Press Release for Bastille’s new singleChuffmedia

Original, revolutionary, and compellingly creative: the British four-piece Bastille is a band like no other. Channelling their music worldwide through sell-out records and global tours, they’ve undoubtedly become a household name, often recognised for breakthrough songs Pompeii and Happier. In 2020, the band is bigger than ever, storming two contrasting hit-singles What you gonna do??? and survivin’.

When I talk to Woody, his tone is friendly and casual- he tells me he’s been doing his chores- and we start by delving into his musical career, beginning at the age of 10 when he picked up the drums: “My Dad is a guitarist and singer, so I grew up surrounded by different music and bands. Really naively- it turned out I was very wrong- I thought that if you learnt drums, you didn’t have to learn to read music.” he says, “But I’ve always loved making music and being involved in bands, groups, orchestras- I always wanted to do it and I still do it. Even if we’re not on tour and performing, I’m still playing drums whilst doing a bit of teaching- it’s just what I do.”

How did Bastille come together? Woody recalls the bands’ early days: “I went out flyering leaflets for drum lessons, and Dan happened to live three roads away from me in London and called me up, as he was trying to hire a drummer. So I played with him under a different stage name for a couple of years, then we picked up Kyle and Will along the way.”

“The first proper gig we did was at The Great was very DIY”

In 2010, the band was fully formed, initially playing in various pubs and allocated venues. “The first proper gig we did was at The Great Escape in Brighton.” says Woody, “It was very DIY. We ran some extra tracks on a broken little iPod held together by gaffa tape, the whole thing was a bit haphazard, but good fun- it probably sounded terrible!”. One gig at a time, the band crept their way up and got signed by Virgin Records, with their first studio album, Bad Blood, entering the UK Albums Chart at number one. “We released a few singles, such as Flaws and Overjoyed, and then Pompeii became this monster that took us around the world several times!”, explains Woody- the official video for Pompeii stands at a staggering 584 million views to this day.

I’m intrigued to discover whether Woody has a favourite track from Bastille’s extraordinary collection. “I would probably go for a recent one, like What you gonna do???.” he says, “Our music is usually more influenced by rock, but this single is my sort of style, so I really enjoyed that.” As for his favourite album? “It would probably be Wild World, because that was the first time we went away to a studio together for a couple of weeks to properly make an album. Bad Blood was done piecemeal whilst we were doing our part-time jobs and paying rent- it wasn’t a very unified band experience, whereas Wild World really was.”

“Playing at Glastonbury and Plymouth Hoe were real highlights, they’re my kind of scene.”

With the production of their songs came stunning performances, and I ask Woody whether there are any in particular that stand out for him: “Oh god- can I have more than one?”. He elaborates: “The first night we did the O2 on our Wild World tour, that was a step-up and it was a kind of make or break, determining whether we could cut it at that level but I thought we did a good job. Playing at Glastonbury and Plymouth Hoe were real highlights, I’m a West country boy anyway, so they’re my kind of scene- to have a packed stage and audience was just unbelievable.”

As 2020 brings a halt to the live music scene, what is the band up to now? Their defiant new single survivin’ was released in late September, a lyrically powerful and emotionally resonating song about the highs and lows of Bastille’s journey as a band. Though written last year, it strikes an especially honest chord with today’s world, as lead singer Smith reflects introspectively on anxiety, self-doubt, and how overwhelming modern life can be. Yet the song is simultaneously light and uplifting, encouraging us to keep going despite day-to-day difficulties: “What can I say? I’m survivin’/Crawlin’ out these sheets to see another day/What can I say? I’m survivin’/And I’m gonna be fine, I’m gonna be fine/I think I’ll be fine”.

The single marks a new direction for Bastille, as they weave a contrasted musical tapestry comprising a sparse sonic backdrop and tight vocal harmonies. Kicking off with an opening drum loop and rolling bassline, the instrumentation is vibrant, starring an impressive sax solo from touring member Rittipo.

Visual for survivin’Instagram/Bastilledan

The music video likewise reaches creative and escapist heights, floating into an alternative stratosphere: “We couldn’t produce a normal video because of the pandemic,” says Woody, “but we found a plan so we could work around this- I think it turned out quite well”.

I ask Woody whether he could confirm the key messages of survivin: “Aha, I’m going to have to draw a curtain here- we rarely explain the meaning behind our songs and prefer to leave it open to interpretation.” He says that songs are often misconstrued, citing one particular example (which he won’t name) publicly perceived to be a yearning love song, when it’s actually all about someone getting too drunk. He’s got a good point.

However, Woody’s keen to talk about the band’s musical styles; their music fuses elements of hip-hop, electronica, instrumental, indie, rock, and everything else in between. “We aim not to be confined by a specific genre- I guess we don’t sit there and calculate a way of saying, right, we’re going to do a reggaeton and then work on it. It’s whatever excites or interests us at the time- I would be very surprised if Dan wanted to go down the thrash metal route, but you never know, maybe one day! I think it’s important that Dan’s voice is so distinctive and recognisable, as it gives us more license to roam about. In essence, I’d say we explore anything you could wrap around a pop song.”

“We made an entire album on Zoom from our bedrooms.”

How did lockdown shape the band’s music production? Woody elaborates: “What You Gonna Do??? was completed in our studio the day before lockdown, just about in time. We’re fortunate that I’ve got a drum studio here, so I can work for the band remotely. Basically, we made an entire album on Zoom from our bedrooms. Ideally, you’d like to be in the studio together where you can agree on parts and change it instantly. Instead, I’ll send a version over, then Dan will send it back and maybe alter it, and this’ll keep going until you land on the final result. Whilst it’s not the easiest way of working, it’s still possible.”


Mountain View

Ulysses Wells: Can’t Take It Much Longer

To conclude the interview, I ask Woody what the band’s plans for the future are. “Oh god!”- I seem to have caught him a little off-guard. I admit that it’s quite a bold question for me to ask, considering I hardly know what I’ll have for lunch.

“If it’s unchanged, then we’ll keep on doing what we’re doing- we’ll make more albums, hopefully do more tours and play music live, rather than just in our bedrooms. It’s a massive privilege to be doing what you love for a job. I just despair with the state of the music industry, especially with what I would class as the absolute abandonment of an industry that generates 10 billion plus a year, and apparently we’re not viable. There are thousands of highly skilled musicians and also touring careerists, people you don’t necessarily see that work behind the scenes: lighting technicians and operators- so many professions of the trade that have been solid for over 50 years. Everyone’s being left out in the cold, so I’m not a big fan of what the government is doing for the industry’s future, as you can imagine.”

Even in spite of these current challenges, Bastille remains a strong, unified band that continues breaking boundaries of genre, instrumentation, and convention, having sold 9 million records worldwide. Most importantly, Bastille shows us humble beginnings don’t hinder, but perseverance, innovation, and determination can truly go a long way.