Bloc Party are an English indie rock band, composed of Kele Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Russell Lissack (lead guitar), Gordon Moakes (bass guitar, synths, backing vocals, glockenspiel), and Matt Tong (drums, backing vocals). Their brand of music is said to have been drawn from such bands as The Cure, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, and in their more recent work, Radiohead.
The band was formed at the 1999 Reading Festival by Okereke and Lissack. They went through a variety of names before settling on Bloc Party in 2003. Moakes joined the band after answering an advert in NME magazine, while Tong was picked via an audition. Bloc Party got their break by giving BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq and Franz Ferdinand's lead singer, Alex Kapranos, a copy of their demo "She's Hearing Voices".
In February 2005, the band released their debut album Silent Alarm. It was critically acclaimed and was named 'Indie Album of the Year' at the 2006 PLUG Awards, which honour indie music. That year, the record was also certified platinum in the UK. The band built on this success in 2007 with the release of their second studio album, A Weekend in the City, which reached a peak of number two in the UK Albums Chart and number twelve in the Billboard 200. In August 2008, Bloc Party released their third studio record, Intimacy.
Formation and rising popularity (1999–2004)
Russell Lissack and Kele Okereke first met in 1998 in Essex. Lissack had attended Bancroft's School, while Okereke attended Ilford County High School, then Trinity Catholic High School, Woodford Green for sixth form. They bumped into each other again in 1999 at Reading Festival and decided to form a band. Bassist Gordon Moakes joined after answering an advert in NME, and drummer Matt Tong joined after an audition. After going through a variety of names, such as Union, Superheroes of BMX, The Angel Range, and Diet, the band settled on Bloc Party in September 2003, a play on block party. The band has said that the name was not intended to be an allusion to the Soviet Bloc or the Canadian political party Bloc Québécois. However, Moakes said on the group's official Internet forum that it was more a merging of the eastern "Blocs" and the western "parties", in the political sense. He also notes that the name was not explicitly driven by politics, but rather it "looked, sounded, seemed fine so we went with it."
In November 2003, Bloc Party had their track "The Marshals Are Dead" featured on a compilation CD called The New Cross released by Angular Recording Corporation. They then released their debut single "She's Hearing Voices" on the then fledgling record label Trash Aesthetics. The band got their break after Okereke went to a Franz Ferdinand concert in 2003, and gave a copy of "She's Hearing Voices" to both lead singer Alex Kapranos and BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq. Lamacq subsequently played the song on his radio show, labelling the track "genius", and invited them to record a live session for the show. The buzz generated off the back of the single led to another release, "Banquet/Staying Fat", this time through Moshi Moshi Records, and to the eventual signing with independent label Wichita Recordings in April 2004.
Silent Alarm (2004–2006)
Bloc Party's debut album, Silent Alarm, was released in February 2005 and was met with universal critical acclaim. It was voted 'Album of the Year' for 2005 by NME, and reached number 3 on the UK Albums Chart before being certified platinum. The first single from the album, "So Here We Are/Positive Tension", made the top 5 on the UK Top 40 chart. Further singles "Banquet" (which reached number 13 in NME's 'Top 50 Singles of 2005'), "Helicopter", and "Pioneers", whilst failing to repeat this success, still managed to reach the UK top 20. The animated video for "Pioneers", made by the Shoreditch-based Minivegas design agency, was top of the NME video charts for 4 weeks.
The band received good reviews from critics in the United States and they toured there heavily in the 18 months that followed the release of Silent Alarm. In early 2006, they finished their tour with sold out shows in Los Angeles, Miami and Berkeley. The album went on to sell more than 350,000 copies in North America and over a million worldwide. After this success, the established electronic group, The Chemical Brothers, soon collaborated with Okereke for "Believe", a track on their Push the Button album. An album of remixes of tracks from Silent Alarm had also been released at the end of August 2005 in the UK. This remix album, entitled Silent Alarm Remixed, retained the album's original track list and includes remixes from the likes of Ladytron, M83, Death from Above 1979, Four Tet, and Mogwai.
