LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bloc Party may have won over fans worldwide with their trademark London sound, but the band is determined not to be branded as just another British rock band on the U.S. music scene.
Lead singer Kele Okereke, whose thick London accent is what makes Bloc Party’s sound so rooted in Britain, told Reuters, “There are times when I don’t really feel British at all.”
“A lot of British pop music makes the mistake of being quite nationalistic or quite parochial in its appeal...but I don’t know if that translates well outside of the UK,” Okereke said in an interview marking the release this week of the band’s fourth studio album “Four.”
“Lots of British bands are quite bullish about being seen as British and being superimposed against a Union Jack in their photographs and we’ve never really been that way,” the singer said. “There are lots of things about Britain that I‘m not really very proud of and I think a lot of us in the band feel the same way.”
Bloc Party - lead singer Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong - propelled onto the music scene with their debut album “Silent Alarm” in 2005, building a following with their fusion of electronic sounds and heavy bass lines with rock music.
“There’s always been an epic nature to the music that we’ve made, there’s always been a sense of drama...we definitely had bigger ideas than many other bands in our position. We wanted to make something that was textured and dense and immersive,” Okereke said.
For “Four,” the band was keen to make something “that sounded rawer,” moving away from heavy studio production and leaving incidental noises in tracks, such as amps buzzing on “Kettling” or the band talking on “So He Begins To Lie.”
The band presented their new album at a recent KCRW radio showcase in the California beach city of Santa Monica, where they performed lead single “Octopus” and bass-heavy “Team A”.
“You need to feel as if you’re stepping out into the unknown a little bit when you’re making music, or else it becomes too easy and when it’s too easy, there’s not really any fight anymore,” Okereke said.
Bloc Party scored a hit with critics and fans with its first album “Silent Alarm,” led by singles “Banquet” and “Helicopter.” The disc peaked at No. 3 on the British album chart, and broke into the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
Its next two albums made the top ten in the Britain and top 20 of the Billboard 200.
“We’ve been lucky that we’ve been relatively successful so we’ve never had any financial preoccupations. It’s only ever been about trying to do the best that we can do,” the singer said.
Despite the band’s commercial success, it took a hiatus in 2009 to focus on solo projects, saying they needed time apart after touring extensively since 2003.
“The proximity issue between us all had maybe come to a point where it wasn’t really tolerable anymore,” Okereke said.
In the break, Okereke embraced his passion for dance music, which become a core element in Bloc Party’s biggest hits, such as “Flux” and “Banquet,” releasing an electronica and house music studio album and EP.
The hiatus also made Okereke realize that he wanted to be back with the band, and Bloc Party reunited in late 2010.
As they prepare to hit the road to support their new album, touring through Europe and North America for the rest of the year, Okereke was apprehensive at being back in close quarters with his band mates.
“Making the record was quite easy. The challenging part is the part that’s going to come next, the touring. That was where we had issues in the past,” the singer said.
“The best way to do it is to not think about it, just do it, and before you know it, it’ll be done and you can do whatever you want with your life.”
Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Marguerita Choy