In light of Bastille’s Asia Tour, Jules O’Brien had a chat with the band’s keyboardist/bassist/all-round talent Kyle Simmons about the US/UK music scene, their recent Grammy nomination, Hong Kong and their most recent release, VS. (Other People’s Heartache, Pt. III). Catch them as they stop off in Hong Kong at the KITEC Star Hall tonight as the “Bad Blood Asia Tour” kicks off. (Click here for more event details.)
So, you’ve just been in America for the AMAs; how was it?
It was incredible, so much fun! We’ve had a really good time there, and people have been responding really well to the whole thing, which is always a good sign. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. We really just loved going over there and playing music.
You’ve carved a great name for yourselves in both America and the UK – have you noticed any huge differences between the two music scenes?
I can’t be sure really – I guess that America as a country is so huge, and being a part of it is so alien to us since we grew up in London, and thus we’re horrible cynics. There isn’t that layer of cynicism in the US, you know? Everyone is kind of happy with what they’re doing and it’s really refreshing being part of that kind of mantra. It’s really interesting, and it’s quite nice to squash all that cynicism that we’ve grown up with.
Congratulations on the Grammy nomination – how do you feel about that?!
It’s insane; that was totally unexpected and we feel honoured to be nominated. It’s amazing.
So what does the process involve from this point on, do you just have to sit back and wait?
Um, pretty much yeah! I mean, I guess there’s nothing else we can really do other than just kind of wait and hope for the best, you know? Like I said it’s just really exciting to be nominated in the first place.
I know 2013 was kind of the year in which your first flurry of awards started coming through and you shot way up into the spotlight, but what’s been your highlight of 2014 so far?
Well, I mean, it’s weird, the whole year has just been something that I never thought would happen. We’ve been all round the world, got a Brit Award, you know, all that kind of stuff. Towards the end of the year, recently, we got nominated for an AMA. The whole thing has just been an amazing blur that we never thought we’d be involved in. It’s really weird.
Which was your favourite festival to play at over the summer?
I think we did about 40 festivals; we were everywhere. I honestly can’t pick! Each one was so different and so much fun; I’m really struggling to pick my favourite! They were all really cool and individual and just so much fun.
Last time you were here was at Clockenflap 2012. What did you think of the idea of a festival in Hong Kong?
It was wicked. We really loved it – when we were there Alt-J were playing on the same stage as us, which was awesome. And the setting – the view of the harbor and the buildings – was just incredible. It’s a great place for a festival.
What’s bringing you back?
We’ve just booked ourselves in at all the places we wanted to go back to. We had such a great time last time; we’ve always wanted to return. So we booked this tour and we’re really excited about it.
Are you going to have time to look around the cities as well?
I’m not too sure. I mean, hopefully; it’s difficult when you’re on tour. It’s hard to be able to put time into checking out the places. As a band though, we always do try to spend a few hours walking around the town and getting a feel for it.
Has there been a country so far where you’ve been slightly taken by surprise by the fan base?
Pretty much everywhere, really! We weren’t really ready for the influx in 2013/2014. Everyone, everywhere, has been incredibly nice and friendly. We’ve done tours and there are always people waiting outside the venue or waiting at the airport, which is just mind-blowing. We’re just so grateful that they care enough, I guess.
Can you explain the main concepts you tried to explore with your new mixtape, VS. (Other People’s Heartache, Pt. III)?
The idea behind this mixtape was collaboration, because Bastille – in terms of our music – isn’t that collaborative. So a mixtape was sort of a way that we could explore sounds and just go a bit crazy I guess. In our previous ones we sampled film soundtracks and music, and legal action was taken against us and so we didn’t want that to happen again. So the idea behind this one was to avoid doing covers and make it our own, available for anyone. And in going for collaboration we were able to work with some incredible people and play some wicked music.
What kind of things did you learn from working with such a variety of people from different genres?
I’m not sure really, we just kind of played around to see what would work. We as Bastille are used to doing our own thing and it was ultimately just incredible that people we love so much, like Haim and Angel Haze, came down to collaborate with us.
Your song ‘The Driver’ was written for a scene in Zane Lowe’s reimagining of the Drive soundtrack. How did you approach writing a song and lyrics for something so specific?
It was such a different task, you know, writing music for a film. So Dan just watched the scene and got a vibe for what was going on. We were lucky in that we got such an incredible scene; it was a big revenge scene, so our song was kind of a play off of that. We just took it on and I’m actually really happy with the outcome.
Rightly so! Can we expect similarities between your mixtape and the next album? The mixtape seemed to have more balance between rock music and electro than your first album.
Yeah, we’re definitely going to push it a bit more. In the first one the songs didn’t really fit, we just recorded our stuff and made them big and put it out there. So in this next one we’re going to really go for it. We’ve got some songs that are really quite RnB, then we have some that are quite a lot more rocky and obviously with the introduction of guitars and stuff – which we didn’t have on the first album – we get quite ‘band’-y at points. We don’t feel that tied down; we feel that we can pretty much do whatever we want, within reason, and stretch the boundaries that we set ourselves in the first album.
When you play live, as a keyboardist, what are the main challenges you face?
Hitting the right notes! [laughs] No seriously though, I’m not a virtuosic musician by any means, so hitting the right notes at the right time can be a struggle when you’re moving about in a live performance.
Have you ever been star struck?
It’s weird, being at a festival or working with people, it’s amazing when we end up meeting the people in bands that we actually listen to, like Alt-J and Haim, Banks and FKA Twigs. Basically all these people who are just incredible – and we meet them and realise they’re just the nicest people in the world, and that’s our equivalent of being star struck. We always try to go to gigs and see people, and since we travel around the world we always manage to hook up with a band we like and go to see them. It’s brilliant.