Between bringing in the New Year at one of Australia’s most iconic festivals and selling out headline shows across Australia, Bloc Party couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2016. Last year saw the English band record their fifth studio album, Hymns, and re-form with two brand new members. In the midst of everything, for Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack, it’s all about the music.
“When we started Bloc Party I had no idea that it was going to be as successful as it was. It immediately exceeded my expectations, so every day was like a blessing,” says frontman Kele. “It’s never been about making money or anything like that for us. It was about being able to make music, be creative and be inspired... and we are still doing it 15 years later.”
Meeting at a party as teenagers, Kele and Russell have been co-writers from the beginning. Hymns, perhaps their most structured record yet, is said to be the result of their unwavering trust and newfound creative freedom. “To be honest, I think in the past we never really spoke about the direction we were taking as a band. I think it’s only with this record that we actually sat down and said this is what we should be doing,” said Kele.
“I don’t think we ever argue creatively, it’s more reasonable discussion. In the past, other people in the band were more outspoken than me... but the dynamic has changed now. In the last couple of years we have reached a good point where we are comfortable to discuss things openly and honestly” added Russell.
Bloc Party’s latest release is a blend of alternative rock and electronica, moving further away from their punk party roots. Aussie crowds were recently exposed to the group's new material and “went mental” for their maturing sound. “It’s been really interesting to see audiences react immediately to the music,” Kele humbly revealed. “You can see they’re listening and they’re paying attention, so it’s nice to see that they’re into it.”
Replacing original Bloc Party members, Matt Tong and Gordon Moake, on the tour were two newcomers. Ex-bass player for Portland unit Menomena, Justin Harris, and young gun drummer, Louise Bartle. It now seems there is nothing but positive vibes from the fresh formation. “I feel it definitely feels lighter,” says Kele. “Justin and Louise are very positive people and I think the band’s definitely in a better place than it was. It feels a bit like we have been reincarnated into another body. The spirit’s the same but it feels physically different.”
Clearly a spiritual individual, Kele’s beliefs emerge throughout the record, particularly in its title. “While I’m not a religious person, I had quite a religious upbringing. I think that religious imagery has always been there in our music. It’s always been on the periphery... so artistically I just felt it was time to explore what it is I believe and understand about spirituality.”
With countless world tours, five studio albums and a forever-faithful fan base under their belt, Bloc Party have done it all. Luckily, Kele and Russell aren’t quite done yet. They both maintain that re-forming under another pseudonym never crossed their minds. “To dissociate yourselves from 10 years of music that you’ve written and that you’re proud of would have felt quite odd,” says Russell.
Concurring with his fellow band member, Kele disclosed, “at the back of our minds, we were thinking if this is going to carry on to be Bloc Party, then we need to honour what we were as a band for those previous 10 years. We need to make sure we carry on with musicians that are as interesting as the previous musicians, so that even though it would be a different line-up or a different chemistry, the ethos of the band would stay the same.”
Bloc Party’s new album Hymns is out now.