Interview with Bloc Party: Positive Tension

Bloc PartyWith a line-up of multi-ethnic and talented young gentlemen, Bloc Party have redefined modern alternative rock. Their distorted and angular sound doesn’t immediately sound like a formula for greatness, but they’ve managed to breathe some new life into the tired world of guitar-based rock with inventive arrangements and poetic, sexual lyrics.

At first glance, Bloc Party’s music seems like a direct descendant of bands like Joy Division and The Cure, with emphasis on emotion, introspection, and pillows of noisy reverb. Since the release of Silent Alarm, however, Bloc Party has grown considerably. Working with producer Jacknife Lee, famous for his work with U2 and R.E.M., the band has incorporated synthesizers and sampled sound effects, exploring electronic sounds and percussive, distorted effects. Guitarist Russell Lissack has also formed a solo project, Pin Me Down, to further the band’s newfound interest in synthesized rock.

Bloc Party are touring across the U.S. and Canada, including shows at the Virgin Mobile Festival in Toronto and a show at Syracuse University. Bassist Gordon Moakes, on the cusp of a long North American tour, spoke from Texas about the making of Intimacy, Bloc Party’s most recent record.

How’ve you negotiated fathering a child with touring?

It’s mostly seemed to work out okay so far. When my daughter was two years old, I took a month off and we had another guy playing with us, but since then it’s worked out okay. We took a bit of time off around Christmas, but even when I’m on tour, the most I’ll be away is three weeks or so, so I’ve seen her growing up.

Seeing her grow up must inspire some songs, no?

We actually haven’t done much writing since then, since the baby came at the same time as the record. Kele handles most of the writing, anyway. But we’re all getting a bit older and more mature. By the end of this year, three of us will be married. We’re no longer the kids that we were playing in a rock band for the first time.

You’re returning to the UK in the fall?

Yeah, we’re doing our big tour in October.

Are those shows smaller than the ones you’ve played in North America?

They’re kind of smaller, in a way, since it’s such a long tour. I didn’t even know you could do that long a tour—we’re doing four weeks. Most of them are pretty similar in size to the ones we’ve played here, but we’re doing some places we’ve never done before.

Since your first single, you’ve released a new album almost every year. Have you been rushed? How much time have you had in-between records?

As a band, we took a month to tour, away from recording. Especially with this record, we weren’t all in the studio at the same time working on it. I remember there was a good month or two where I didn’t work in the studio that much, and I was able to be at home.

Do you record from home?

No, we did some of it in London—about half of it— and about half in Kent, which is a couple of hours drive outside of London. Between us, there were remixes and stuff we did at home.