Only the brave and original survive the indie music maelstrom which either sucks new guitar bands down into the depths or produces identikit sounds capitalising on trends of any given time. Bastille have moved away from the common output being churned out by indie bands to create pop songs that are absorbing and genre defining without ever being formulaic. The origins of Bastille lie in the creative mind of singer/song writer Dan Smith whose embracement of multi-eclectic musical styles have led to one of the most exciting sounds in new music today.
Despite playing the piano and dabbling in instrumentation, Dan did not initially gravitate towards music when he was young. Growing up, he listened to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys and Fugees, all of which gave him the requisite understanding of harmonies and hooks. However, films were his obsession, with a pertinent affinity to the horror genre, particularly art house fare such as that of Dario Argento and his work in the Giallo sub-genre. This was the gateway to commonly cited influence David Lynch and then onto the more existential work of Terrence Malick. Dan's appreciation of metaphysical cinema is complimented by his literary leanings. Having studied English literature at university, the work of Ian McEwan, Hubert Selby and Brett Easton Ellis were of particularly note with their themes of human thought, sense and sexuality. Composition like "Oblivion," with its voyeuristic empathy,are the offspring of these themes. Dan is predominantly looking on within the songs. He is the narrator, rarely taking centre stage. Music allows Dan to explore the darker side of the human psyche. Underneath the layers and beeps of the music are characters; sometimes archetypes, going through their own emotions and existing solely in the universe of each song. Dan shares the ability of the directors he admires, to create atmosphere, feeling and tensions; this is prevalent in the music of Bastille.
Their songs are bathed in the sunlight of sorrow and the rumination of emotional folly. Songs such as "flaws" and "overjoyed" resonate with fans of the band who find a personal element to the music but they are projections rather than introspections. Each song has a certain mood, but if they have a definitive meaning, then they cease to breath. People assume that many of the songs are relationship orientated, but they were not intended to be. Like Regina Spektor, Dan's songs are his stories; vehicles to muse on things he wants to talk about. He has the latitude to write tales with broad brush strokes, encapsulated in four minute pop songs, each being soundtracks to their own cinematic microcosm. Their resulting music is enigmatic, but accessible.
The music of Bastille was brought to life by one, but on stage the songs are emancipated by four band members, each dabbling with vocals, keyboards and percussion. Chris Wood on drums and bassist, Will Farquarson, are old musical acquaintances of Dan's. Kyle Simmons, completing the line-up as keyboardist, is a friend of Dan’s who initially crossed paths with him at a party. Each has their main role in Bastille; however, confining them to a particular instrument would be as narrow as pigeon-holing Bastille to a certain musical genre. It is sonically that they are united, with vocal cohesion creating a live sound that transcends Dan’s more autonomous creative approach to recording the music.
At the end of 2010, Dan was able to congregate the guys into the existing incarnation of Bastille, with their live journey beginning at Brighton's Great Escape the following April. They have only ever existed as a performing entity in band form and have become known for producing great performances; multifarious experiences to match the complexity of the songs Dan writes and records alone. The four members effortlessly interchange, harmonise and create a musical tapestry interlaced with texture and experimentation. Bastille manage to do what many peers of theirs sometimes forget to on stage: they have fun, and the music and experience will always be the beneficiary of this. The songs are full of rhythmic melodies and sweeping, haunting vocals, which coexist together in an atmospheric soundscape.
Their Loyal and vocal fans, who have followed them from that very first show in Brighton, are hung on every word and invigorate Bastille's cacophony of sound and atmosphere. As the band's reputation has grown, so have the venues, while the sound and endeavour of the band are ever evolving and expanding. The foursome will add the Leeds/Reading and Secret Garden festivals to their portfolio this summer with a further London Koko date. The upcoming show at Koko will see Bastille utilise a screen, incorporating the video footage which so seamlessly compliments the music, creating a wholly audio-visual experience. Perhaps this is the way the music should be absorbed and it brings the band full circle from when Dan was making videos cut from cult films in his bedroom. They were meant for bigger stages and grander gestures to match their justified ambition.
Dan does not see the path as set with his music; the songs are flows of consciousness, taking Bastille to more ethereal pastures. He has been working with singer-songwriter Jay Brown and US Rapper F. Stoke and in trying to innovate, he has learnt new production techniques. His burgeoning appreciation of soul and the American hip-hop scene have heightened his musical sensibilities, giving his output a unique sound which is attuned to his style.
The group now stands on the cusp of releasing their debut album, set for early 2013. Usually, bands start to experiment when their style grows static, but Bastille's music has never followed the normal route into Indie territory. Their debut album is devoid of guitars, instead being more reliant on vocals, beats and strings.
The influences of such different sounds and feels have given the four the potential to look towards any creative direction in the future. They are not restricted by any musical straight jacket and that is what makes them one of the most exciting young bands around at the moment.