Bastille's year hasn't really ended up going the way we expected. Back in the hazy depths of summer, we thought we'd have both a new album and the fourth instalment of the band's 'Other People's Heartache' mixtape by now. You've not missed anything, Dear Reader. We haven't.
But, following a stonking megahit in the form of Marshmello hook up 'Happier' that took over their 2018, we're about to be blessed with the latter part of that predicted equation. 'Other People's Heartache Pt.4' drops tomorrow (Friday, 7th December), and it's packed with guest stars (Craig David, Kianja, James Arthur, Seeb and more) and top drawer cover action.
Described as a 'bridge' between their previous full-length 'Wild World', and the much anticipated follow-up 'Doom Days', which is now set to arrive in 2019. A "playlist to an apocalyptic party", we figured it was as good a time as any to check on with Bastille frontman and creative mastermind Dan Smith to find out more, and quiz him about what comes next.
Putting together mixtapes at the same time as albums seems like a lot of extra work! How do you split the time?
They feel like really different things when we're making them. Our albums are obviously way more about writing and trying to say something cohesive, while the mixtape is all about production and getting the chance to work with different people. I feel like there's way less pressure on them and they're meant to be a fun, creative itch for us to scratch, so it's really nice working on both at the same time. In the same way that writing pop songs for other people uses a completely different part of your brain to writing songs for our band.
Some of the night time themes you've talked about for 'Doom Days' around the release of 'Quarter Past Midnight' also feel to bleed through on OPH4. Has one influenced the other?
We wanted OPH4 to feel like a bridge between our two albums, so it nods back to 'Wild World' and forward to our next album via the medium of loads of other people's heartbreak songs. They definitely feed into each other. In the same way that our ReOrchestrated tour influenced the album a bit - and we ended up getting a load of the musicians from it to play on the album after the tour was over.
You've built your own studio. Is that where you recorded OPH4? How different was that to how you put together the third instalment?
Yeah, we recorded a bunch of it there. It's so nice having a home for our band and all the other bands on Best Laid Plans and all the stuff we want to work on. This mixtape is much more about all the people who've come through the studio for different reasons, so the other stuff we've been working across has really informed it. I guess the last instalment was made when we were touring the world for the first time, so it was more a reflection on artists we met on the road and at festivals. I guess the fourth mixtape is a bit more inward looking in the same way the next album is about looking inward too.
Now you're running a successful label, on top of still doing the mixtapes, is your approach to music more collaborative?
Yeah, it's definitely making us a bit more collaborative. I guess as time goes on we want to find different ways to develop, and bringing in other voices and other musicians to expand the sound feels like a nice way of doing that. We were lucky on the ReOrchestrated tour to spend a lot of time with some fucking amazingly talented people, and we wanted them to seep into the sound.
How do you pick the covers? Do you fit the collaborators to the songs or the other way round? When you've got a vocalist like Craig David, does that push you to try certain songs?
They're songs that pop into your head and nag away from years ago. Songs you hear out and about that make us nostalgic, or ones that feel really familiar but you don't know who they're by. The mixtapes are meant to be like a weird tour through pop culture, and that's why it's fun to offset songs you know really well with voices that feel familiar or voices you've never heard before. There's something that I like about taking a familiar thing and making it unfamiliar.
How much of it is about working with established voices you like, and how much is about consciously showcasing new talent? There seems to be a good split between the two so far.
Thanks, I'm glad you think so. Yeah, they're mainly about trying to show off voices and artists that we're excited about. It's great to have established voices as a bit of a way in for people.
You've made it to four instalments - should we be expecting a fifth? Do you have a wishlist of collabs you've still got to hit up?
I really love making the mixtapes. We want Other People's Heartache to become a project in its own right, so it might become more of an outlet to releasing tunes that come out of different writing sessions or collaborations that we do on the side. Who knows? I always seem to say stuff prematurely. But yeah, there are loads of people that would be fun to collaborate with. I guess we'll just see what happens.
Initially, we were expecting to get 'Doom Days' this year - now it looks like it'll be 2019. How's that going? Is there anything new you can tell us?
It's going well, thanks. I'm rubbish at letting go of stuff, much to the frustration of the rest of the guys. The album has swelled and contracted and grown and shrunk a few times, and although it was finished a while back, we've made a load of changes. Part of having the album be a loose story means there are loads of moments and gaps that can be put in or changed.
‘Happier' turned out to be a monster hit - does having one of the biggest hits of the year change how you look at the new album?
Not really. It's obviously been awesome to see how well it's done all over the world, but part of the reason we made it into a collaboration is that it felt slightly outside of the world of our albums. It's been really fun seeing the song get so ridiculously big while we've just been working away on other music and touring a bit.
A while back, you talked about increasing your "output in terms of speed" - do you have a lot of secret stuff we don't know about underway, then?
Yeah, there's loads of stuff we've started and a whole bunch we've finished. I love having a lot of different stuff on the go at all times. Between Bastille albums, collaborations, mixtapes, writing for other people, all the Best Laid Plans stuff, and a bunch of side projects, I can't imagine not having a whole load of different things on the go. I know I say it all the time, but I feel so lucky that we still get to do this.
Bastille’s ’Other People’s Heartache Pt.4’ mixtape is out 7th December.