The past few months have been a flurry of activity for Bastille. The good-natured British indie band have seen their debut album, Bad Blood, released to great acclaim, and a million and one acoustic covers of their song ‘Flaws’ hit YouTube.
The strangest experience by far, though, has been a gig at the British Museum, where they played an acoustic version of their song ‘Pompeii’. “They had an exhibition that apparently they’d been getting together for years, about Pompeii and Herculaneum,” singer Dan Smith explains. “Our single ‘Pompeii’ had come out just as the exhibition was about to open, and out of the blue, I got a call from the museum asking if we’d come along and play. They felt like it was a wonderful coincidence, really serendipitous, and that we should mark the occasion somehow.”
The chaps from Bastille were invited to come and see the exhibition before it opened to the public – an amazing experience, Smith says. “We felt very privileged to do that, and the exhibition was really fascinating, even if we were a bit nervous,” he tells me with a laugh. “The people who put the exhibition together really liked the song, and they were really keen to have us perform it there. They showed us to the reading room, which is a huge, cavernous space, and told us that we would be the first band ever to perform there. They really wanted it to happen, they were really excited, but I was a little bit reluctant, mainly because the idea of performing in the British Museum was a bit scary and a bit overwhelming…”
A museum is a place of hush and quiet and reverence, after all. “Our drummer Woody said that it felt wildly inappropriate for us to be there,” Smith explains, “but one of the women who was there setting up the exhibition heard him say that and she really liked it. She said that there’s a perception that history museums should be quiet and hushed, but actually, the people of Pompeii were wild and inappropriate people, so it was totally right for us to be there.” Finally convinced, the band agreed to give it a shot. “We started the song, and the second I opened my mouth to sing, there was huge reverb all around the room,” Smith says. “It sounded massive and epic. I had been mildly dreading it, but it sounded so good that we all got comfortable really quickly.”
Bastille’s music is lush and multi-layered, but the stripped-back arrangement of ‘Pompeii’ they performed that day turned out to be a big hit. I ask Smith if they’d consider doing this with more of their songs, but he says he’s unsure. “The songwriting and the production come at the same time for us, so we love to perform them as written, but it’s quite nice to mess with them from time to time.”
Bastille will soon make their way to Australia, but as for what the future holds after that, Smith isn’t certain. “We have a lot of festivals in the UK and Europe over the summer,” he says, “when we’re releasing the album in America and coming to you and Japan. We’re very fortunate to be able to spend the rest of the year touring the world, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be coming down to Australia. Beyond that, hopefully we’ll be able to do a second album. We’ll take it from there and see what happens.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN