INTERVIEW: Bloc Party | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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You may be forgiven for wondering which decade we’re currently writing about. Bloc Party? Headlining the NME tour? Don’t worry, your millennial nightmares aren’t coming back to haunt you; this is a newly revamped Bloc Party, one with a refreshed sound on their new album, Hymns, and a line-up that’s evidently breathing new life into the band.

Newly appointed bassist Justin Harris gives us an insight into being the new kid on the bloc(k).

Sherilyn Appleby: How are you finding being part of Bloc Party so far?
Justin Harris: I’m finding it pretty good. It’s a lot of fun. Very busy but I like this kind of busy so it’s good.

SA: How did you come to work with the band? I know you toured with the guys in 2009 in America when you were with your previous band, Menomena. Was it a simple phone call asking you to come and work with them, or was it more difficult than that?
JH: Kind of. An email or two over the years since 2009, since then I’ve kind of been in casual contact with Kele mostly, I mean, he’s the one that I’ve had the most interaction with. He came up to see us when we played through in London, and a little over a year ago he sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in focusing on some songs with him and Russell; that they were working on some new demos for a new Bloc Party album, and informed me that Matt and Gordon had left the band and that they were looking for a new bass player and drummer. From then we kind of just started passing stuff back and forward, and then I came out here to play in the same room and see how that felt and it all felt pretty good, so we just started growing from there, I play on the new record and now we’re starting this touring cycle.

SA: Have you always been a fan of Bloc Party’s work?
JH: I have, yeah. Peripherally it’s interesting playing and being in bands, your relationship with other bands and their music I think is a little different than fan-base, but yeah I’ve always admired what they do and their musical ability. I mean, I remember when Silent Alarm came out and it made a pretty big impact, and all their follow up albums I’ve heard. The only one I hadn’t really heard much of was Four, until having to learn the songs from that album, but I’m glad I’ve had to learn the songs because I think that’s a pretty great album too.

SA: Would you say you’ve had much impact on the creative elements of the new album?
JH: Yeah, here and there I think, as far as I know [laughs].

SA: The new sound is quite different to the older Bloc Party, has the addition of new members had any impact on the change in direction?
JH: Well Louise wasn’t discovered until after the album was recorded, or at least at the end of the recording, so she doesn’t play on the record. I do play on the whole record but by the time I started really getting songs pinned down and in their recorded form, Kele and Russell had already pretty much formed the songs to the specific vision of what they wanted for this record, so yeah my influence isn’t great on the record. Hopefully my playing style is something that is helpful for the record, and there are some songs that I had worked more than others on, but Kele in particular had a very specific vision of what they wanted this record to sound like, and so did Russell. They kind of made clear from the beginning that they wanted a collaborative input, but at the same time they knew they wanted it to have this specific kind of sound. So yeah what you’re hearing is mostly their brainchild.

SA: Would you say you are all working quite well together so far? I know Louise hasn’t been with you guys long, but does there seem to be a good chemistry between the four of you?
JH: Yeah there seems to be. This is all very new so it’s hard to tell, but it seems good and I imagine it’ll only get better. Everyone seems pretty happy and we’re all playing really well together, and with each show, it kind of just gets better.

SA: Bloc Party always deliver such energetic and exciting shows, is that something you’re enjoying being part of?
JH: Yeah I am actually, that’s my favourite part. I really enjoy playing live and I mean obviously fans respond best to the songs they know more than the ones they don’t know. But I think that the songs that we have been playing from the new record, to poor, unsuspecting audience that just want to hear songs from Silent Alarm [laughs[, their response has been pretty good and I think a lot of the new songs translate even better in a live setting, so it’s different to the record, but it’s certainly fun to play all of the older songs as well because there’s so much energy.

SA: So you think the new material translates well live?
JH: I do. Some songs have yet to be played live, so I think it’ll be hard to pick some, like the really, super intense songs like Fortress might not be better live, but that said we haven’t played that yet live, but that’s the kind of song that audiences might not have much of a patience for. I think songs like The Good News, Love Within and Different Drugs do work well to give a break between some of the more energetic songs; I think they’re really good live, I think they’re almost better live than on the record. Well maybe not better, but just different.

SA: Finally, what do you expect 2016 to bring for the new Bloc Party?
JH: Being an optimist I expect it’ll bring good things [laughs]. I think we’ve only played about 20 shows up to this point, and I think each one gets better as we get to know each other better in the musical capacity, and we’ve been writing a lot and working on a lot of demos and stuff, so we’re starting a learning process on how we write together and how we work together, so I think 2016 is going to be pretty busy, with a lot of touring and a lot of writing, but all of those things are good things from my point of view.

Bloc Party play O2 Academy, Newcastle on Thursday 4th February, with support from Drenge, Rat Boy and Bugzy Malone.

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