A Not So Silent Alarm: 15 Years Of Bloc Party With Guitarist Russell Lissack
Their much-anticipated Silent Alarm album tour kicks in WA this weekend.
Header photo by Rachael Wright.
Bloc Party's debut album Silent Alarm arrived in 2005 with a tightly-wound bang, exploding with a fierce energy that took an unsuspecting indie-rock crowd wondering what comes after The Strokes almost by surprise. Turns it was a bunch of British chaps with guitars in bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Arctic Monkeys, at a time when bands didn't drip-feed single after single across five different streaming platforms, or constantly fight to exist in your field of vision on social media.
After generating a bit of buzz with first single She's Hearing Voices and what still remains one of their most enduring singles in Banquet, the group unleashed Silent Alarm to widespread acclaim in early 2005. Lead by the quiet ferocity within frontman Kele Okereke, they began touring the globe, playing to large audiences in the UK, US and Australia, where we embraced them wholeheartedly. Okereke's impassioned and deeply personal cries, the razor sharp riffs of guitarist Russell Lissack, Gordon Moakes' dancefloor-focused basslines and the literal lung-collapsing brutality of original drummer Matty Tong all combined to become a global powerhouse across four albums.
In recent years the group has taken the foot off the gas a little and under the guidance of founding duo Lissack and Okereke introduced new members Justin Harris (bass) and Louise Bartle (drums) before releasing their fifth album Hymns in 2016. And that gets us up to now, with the group days away from touching base in Australia for the much-anticipated Silent Alarm tour, rolling through that groundbreaking debuy LP along with a selection of greatest hits and b-sides.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Lissack just before they made their way down here, on a little break after the band had just completed the first run of Silent Alarm shows in Europe/the UK. And even though he was "out walking the dog in the pouring rain," we managed to take a look back on Bloc Party's career, what the Silent Alarm shows actually consist of song-wise, and his new project with Bartle - NOVACUB.
Hey Russel, thanks for the chat! How did the first run of Silent Alarm shows go down?
We did some small warm up shows in Leeds and England and then did some arenas around Europe, which was really cool. They went really well I think. We’ve been playing songs from that era always, but I think there was a lot of songs that we haven’t played for nearly 10 years I guess, and I think people were excited to hear it.
Any in particular you've enjoyed getting back into?
I think a track called The Pioneers is one of my favourite songs that we’ve ever written to be honest. So yeah it was nice to dust that one off again. And where we play it in the set it really kicks the second half of the show into a new gear.
Are the shows just Silent Alarm tracks?
We play Silent Alarm, then do a run through of b-sides and lesser known songs from that era, and then just some of the more well-known songs from across the back catalogue. It’s almost like two sets. You still need to have a bit more than just the album, and it seems to be working pretty well.
What was the appeal of doing this tour?
It was different for all of us I guess. It’s never something I’ve considered myself, but always been open to doing it. You know I’ve seen bands do this kinda thing over the past few years, some bands who I love and it’s a really cool thing to see from a fan perspective. So when we got the opportunity to do it I was happy to, and excited to. We've also been kinda quiet over the past couple of years doing a lot of our own things so it seemed like a nice way to get back into Bloc Party again.
Are you still as passionate about Bloc Party as say five years ago?
It’s definitely different, obviously the lineup’s changed over the past few years, our lives have changed, I have children, things like that... And you know in the past we were a band full time, travelling together constantly for months at a time, but now it’s not feasible to do that. So it’s definitely changed, but that’s how things evolve really. So it’s just making it work for all of us now as best we can, accommodating different projects and things.
NOVACUB is obviously one of those changes, how did it start with you and Louise and how's it going?
When we started touring together there’s lots of hanging around and talking and jamming and we really connected musically. I met the other guys who are her friends and we clicked straight away, it was effortless almost. A nice coincidence and the coming together of like-minded people. We’re gonna do our first tour at the start of next year in the UK. We’ve been writing songs for the past couple of months and I think we’re going to put something out at the start of January. Watch this space really but it’s super exciting. We’re just really excited to get it out and people to hear it.
Has this tour given you a chance to reflect on what Bloc Party's achieved at all?
To be honest, it’s not specific to this tour, it’s something I always kind of do. I get it all the time, even when I’m not on stage, I’ll suddenly feel like 16 year old me in my mind, and it’s really surreal and I’ll put myself in a place I was in back then. And it makes me appreciate all the things I got to do. So not just this tour, I think about it all the time. But yeah this tour obviously is a bit different. We’ve caught up with people from around that time, like Paul Epworth who produced that album he came to one of our shows. It was cool to see him after all this time and catch up, things like that have been nice.
Do you think fans get excited about tours like this because it's harder to connect with music in the digital realm?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently as I’m working on a new band and starting that group. And seeing how different things are, even only over the past 10 years or so. And how much music has changed so much over that time. You know no one really buys albums anymore, the production is so different, and trying to figure out how to get music to people now. It’s different and challenging for sure, but that's part of the fun.
SILENT ALARM TOUR DATES
Sat 24 Nov - Red Hill Auditorium, Perth
Tue 27 Nov - Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Thu 29 Nov - Horden Pavilion, Sydney (New Show)
Fri 30 Nov - Horden Pavilion, Sydney (Sold Out)
Sat 1 Dec - Riverstage, Brisbane
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