BLOC Party first burst into our lives seven years ago, shaking up the stultifying music scene with razor sharp riffs and instant classic indie melodies.
But the band’s future looked far from certain after a lengthy lay-off prompted rumours their third album, Intimacy, would be their last.
The London four-piece are back to reclaim their crown with literally-named new album Four, the success of which is all the sweeter because of its unexpectedness, as guitarist Russell Lissack told Mail reporter TIM FLETCHER.
A YEAR ago, the idea of a fully-formed new Bloc Party album seemed a remote prospect.
After a three-year hiatus following the release of 2008’s Intimacy, the band looked destined to head off in their separate directions, with rumours circulating that frontman Kele Okereke had left the band to focus on his solo career.
So was the speculation just that or was there ever a real possibility that the band would never play together again?
“It was mostly just playground rumours,” guitarist Russell Lissack tells the Mail.
“There was a point where things felt very uncertain but personally I just thought it was a matter of when rather than if we would make music together again.
“Other people may have felt differently but deep down I still felt we had a lot to do between the four of us.
“We had made our last record and toured off that, and we were all quite frazzled after that. Kele and I were quite keen to make another record but Gordon (Moakes, bass) and Matt (Tong, drums) wanted to have some time off, so we took a year off, which became two years, and then more.
“Looking back in retrospect, I think it was good for us because we were not at the best point in our relationship with one another, so being able to have a break and have the opportunity to do different things turned out to be a positive thing for us.”
Lissack, who spent part of his time off touring with Northern Irish indie veterans Ash, says some of his Bloc Party bandmates took more persuading than others about the merits of resuming work together when the four met up at his house in London over Christmas of 2010.
“We talked about whether we wanted to do it again and some of us were really keen whereas others were a little hesitant,” he says. “I think those of us who were keen put forward such a convincing argument that the others realised that it would be a waste not to do something again.”
After completing their separate commitments, the band picked up their instruments in earnest again in September last year, when they booked three days in a rehearsal room in New York, where Okereke and Tong were living at the time.
“We didn’t really have any plans at that point,” says Lissack. “We just went in, set up and played through one old song with the idea of having a jam and seeing what came from it.
“The ideas started to come immediately so we realised almost straight away that it was going to work. The whole thing was pretty painless and there was nothing awkward about it.
“There’s always going to be chemistry between the four of us and musically we can just work together without even having to speak.”
The new album sees Bloc Party ditch the more layered, electronically-enhanced approach of its predecessor to return to the stripped down, guitar-driven sound which made us love them in the first place, and features some of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever laid down, but was this a deliberate ploy?
“It is something we actively discussed before we went into a rehearsal room, and as far back as that Christmas meeting - the fact we wanted to make a very different record from last time,” says Lissack.
“On the previous one it was very segregated whereas this time we wanted to make a record where everyone was completely involved.
“It was a collaborative effort and a very organic process with everyone in the same room literally making music together with our instruments. It was such a good experience.”
The band’s lengthy absence, and the doubts over their future, lifted some of the pressure which sometimes accompanies the recording of a new album, according to Lissack.
“When we made this record it was all so low-key and people didn’t even know if we were still a band anymore so we didn’t really have any outside pressure,” he says. “It was a very luxurious position to be in.”
Okereke has said that the new album is the one of which he’s most proud, so does Lissack feel the same?
“At the moment, this is the most exciting record for me because we’ve just made it, and the fact that it might not have happened makes me all the more proud that it has happened,” he says.
The album has garnered favourable reviews, evoking the halcyon days of 2005 when they first burst onto the scene with debut album Silent Alarm, making them instant darlings of the indie press.
“Obviously at the time it’s really exciting when it’s all brand new, to see yourself on the front cover of a magazine you read when you were younger,” says Lissack.
“At the time it’s hard to take in. It all seems very surreal and exciting but as your career moves along you start to understand the inner workings of a lot of these things.
“Personally, playing live is my favourite part of being a musician, which is kind of strange because when I started I was a very shy person - I probably still am a little - and used to find it terrifying to perform, but I love it now.
“When you have to spend 20 hours a day on a tour bus or in an airport, if you didn’t enjoy performing you’d probably need to ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ “It consumes your life being on tour because you’re away for months on end and it’s hard being away from loved ones.
“But for that hour or so that you’re on stage, that’s the perfect moment for me. I love it every time and I’m really fortunate to be able to do what I love.”
Bloc Party’s new album, Four, is out now on Frenchkiss Records. The band’s UK tour in support of the album hits Birmingham O2 Academy on Monday, October 15.