Four seems to be a significant number for Bloc Party. There are four core members in the band, it had been four years since they released their previous album, and their latest album is their fourth record since the band started back in the early 2000s. So it’s only befitting for them to call the new album Four. JUICE got a chance to talk to frontman Kele Okereke, who spent the four years apart from the rest of the band on his own solo effort, which garnered rave reviews. Four sees the band throwing out production theatrics and stripped their sound down to its essence, shocking fans and reviewers alike. We picked his brain on the creative process behind the new tracks, and how he plans to take things from now onward.
What was the band’s mindset while recording Four?
I guess we just wanted to get back to how it was in the beginning. Writing songs where it’s just the four of us in the room without any embellishment and reliance on studio techniques. We wanted to make something that had that kind of primal energy.
How did you decide on that?
We hadn’t done it in a long time and it felt like it was the right time to go back to try and realise where it is we’ve been.
It sounds a lot different from before the break, did the solo album change your approach?
Yeah I think this record is different from any record that we’ve done before. But we’re different people now, you know? It’s been four years since we last made a record together. And of course you have new life experiences that change how you feel about music, and how you feel about creativity and what not. I think it would be kind of depressing if we had that four years in between and we came back and made the same sounding record. It would’ve meant we didn’t learn anything. Definitely making the record by myself, it changed my perspective on what it is I’ve learned as a songwriter and what things mean.
The song ‘3×3’ gets really dark, where did that come from?
It was just the idea of making an oath to someone. Making an oath, or a pact that can’t be broken. I don’t know, that was probably the darkest song on the record, and part of me really doesn’t know where it came from. But it’s got that kind of intensity that I really like.
How did you guys decide on ‘Octopus’ as the lead single?
We all felt that it was a bridge from the past to the new. All the songs are really different with what we were doing in the past, so we thought it would make a good introduction to our new record.
There’s a story about how you guys got some help from Franz Ferdinand while you guys were first starting up/ What’s your relationship like with Franz Ferdinand these days?
It’s pretty alright. We don’t really see them much anymore. They’re a very busy band, we’re a very busy band, but every time we see them I always like to give them a high five.
Do you guys feel the need to please a certain era of listeners with every release?
No. Not really. I think that’s probably our problem. We don’t aim to please anyone other than ourselves. It’s never really come into my mind, this idea that we have to do things to please other people. It’s how we feel when we’re writing our songs. What’s important to us is sounding honest.
Last year there were talks about the band deciding to go on without you, and then you revealed that it was really a prank, what was that about?
It was just about being misquoted, really. And then watching your words kind of being taken out of context and turning into an international story. It was a funny period to me because it’s really absurd that it was happening, and in the end it was a laugh, it was fine.
So there was no truth to it?
We were making a record at the time. So it would’ve been pretty ridiculous if I got kicked out in the middle of it.
When you went into the studio, whose idea was it to strip the record down?
It was a joint decision. When we met up again in 2010 to discuss our future plans, I said the only way we could really carry on making a record is if we do it in the most kind of organic, simple way as possible. So I guess it was my idea, but everyone in the band understood where that came from. And I think they all agreed instinctively that to move forward it needs to be a bit stripped back.
Do you have any plans to go solo again?
I don’t know. I haven’t really had any thoughts about that, so ask me in a year’s time and I might have a better idea about that. So yeah, one step at a time. Right now I’m in Bloc Party, so that’s all I’m really thinking about.
You got a little buff when you went solo. Was there pressure to portray a certain physical appeal?
No. Nobody was telling me that I had to work out or lose weight or anything like that. I think that would’ve been quite funny. You would hear these stories about female pop stars being told that they had to lose weight before they go out and promote a record. But that didn’t happen to me, I just enjoy keeping fit.
Any differences between performing solo and performing in a band?
Yeah, there was quite a difference. It was different people, different music, it was a completely different experience. But one thing that was the same is that you go out and perform for people, and you try to excite them and create a vibe.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Tour, tour, and more tours.
Released under Warner Music Malaysia, Bloc Party’s Four is out in stores. To get to know them a little better, check out the band’s official page at blocparty.com.
Bloc Party will be playing at Future Music Festival Asia 2013. More information on ticketing details and initial lineup here.