Bastille invites listeners to escape in “Give Me The Future”
In 2020, Bastille finds itself in a unique position. Coming out of their latest album and into the pandemic, the English pop rock band had not just one album of songs, but two or three.
So they enlisted the help of producer and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder to refine the tracks. The songs Tedder chose had a futuristic bent, and a concept album began to take shape. With techno beats, retro ’80s futuristic tones and radical production, Bastille’s 13-track “Give Me the Future” delves into the world of sci-fi, exploring how technology can be a tool of evasion.
Plug into a different world – be who you want to be, go where you want to go, leave reality behind.
This is the world that Bastille creates on their fourth LP.
“Deciding it was science fiction…it was really liberating,” frontman Dan Smith said. “It’s probably the only time we’re going to use these kinds of sounds, so let’s go all out, let’s have a lot of fun with it, push it further than maybe even we’re comfortable with and hopefully , let’s do something that’s all the more interesting for that.”
The band had some of these ideas floating around pre-pandemic and the COVID-19 lockdowns only propelled the relevance of the themes. The writing sessions took place over Zoom and the recording was virtual, with keyboardist and background vocalist Kyle Simmons creating a makeshift vocal booth with duvet covers, Chris “Woody” Wood recording drum parts from his shed. and guitarist Will Farquarson learning to improve his home recording chops.
Even when there was studio time, no one was ever in the same room.
“I think looking back on our careers, that will seem like the most appropriate setting for an album like this,” Smith said.
As the days of confinement increased, so did the appeal of escape.
“I feel like c’est la vie / I choose fiction,” Smith sings on the opening track, “Distorted Light Beam.” In “Thelma + Louise”, he sings “Days like these, you wanna get away / Close your eyes, pretend we’re miles away”.
“We were really drawn to this sort of sci-fi and tech stuff about escapism, I think just because of the world we all lived in last year,” Smith said.
“Give Me the Future” isn’t Bastille’s first attempt at a concept album. Their last, “Doom Days”, was too. In fact, Smith says he likes the settings a concept album gives him when he’s writing.
“There’s always a sense of autobiography in our work, but I always find it much more fun and interesting to write about the things I’m obsessed with at the time,” Smith said. “It becomes a mix of our lives and like a research project.”
In creating “Give Me the Future,” Smith didn’t just draw on classic sci-fi influences like “1984,” “The Matrix,” “Total Recall,” Aldous Huxley’s “Island,” Minority Report” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”, but also Afrofuturism, escapist films like “Thelma and Louise” and the art of Keith Haring. Musically, he was inspired by artists like Daft Punk, Genesis, Paul Simon and Quincy Jones. The album even includes spoken poetry from British actor Riz Ahmed.
Beyond the tracks themselves, Smith wanted the visual world of “Give Me the Future” to create a powerful impact. He says Bastille sees videos, illustrations and songs as an opportunity to build a world around music.
There’s the animated video game dreamscape of the “Thelma + Louise” video, and in “Distorted Light Beam” there’s a VR escape from reality. Smith made his directorial debut with “No Bad Days,” a video that sees his character desperate to bring a lover back to life through an android.
“I found myself wanting to show it to people in an embarrassing way…which also happens awkwardly to a lot of me,” Smith said. “So that’s like forcing someone to sit down and watch you for 3 minutes do something wrong.”
Although the sci-fi genre often focuses on the dark side of technology, Smith says he wanted to balance the good and the bad on the album.
“Anytime you talk about things bigger than my life or your own life, it’s important not to be too judgmental and preach about it, because nobody really wants to be preached to in music,” he said. he declares.
He recognizes the benefits of technology, from escapism to community to giving people a voice. And he admits he’d be the “biggest hypocrite in the world” if his songs were judgmental about phone addiction, for example: “I can agree that I should probably spend a lot less time on my phone.”
Ultimately, he wanted to create a pop-appropriate dance album, evoking the feeling of a party scene in 1980s and 90s America. “I hope under all of this,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of (expletive) banging tunes.”