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A mainstay in the British music scene since their explosion onto the scene in 2009, Bastille have consistently proven that they’re always ahead of the musical curve. Never afraid to take a risk, none of their albums is the same – from the synth-driven hit All This Bad Blood (2013) to the eclectic culmination of Wild World (2016) and the electronic musings of Doom Days (2019).
Each of their three albums has one thing in common: they’re a UK Top 10 studio album. Perhaps prone to being pigeon-holed as an ‘indie-rock’ or ‘pop-rock band’, their vast range of influences, may leave them impossible to pin down but it makes them an infinitely exciting prospect in the music world today.
The award-winning band consists of singer-songwriter Dan Smith, drummer Chris “Woody” Wood, bassist and guitarist William Farquarson, and is completed by keyboardist and backing vocalist Kyle Simmons.
You may recognise their earlier anthemic tracks, such as ‘Of The Night’ or ‘Pompeii’, which helped to put their name on the map. This year has seen the band release two new attention-grabbing tracks. ‘WHAT YOU GONNA DO???’ is a collaboration with Graham Coxon, it’s powerful a guitar-driven number questioning people on online who battle for attention. ‘Survivin” is led by a smooth groove, however, it details the previous highs and lows of Bastille. A beautifully honest and raw detailing of the modern world, it’s set against a backdrop of uplifting sax which is sure to raise your spirits.
As well as his work in Bastille, drummer Wood has also begun his new label, Du Monde Records, to pass the torch and help other emerging artists hopeful of acquiring even a slice of the success he has earned.
aAh! Magazine caught up with Chris “Woody” Wood over the phone to find out more about his new record label, which artists and podcast he’s been enjoying, and the importance of live music.
You’ve recently released the track ‘Survivin’’, what was the process like behind it?
“Remote. It’s a song that’s been kicking around for a while, it didn’t actually get made until like, lockdown. So, there are things like, obviously, the sax parts on there, Charlie [Barnes] from our live band did a bit of guitar right on the end, which he did from his garage and basically emailed it over. So, like, ‘Survivin’ is the first proper lockdown song, I suppose.
The uplifting message behind it feels very current, was that something which you were consciously aiming to get across in the song?
“I mean, sort of yes and no. Because the song existed before the whole sort of Covid mess. But, I guess it ended up being quite apt by accident. But yeah, I mean we try and leave a lot of the stuff open to interpretation, if possible. But yeah, some of the sorts of messaging, is quite obvious I suppose.
You’ve recently released the music video for it too, what was the creative process behind that?
“So, there’s a very, very talented director from Iran, called Reza [Dolatabadi] and he’s like this wonder animator. He’s got this whole team all around the world and yeah, he’s really good. He did the last two videos and yeah, I think he absolutely smashed it and obviously, creatively we’re really pleased with it. But, also maybe it was slightly necessary as well as you can’t really do a classic music video set up, where you have a whole film crew and lighting, as you can’t have very many bodies together in the same place. But, the way it turned out, we’re really thrilled with it.”
Your recent tracks as a whole have been quite different, such as ‘What You Gonna Do???’ as well. Since your sound is always constantly evolving, what do you think is next for the band or what you’d like to try next?
“Well, what I’d like is to just go and do a half-empty pub gig at the minute. Just being able to play live music again. I don’t know, I mean, it’s funny because people have been asking about this today, as far as we’re concerned we’ve always sort of ‘genre-hopped’ a little bit. But, I don’t know if people have picked up on it this time around. But, I mean we’ve got quite different influences and unlike previous releases as well, we’ve jumped between sort of hip-hop sounding, rock and indie stuff, as well as orchestral and electronic stuff – ballads and everything else in between. I think as long as Dan [Smith]’s voice is on there, it’s quite recognisable that it’s us. I think it gives us a license to ‘genre-hop’ quite a bit. But yeah, I don’t foresee that changing but also at the same time. As for whatever the next album is going to be, I don’t know which sort of direction it’s going to be, either ‘Survivin’’, ‘What You Gonna Do???’, or neither. It always changes and you can’t really pin it down.”
Talking about just wanting ‘to play a half-empty’ pub, what are your thoughts on the current situation and what needs to be done to help bands?
“Gosh, if you’re ready for a rant?”
“Yeah, I think the government has absolutely f***ed it. The live music industry generates, like ten billion a year in revenue and there’s a whole surrounding business around that as well, I mean everyone thinks that ‘oh big bands just playing arenas’. But, it’s not. There’s thousands upon thousands of very qualified experienced road crew, who build complicated stage setups, the PAs of events, lighting, the security who run logistical, like really big operations. And, there’s venue staff and vendors at festivals. Thousands upon thousands of people, who work around the industry and who also pay their taxes through the nose, and have received zero support. As opposed to somewhere like Germany, which has furloughed most of the creative industry until March. It’s just absolutely appalling, that people who have contributed, not only financially but also in terms of how everyone needs the arts. Without that, there’s no Netflix. There’s no Spotify. There are no pictures. There’s nothing. There’s just no fun or anything of any kind of cultural relevance. Yeah, I think it’s absolutely shameful, that it’s just been left to rot.”
