Bastille has sold more than 8 million albums and amassed more than 6.5 billion cumulative streams globally since the band erupted with its first hit single, “Pompeii,” in 2013. But even hot Britpop bands get the blues.
After “Pompeii” went multiplatinum, lead vocalist Dan Smith found himself struggling to inhabit his new identity as a rock star.
“You write songs in your bedroom, then you’re suddenly in a band that people know,” Smith told New Times in advance of Bastille’s Sunday, October 27, show at downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park Amphitheater. Having viewed himself primarily as a songwriter and record producer, he confided, he felt like an imposter. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Bastille’s success wouldn’t last.
Traces of that nag of impermanence can be heard in 2019’s Doom Days, released in June. Produced by Mark Crew (Rag n Bone Man, The Wombats), Smith and bandmates Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson, and Chris ‘Woody’ Wood home in on redemption through human connection, in an era when people are increasingly divided and isolated by technology and politics alike.
In part, Smith says, Doom Days is a reaction to the panic and unease that infused the group’s sophomore album, Wild World, which came out in the fall of 2016. Smith recalls performing at Germany’s Rock am Ring festival in the following summer, a day after the venue had to be evacuated owing to a bomb threat.
“Everything behind us on the screen was paranoid news media and Trumpian politics,” Smith recounts. “Although we were really proud of the show we’d put together, we couldn’t help wondering whether it was our responsibility to hold up a mirror to those things or if our live shows should be a chance to escape them. It’s complicated.”
That tension forms at the core of Doom Days, a song cycle that tracks the course of a single night, from the electric anticipation of “Quarter Past Midnight” to the dawn chorus of “Joy.” It’s not a concept album per se, but its thematic arc – each track is time-stamped on the album artwork – enabled Smith to explore notions of experience and escape on both a micro and macro scale. “The compressed timeframe is an interesting setting to explore wider themes,” he offers. “We love to offset a big statement with more immediate, urgent thoughts and events.”
Bastille. With Joywave. 7 p.m. Sunday, October 27, at Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550. Tickets cost $30.25 to $69.50 via livenation.com.
by Colin Daniels – miaminewtimes.com