Bloc Party | Four Men, One Stage, Many Fans

prof blocparty-75Although it can differ in the reaction for some songs, I think there’s a core thing that happens that we’re fairly familiar with.


The announcement and subsequent release of Bloc Party’s latest album, Four, came as a bit of a surprise to many, as rumors of the band’s demise had spread across the industry. As the band hit the road to promote the record, it was like no time had passed, as Bloc Party returned with their trademark energetic live shows. The addition of the tracks from Four have been very welcome, as the increased heaviness in many have fit into the set list nicely.

The band—which includes vocalist/rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke, lead guitarist Russell Lissack, bass guitarist Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matthew Tong—has been receiving rave reviews for their performances over the last year, which included an appearance at Lollapalooza as well as a landmark three-night performance at NYC’s Terminal 5. Now they’re hitting the road across America, returning to The Pageant on Saturday, January 19. I caught up with Moakes in advance of the show.

prof blocpartypress

How’s your tour been going so far?

Yeah, it’s good. We’ve only done two shows this year—we’re on our third tonight, so we’re still kind of getting back into the groove a little. We’re seeing some new parts of America. We do know The Pageant, but we’re seeing some new places.

The last time you played The Pageant was over five years ago, and this show will certainly be attended by a mix of diehard fans and many who have never seen you play. Does that change the structure or feel of a show to you?

You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever been conscious of playing for people that have never heard you. Because generally, the older stuff is more familiar to everyone, so people that are new to us kind of know the older stuff more. For me, it’s just that we do our show, really, and although it can differ in the reaction for some songs, I think there’s a core thing that happens that we’re fairly familiar with.

Do you ever do any songwriting or recording while on the road?

Yeah, we’ve been doing a bit of that. I mean, we always did kind of write in sound checks; it’s not entirely ideal to write in that space, but we’ve always done it. We never really call it that so much, but on this tour, we’ve been doing a bit of dabbling, rough ideas, sort of that.

How else do you keep yourself entertained while on the road?

It’s funny, because even though you aren’t always on your own—although you do have separate space in your hotel room or wherever—you do kind of feel like it’s more limbo than anything else. With us, it’s watching Netflix and reading books and playing computer games; those are the major things we do. Unfortunately, I suppose drinking is another way to pass the time. [Laughs]

Your current tour was highlighted by three nights at Terminal 5 in New York City. How did that come about?

I don’t know how we ended up gunning for a show in New York at that time, because we were kind of playing more festival stuff at that point, but I guess the idea came up at some point. We made our record in New York, so we thought a nice thing to do would be to do a show there. I think it started with one show at Terminal 5, then it became two shows. Then somebody suggested the opportunity, that if the shows sold really well, we might be able to do a third one, so we kind of went for it. We managed to sell out all three in the end, which is amazing, really.

My memories of the shows were that one of them—the middle show, I think it was—was being filmed for YouTube, so we had lots of cameras and things around that day. I feel like, in my memory, that the first one was the highlight for me, although I wouldn’t want to take away from anyone who saw us on a different night. I think we were a bit nervous on the second night because of the YouTube stuff.

I think it came out very well. I was actually very impressed with the production values and sound on the show.

We were pretty pleased with it. Alex Newport, who produced our record, went and sat in on the audio mix that was going out, and that helped sort of tie it together, as well.

You touched on it a little bit, but in 2012, you guys did a lot of festivals. How different do you find playing a festival versus a regular show, and do you have any sort of preference?

I think, generally, you can get into the groove a bit more with your own tour. I think what I like about playing festivals more than anything is it doesn’t eat up your whole day. When you do a show, you’ve got sound check, you’ve got a couple of hours where you’ll be doing stuff like that, working in the venue. You’ve hardly got any time after; sometimes you can’t do much more than grab some food. Then you’re back playing, and there’s a load out. I think everyone sort of prefers the fact you sort of just go in and out, really. They both have their benefits.

One of the things that sets your catalog apart from many bands is how many strong B-sides you have. Are there any in specific you found more difficult to cut from the albums?

Yeah, I think we’ve got some great B-sides. “Tulips,” for instance—that was one of the first songs we recorded. We were doing Banquet in a studio, and we had enough time to do two other songs, and we did “Tulips” as one of them. Way back then, we were putting some of our strongest songs out and they kind of ended up as B-sides. Over the years, the thing with B-sides is sometimes it’s just a leftover one that you’re not that excited about. Occasionally, there’s one—”Black Crown” is the most recent one—that is technically an additional track on the record on iTunes. We were quite keen that would go on the record, but you can’t please everyone.

When you pick your set lists, do you switch it up night to night, or do you play a pretty standard set list across your tour?

We were just talking about that today. Generally, there’s a structure that’s very similar, but within that, there will be a lot of changes from night to night.

How does the decision to pull out a song you haven’t played in a while come about? Is it a group thing, or do you often just say “I want to play this tonight”?

Well, Kele normally looks after the general structure of it all. Occasionally, we’ll chip in and go “what about playing this?” but we don’t go in thinking if there’s room for it.

Your tour is only scheduled through mid-March. Will you be adding any shows afterward?

[Laughs] As a matter of fact, if I look at my calendar, we are touring until the end of March in Asia, and then we’ve got most of April off, and I think we’re back in the States in May, and then sort of festivals and things during the summer. So we’ll be pretty busy after that, yeah.

Obviously, the big question: What’s up next for you guys?

We’re working on an EP, so we’re going to record four songs in the spring. I think that’s probably as many tunes we’ll do, then I don’t think any of us are ready to get into another Bloc Party record this year. I think we’ll probably do this EP, tour through the summer and then take some time off again after that. I’ve not planned much for the next year or so after that, although I could be wrong, you never know. That’s kind of the loose plan for now. | Brett Berliner

Bloc Party plays The Pageant in St. Louis on January 19, 2013. Doors are at 7, show at 8; tickets are $25 adv/$27.50 dos; the show is all ages. IO Echo opens the show.

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