[Part 1 of 2] Armed with stellar singles and an acclaimed debut, Silent Alarm, released stateside March 22 on Vice Records, Bloc Party seems poised to take over the rock scene on both sides of the Atlantic. There hasn’t been this much hype around a debut since, well, Franz Ferdinand’s last year. No worries — Bloc Party has the songs and the live performance to back it up.
With a lineup made final a little over three years ago (when drummer Matt Tong joined the group), the relatively young band has changed names from Angel Range to Union to Bloc Party with an EP and a full-length under its belt. We caught up with the band’s informal spokesperson, bassist Gordon Moakes, before Bloc Party’s first American tour to discuss the band’s political intentions and its place in music today.
Prefix Magazine: I heard about you guys before the EP was out, which is pretty amazing considering you’re a British band. Do you feel like the hype around bands is a little out of control these days?
Bloc Party: I think so. Obviously we’re in the middle of it, so it is difficult to try and gauge how different it is for us and other bands. Sometimes I think there is so much written that you don’t have the time to appreciate it. But either way you have to just play the shows and not worry about it.
PM: Are you worried about backlash that could result simply from the hype rather than from your music?
Bloc Party: I think we do consider it. In a way I think we’re expecting it at some point. I’ve seen how bands are written about over the years, and it is logical in a way that the more you’ve read about a band when you don’t have the opportunity to hear their music, you know, that’s when people get a little bit more weary about some things.
PM: You’ve only played a couple shows in America so far. How is the response here versus Britain?
Bloc Party: The first time we came over here was in September, and we had a really good response. But it’s even better now, really, because everyone seems to have been hearing our record and reading up on us. So you get this sense of expectation. I’m looking forward to [the tour in March], really, because back in the U.K. we’ve kind of broken now, and our gigs are definitely a lot of fun, but there isn’t the same kind of anticipation.
PM: As far as releasing the record in America, how did you decide to release it through Vice?
Bloc Party: It really dates back to when we came over here first in September and put the EP out through Dim Mak. We met people at other labels, and we felt Vice had an idea of what we wanted to do and they thought they could represent us. My experience with record labels is that they’ve all got this kind of corporate edge to them. It is hard to find a label with backing that’s got more of the attitude where we’ve come from, which is that things can be done a little low budget and stay true to the thing we thrive on, which is ideas. We want to continue to do the artwork, for instance, and choose what records to release, and Vice is kind of backing us up.
PM: Whose decision was it to include “Little Thoughts” on the American release?
Bloc Party: We were kind of against it. But to be fair to Vice, they said, “We haven’t had a chance to release this song over here so people haven’t heard it yet.” So we thought it would be okay to put it on the record since people here haven’t heard the track [which was released as a single in the U.K.].
PM: The Libertines put a single, “Wot a Waster,” at the end of the album. “Little Thoughts” is about three-quarters of the way into the record. Did you just not want to break up the flow at the end?
Bloc Party: Yeah, I think we chose that because “Compliments” always felt like it was when the record should end. If you get a song like “Little Thoughts” popping up at the end it would ruin the experience. Putting it where it is was kind of the compromise.
PM: I definitely get a sense that you put a lot of thought into the order of the record.
Bloc Party: Yeah, we did. We agonized quite a lot over that.
PM: What was the origin of the secret song [which can be accessed by rewinding the first track]?
Bloc Party: It was entirely the work of Russel [Lissack, lead guitar player]. Russel was playing around with things in the studio. We had a period of time in the studio where the editors were just playing around with the tracks, and Russel just sort of played around with the piano that he had. We were actually working on new songs at the time. Not for the record, but for our own sort of usage later on, and I think that it just came out of playing around.