Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke tells EW.com why the band had to move beyond its trademark guitar rock on second CD ''A Weekend in the City,'' and whether he expects fans to follow
Bloc Party’s debut release, Silent Alarm, transformed a little-known East London quartet into international indie darlings. Two years later, the band is back with a new album that’s twice as ambitious. On A Weekend in the City, which hit stores earlier this month, Bloc Party trades in the tight guitar rock that made them stars for glitchy electronic textures and towering, anthemic melodies (check out the video for their single, I Still Remember). And the response has been great: The disc sold 48,000 copies in its first week, despite having been leaked online as early as last November. EW.com rang up frontman Kele Okereke to find out what drove Bloc Party to reinvent themselves so radically — and why fans should come along for the ride.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was it intimidating trying to follow up an album as respected as Silent Alarm?
KELE OKEREKE: Not really, to be honest. The band has never paid any attention to critical acclaim — it’s just somebody’s opinion.
What goals did you have in mind for your second album, then?
To make something that meant more to us as a band. There’s a lot of vagueness on Silent Alarm, a lot of abstraction. I wanted to try and eradicate that this time around.
The lyrics on this new one are definitely much more concrete — all those details of daily existence in London.
Yeah. It’s not specifically about London, though. I think the point of the record is what life in any major city feels like, with the abundance of opportunity and abundance of access. It’s really a record about how people experience leisure, which is a contentious issue in a city where there’s so much to do all the time.
How personal are those lyrics? Are you mostly writing in your own voice?
Not very personal at all. It’s not my story in these songs. It was important to try and conjure up a lot of different perspectives.
Were the changes in the band’s sound related to those new lyrical themes?
No. That was just motivated by the fact that as music fans, your tastes change. It would be very boring for us to make the same record again. I think as a band, we learned a lot more about what we do, so we felt confident enough to tackle this.
Early on, you guys were frequently compared to post-punk acts like Gang of Four. Was the new record an attempt to get away from those reference points?
Yeah, perhaps. It was mildly infuriating for us to always have people think we’re referencing Gang of Four, when no one in the band particularly liked [that] sound.
And now you’re getting measured against a new set of artists, like U2 and Coldplay. How do you feel about those comparisons?
Equally as idiotic, really.
How do you think the fans who loved Silent Alarm are going to react to this album?
It’s hard for people who only have [heard] one record to gauge what we do as a band. I think it will be a lot easier by the third or fourth record. I feel that we’ll reach more people on the back of this record than we ever have [before], so by the end of this tour, people should have a better idea of who Bloc Party really are.
Have you started working on your third album yet?
Yeah, we’re starting now, but we’re leaving a lot of space so we can finish [the songs] in the studio. One of the real highlights of [Weekend] for me was ”The Prayer,” something that we wrote entirely in the studio. It was the last thing we did, and it was really inspiring to me. I definitely want to try more of that sort of writing.
So is Weekend indicative of the sound that fans should expect from you in the future?
I think it’s definitely more indicative of where our heads are at. For the third record it’ll be an even further push in a different direction. We really enjoy the challenge of pushing ourselves into places we shouldn’t be going, and that isn’t going to stop.
A Weekend in the City