Bloc Party in concert this week. One of the breakthrough bands of 2006 and generally acclaimed as one of the bright lights on the Indie scene.
Russell Lissack and Kele Okereke first met in 1998 in London. 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, 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. Also in 2003 Bloc Party personally mailed Steve Aoki a 7-inch of the track “She’s Hearing Voices” and signed to Dim Mak shortly thereafter. Dim Mak teamed up with VICE, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, and entered a major label deal for the first time. Dim Mak and Atlantic later released Bloc Party’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Silent Alarm in 2005. 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, who admitted he didn’t get around to listening to the demo right away – but when he did was suitably stunned. 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.
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 four weeks. NME tagged them as “art-rock” at that time but the band felt it was too limited.
The band received positive 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 a 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.
To remind you of what they were up to during their early phase, here is a gig they performed at l’Olympia in Paris on April 27, 2007.
Crank this one up.