During July 2005, Bloc Party recorded two new tracks with Silent Alarm producer Paul Epworth. The songs were released as single with a B-side, titled "Two More Years", to coincide with the band's October 2005 UK tour. The tour was also accompanied by a re-issue of Silent Alarm, which included "Two More Years" and former single "Little Thoughts" as bonus tracks. A remix of "Banquet" by The Streets, as well as a music video for the song, were included in the "Two More Years" single. Bloc Party also contributed the track "The Present" to the Help!: A Day in the Life compilation, the profits of which benefited the War Child charity.
A Weekend in the City (2006–2008)
Bloc Party's second album, A Weekend in the City, was produced by Garret "Jacknife" Lee. It was released in February 2007, although it was leaked in November 2006. It became available for download on the UK iTunes store before the physical release, and reached the number 2 spot on UK Albums Chart. The album also reached number 2 on the Australian and Belgian charts, and debuted at number 12 in the Billboard 200, with 48,000 copies sold. The first single, "The Prayer", was released on 29 January, and became the band's highest charting single in the UK Top 40, reaching number 4. In the build up to the release of the album, BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe aired a live set by the band from Maida Vale studios on 30 January 2007, featuring a mix of old and new songs. On 1 February 2007, A Weekend in the City was made available to listen to for free through the Bloc Party's official MySpace page.
The next single, "I Still Remember", was Bloc Party's highest charting American single, peaking at number 24 on the Modern Rock Chart. The band released their third single, "Hunting for Witches", with an accompanying video clip in August 2007. The single became their only ARIA Chart entry, peaking at number 20. In October 2007, it was announced that Bloc Party would release a new single, "Flux", on 13 November—ahead of their end of year gigs. The electronic song, also produced by Jacknife Lee, was very different from previous singles released by the band.
The band's first gig following the release of A Weekend In The City was on 5 February 2007, in Reading, and was broadcast live on BBC 6 Music. On 20 May 2007, Bloc Party headlined on the In New Music We Trust stage at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend in Preston. They also performed at the UK leg of Live Earth on 7 July 2007 at Wembley Stadium. Furthermore, the band played sets at T in the Park and Oxegen 07 that same weekend, as well as Glastonbury and the Reading and Leeds Festivals later in 2007. Bloc Party announced a tour of Australia and New Zealand in August 2007, which would include a special appearance at the Splendour in the Grass Festival on 5 August. On 17 September 2007, they recorded a set for the PBS show Austin City Limits. a day after playing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. On 27 October, the band performed a set at London's Roundhouse with the Exmoor Singers, a London based choir, as part of the BBC Electric Proms. The set included songs from both Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City along with the first UK live performance of "Flux".
"Mercury", the first single from Bloc Party's third album Intimacy, was played as an exclusive on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show on 7 July 2008, before being uploaded to the radio station's website fifteen minutes later. The song had a similar electronic sound to the previous single, "Flux". The exclusive had followed a countdown timer which had replaced the band's entire website for three days prior to Lowe's radio show. Many fans were angered by the stunt. After the first play of "Mercury", Okereke stated that previous producers Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth would be working on the new album. It was also revealed that the single was to be released on 11 August 2008. A music video was unveiled along with the single. Bloc Party's third studio album takes an experimental, electronic direction, despite Okereke suggesting this would not be the case, having said that the sound will have the "rawness" of Silent Alarm, but the "experience" of A Weekend in the City.
The band announced the rush-release of Intimacy in a webchat with fans on 18 August 2008. From this date, the album became available for pre-order, in a variety of formats: a high-quality MP3 digital download to be delivered on 21 August 2008, and a physical CD release on 27 October 2008. "Trojan Horse", a track from the album, was made available to stream exclusively through NME.com. On 20 August 2008, the band added further album tracks, "Signs" and third single "One Month Off", as well as "Trojan Horse", to their MySpace profile. On August 23–24, the band played sets at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, second highest on the bill after headliners The Killers. A similar set followed a week later on 30 August 2008, when they played a headline set at the Hydro Connect Music Festival in Argyll, Scotland.
During the autumn of 2008, the band went on a short tour of North America, which included an appearance at the Virgin Mobile Festival in Toronto on 6 September 2008, as well as the band's first ever American college show at Syracuse University. They made their live return to the UK on 30 September 2008 with a special gig in London as part of Q Awards: The Gigs. They also played the Glasgow date of MTV 2's and Topman's "Gonzo on Tour" on 19 October 2008. On 8 September 2008, Bloc Party announced that their next single, "Talons" would be released on 20 October 2008. The song was not part of the pre-order album, but would feature on the full album physical CD release. It was made freely available to fans who had already purchased the download-only album, following the song's first play on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show.