It’s interesting hearing it from your perspective, as you’ve spent a long time in the industry and have maintained your success. People do forget that the grassroots venues are where it started, not the arenas.
“Yeah, but also the entire thing is a pyramid. So, the grassroots stuff is where we came through and that’s where bands cut their teeth. They learn to play live properly, so without those sorts of things with people coming through, people aren’t going to learn. You’re not going to have any future festival headliners, other than the same old recycled ones. Also, you’re not going to get any sort of scene developing and people aren’t going to be able to road-test their music, be creative and make new stuff. And, people need to go and see new gigs.”
During the summer you started a new record label, Du Monde Records and have worked with emerging artist, Ulysses Wells. When beginning this label, was your initial intention to work with new artists at a grassroots level?
“Yeah. Uly came on tour with us at the start of last year and did half our shows. I’m glad I kind of worked with him for a while, but it’s something that I… I want to work in music forever and it’s nice to be able to help people that you believe in. Obviously, I’m in a position where I can make a few things happen, hopefully, or at least help them to. It’s just really fun being able to kind of help with that process, as it kind of takes you back a bit too – to the things we used to do. But yeah, he’s amazing and super, super creative and really driven. What’s really frustrating, is that he and his band are sh** hot live. They can’t do that at the minute and this summer they would’ve been all over festivals and whatnot for them.”
“As a larger thing as well, I really despair for bands or acts that would’ve had their breakout year this summer, so like Celeste who got the Critic’s Choice Award at the Brit’s. She would’ve gone out to like a million festivals this summer and would’ve really kicked on and connected with everyone. She’d have taken a big step up, as would a load of other people. It takes a long time to build up momentum where you’re going to tip over into the mainstream. I’d hope those who would’ve had their chance this summer don’t lose it altogether, as it’s so unfair. It’s through no fault of their own. It’s really tough.”
“So yeah, with Du Monde we’re not trying to be your classic, evil record label that tries to take everyone’s rights. We intend to give a sort of stepping stone for artists to go from just say, self-releasing on TuneCore to trying to get on Spotify playlists and stuff. Then, maybe they’ll kick on to a bigger deal. So yeah, we’re very much just trying to be a stepping stone, like a helping hand in the industry, if we can be.”
I was wondering why you picked the name ‘Du Monde Records’, is there any meaning behind the name?
“It just sounds cool.”
“Actually, I’ll tell you what, Uly is half-French and it means ‘World’ in French. So yeah, I guess it ties in a bit.”
Have you thought about your goals for the label in the short-term and long-term, as you’ve said about it initially being a “stepping stone”?
“I mean, we would like to become a sort of funnel almost, kind of talent-spotting. We still do have plans to do it but we want to put on our own sort of gig nights, as well as labels and do our own showcases. Just chatting to unsigned acts who are like, scratching their heads, ‘How do you get on Spotify playlists?’ and ‘How do you do this, that, and the other?’ If we can become sort of a helpful conduit, through which people can come and do that eventually, it’d be great. Just also, I think it’s important, especially now to try and help people up because it shouldn’t just be a case of, ‘My band’s successful, I’m just going to pull the ladder up behind me.’ That’s not how it works. You should try and stay connected to the grassroots, more so than ever now. I think any sort of semi-successful band or act has got a duty to that, I think.”
Is there any particular advice which you’d like to share with emerging bands after your time in Bastille?
“Oh god, there’s loads. Yeah, how long do you have? I guess it’s more past mistakes. Even just logistical planning stuff and costing mistakes we made, which we’ve since learned from and you get to pass those things on. I guess just how to give the best possible show you can on a limited budget, like what tricks and strings you can pull to do that. I guess it’s the classic thing of learning from past mistakes, which we’ve made. But, I guess it’s like being a parent and you can say like, ‘do as I say and not as I did’. But, people will still go and do their own thing anyway. But, also shouldn’t forget that I’m still learning as well because the industry is very different from what it was, like 9 years ago when we started. MySpace used to be pretty relevant back then, not anymore. Yeah, it’s always changing as well, so yeah I definitely haven’t got all the answers.”
Recently, you recorded at Abbey Road Studios and have drummed on a track for Nile Rodgers, were these long-term goals you’d had?
