Bastille On Creating Their Own Dystopian Reality

Bastille On Creating Their Own Dystopian Reality

Dan Smith tells us why Bastille’s futuristic new album is also their most experimental...

Bastille’s humble beginnings meant they were making music on their laptops, in their bedrooms, when they formed. Over a decade later, the London four-piece have had enormous success with tracks like ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Happier’ — their collaboration with Marshmello. Despite their chart successes, Bastille refuse to play it ‘safe’. Next month, they are releasing their fourth studio album (February 4th) and it’s their most daring offering yet.

‘Give Me The Future’ takes Bastille in a more electronic, futuristic and - in some ways - hedonistic direction. Frontman Dan Smith saw a show about maladaptive daydreaming at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (performed by comedian Jonny Pelham) and became “obsessed” with the concept (as did the other members of the band; Chris “Woody” Wood, Will Farquarson and Kyle Simmons). Speaking from his bright green living room in London, via Zoom, the band’s vocalist tells us how Bastille have switched up their creative process, feeling “protective” of their music and how modern technology and how we interact with it inspired their latest record.

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The idea of maladaptive daydreaming formed a starting point for the album as Dan became “fascinated” with the ways in which people employ coping mechanisms. “I think the album is concerned with the ways that we distract ourselves, the ways that we escape, the things we do to make life OK and have fun - and how some forms of escapism and some forms of distraction are brilliant and others are less brilliant. But, also, it’s about that constant tension between wanting to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world but also not wanting to drive yourself completely mad at the same time.”

While Dan likes to ‘escape’ into films and books, Kyle is a video games and Dungeons and Dragons fan. (We imagine for Woody, it’s anything related to Plymouth Argyle F.C). ‘Give Me The Future’ is an “opportunity to have a conversation [about the use of tech in our everyday lives] via these songs”. Dan describes the songs as “little dialogues”. “It’s fun and it’s cathartic for us to try and distil that into these songs…I’m not coming from a place of judgement. It’s coming from a place of wanting to talk about it, because it is complex and there is no right answer.”

Their “introspective working environment” for their first three albums (‘Bad Blood’, ‘Wild World’ and ‘Doom Days’) led them to becoming more open to collaborations. They had dipped their toes into the world of working with other songwriters and producers while working on their ReOrchestrated project and ‘Other People’s Heartaches’ mixtapes and Dan witnessed the “amazing benefits of sharing the collaborative process”.

“In the spirit of wanting to be constantly evolving and trying new things, it seemed like the right time to bring other people into the process and make it a more collaborative one.”

Bastille carefully select who they work with. “I think of ‘Thelma+Louise’ and ‘Back To The Future’ and ‘Stay Awake’. The bones of those songs came together on a Zoom session that I did with a writer [Rami Yacoub] who I love, who was in America - in one evening.” The band then “lived” with the songs for months, refining them. “As I always do, I wrote and rewrote the lyrics a bunch of times.”

Dan had very specific ideas about what he wanted to achieve from the band’s collaborative efforts. “I know that I write in a certain way, so if I’m going to write with someone else I really want their help to shape or guide or filter me into a thing that I wouldn’t have done before or wouldn’t naturally do…We want to get guidance from other people and see what other people would do, a little bit, but obviously without giving away any more control than we’re comfortable with.”

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On ‘Give Me the Future’ Bastille have worked with some impressive names. Oscar-nominated actor and rapper Riz Ahmed makes an appearance on ‘Promises’ and singer BIM features on the closing track, as well as songwriting credits from Ryan Tedder and Rami Yacoub. “BIM is all over ‘Future Holds’ in a big way. [With] Riz Ahmed, we wanted to just give him the mic for a whole track and let him respond to the album and the themes of it and I think he did a really beautiful job.” - Bastille worked on ‘Give Me The Future’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the irony of working on songs remotely was not lost on them. “To me, these are such interesting, intricate, complicated themes. [We are] living in this world where technology is so interwoven with every part of the fabric of our lives”. ‘Plug In…’ sees Dan reciting the lyrics “Say that you’ll be alright / Even if it’s lies”. Dan explains: “We are constantly thinking about, and being forced to think about, what the future looks like - as a society, environmentally…We’re reckoning with the things that, as people, we’ve done to the planet, how terribly we’ve f*cked it over, and there is a real generational divide between people who have to live through the repercussions of what humanity has done and those who are quite far through their lives and seemingly happy to plough on with things as they are. And I think it’s really complicated.” - ‘Plug In…’ is a momentary remedy to those nightmarish anxieties. “The verses list the wild, bizarre realities of now and things that might happen in the near future, for better or worse, in all of their messy complexities and then I wanted the chorus to be this big, wilfully naive pleading to the person you’re with, or to whoever, ‘Please just say it’s going to be OK. Just lie to me. I want some wilful delusion for this brief moment.’” - Released today, current single ‘Shut Off The Lights’ is evidence that Bastille are going in a totally new direction and “new era” with its carefree, dancefloor-heavy vibes. Dan is already thinking about what “Shut Off the Lights” will sound like on their arena tour in April. “We want to do a tour that feels like it represents the album; a celebration of us all getting to be in rooms together, listening to music…I think about the points in the album like ‘Shut Off the Lights’ that are about the person you’re with saying to you, ‘Stop worrying about everything. Get out of your own head and be in the room and just try to enjoy simple things for a minute.’”

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Bastille will release their new album on February 4th.

Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Sarah Louise Bennett

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