Following the digital release of Intimacy, Bloc Party announced that they would embark on a UK tour, their first since December 2007. In January 2009, the band formally announced the tour, due to take place in October 2009, and dubbed "Bloctober". An album of remixes of all tracks on Intimacy, entitled Intimacy Remixed, was released on 11 May 2009. In June 2009 it was announced that a new single, "One More Chance", would be released on 10 August 2009. The song did not appear on Intimacy and was produced by Jacknife Lee. It was played for the first time on BBC Radio 1 on 18 June. In an interview with Zane Lowe immediately following the premier playing of the song, Okereke said that he was in the studio but that he couldn't "tell you anything". In July 2009, Okereke stated that the band did not have a current recording contract and had no obligation or pressure to release a new album in the foreseeable future; he went on to suggest that the release of a fourth album is on an indefinite timescale.
Bloc Party's brand of spiky guitar rock draws on influences such as The Cure, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Blur, and The Smiths. Okereke has also stated that Mogwai's album Mogwai Young Team changed his life by being his musical "year zero". Okereke also cites Suede as a major influence, he says Dog Man Star was the first record he fell in love with. Particular parallels were made between Bloc Party and Gang of Four upon their arrival on the music scene, yet the band were "mildly infuriated" at such references, claiming they had never "particularly liked" Gang of Four. To achieve their unique style, numerous delay and other effects pedals are implemented. During the recording of second album A Weekend in the City, the band suggested it would contain "some truly R'n'B styled beats, a song where [Tong] and [Moakes] play drums simultaneously [with] both eggshell-thin fragility and trouser-flapping hugeness", as opposed to their typical sound. The style has been compared to and inspired by such bands as Radiohead, U2, Depeche Mode, and Björk. Some of the most noticeable changes between debut Silent Alarm and A Weekend in the City are that the songs became more layered and less raw due to inclusion of string arrangements.
With the release of "Flux," Bloc Party's style became even more diverse with the inclusion of electronic music. "Mercury" saw Bloc Party distance themselves even further from the traditional guitar band set-up by experimenting with dark electronic sounds and a brass section. Third album Intimacy also features synths, processed drum beats and loops, vocal manipulation, and choral arrangements. Even though the album is influenced by electronic music, the band still has not lost their feel for guitar music. For example, in a recent interview, Okereke said that the band is starting to miss their more traditional sound, and confirmed that may be the way fourth album is headed. However, Tong contradicted this, stating: "There's every chance we might go back to more orthodox arrangements or things that resemble a traditional band but I don't think we'll ever write songs like we did on Silent Alarm again." What is definitely clear is that Bloc Party's fourth album will heavily feature the musical style influences of Okereke - Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Björk, Kraftwerk, David Bowie, and Dizzee Rascal - since Silent Alarm was drawn from Moakes's influences, A Weekend in the City was led by Lissack, and Intimacy featured more of Tong's favourite sub-genres.
Awards and nominations
Bloc Party have had several nominations from a number of different awarding bodies during their recording career. The band themselves were nominated for 'Best New Artist' at the 2005 NME Awards, and were also up for the 'Best Alternative Act' category at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards. In 2006, Bloc Party were nominated for another NME Award, this time in the 'Best British Band' category. They were also shortlisted for three PLUG Awards: 'New Artist of the Year' in 2005, and 'Artist of the Year' and 'Live Act of the Year' in 2006. At the 19th GLAAD Media Awards in 2008, they were nominated in the 'Music Artist' category for their work on second album A Weekend in the City.
Their debut album Silent Alarm was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize. It was also nominated as 'Album of the Year' at three different ceremonies: the New Pantheon Music Award (Shortlist Music Prize), the 2006 NME Awards, and the 2006 PLUG Awards, where "Helicopter" was also up for 'Best Music Video'. The record won the award for 'Best Indie Rock Album' at the 2006 PLUG Awards. At the 2008 NME Awards, "Flux" was nominated in three different categories: 'Best Track', 'Best Video' and 'Best Dancefloor Filler'.
Biography from Wikipedia