoken to Bastille frontman Dan Smith back in August 2012, when the band had just released their second single, Bad Blood, I was a little worried that things might have changed since then. By things, I mean him, and his bandmates. Since our last chat Dan, Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, Will Farquarson and Kyle Simmons have went from an indie YouTube discovery, to topping the charts with their debut album, so it wouldn’t be at all unusual if Dan had developed a bit of an ego.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. “We have less free time now, but our job is ridiculously fun,” says Dan, when I ask how the journey has been. “That’s the only real way that it’s changed for me.”
Dan began building an online fan base back in January 2011, after uploading a homemade video for the now famous track Flaws onto YouTube. Heavily inspired by noir filmmaker David Lynch, he took his own movie making ambitions, and translated them into his music instead.
[youtube id=”1E36WU9Wzf4″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
“I guess the most obvious nod to David Lynch in our work, other than the Laura Palmer song, is the album cover,” he begins. “The artwork is a reference to his film Lost Highway. I’m really drawn to that image of the road at night lit by headlights, so we wanted to lean towards that with the album cover. What I like about his [Lynch’s] stuff is that it’s less direct; it’s all about interpreting atmospheres and moods, and creating quite provocative imagery.”
Lynch also inspired the most provocative Bastille image of all: Dan’s hair. “Part of me thought it looked a character from Eraserhead,” he says, when I comment on his fans’ obsession with his barnet. “I kind of liked it for that, but it’s always grown and shrunk over the years, in various states of me looking like I’ve been electrocuted. I feel ridiculous talking about my hair, by the way!”
So we moved on to the music. “Making the album over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to approach every single song as a separate thing, and tried to make all of them as good as they can possibly be,” he explains. “There’s a song called These Streets on the album that I really like playing and Bad Blood, for us as a band, is definitely one of our favourites. Being so involved in the whole thing, I’ve never seen the tracks as singles or not singles at all, so it’s really interesting stepping back and thinking about it subjectively.”
It’s easy to see why Bad Blood hit the top of the charts. A collection of intelligently written, easy listening indie tracks, it’s one of those rare records you can play on repeat and never tire of. Oblivion, a haunting, breathy tale of doubt, even featured on The Vampire Diaries’ soundtrack – quite the achievement for this 25-year-old South London boy.
Yet he remains down to Earth; shy, even. He excuses himself several times during our telephone interview, as someone walks in and out of the room he’s holed up in, explaining, “I always feel really self-conscious talking in front of people.”
Currently in the thick of their headline UK tour, it’s shows of a different kind that are on Dan’s mind, as our conversation winds down. “Last summer we did about thirty festivals,” he says. “I can’t wait to go back and have people know a few more of our songs.”
On that quietly optimistic note, I leave him to his day off, which he tells me he’s spending writing new material. “For album two?” I ask. “I hope so,” he replies.
Taken from the April issue of Scotcampus. Bad Blood is out now.