Dan Smith Invites Us Into Bastille’s Dystopian Office At Their London Pop-Up Shop

“I’m aware that I just keep saying I’m excited all the time,” laughs Dan Smith sat in a room at the back of the shop where Bastille have just been meeting and greeting fans for the last three and a half hours. To celebrate the release of the band’s second album ‘Wild World‘ they set up a pop-up shop in New York, LA and London where fans could meet the four-piece, get things signed and buy special merchandise commemorating the record.

“It’s nice to do stuff like this or I think I’d just be running around like a headless chicken,” Dan says before heading off to hold a “press conference” on Facebook Live, set in a WWCOMMS TV studio. “We’ve been gathering questions and it’s going to be like a newsfeed with all the questions going along the bottom,” he explains. “That’s what we’re rushing off to do, to go to the set. Like I said, with all the different things we’re doing we just want to try and put an interesting spin on each one and make it feel really personal. Stuff like that can feel quite impersonal and like a bit of an afterthought.”

Nothing with Bastille could be accused of being an afterthought. They’re one of those bands that creates a universe around them; one that’s so meticulously thought out and built up that it feels like you’ve stepped into their own bubble of alternative reality. “When it comes to our albums and our videos and the artwork and everything, I like trying to create a world and an atmosphere,” their frontman explains. “On the last album, it was slightly looking back a bit. It was Lynchian, it was retro film noir vibes. And then on this album, I guess it’s much more set in the present and in the world as it is now, so this slightly sterile, dystopian aesthetic just felt… I mean, [WWCOMMS is] definitely overaping the themes of the album more than they are in the record, but I just think it’s fun for us creatively to mess around with these ideas and have fun with them.”

Outside the Truman Brewery are plenty of fans who’d attest to that. Some of them have run straight from school or college to meet the band, others have played hooky from work for this opportunity. Whatever you think of Bastille, you can’t deny the zeal with which their fanbase follows them.

The band, too, are more than aware of that and they’re aware their audience is spread far between just the three places the pop-up has visited so far. “I think it would be nice to do this in as many places as we can,” says Dan. “It’s a nice opportunity to meet people and also, on the week that our album comes out, to be able to meet a whole load of people and what they think of it is really fun for us.”

Love the setup. Gritty and unique, just like the album #Bastille #popup #LP2 #wildworld #WWCOMMS #itshackneytime

A photo posted by Erin Luddy (@erinluddy) on

Have you been here all day meeting fans?
Dan: “We’ve been helping set it up, but we’ve been here just for a little burst. They’ve all been really different, though – the New York one, the LA one and the London one. In the first one in LA it was in an art gallery and it was like a walk-through thing. It was really dark – the only light was from the TVs and all the visuals and stuff. At the end, we were behind a screen in a room signing stuff. I guess in LA it was more like an installation and then in New York we were in this massive warehouse behind a grate, just trying to chat to people locked away. Here, it’s more of a dystopian office vibe. It’s been really fun. We’ve had this WWCOMMS sinister media company thing threading through all the videos and the way that we’ve announced things and released stuff. There’s the weird AI bot which exists online and talks to people. We just wanted to think of a fun, creative way to talk about stuff.”

How has today in particular been?
“It was quite fun. We’re really lucky to work with people who want to do creative stuff and I just think we have this mad opportunity to release an album and I always try and think of things as a fan of bands that I love and what I’d wanna do. I think it’s nice to commemorate the release of our second album. You never know how well or how badly it’s gonna do – we might not get the chance make another one so that’s why we like to put a lot of effort into the videos and make them as interesting and weird as possible. It’s just nice to put care and detail in and try and have fun with every little bit.”

WWCOMMS is kind of meant to tie in with the themes on ‘Wild World’, right?’
“Sort of. A bit like with the videos, it’s kind of separate, but it’s meant to reflect it a little bit. It’s inspired by films like Brazil and books like 1984. I guess with media companies and stuff we’re so used to seeing all this branding everywhere and the way we’re fed the news… not remotely in a conspiracy theory kind of way, it’s just the reality of life. So we just thought it’d be interesting in the release of this album to invent our own Big Brother and have that run as a thread through the whole record. It’s a slight comment on the news that we see and the world around us, but it’s also meant to be a bit of fun as well. We have this AI bot that exists online and is kind of growing in and of itself, and over the course of the album campaign it’s going to grow evil. It’s just fun to mess around with that stuff.”

The album’s at Number One in the midweeks at the moment. What would it mean to you if it was still there at the end of the week?
“If it went to Number One we’d be so overwhelmed and excited. It’d be fucking amazing. We were so shocked by the success of the first album. It was so unexpected and nuts, and I just don’t want to take anything for granted. If it does go to Number One we’ll just be so excited and it’s just the beginning, I guess. It’s a big week for lots of new records. There’s the amazing Nick Cave album as well, which is beautiful and completely devastating. It’s just exciting for us to have music out.

