Artist Interviews

Q&A: Bastille

By | Published on Wednesday 10 August 2011


Alt-pop musician Bastille, aka south Londoner Dan Smith, first came to wider attention earlier this year, when he edited footage from Terence Malick’s 1973 film ‘Badlands’ to fit debut track ‘Flaws’. Showing off a solid pop sensibility and distinctive melodic flair, both ‘Flaws’ and its b-side ‘Icarus’ were released by singles specialists Young & Lost Club last month.

Ahead of an appearance at this weekend’s Standon Calling festival, plus a series of October dates culminating in a show at London’s Barfly on 28 Oct, we spoke to Dan about his work-in-progress debut album, using our Same Six Questions as a rough guide.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
I learned to play the piano when I was a little kid. I didn’t really start trying to write songs until I was a bit older. It was always very much a private thing though, until I was at uni and one of my friends found out about my music and made me enter into a competition. It was winning that which forced me to record properly and play my first gig and made me realise how much I loved making songs.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
I’m working on the first Bastille album at the moment and I guess it will have been inspired by all kinds of things that have happened to me and the people I know. I find it quite difficult to write about myself or in the first person, so I tend to often use and incorporate well known stories or themes into the songs.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Lots of my songs start with an idea that seems to come out of nowhere. That normally involves me having to try and sing it into my phone whilst not looking completely deranged. I’ll then work out the idea on the piano or on my laptop. I use really basic recording software to write all the parts and then I take them to my friend Mark, and we re-record bits and use better sounds and live instruments, and just try to make them sound like proper recordings, I guess.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
I love classic pop songs by people like The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel which to me still feel really relevant and timeless. Because I can’t play the guitar, for a while I was obsessed with piano-based singer-songwriters like Antony And The Johnsons and Regina Spektor, and even Elton John, who all influenced me a lot. Production-wise though, it’s a big mix, but I do love the sound of lots of Brooklyn bands like Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer and Grizzly Bear.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
I probably wouldn’t have much to say because I find it excruciatingly awkward listening to my songs with other people.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
It would be amazing to be able to have a proper career making music, so I just hope that people like the songs and the album that I’m making. I would love to do lots more touring with the guys in the band, and I really hope that these songs enable us to do so.