“So, the Abbey Road one, that definitely was a long-term goal. That would’ve been my fifth time there but the first time I’d actually played the drums there. Before it had been orchestral bits and bobs, or stripped-back acoustic stuff, but I’d never actually played the drum kit. Yeah, I was adamant I was going to do it this time. So, that was a big thing ticked off. Yeah, the Nile thing, that was through ONR, who supported us on tour last January and he’s amazing. He got in touch at the start of lockdown because I was kind of plugging our social media and I’ve got a home studio here, and I’m looking to do a lot more of remote recording, which is really fun. There’s a lot of other things I’m working on at the minute and I really enjoy that.
“If I’m not on tour, I still want to be plugging away, playing and making music. So, if I can do it from home, then amazing. But yeah, ONR sent through a couple of demos, including the ‘Kill TV’ track. And, then when he sent back the first mix, he was like, ‘it’s changed a bit ‘cause I sent you and I sent it to Nile Rodgers too and he’s playing on it.’ There’s now a song in the world where the drums are essentially recorded in my posh garden shed, and it’s got Nile playing on top of it, which is nuts.”
What other goals would you like to achieve, both personally and with the band?
“As a band, right now I would love to get back on tour just for 6 months, it would be incredible. Yeah, as you kind don’t know what you have until you miss it, sort of thing. So yeah, I’m just gagging to do that. We are still writing and making music, so to be honest we just want to keep doing this for as long as people care. Yeah, just keep doing it and it is the best job in the world, it’s a massive privilege to do it.
“Personally, I would like to do more recording stuff, and I really want to push Uly and push on the label. And, we’ve got a podcast in the works like everyone else at the minute and I might have found a home for it. It’s coming out in the Spring but that’s still TBC. I’m definitely staying busy. But yeah, just to have a good kind of balance with work from home stuff, so like the podcast, doing recording stuff and the label, and then get to go on tour would be ideal. Just do that until I can’t do it anymore.”
What are you aiming to discuss on your new podcast?
“The working title at the minute is ‘The Duck and Dive Podcast’ and it’s about chatting to anyone who hasn’t got a regular job, kind of how they got into it and how they stayed doing it. I’ve interviewed a stuntwoman, who did James Bond stuff and Game of Thrones, a stand-up comedian, Rick Astley who’s amazing. He’s an absolute sweetheart. Also, an Olympic sprinter. Basically, people from all walks of life, very much not just music. Yeah, that’s just sort of the premise of it. Then, it kind of goes off on all sorts of mad tangents from there.”
In addition to the podcast, how have you been spending your time while you’re not on the road or making music?
“I’m the only one in the band who’s got two kids who are quite young, so that’s all I’ve done is keep my house from getting torn apart.”
“They are f***ing relentless.”
If anyone is looking for a new artist to try, who would you recommend at the moment?
“I’m absolutely obsessed with the new IDLES album. I’ve pretty much been playing that on a loop the whole time. Trying to think what else I’ve been into recently. ONR’s stuff he’s got coming out soon is amazing as well. He’s definitely worth checking out. Also, I’ve got to plug Uly as well, thank you very much for mentioning that. To be honest, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, more than music at the minute. It’s good to have a break from music, I love it and it’s all I think about mostly. But, you need to have headspace outside of that sometimes.”
“So, Josh Widdicombe’s Lockdown Parenting Hell is really, really good. Quite apt. God, there’s a load I’m really into. Quite a lot of sports ones for sports fans, like Under The Cosh, Football One, Tailenders, Peter Crouch Podcast. Yeah, that sort of thing and weirdly, there’s one that’s like a World War Two history one, We Have Ways of Making You Talk, which is quite good. Yeah, just a diverse sort of stuff but nothing too heavy-duty, just light-hearted and just hearing adult voices in your head for a bit when you’ve been dealing with temper tantrums is quite a nice bit of respite.”
Is there anything which you’ve never been asked but you wish you had?
“That’s a good question… not particularly, there’s not some undying thing I’m dying to get off my chest or anything like that. No, I guess weirdly that’s the premise of my podcast, to try and even find out boring, mundane day-to-day stuff and make them think about certain jobs though. Everyone without the job, they assume it’s just parties all night, go and play a show and do loads of partying. But, it’s probably, like 5% playing and 95% waiting around, is probably the actual reality of it. But, it’s still the most fun job in the world. No, there’s nothing I’m dying to get off my chest, I don’t think.”
Finally, do you have any last words which you’d like to share?
“Yeah, whenever live music comes back, everyone should just go out a lot. Please, just go out and find your local small venue, it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of the band or not, just go and see someone. You might see the next big thing, you might see something terrible, but we need music and we need it to thrive. The government aren’t helping us, so everyone else needs to chip in, I’m afraid.”
You can listen to Bastille’s latest track ‘Survivin’ here, and his latest Duck and Dive Podcast here. Be sure to look out for the new releases on Du Monde Records, you can listen to Ulysses Wells’ latest EP, ‘Can’t Take It Much Longer’, here.
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