“The main thing for us is so many of our fans have seemed satisfied and happy with the album. I think cos it’s been a while and I guess with the expectations that came in their minds of wanting something that equalled the first one, it’s so satisfying to have people saying – I guess it’s part of giving 19 tracks and trying so many different things. All the stuff that we’ve been saying over the course of the summer, everything that we wanted to say with the album and the music and the lyrics and everything, and with the film elements and the mixtape style of the album, has been coming back to us in a positive way. So I guess it’s quite reassuring that I haven’t just been talking shit all summer and that there’s some basis for what we’ve been saying. It is quite an odd process having to talk about this thing you’ve made, cos we make it quite unselfconsciously and try and make stuff that we love and excites us.”

Discovery of the day: #bastille have set up their #wwcomms pop-up in #bricklane today Get down here! #music #london #twitter

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How nervous were you when you woke up on Friday morning knowing everyone could hear the album now?
“I guess we’ve been lucky enough to be incredibly busy. We played Festival No 6 and then went straight from there to LA and played a couple of TV shows. The main difference between the first album and now is that we’re releasing it now at the same time all around the world. So when the album was coming out we were on a six hour flight from LA to New York. I couldn’t fly and on the US planes they’ve got wi-fi, so I bought the wi-fi and so I was just sitting on the plane scrolling through every hour on the hour as it was coming out around the world. It was quite surreal seeing the reaction as it was moving from country to country and coming out. That was the litmus test. But we’re really overwhelmed and excited by how satisfied people seem to be with it.

“Obviously we make music for fun and for ourselves, but now we’ve got this fanbase that all have expectations. We’ve tried not to think about it while we made the album, but it’s nice to see that at least some of them are happy. It’s really weird, in the weeks leading up to the album coming out I must have been getting quite stressed. I didn’t notice it, but on Friday when it came out I was just immediately calm and all the guys were like ‘fucking hell, you’ve calmed down’. I wasn’t even aware that I was stressing out, but I guess it’s been a labour of love for like two, three years. We finished it earlier this year and have just been so excited for people to hear it. It’s good, now we get to play these songs live and touring – we’re just so excited. There’s so many tunes on this record that we’ve been holding back from playing live cos we wanted people when they got the album to be surprised and have a lot in there to get their teeth stuck into that they haven’t heard before. Now it’s about playing those songs out. There are so many songs that we’re just itching to play.”

Which songs in particular are you really excited about playing?
“‘Warmth’ I think will be really fun to play. There’s one called ‘Act Of Kindness’ that has this drop halfway through and that’s one of the oldest songs on the record. For a while I wanted that to be the first single to kind of surprise people. There’s one called ‘Power’. There’s a song that finishes off the longer version of the album called ‘The Anchor’ that I’m really excited to play. It ends with this big, ridiculous brass section. We’ll be touring with the brass guys so it’ll be really fun. All of it to be honest. ‘Lethargy’ is another track. That’s all the guys’ favourite track, especially the weird skank bit before the chorus. We spent quite a lot of time rehearsing all these tunes earlier in the year, all got really excited and then were like ‘and now we’ll not play them all summer’. There’s one called ‘Four Walls’ as well that’s got quite a complicated beat that Woody’s spent all his free time trying to learn and trying to have six arms to play. That’s the thing with the album, when we were making it we were just trying out lots of things and also doing stuff that interested us, but also thinking about putting out something that we really love because we’ve got to play these songs maybe for a year or two.”

You’ve got a film screening tomorrow. Is that just a making of the album film?
“Well our friend Tom, he used to be housemates with Kyle and he’s a really good mate of ours. He’s come on lots of tours with us and filmed a lot of stuff. It was never our intention to make a documentary, but we were looking back at a lot of the stuff that he’d filmed over the course of finishing the album and just had a conversation [about it]. It’s not long, it’s about 45 minutes, but I think for us it’s amazing to watch. The last three or four years were so nuts and so much happened in such a short period of time that it’s actually, for us, really lovely just to see it to remember loads of the cool things we were able to do. It’s quite a nice document that commemorates the last few years. Hopefully for fans or for anyone as well it’s a bit of an insight – we wanted to be quite honest about making a second album in the context of a lot of touring and a bit of pressure. I think he’s achieved that. Basically every time I take myself too seriously, he can cut to one of the other guys fucking around, like ‘shut up Dan. Guys, be funny’.

“We wanted it to be really candid and really honest and just show… it was when we realised when we were touring so much that we were making this album both in this tiny space where we made the first one, but also in these backstage rooms and tour buses in all these different countries and we just thought it would be nice thing to remember and talk about. It’s just something we made for anyone whose remotely interested, but we thought it would be nice mainly for Tom. He directed our fake it video, he’s a really talented cinematographer and director. The screening was mainly cos we wanted to say thank you to him and celebrate it and give him a chance to show it on a big screen. It’s at the Prince Charles, which I’m a member of. For me, it’s so exciting. I’ve seen so many films there and it’s so exciting for it to be screened there. I’m going to be fancying over being in that room. So it’s cool and I think a nice thing to happen this week.”