Brit award winners Bastille surprised by incredible rise
Sometimes, the most sheltered place from a whirlwind is a tour bus. Take one glance out of the window and you’ll still see the same views, the same people going about their daily business.
As Will Farquarson explains, it’s impossible for his band to get any perspective from the eye of the storm; fame has begun to look like something that only works from the outside looking in.
By all accounts, 2013 was a mammoth year for Bastille. In February, their single Pompeii exploded onto the scene (sorry), firing them to number two at the summit of the UK singles charts (very sorry).
A platinum-selling album, Bad Blood, followed and, if anything, this year is just accelerating the momentum.
When I speak to Farquarson, who plays bass, guitar and keyboards in the four-piece, he’s just returned from America, following stints on the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Saturday Night Live.
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“At first, it was pretty daunting,” the 30-year-old admits, “but then we realised Leonardo DiCaprio was also appearing on the show. Suddenly I wasn’t worried about our performance – he was being done up in a dressing room a few doors down from us, so my focus just turned to following him around the whole time.”
Was it a successful mission? “I said hello at the end of the show, where they have this kind of big hug thing. He was pretty relaxed about it all, seemed a nice guy.”
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Success in US
If their breakthrough in Britain was unexpected, it’s fair to say Bastille’s success in America shocked them all ends up.
“It’s unfathomable,” Farquarson adds, acknowledging that even bands well established in Europe can take years to make the same impact across the Atlantic.
For the last few weeks, however, it has all been about the Brits. Bastille’s melodic, stadium-friendly pop has seen them nominated for no less than four Brit awards – British album of the year, British single, British group and British breakthrough artist.
Catching up with them before last night’s awards show, the band weren’t quite preparing their speeches.
“We’re up against the Arctic Monkeys for British group and David Bowie for album of the year, so we can immediately rule those ones out.
“To be honest, we never expected to be nominated for anything – we’ve never even done an awards thing before, so it’s always a surprise.”
As it happens, Farquarson actually seems to be rooting for one of his British breakthrough award rivals. “Laura Mvula is amazing. Her album is one of the best things I’ve heard in ages. I met her the other day – before, I’d just tweeted her a couple of times – but I was really drunk so just started shouting, ‘Laura, Laura, it’s Will!’
“She was very confused at first, but eventually I managed to explain who I was and we had a great chat. She’s such a genuine person and yeah, I do hope she does well.”
Much like Mvula, Bastille’s recent success has come through gradual momentum – progressing from toilet venues to the likes of Alexandra Palace, where they will be playing on March 6. They formed in 2010 after initially backing the band’s singer and songwriter, Dan Smith, who was performing as a solo act.
“Dan was quite self-deprecating, and began to feel a bit embarrassed saying ‘We’re the Dan Smith band’. So we turned it into a more traditional band dynamic and that’s when we thought we’d get Kyle [Jonathan Simmons] in to make it a proper group.”
While Smith still remains the face and spark behind Bastille’s songs, the band have begun writing a second album and Farquarson believes their composition is noticeably more collaborative. With the band’s increasingly tight schedule, he reveals that most of this material is now honed during soundchecks: “Apparently it’s what Hendrix did. It’s nice to get back to that old-school style.”
The band are certainly expanding their sound – “some songs will have a heavier, grungier edge like Nirvana, there’s some late 90s R&B influences” – and with an already global audience, the anticipation for their next release is palpable.
With so many eyes on the quartet, Farquarson admits that he has a knack of getting noticed at the most inopportune moments.
“For example, the other night I was in the McDonald’s in Clapham with my girlfriend at about one o’clock in the morning. It was at the end of a night out, I was looking pretty dishevelled and one girl suddenly asked if I was that guy from Bastille. I always find myself saying, ‘Yeah, but I don’t usually look like this.’”
The rock’n’roll lifestyle has its advantages of course. Farquarson points out that he’s travelled to more places around the world than he could have ever hoped for and, even when he had a rare moment of downtime around Christmas, he found himself itching to get back out on tour.
It’s lucky Bastille seem to have enthusiasm in abundance because, one year since Pompeii, the hype still shows no sign of cooling down.