Bloc Party's Russell Lissack: "Whatever Type of Music Tends to Be Popular Is Irrelevant"
Can you even believe it? Bloc Party's breakout debut, Silent Alarm, was released almost a decade ago. The band's survived the EDM explosion and still have a dedicated army of fans eagerly awaiting its next release -- which is coming pretty soon, it seems.
But what might be even more unbelievable is that Bloc Party's never actually played Miami. Like, what?
Good thing that's all about to change when the group invades Wynwood's Soho Studios for an extra-special Absolut X Vodka event, bringing visual art and music together in one awesome booze-fueled bonanza. Not even guitarist Russell Lissack knows exactly what to expect, but he's stoked.
Crossfade: Tell us about the party you're doing in Wynwood with Absolut X Vodka.
Russell Lissack: They set us up with this lady [Agustina Woodgate] who's an artist, and we've been communicating by email. But really, we don't know how it's going to completely pan out until we get there. She's been telling us her ideas about how things are going to look basically, and it all sounds quite exciting. We've never really done anything like this before. We're providing the soundtrack and she's providing the visuals and yeah, I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's actually going to look.
It's great you can still get involved in really unique projects. You've been a band for a little more than a decade now and it's cool you can still push the envelope on what it is that you're doing in so many different ways.
It's exciting to do something different like this. When you tour so much, sometimes things can get a little bit repetitive, so to have the opportunity to do something quite different is really exciting. Someone was telling me recently Miami is becoming a bit of an art hub, and I think a lot of people are leaving from New York or other places because it's cheaper to live there now. It sounds like it's becoming a very creative area. It'll be nice to be a part of that.
I take it you haven't seen Wynwood.
We've only played in Miami once I think in our whole career, and that was quite a while ago, so it's nice to come back.
That's interesting. You were supposed to play an Ultra Festival before, but didn't?
In fact, we didn't even play in the end. Now I'm not sure that we've ever played Miami.
It's interesting you were booked to play UMF. You broke out in the mid-2000s, before dance music became so big, but even throughout your career, you seemed to have an easy time experimenting with a lot of dance elements. Where does that come from for you guys?
I guess for each of us individually it probably comes from a different place. The four of us have very different tastes in music. We always have, and we still do to this day. But certainly at that point I think Kele and I were a lot more into dance music and electronic music than the other guys. We had a portion of our youth spent playing guitars and going to gigs, while another good portion of it was spent going to clubs and raves. We always had different opportunities to experience that kind of music, and I think it was really important to both of us to incorporate that into what we've done because it's something we both really like.
You were signed to Dim Mak before Steve Aoki blew up.
Yeah, I mean, it's strange now y'know? Steve Aoki is one of the biggest DJs in the world I suppose. We just saw him. We were touring Australia playing a festival, and he was playing as well, so it was kinda nice to catch up. I think it was ten years ago we were all sleeping on his floor at his house in L.A. going out to shows, and it's all quite surreal. It's kind of strange, because back then Dim Mak was more of a indie label, a lot more guitar oriented. It's interesting to see the kind of transformation that's taking place.
There's a clip from a show where you were playing what seemed to be a new song, "Children of the Future." It sounds very rock'n'roll. Are you working on a new album? When will it release and what's the direction you're taking?
We literally were just in the studio this week actually. We still need to do the vocals, but we've been working on six new songs. Depending on how the finished things pan out, we're either going to put out a single or an EP. I think in June or July. That's one of the songs that could potentially be on it, but I think all six songs are very different. I think all the records we've made have been quite eclectic, and this EP is no different. I'm not sure ultimately what songs will be released, but there's quite a variety of songs and sounds coming up.
Is there anything in particular you're feeling inspired by right now?
It's kind of weird. I was listening to a lot more electronic music the last few months, stuff like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Deadmau5. Then the last few weeks, I've really made an effort to listen to some guitar music again. I was finding it really difficult to get inspired by guitar music recently. I listened to the album by Everything Everything and Foals, and they were both really good.
It's difficult to find really good guitar music in the modern space. You're a guitar player. How do you we go about bringing that sound back to the forefront?
I don't know if it needs to be. People listen to what they want to listen to, and I think naturally things tend to go in ebbs and flows. When there's a lot of electronic music around, eventually it gets to the point where it's oversaturated and people get sick of hearing thumping, wobbly basslines. Then the sound of four people playing with guitars and live instruments becomes refreshing. I think at some point, it just naturally tends to switch over rather than any kind of calculated plan to try and make it happen. But for me, I've always loved listening to so many different types of music, it doesn't matter to us much. I'll enjoy listening to electronic music and try to incorporate those ideas into what I do and what we do. Whatever type of music tends to be popular is kind of irrelevant.
The Bloc Party sound seems driven by the work you and Kele lay down. What is the process like in the studio?
It's another thing that tends to vary a lot. We've never really had a set process. It's something that's always kind of changing, evolving. The story of every record and every song we've written tends to be different. Sometimes it can just be Kele and I sitting at a computer, messing around and working out ideas. Sometimes it's all four of us in a room together, and Matt will come up with a drum beat and it will come from there . It really kind of varies. I think the only thing since we got back together and made this last record, and now these new songs, is we're really trying to focus on everything being all four of us involved as much as possible. I think we've realized that's one of the most important things about this band. It's what makes it special, the contribution that each person makes. Certainly on the last record and these new songs, it's been a very collaborative process.
It seems on the whole you have a very free-form kind of see-how-everything-goes, let-it-evolve-on-its-own kind of mentally about the music and the shows. Do you think that's a big attribution for why Bloc Party has been successful for going on almost a decade now, that openness?
Yeah, I think so. We've been quite fortunate in our careers. We've had the opportunity to do things the way that we want to do them. There's never really been any pressure on us from record labels, and if there is pressure, we kind of just tend to ignore it and do what we want to do anyway. It's a very fortunate position to be in. And we're really lucky that we have a strong fan base that enjoys what we do, and continues on the journey with us and looks forward to what we're going to do next. It's a very nice place to be.
What are the great lessons you can take away from your decade in the business.
Just going back to what I was saying about how we're collaborating more. We took a break for a few years, and before that the music we made and the way we were working on tour, there wasn't much communication going on between the four of us. It wasn't a very pleasant environment, and we took a break and realized that was something that we needed to deal with to go forward. Now we're in a much better place, I think. That was a really important lesson for all of us to learn, to be able to communicate with one another and use one another's strengths to create things rather than kind of try and do things on your own and keep things to yourself. It's probably a very English thing but it took us a while to learn.
Absolut X Miami. With Block Party and interactive art installations by Agustina Woodgate. Thursday, May 16. Soho Studios, 2136 NW First Ave., Miami. Doors open at 9 p.m. and it's free with RSVP. Ages 21 and up. Visit absolutx.com.
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