Interview with Bloc Party: Positive Tension

You worked with Jacknife Lee, who mostly produces electronic music. Did the use of synthesizers influence how you recorded the album?

Yeah, it broke down to different kinds of approaches, really. These songs weren’t written by a band in a rehearsal room. Most of the ideas had started out in that context, but finishing them required more hands-on work, either with a producer or just experimenting in Logic, which I guess is our software of choice when it comes to recording. I think we learnt with that way of working that it can be a bit dull if you’re all there and nothing’s really happening. There’s kind of an unspoken pressure if you’re all in a room listening to what’s going on. In a way, you’re putting extra pressure on the writing process and the production. Sometimes it’s better just to cut out, and to come back when the writing’s finished.

Do the songs change when you’re on tour?

Yeah, I think so. For me, there’s a long period where I don’t listen to the record at all. I know the songs really well from playing them, so they turn into something else. The songs on this record weren’t just written by a band in a room, so when we become a band in a room, that very nature turns it into something else.

Who plays the electronics live?

Me, mostly.

All of them?

Well, we stick with the basics of what the track’s about, rather than just piling a load of stuff onto a hard disk and pressing play. Take a song like ‘Ion Square’—there’s a lot going on there, but the key part is the piano part, so I just do that and Russell plays his guitar parts on top of that. You can’t hope to replicate everything that’s there. It’s just too tough. But, having said that, I think the way we do a lot of these songs live is just capturing the essence of the song. It’s not a version that we’ve settled on. If you can only play four parts, which parts do you pick?

Would you say that you guys are minimalists live?

I guess so. But I don’t think you’re losing impact— you’re gaining impact from the energy we bring. We’ve always been quite an energetic and visceral live experience.