“I still find it bizarre that anyone even listens to my music…”
Dan Smith formed Bastille, basically, in his London bedroom back in 2010. Last April they released their debut single, Overjoyed, which was followed, in fairly quick succession by Bad Blood and Flaws before the monstrous great hit Pompeii arrived February. Much of the rest of the time Dan’s been away on tour, but now he’s back in London for two days writing and recording. Oh, and the band supported Muse and Dizzee Rascal at the Emirates Stadium.
What on earth was that like?
Ha! It was as mad as you’d expect and by some way the biggest thing we’ve ever done! It was totally surreal to see the inner workings of an event like that and to see just how big Muse really are. I fist-bumped Dizzee Rascal backstage, that was a first for me on a Wednesday evening.
Welcome to your new life.
No! This is like some mad competition winner’s new life.
You say that, but it could be stadiums all the way from here.
I don’t know. I’m cynical and pessimistic as a rule, so this feels very unreal to me. I’ve not remotely contemplated even the idea of playing our own arena tour. That’s why it was so great to see what this was like; we may never get another chance! At the moment we’re constantly finding ourselves in mad situations. Last night I sound-checked in the middle of a completely empty arena. Then a crowd turned up and we knew they weren’t there to see us, but we got to test the water and try and win people over.
Was it a bit scary – be honest now.
I was terrified, but I wanted to enjoy it too. I kept looking over at the guys and cracking up. They put our logo and artwork on these giant screens, so that was cool. Some fans sent us a few photos and it looks insane.
You’ve been touring on your own for around two years now and hardly done any support shows.
No – just Two Door Cinema Club, really. The one thing I’m pleased about is the Muse and Two Door shows both came from the bands themselves – there were no golden handshakes! You hear a lot of talk about how bands getting on to bills, but that definitely wasn’t us. For the first two years we did everything ourselves, we made all the decisions together and that was fun. Then we signed to Virgin in the UK and they invested time and gave us space to do what we wanted. We’ve never had any hype and so the album took a lot of people by surprise. We’ve not had much acknowledgement from the media, so our fan base is serious, genuine, word of mouth people.
Have you notice things change recently?
Definitely – we’ve had a lot of radio play and people sharing our songs online, that’s all been huge help to us. We actually underestimated the size of our fan base!
They’re the people who’ve made Pompeii such a huge, viral hit.
They are – and it’s a strange thing that song. I wrote it in my bedroom on my laptop, just for fun. I’d been reading about Pompeii and how it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption, but also how it was known as a city of hedonism. I was struck by these images of the space left by the bodies when they decomposed and by the people’s movements caught in the ash. It was all so potent, I began imagining what it would be like if those same ashy corpses could talk about their city. To be honest, I still find it bizarre that anyone even listens to my music and I never had any ambitions to be in a band. I always think that people will only share something if they really like it, so it’s a compliment that people are sharing Pompeii so much. It also means wherever we go we have this great song to finish our shows with, as when we play it everyone goes, “Oh, it’s *this* lot…”
Does it feel like you’re starting again in America?
A little, but our ambitions we so non-existent to begin with that we really don’t mind at all. We never imagined we’d ever leave England and we’ve had a sold out set of dates in Europe and we’ve just gone Platinum in Italy. We’ve never even played a gig there. So America is a massive uncharted territory for us. We’ve only been there briefly – we played South By – and we’re excited to give it a go. We just want to see if anyone actually comes to the shows and what those people might be like…
What five records couldn’t Bastille exist without?
Ready Or Not by The Fugees, Only Living Boy In New York by Simon and Garfunkel, Concrete Schoolyard by Jurassic 5, Hope There’s Someone by Antony and the Johnsons and A Punk by Vampire Weekend.
Does the perfect song exist?
I don’t think it does as your taste changes so much throughout your life. But recently I’ve had Bad Religion by Frank Ocean lodged in my brain and the new James Blake album is brilliant too. I just love music, I buy and listen to a lot of new stuff, I don’t tend to dwell on old things.
Where do you look for new music?
Spotify, a bit! My friend’s recommendations mean a lot too. I chat to a lot of people about new music…
Finally – crucially – what’s your favourite noise?
Ah! Well, the silence that comes after a really annoying noise suddenly stops. Imagine a whirring fridge or a buzzing fly, then that deep, deep silence, it’s wonderful. It’s the clarity, it’s like someone’s unplugged your ears.