Interview with Bloc Party: Positive Tension

A lot of that energy comes from you and drummer Matt Tong, since you’re both so powerful and loud as a rhythm section. Are you the ones who start the songwriting process?

Well, yes and no. Kele will usually come in with the ideas. But it depends what the song is. A song like ‘Signs’ is obviously not about the rhythm section at all, so it becomes something else. Over the years, the rhythm was the bit that we had to get right for anything else to work. If I think back to Silent Alarm, a lot of the songs on that record were much more traditionally written, around live instrumentation, so those were the things that had to be right. If you listen to songs like ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ or ‘Positive Tension,’ the song wouldn’t work in the same way if that rhythm wasn’t really crisp, so that was what we strove for.

On Intimacy, there’s a song called ‘Biko,’ which is a Nigerian Igbo word. Did Kele ever bring any of his heritage into the music?

I think that was the first time he did it, actually. The first thing we all asked when we found out that was the title of song was whether it was about Stephen Biko, or if it was about the Peter Gabriel song.

Does he speak Igbo?

I don’t think so. It’s interesting, because I’m in Dallas, and my wife is a second or third generation Mexican-American, and she doesn’t have any Spanish. We all come from these very disparate backgrounds. Matt Tong’s parents are from Hong Kong, and he doesn’t speak any Chinese. All these cultures fed into what we do and into our lives without us necessarily having the language.

How much longer are you keeping up your pace on tour?

We actually have a deadline now—October is the last big tour, and there may be a little tour in November, and then that’s it for us for a year. We’re getting back into some sort of normality. It’s weird, because it’s our job to make music and tour that music, and most people aren’t looking to have a year away from their job every four or five. But I think the sheer intensity of all the travel means that you need to get away from it, to remind yourself why you do it.

Bloc Party will be playing Terminal 5 in New York on March 24 and 25. Intimacy is out now on Vice records. Visit for more information.