Bloc Party are a British indie rock band, composed of Kele Okereke on vocals and rhythm guitar, Russell Lissack on lead guitar, Gordon Moakes on bass guitar and Matt Tong on drums. Their brand of indie rock has been compared to bands such as The Cure, Gang of Four and The Strokes.
The band 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", which was later released as a single.
In February 2005, the band released their debut album Silent Alarm. It was critically acclaimed and made NMEs Album of the Year list. The album was certified platinum in the UK a year later. The band built on this success with the release of their second studio album, A Weekend in the City, in 2007. The album reached a peak of number two in the UK and number twelve in the Billboard 200. In August 2008, the band released their third album, Intimacy with little promotion apart from the preceding single "Mercury", released digitally via their website. The CD version is to be released in October.
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 Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq. Lamacq subsequently played the song on his radio show, labeling 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 single, "Banquet" being released by 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 critical acclaim. It was voted by NME critics as the 2005 album of the year, and reached number three on UK album charts before being certified platinum. The first single from the album, "So Here We Are", made the top 5 on UK charts. Further singles "Banquet" (which reached number 13 in NME's "Top 50 singles of 2005"), "Helicopter", and "Pioneers", whilst failing to repeat this success, managed to reach the UK top 20. The animated video for the single "Pioneers", made by the Shoreditch based Minivegas design agency was number one in the NME video charts for 4 weeks.
The song "Helicopter" was used in the movie Grandma's Boy. It can be heard during the party at Alex's Grandmother's house. It was also used in the soundtrack of the football video game, FIFA 06, and was a playable track in "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" and "Guitar Hero: On Tour" as well as "Marc Ecko's Getting Up Contents Under Pressure."
The band were met with good reviews from critics in the United States and they toured there heavily in the 18 months that followed. 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 the success of this album, the established electronic group The Chemical Brothers soon collaborated with Okereke for "Believe", a track on the Brothers' Push the Button album. An album of remixes of tracks from Silent Alarm was released at the end of August in the UK. This remix album, 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, Bloc Party recorded two new tracks with Silent Alarm producer Paul Epworth. The songs were released as an EP titled Two More Years. The released of the EP was accompanied with a re-release of Silent Alarm, which included "Two More Years" along with former single "Little Thoughts". "Two More Years" was later released to coincide with their October 2005 UK tour. The single format contained a remix of "Banquet" done by The Streets, for which a video was also recorded.
The band also contributed the track "The Present" to the Help!: A Day in the Life compilation, the profits of which benefited the War Child charity. In 2005, their album track "Like Eating Glass" was used on the soundtrack of low-budget horror film, Cry Wolf, and was remixed for use on Activision's skateboarding game Tony Hawk's American Wasteland.
Bloc Party's second album, A Weekend in the City, was produced by Garret "Jacknife" Lee. It was released in February 2007, though it was leaked in November 2006. It was released on the UK iTunes store before the physical release, and reached the number two spot in the Official UK Chart. The album reached number two 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 UK Top 40, reaching number four. In the build up to the release of the album, BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe aired a live set from the Maida Vale studio featuring a mix of old and new songs, on his evening radio show on 30 January 2007. On 1 February 2007, A Weekend in the City was made available to listen to for free through the band'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 track was also produced by Jacknife Lee,. Flux, an electronic song, was very different to 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 that night. On 20 May 2007, Bloc Party headlined on the In New Music We Trust stage at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend at 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. 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, and on 27 October 2007, the band performed a set at London's 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 UK live performance of "Flux".
"Mercury", which is to be the first single from the upcoming third album, was played as an exclusive on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show on 7 July 2008, before being uploaded to the Radio 1 website fifteen minutes later. The exclusive followed an ominous countdown timer which replaced the band's entire website for three days, which ended with a link to the Radio 1 website at the time of Lowe's radio show. Many fans were expecting a release of new material over the internet, with some being angered by the stunt. The song had a similar electronic sound to the previous single, "Flux". During the first play of "Mercury" on Radio 1, Kele was in the studio with Zane Lowe, and stated that Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth will be producing the new album. It has also been revealed that the single is to be released on 11 August 2008. The video was unveiled along with the single. Bloc Party has also announced that along with the full "Mercury" single that will come on CD with three remixes, on 12" vinyl with an extended and instrumental version and on 7" vinyl with the b-side "Idea for A Story."
Following the revelation of "Mercury", as well as its similarly electronic b-side "Idea for a Story", Bloc Party's third studio album takes an experimental, electronic direction, despite Kele suggesting this would not be the case, having said that the sound will have the "rawness" of Silent Alarm, but the "experience" of A Weekend in the City.
The band announced the rush-release of their third album, Intimacy, in a webchat with fans on 18 August 2008. From this date, the album became available for pre-order, in a variety of formats - a high-quality MP3 digital download (to be delivered on 21 August 2008) with the physical CD release on 27 October 2008. "Trojan Horse", a track from the album, was made available to stream exclusively through NME.com. On 20 August 2008, the band added further album tracks "Signs" and "One Month Off", as well as "Trojan Horse", to their MySpace profile. On August 23-24, 2008, the band played sets at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, second highest on the bill before The Killers. The band played set-opener "Mercury", as well as album track "One Month Off". A similar set followed a week later on 30 August 2008, when the band played a headline set at the Hydro Connect Music Festival, in Argyll, Scotland.
The band are currently on a short tour of North America and Canada, including an appearance at Virgin Mobile Festival in Toronto on 6 September 2008, and the band's first ever American college show at Syracuse University. They make their live return to the UK on 30 September 2008 with a special gig in London as part of Q Awards: The Gigs. As well as this, they play the Glasgow date of MTV Two and Topman's "Gonzo on Tour" on 19 October 2008. On 8 September 2008, Bloc Party announced that their next single, "Talons" would be released on 20 October 2008. The song was not downloadable as part of the pre-order album released on August 27, but would feature on the full album release on 27 October 2008. It was also available to fans who had already purchased the download-only album, distributed following the song's first play on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show.
Following the digital release of Intimacy, Bloc Party announced that they would embark on another UK tour, starting on 25 January 2009 in Glasgow. They will then go onto play in Manchester and Wolverhampton in the same month, with another gig in Wolverhampton on 1 February 2009. The tour will finish on 12 April 2009 in London. This is their first UK tour since December 2007.
During the recording of the second album, the band suggested it would contain "some truly R'n'B styled beats, a song where [Tong] and [Moakes] play drums simultaneously [and] both eggshell-thin fragility and trouser-flapping hugeness", as opposed to their typical indie rock 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 are the songs have come more layered and less raw. With the release of "Flux", Bloc Party's style has become even more diverse with the inclusion of electronic music. For the third album, Tong has said, "I think our new stuff is going to be a lot less textured than the last record. I think the third studio incarnation of Bloc is going to be a bit like the rawer earlier Bloc, but with experience." They are working with producer Paul Epworth again and have revealed to NME magazine that they would like their third album to be released this year. In their new single, "Mercury", Bloc Party even further distanced themselves from the traditional guitar band set-up, experimenting with dark electronic sounds and trumpets.
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