It's going to be a blast: Bastille day on Indiependence Saturday!

The first in-person Indiependence Festival since the outbreak of Covid-19 happens this weekend, and Saturday night sees the return of UK pop-rockers Bastille in the headline spot. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with drummer Chris “Woody” Wood
It's going to be a blast: Bastille day on Indiependence Saturday!

Dan Smith of Bastille on the first day of Indiependence 2019. Picture: Kieran Frost

For many music heads, the return of summer festivals finally marks a definitive departure point from the past two-and-a-bit years, all going to plan: countless music-lovers no doubt gave and received gig and festival tickets for Christmas of 2019, blissfully unaware of what was to come. On a busy weekend for music in Ireland, Indiependence festival returns to the Deer Farm in Mitchelstown with its INDIE22 instalment, running its time-tested mix of indie veterans and emerging acts.

Also returning after a 2019 excursion to Mitchelstown are UK pop-rockers Bastille, taking the Saturday headline slot at INDIE22 this weekend, sharing the weekend’s billing with Fatboy Slim, Rudimental, Eurovision sensations Dadi Freyr, and Irish talent like The Scratch, Jafaris, Erica Cody, Dea Matrona and Strangers with Guns. Drummer Chris “Woody” Wood recounts the last two years for the band, and the uncertainty of it all for the music industry.

“It was a long two years, for all of us in the creative industries. We're in a position where we're quite established, and had a bit of work behind us. There were quite a lot of people, not just in the UK but globally, who were touring crew, and whatnot, who would ordinarily jump from tour to tour, so when we finished, our crew would jump on to a different tour.

“Our boys went from earning a not-unreasonable sort of wage per year to struggling to get a driving job at Amazon overnight, and with very little government support in the UK, especially. We all found Covid incredibly tough.

“With all that being said, getting back to it and doing our jobs and seeing friends all over the world, we're all getting our lives back and our careers back, and, I mean, I've been playing drums for 16 years, so what I've trained for, and it's what I love. So to be able to do it again, it's just unbelievable. We've all done our bit the last couple of years, and obviously, there are still some risks involved, but we kind of go into it with our eyes wide open.”

Bastille’s new album, ‘Give Me the Future’, is available now, in shops and streaming.
Bastille’s new album, ‘Give Me the Future’, is available now, in shops and streaming.

The lads, of course, are well back in their touring rhythm by now, owing to the time difference between the UK and Ireland reopening, and having finished a few legs of album gigging for ‘Give Me the Future’, recorded over lockdown, released this past February, and peaking at No. 1 in the UK Album Charts.

“We're incredibly grateful because I mean, it managed to hit number one in the UK, which, after a couple of years away, was a nice, reassuring moment that people still care about the band, which is wonderful. Yeah, now we've been touring it for the past five months.

“I know that it happens with albums, but you have one or two songs that you imagine being "the big ones" live, but it often ends up being something else completely different, that catches you off-guard. Songs have certain moments that people really latch on to.

“We have a song called 'Plug In', which deals with, I guess, climate change, and all that sort of stuff. And there's a line in it which says "bunch of old white men who don't give a f**k", and that generally gets the loudest cheer of the night.

“It's been well received, we're just made up. We're on album four now, and a lot of bands don't get beyond album one, if that.The fact we're still going, and people are still coming to shows in numbers, streaming and buying the album, I couldn't be happier.”

Written and produced in fits and starts over lockdown, demo’ed remotely and rehearsed/arranged in fleeting meetups as restrictions eased and re-tightened over the course of the lockdown, ‘Give Me The Future’ is partially a product of its circumstances - while certain ideas existed pre-Covid.

“Dan (Smith, singer) is really the lead creative in the band, he's writing nonstop. I think the oldest song on the album is 'No Bad Days', which may be as old as four years old. We sort-of start off with a little collection of songs, and you think you're done, but another song will emerge later on, and then that leads down a different path.

“There's probably four or five songs that were written around this period, which haven't made the album, but may well go on to the next album, whenever that is.”

The album ended up being a UK #1 - no mean feat in any circumstance, but one that meant a lot to the band as touched upon earlier. Woody discusses the feat, and what it means to top a chart in a time of massively fragmented music consumption, fluctuating value propositions and changing relevance for the once-pivotal music institution.

“I feel it's one of many metrics now, I guess, because now people can look at your monthly listeners on Spotify, or the number of plays on your top five songs. At one time, the charts were the be all and end all, now it's maybe like one of five things.

“It's one of those things where, in the UK especially, the charts are affected by physical sales, more heavily weighted toward them, so I guess it's more of a vote of confidence from your fanbase that people would be willing to part with money and go to a record store and buy vinyl or whatever, rather than streaming.

“We're a certain age, and it'd be really easy to kind of mourn change, but I think ultimately, it made it a lot more democratic, whereas before the big labels would have been gatekeepers for getting on radio, getting on TV, getting on press.”

With momentum on their side, the band are headed for INDIE22 this weekend, headlining the Saturday night on the festival’s main stage.

“We're really excited to get back, this is going to be our main Irish date as well as part of this album campaign. We had an absolute blast there last time as well, because the crowd were absolutely insane.”

Bastille headline the second night of INDIE22, Saturday July 30, at Deer Farm in Mitchelstown. Bastille’s album ‘Give Me The Future’ is available on streaming services and in record shops now.

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