01/09/2015

New blood

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Before they rocked Manila last Monday, synth-pop band Bastille sat down with Young STAR to talk music, touring, and stealing a raincoat from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The cheers of the crowd at Bastille’s concert last Jan. 5 in Manila could rival the sound of all of the fireworks set off during New Year’s Eve. The band’s synth-pop anthems were made for crowds and sing to dance to. On the infectiousness of their debut album “Bad Blood” and their mixtapes, they’ve been able to tour the world.

The band is composed of four men from London: singer-songwriter Dan Smith, drummer Chris “Woody” Wood, guitarist William Farquarson, and keyboardist Kyle Simmons. However, all of their facial hair, collectively — plus Dan Smith’s signature quiffed haircut — could arguably be counted as their fifth member. The band was charming and laid-back during the interview before the show, and they threw quips back and forth with that infamous brand of British humor. Smith, however, spoke more softly than the rest did, taking time to think over his answers carefully.

“A lot of songs come from interesting things I’ve read, things I’ve seen, places I’ve gone,” mused Dan. His songs are rich with references to places (Pompeii, Durban Skies), mythology (Icarus), and films. Scenes from movies such as The Breakfast Club and American Psycho were sampled on Bastille’s mixtapes. Even the band’s music videos have a cinematic quality to them, whether they feature edits of Terrence Malick’s Badlands, or strange, self-contained stories of their own, such as the bizarre shape-shifters of Torn Apart. Smith may have taken up journalism, but before Bastille took off, he was used to writing stories, not being in the spotlight.

“Dan would rather be anywhere but onstage,” said Will, “but he’s grown to be a good front man.” Nobody would’ve guessed his shyness from the Smith that concertgoers saw last Monday, who got cheers from the crowd every time he struck a drum. The band has been touring for years, and the way they play their music has changed massively since they recorded “Bad Blood” in a studio. Since then, they’ve been named the Best British Breakthrough Act at the 2014 Brit Awards, topped charts, and played to thousand-strong crowds all around the world. Woody jokingly claimed they’ve gotten lazier since the band started out, but they’ve clearly learned to own a stage.

To Woody, their brief stay in the Philippines could be summed up in three words. The first is diverse, because of the mix of cultures. Second is intense, because of the whirlwind of things they’ve gone through since they landed.  Third, as most foreigners unaccustomed to the weather would say, is humid. The fact that they even got the chance to play in Manila, however, was already a big surprise for them.

“Making an album, starting a band, and touring is quite a personal endeavor in the beginning. Obviously you want it to go further, but you don’t know if it will,” said Will. They never expected to do gigs out of the UK, let alone play a concert in Manila. After they stepped out of their van at World Trade Center, dozens of girls that had been waiting in line since 10 in the morning rushed up to them, screaming and jumping in excitement.

“It’s really quite touching, I think,” said Dan, “When you come to places you’ve never been or even considered that you’d get to go there and have people wanting to meet you and wanting to get photos with you, it’s crazy.” He probably never expected what the sign that one of the fans in line held read either: “Dan Smith? More like Damn Smith!”

The band has also had their fair share of mischief. At Roskilde, which they recall as one of their most memorable gigs, the heavy rain let up towards the end of their set. Woody held up a raincoat and swung it around, and the rest of the crowd followed. As it turns out, Woody stole the raincoat from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“I’m not sorry that I stole it,” he quipped. These hijinks may help liven up the more monotonous parts of a tour, but despite a hectic tour schedule, the men of Bastille still love every moment of it. More went down in Manila: “Best thing about @bastilledan shoving his finger into a spinning fan? DRUM SOLOOOOOOOOOOOO,” tweeted Woody (@Woodythedrum) late Monday night, after a first-aid mishap during the concert led to Dan being escorted offstage for a little bit. Despite that, they gave their all to every song, including rare songs and B-sides, and of course, the hits.

“We’ve been asked before, ‘Surely you’re bored of playing Pompeii?’ but I’m genuinely not,” said Woody. “It’s the song that changed our lives.” All the insecurities expressed in Pompeii seem to have been left far behind by a Bastille with more confidence, and a sense of assurance that befits their name.

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