Give Me The Future

Bastille

Give Me The Future

Dan Smith says that Bastille saw their first three albums as a trilogy. That trio of alliteratively titled records—2013’s Bad Blood, 2016’s Wild World, and 2019’s Doom Days—made the London-based indie-pop quartet huge, but they had no urge to try to replicate past glories when it came to making their fourth effort. “Going into this, nearly 10 years into being in the band, we just wanted to fuck with the process and try new things,” leader and chief songwriter Smith tells Apple Music. “We’ve come a bit of a way from me making songs by myself on my laptop in my bedroom.” True to that approach, Give Me the Future is Bastille’s most ambitious and imaginative album to date. It fuses tricks picked up from their symphonic ReOrchestrated project and Smith’s film score work with Bastille’s knack for widescreen pop. Previously, the group’s albums have been a closed shop impenetrable to the outside world, but here they are very much open for business, with guest spots from actor/rapper Riz Ahmed and London-based singer-songwriter BIM, plus writing pair-ups with Ryan Tedder and Rami Yacoub. “I really wanted to take a bit of that into the album process, and it was quite natural for it to be really collaborative,” Smith says. It’s a record that feels like a manifesto for their bold new phase, where electronic experimentation and organic instrumentation don’t just coexist but seep into the fabric of these synth-pop anthems, where the dystopian themes and technological forbearing also feel like Smith’s most personal work. Here, he takes us on the journey through the record, track by track. “Distorted Light Beam” “We worked on this over Zoom with Ryan Tedder, and we then took it away and took it into the world of digital dreaming. I had a lot of fun writing the lyrics. It’s the plugging-in moment at the beginning; it sets the scene of this dreaming space where literally anything is possible. It was really fun to fuck around with vocal effects and loads of different synthesizers, and I was really keen to have real strings in there as well to give it a cinematic feel and a Bastille feel.” “Thelma + Louise” “‘Thelma + Louise’ went through a bit of a journey. I wrote the beginnings of it on a Zoom call in the middle of lockdown with Rami Yacoub, who’s an amazing pop writer and a really good friend. I got really obsessed with the idea of it being about Thelma and Louise, this image of these two empowered, strong female characters in this brilliant, feminist film who’ve rejected the lives that they’re not satisfied with and gone off together to escape. Particularly in lockdown, that felt like such a potent, brilliant, and nuanced image of escapism and one that I really wanted to tap into. We wanted to reflect the time of the film and nod to the late ’80s, early ’90s. There’s definitely flavors of Prince in there.” “No Bad Days” “I wrote this with some friends after somebody in my family had passed away. I wasn’t intending to write a song about that, but we were in the studio, and this just fell out as I was sitting at the vocoder and singing through the vocoder. We wanted to keep it really simple. It’s certainly the saddest song on the album. I guess in an album of songs about potential futures, this is one that addresses what it would be like to not have a potential future.” “Brave New World (Interlude)” “‘Brave New World’ was arranged with Jonny Abraham, who is in a band called Public Service Broadcasting. We’ve worked with him a lot and toured with him a lot. He helped arrange our ReOrchestrated shows, so we wanted to bring a bit of that into the album and wanted to make something that nodded to old Hollywood and old cinema. We wanted this to be a swirling dream that leads you out of ‘No Bad Days’ and into ‘Back to the Future.’ The interludes serve to help tell the story as we bounce back and forward in time and in and out of digital dreaming.” “Back to the Future” “I fucking love this song, and it’s another one that I wrote in that evening with Rami. It nods to quite a lot of sci-fi. I guess it’s a song about this madness of reality at the moment and how tempting it is to want to escape somewhere and fantasize that you can jump back in time and fix things and go back to the future. Obviously, it also nods to the film quite heavily. There’s a lot of sci-fi on the album, and there’s a lot of darkness in the lyrics, but what sci-fi films can do really well is have conversations around quite interesting topics, but also just be really entertaining and escapist. We wanted to strike that balance.” “Plug In…” “‘Plug In…’ was one of the last songs. I wrote it by myself. A bit like with the track ‘Doom Days’ off our last album, it was an opportunity to address and talk about loads of the themes and topics in and around this album that I’ve been researching and thinking about. I wanted to make something really cinematic and contrast these beautiful, live, real strings with a heavily processed lead vocal. It’s just a brain splurge of all of the things that feel fucked up and ridiculous about reality at the moment.” “Promises” (feat. Riz Ahmed) “We approached Riz Ahmed for this, and I think he really liked that we were making a pop album that was trying to have interesting and slightly difficult conversations in places. When we chatted, I was referencing the track on Frank Ocean’s Blonde where André 3000 just delivers the entire song [‘Solo (Reprise)’]. I very much wanted to do that with Riz, who’s incredibly thoughtful and has a different perspective to me—to have his brain on these topics and see what he had to say about them because he’s an amazing spokesman and an activist and an amazing rapper.” “Shut Off the Lights” “I love this song. It feels like us slightly channeling Paul Simon’s Graceland era, and it just makes me want to dance. It’s got loads of our really good friends playing brass all over it, Rittipo playing fucking amazing saxophone, all of our live-touring crew doing the backing vocals, which was a really nice moment in the midst of quite a tough couple of years for them not being able to do what they do. I think it feels really uplifting. It’s almost impossible not to dance to it.” “Stay Awake?” “I guess this song is asking, ‘If you can have these amazing relationships online or all these amazing lives in a digital space, and you’re not happy with how things are outside of that, is it not incredibly tempting to just want to stay in those spaces for as long as possible, and what does that do to us?’ There’s a line about the freaks and geeks ruling the world—it’s fascinating to see the owners of these tech companies being almost more powerful than entire countries. It’s a strange time.” “Give Me the Future” “I wrote this with one of my best mates, Ralph Pelleymounter, who’s in a band called To Kill a King. He was my roommate at university. We sat down and wrote it one afternoon and wanted to make something that nodded to Phil Collins and epic, strings-based, midtempo with big drums. It’s about the allure of living in a virtual reality and the endless possibilities, but also the totally addictive nature of it.” “Club 57” “This is a love letter to Keith Haring and the ’80s New York art-party scene. If you could plug in and go anywhere and be anything, what an amazing place to potentially go and be. I think he’s such a wonderful character, such an inclusive artist who just wanted to take art to everybody, and was just so feverishly, obsessively creating all the time. This song is imagining that we are him arriving in New York with all this hope and optimism and finding this amazing art scene. It’s another hopeful, optimistic, organic party moment within this quite digital album.” “Total Disassociation (Interlude)” “I guess this is the moment where the character in the album completely loses themselves and gives over entirely to being dissociated and living in a digital world. I wanted to make something that was quite hard beats. I did it on my laptop in the kitchen at home. That gives over to this beautiful, epic string piece. It’s like falling backwards into the infinite bliss of giving over entirely to the digital world.” “Future Holds” (feat. BIM) “I thought it would be funny to spend an entire album pondering over the future and worrying about it and then finish with a song that’s like, ‘Stop fucking worrying about the future. Snap out of it.’ It’s slightly aimed at myself, just telling me to try and get my head out of worrying about things that I can’t control and try and make the best of what I’ve got. It’s a nod towards my love for Kanye West; I wanted to make a piece of future-gospel. It’s trying to find a hope in the humanity and whatever connection you might have in real life if you’re lucky to have a partner or the people close around you that can get you through from day to day. I wanted to end on a hopeful note, but not a wet one, if that makes sense.”

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