For someone whose life soundtracks include “So Here We Are,” “Signs,” “This Modern Love,” “Mercury” and “Ion Square,” news of Britain’s post-punk band Bloc Party’s slated concert here on March 22 at the World Trade Center in Pasay is like the universe’s way of giving you a fist-bump.
And to further whet your appetite, Super talks to Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong.
When Tong mentions creating a soundtrack for a film as one of the band’s dreams, you kind of wonder why it’s never happened before. Somewhere in between Bloc Party’s trippy beats and evocative lyrics is a movie montage waiting to happen.
What’s it like to be in a band who “grew up” in social media versus other bands who didn’t have it during their formative years?
It’s been an interesting journey. When we began, the Internet wasn’t the all-encompassing force that it is now. Ten years ago, there was no Twitter or Facebook. We had a website, thanks to bassist Gordon who was a graphic designer before the band. Our presence on the Internet wasn’t something that took up much of our time at all back then. We’ve progressed, and had to incorporate different aspects of social media as time goes on. I feel like we kind of had a sense of what it was like before the Internet, I don’t know, sometimes it’s distracting. If I think back to my time as a teenage music fan, I kind of prefer the mystery that surrounded a band. I feel like people have a tendency to overshare now, it feels like everything—every piece of information—is accessible. For me, that removes some of the excitement from the whole thing. On the other side, I can see why it’s important to interact with fans and I think it’s something young people expect now. It’s a generation of difference, I guess.
You mentioned how being on the Internet demystifies a group. Is being active on Twitter a chore to you, or is it something you enjoy personally?
I had a conversation with a friend last year and I was complaining about how stupid Twitter seemed, and how I’d never get a Twitter account. Suddenly, something snapped and I said, “I’m going to use Twitter to be really cynical and mean about things.” In reality I’m not like that at all on Twitter, I’m super positive (laughs). Personally, I’m not really pressured to use something like Twitter. I use it if I’m bored or I’ve got a few spare minutes and something pops into my head that’s kind of funny to put something out there. It’s not something I invest myself in too much. It’s not so bad being on Twitter, I regret being so cynical in the past about it.
Do you have a personal favorite from (the band’s new album) “Four”? Is there a particular track that speaks to you?
I think “Black Crown” which isn’t actually on the record, it’s a bonus track. It definitely has a theme I can relate to. I can’t specifically break it down for you because they’re not my lyrics, they’re Kele’s, but he’s talking about race. Although I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person in the UK, I know what it’s like to be mixed-race Chinese person. I can kind of see it from a similar perspective as Kele’s. But on record, I guess my favorite song is “Coliseum” just because it’s really quite fun to play. I love playing that song live, it’s kind of a unique challenge because it changes so much halfway through.
How has your hiatus affected your dynamics as a band?
It’s a cliche, but I think we’ve all grown up a bit. So much has happened to us in such a short space of time that I don’t think any of us really had time to reflect on the band and what it really meant to us, either together or separately. I think that time off really made us appreciate everything we’d achieved up to a point and it made us closer. We kind of needed each other more than we were willing to give ourselves credit for. And because of that, I think we’ve definitely tried to be more generous to each other since we started performing again and I think we’re more communicative now as a band, and that was something we always had a problem with before we took a break.
What has been your most memorable tour so far?
Each tour is memorable for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because everything goes wrong for like a month, and sometimes you don’t actually remember them because you were just having a great time going to parties. We had a really good tour in the summer of 2006 in the States. We were playing some big shows back then and it was kind of exciting to see that our hard work was beginning to pay off. I remember we played a big show at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley and there were like 7,000 people there. We were all kind of shocked afterwards. I mean, we only had one record out at that particular point. They’re all memorable for certain reasons. Something funny will always happen on a certain tour.
Is it going to be your first time in Asia?
As a band we’ve played in Japan before. In terms of playing in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and so forth, we’re very excited.
Who runs your Instagram?
Russell Lissack (Bloc Party lead guitarist), I think, is mainly in
charge of Instagram.
Who did that “Lego Party” photo where you were all made into Legos?
I think someone made it for us in Japan. A fan made a Bloc Party Lego set and gave it to us.
What has been your funniest fan experience?
We did a show in Manchester once, and we were backstage, and these guys just walked in wearing builder’s helmets. They were pretending to be Polish construction workers ’cause there are a lot of Polish people working in construction in the UK right now. They just found these builder’s hats somewhere in the venue and put it on and managed to get backstage by pretending to be builders. Normally, after the show, we love to have a good private time and relax, but these guys were so funny and audacious that we were like, “OK, we’ll hang out with you guys for a while,” so that was funny.
Some of the lyrics of your songs deal with heavy themes. How do you manage to bridge the juxtaposition between your upbeat sound and the lyrics?
Most juxtapositions are what makes life interesting. I like the fact that we have these songs that sound bright and cheerful but the lyrics have a sort of dark undertone. It’s good to keep the listener on their toes, to keep them guessing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having something that seems like a jarring, unsettling combination. I think it’s important to challenge people’s expectations.
How different was your musical approach to “Four” compared to your previous albums?
We were a bit more working collectively as a band. We wrote most of that music together in the rehearsal room. At various points we would stop and discuss things that seemed important. If there was anything ever contentious about a song, if something didn’t sound right, we’d all stop and tell each other our opinions. We’ve learned to become a lot better at addressing each other’s roles in the band and adjusting our own roles as well … We’ve become better at playing with each other. That was definitely something we worked hard on.
What’s next in store for the band?
We’re working on some new music. I think we’re going to try and release an EP before the summer begins. We’re touring until the end of August, I don’t know. I imagine we’d have to take some time off, we’ve been on the road for a long time now and it would be good to have another break before we start writing some new music. We haven’t made any big plans yet. We’re still writing songs, so I think that’s a good plan.
Do you have any dream collaborations with artists you’d like to pursue, as a band and for yourself?
As a band, there’s nobody really who we necessarily all agree on in terms of a dream collaboration. I think … we would like to work with maybe a film director or something and make a soundtrack for a film. That would would be very interesting.
You mentioned a documentary in an interview. Is that something that’s close to happening?
We have a lot of footage from recording the album that can be edited together at some point. It would be nice to put something together and put it on the Internet. I’m sure there would be a handful of people out there who’d be intrigued to gain some insight on the way we work.
Bloc Party performs live in Manila on March 22, 2013, at World Trade Center. For tickets, visit Ticketnet at www.ticketnet.com.ph.