Bloc Party Biography
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 and NME Album of the year which both honour indie music. That year, the record was also certified platinum in Britain. 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. The band went on a hiatus in October 2009 to focus on side projects, and reunited in September 2011, releasing their fourth album, Four, in 2012. As of May 2012, Bloc Party have sold two million albums worldwide.
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. 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 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 the 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 British 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 The 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 British live performance of "Flux".
"Mercury" was released as the first single from Bloc Party's third album in August 2008. Again produced by Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth, Intimacy was rush-released later that month, with the album available to download 3 days after an announcement in August 2008. Later in the month the band played second on the bill at the Reading and Leeds Festivals before headlining 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 Festival in Toronto, 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 MTV2's and Topman's "Gonzo on Tour" on 19 October 2008. A follow-up single, "Talons" was released in October 2008. The song was not part of the pre-order album, but did featured on the full album CD release and was made freely available to people who had already purchased the download-only album. An album of remixes of all tracks on Intimacy, Intimacy Remixed, was released in May 2009. The band undertook their first UK tour since December 2007 in October 2009, dubbing it "Bloctober".
"One More Chance" and hiatus (2009–2011)
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 was on an indefinite timescale. A new single, "One More Chance", was released in August 2009. The song did not appear on Intimacy and was produced by Jacknife Lee. After this the group went on a hiatus, with the members unsure as to whether they would carry on.
During this period of hiatus Lissack revived his project Pin Me Down and joined the live line-up of Irish rock-band Ash as guitarist and synthesiser player on their touring for the A–Z Series. Moakes formed the group Young Legionnaire with Paul Mullen, vocalist & guitarist of The Automatic, and William Bowerman, drummer for La Roux, releasing a single, "Colossus" in August 2010. Okereke released a solo album, The Boxer, in June 2010. Produced by Hudson Mohawke and XXXChange, its release was preceded by the single "Tenderoni". Rumours throughout 2011 suggested Okereke had left the group to focus on solo work, though these were denied by other band members.
Bloc Party started writing material for a fourth album in 2011, but decided not to play live. In the meantime Okereke finished an EP titled The Hunter. The group stated they intend to release a new album in 2012. In May 2012, Bloc Party announced Four, which was released on 20 August 2012. The album was recorded with Alex Newport, who had previously worked with At The Drive In and The Mars Volta, at Stratosphere Studios in New York City during the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Bloc Party released "Octopus", a single from Four, that July and later released another single entitled "Day Four".
Bloc Party's brand of 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 inspired by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The band's 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." A 2009 Vice Records mix lists the following songs Bloc Party are influenced by: Eagle Boston's "Wild Wild Ost", Pylon's "Working Is No Problem", Delta 5's "Mind Your Own Business", John Foxx's "Underpass", Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" (also covered live), Sonic Youth's "Youth Against Fascism", Dinosaur Jr.'s "Freak Scene", La Roux's "Quicksand (Nightrunners Edit)", and Bruce Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)".