The always versatile indie rock band Bloc Party returned in late January with an effervescent fifth studio album, "Hymns," from BMC. Lead singer Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack are joined by two new additions — drummer Louise Bartle and bassist Justin Harris. The release is the first to feature Bartle and Harris, following Matt Tong's and Gordon Moakes' respective departures in 2013 and 2015 and the band's subsequent hiatus.
Lissack chats from Austin, where the band will play a round of shows at SXSW, before kicking off their world tour.
The addition of Louise and Justin has brought out some mixed reactions from fans. What’s that been like for you?
Personally i don’t tend to spend too much time going online and reading what people sound back on. When you’re a musician, it’s not a healthy habit to have. The way I perceive reactions is when people come to talk to us after the show, and that’s been positive from day one with Justin and Louise. People seemed to take to them straight away, and even now one of the main things they’ll say is, "It looks like you’re having so much fun together on stage. You look so happy." And it’s not that we weren’t happy in the past; it just stood out to me that it’s coming across to people the positive energy. That’s the best compliment.
There’s a lot of talk this concept of “rebirth” with the new members and album. Has it felt that way to you guys, too?
There were lots of little things that happened over the last few months that made it feel like that. Even now we’re in Austin and we’re doing SXSW and playing lots of little shows over the course of the week — it’s something we haven’t done since 2005 when we were putting the first record out. It feels like we’ve gone full circle and are going through lots the elements for the first time around again.
Was there any hazing of the new members?
There’s been some light hazing for Louise. She’s the youngest member now — she’d 21 — and it’s her first time touring and visiting all these countries while the rest of us have been doing it for quite a few years now. She’s always curious and asking us tons of questions, and we give her runaround answers to wind her up a little but it’s light-hearted.
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Did the dynamic of the band click right away?
The dynamic’s been good from day one. We knew Justin from his band, [Portland-based] Menomena, and he had toured with us before. Ever since he came to meet us in London last year, we’ve gotten along really well. Same with Louise. Me and her spend the most time together, scavenging for food and things to do.
And with Louise being 21 — is that like a new source of energy and outlook for the band?
Definitely, which was another good thing going back to what I said about it being her first time experiencing a lot of these things. It’s a nice thing to have when you’re on tour with the same people and your road crew all the time and pretty much everyone has been doing this before and been the same places loads of time. To have someone like Louise, who is excited about visiting these places and wants to go and do and see things, it revitalizes your passion.
Like when we were in Paris a few days ago and had a few hours before a show and usually everyone is just sitting around playing on their phones and getting food, she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. So I went off and did all the tourist things with her. I haven’t done those things in years, so that’s been energizing in its own way as well.