Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke On ‘Alpha Games’

Bloc Party sixth studio album Alpha Games via Infectious / BMG featuring the singles Traps, The Girls Are Fighting, Sex Magik and If We Get Caught is a return to form. Alpha Games is the first record the four-piece have made with their current line-up, and their first studio album since 2016’s Hymns. To listen to Alpha Games is to go on a journey. From the sharp, visceral boldness of album opener Day Drinker to the sleazy, glam rock feel of The Girls Are Fighting to the bitter-tinged, melancholy album closer The Peace Offering, it’s hard not to feel as though you are being invited into a web of unsavoury characters, regretful moments, dark and sinister feelings and actions. Kele Okereke speaks to Hi Fi Way about the album.

You must be stoked with how Alpha Games turned out?
Yes, I’m glad people have finally had a chance to hear the record because it feels like for a long time we didn’t know if we were going to be able to make a record given what is happening with the pandemic. I’m glad it is finally out because we have been sitting with it for three years.

Was it clear in your own mind the direction you wanted to take Alpha Games?
I don’t know if it was such a contrived thing, I felt that because we wrote the majority of the music when we were doing the Silent Alarm shows in the sound checks. It felt quite natural but the energy from the songs that we were playing infusing the songs we were wanting to write. I will say to me, I hear what people are saying that it is a return to the past but I don’t necessarily agree with it. To me the record explores lots of different areas that we haven’t had a chance to explore before. We are more excited about the future and trying something new.

Did you have the bare bones of ideas to work on these songs in song check?
This isn’t for every song writer but for me I tend to arrange the basis of the music separately then write the lyrics then bring them together. When we have this realised structure I start thinking about the lyrics and vocals. I didn’t start writing the words until we had the basis of the music.

How would you compare Alpha Games to Hymns?
I think there is a sharp difference in sound because I think we recorded both albums in quite different circumstances. It would be just Russell and I in the studio not really knowing what we would do so we recorded that record as we were writing it and straight in to the computer. That was fun and liberating but then we had to work out how to perform it live. With Alpha Games from the get go we had to have the songs completely written and arranged before recording them. We had to know what they felt like when we played them and recorded them. It was two totally different processes.

Does it feel like a really exciting period now that the band line up is settled and that this album best represents the band right now?
Yeah, I’m just excited about going out and performing the songs to people. It is one thing writing a record but it is not complete unless you share it with people. Now we have to bring it to life as well as performing other songs from our catalogue from our history. I’m quite excited about presenting what Bloc Party is right now.

Did it take a bit of work to arrange these new songs to play live or did writing these in sound check help that?
I think that was the thing that was imperative for us from the start that we didn’t want any surprises when working out how to play the songs. We wanted to know that the songs would work before we even went in to record them. That was in the fore front of our minds, how does this feel when we are writing this on stage in a rehearsal room? What is the energy that we are getting from this music? Does it feel powerful? I remember when we were writing the track Traps in sound checks all over the world, whenever we would play the song our crew would stop and listen. I thought that was a sign that there was something going on with this particular song that it was working on some level.

Which songs stand out most for you?
It changes all the time but at the moment, two songs I really enjoy performing in rehearsals You Should Know The Truth and The Peace Offering. The Peace Offering is one of my favourite things that we have done. I’m really excited to be performing that song live.

Were there songs left for another album or possible B-sides?
There were handful left over, there is well over enough for another album. I don’t know, if and when we make the next album it should be representative of where we are at right now. I like the idea of us generating completely new material so our evolution can continue.

Are there any plans for an Australian tour?
There are discussions been had, obviously we love Australia I would have thought something will materialise, watch this space!

Interview By Rob Lyon

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