Interview: Bastille

Finlay Holden chats with 1/4 of the British pop-rock group, Bastille.

Finlay Holden
12th October 2020

Finlay Holden chats with one of the UK’s biggest indie-pop exports – having topped the charts, dropped 3 killer LPs and teased us with 2 big new singles, Will from Bastille shares his highlights from a decade in the iconic four-piece.

Hi Will! How have you been doing over the last couple of months?

Hello! Yeah, I’m good, thanks – as good as anyone can be doing in this strange, strange time, anyway.

Have you guys been able to get back together as a band recently?

As lockdown eased enough so that groups could meet up again, we were able to get straight back in the studio thankfully, yes. We’ve also been busy doing some radio promo for our new music, and have been able to get in a couple of virtual performances – sadly without any crowds for the moment.

At least you were prepared enough to have new music to drop! The lyrics to ‘survivin’ hit hard at the moment.

I’m not sure what specifically the lyrics are in reference to, but it was actually written way before all this COVID stuff and it tries to reflect the human condition in more general circumstances. I think that’s the magic of music really – a lot of the meaning is given by the listener, and not what the musician necessarily intended, so it’s quite amazing that this song has actually ended up being even more meaningful to people given the current circumstances.

Either way, it’s been great having some new tracks from Bastille during lockdown. Your last single, ‘WYGD??’, was more of a rocker; is that something you enjoy as the band’s guitarist/bassist?

Yeah it was good to have another rock tune, we’ve done a few now and we do sound rockier live. The guitars on this song are actually from Graham Coxon [Blur], which was an absolute honour. It was honestly kind of crazy to me to have such an iconic guitarist play something for us, especially someone you’ve been a fan of for like a decade.

‘Happier’ (with Marshmello) has actually overtaken ‘Pompeii’ on streams, so collaborations clearly go well for you! Who else have you enjoyed working with?

Through the four ‘Other People’s Heartache’ mixtapes we’ve put out, we’ve had a lot of very different people hop on our songs over the years. We worked with Skunk Anansie on a track with us and Rag’N’Bone Man which was nuts - as a man in his thirties, I love their stuff. Doing ‘No Angels’ with Ella Eyre back in the day was great fun. We always try to work on music with people that we think would mesh well with us, as opposed to just whoever is trending at that moment.

You’ve been together as a band since pretty much straight out of university, right?

Well I’m a bit older than the other guys haha, but yes. Dan had done some stuff under his own name already but we became a band the year Kyle graduated – he didn’t even have to get a part-time job first. We got signed very quickly, although at the time it felt like an age.

Has your attitude towards music changed as you’ve aged in the decade since?

Yes and no. We were doing a soundcheck once and we were doing one of the older songs, ‘Warmth’ maybe, and Dan stopped halfway through and went, “oh god, these lyrics…” Generally, though, I’d say I’m fairly consistent with my taste.

What’s your biggest success been since you came together?

It’s hard to choose one thing we’ve done as my favourite, but just after Wild World came out was a really happy time for me, one of those times I’ll always look back on fondly when I’m older and greyer. I feel like we were really at the height of everything while we were making and experiencing that record. Although our first album is generally seen as being better, I definitely prefer the second.

That album is phenomenal – my first ever gig was seeing you guys on that tour.

That’s awesome, the live shows then were amazing too; we were travelling the globe and feeling like real rock stars for a minute.

One of the things I’m most proud of in Bastille’s career, though, is that we have never “sold out”. Yes, we have done some poppy tracks, but we’ve been offered some deals over the years that we’ve turned down; we don’t do things just to try to make money, we do them because it makes the best art and that’s what we’ve always focused on.

Care to name any of those deals?

Erm, no!

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I think we all regret some things… looking back now, I see everything in my life up until about 2 years ago as being pretty stupid and cringeworthy – I’m still pretty stupid now! But ultimately, to end up in this band doing this amazing job, I think all the choices must have been the right ones to get me here. In terms of the band, we’ve undeniably had an extremely lucky career. I just feel sorry for Dan who has all his old lyrics out there in the world forever.

“There’s a real hole in the culture of our country at the moment, and it needs filling right back up as soon as possible. That cannot happen if all our creatives have been forced to leave the industry.”

What do you think about Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, recently saying that musicians struggling to survive through COVID should retrain for other jobs?

Well yeah, it’s just not a fair thing to say at all, is it? I feel bad mainly for our crew… as a band, we can go for a while without putting out a new album and we’ll be fine, but our roadies are really not in a great situation at the moment, as I’m sure you can imagine. They’re vital to us, we couldn’t succeed without them, and so suggesting they retrain to do something else now seems a bit silly.

I do worry that we’re losing something culturally – with all our museums and theatres being closed, as well as there obviously being no live gigs, there’s a real hole in the culture of our country at the moment, and it needs filling right back up as soon as possible. That cannot happen if all our creatives have been forced to leave the industry.

Finally, do you have any favourite upcoming UK artists you’d like to shoutout?

I’m totally the wrong person to ask this! I listen mostly to old bluesy stuff right now and don’t keep up to date on the UK music scene. Woody [Bastille’s drummer] has been working with UIysses Wells though, and his music is very good so that’d be my answer.

Thanks so much for your time, it’s been great speaking to you!

No problem, thanks and goodbye!

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