- 19 Apr 22
Bloc Party drummer Louise Bartle discusses the band's writing process, getting back to gigs, and the therapeutic effect of playing her heart out.
On April 29th, London punk rockers Bloc Party return with their sixth studio album, Alpha Games. It’s been six years since the release of their last album Hymns, and since then the group has welcomed two new members - Justin Harris on bass and Bartle on drums.
"We toured a lot in that gap and it meant that Justin and I could get more into the band,” Bartle tells Hot Press. “We could get a better understanding of the music and just gel as a band a bit more, but also get to know everyone a bit better as well. I was ready to make the album straight away, it just happened. You can't rush the creative process, it can take a long time."
This kind of close inter-group bonding was made quite a bit harder by the start of Covid.
"It was different for all of us because obviously it makes you go really into yourself," the drummer recalls about the band's pandemic experience.
"As a band, we weren't really able to do much because I know they love to write in a room together. Our bass player Justin lives in the States. That's something we have to bear in mind, but we weren't allowed to be together. It wasn't great but we had done a lot of the Alpha Games songwriting already, so we fleshed them out once we could get into the studio. That's why I'd love to make more music and write because it’s been a while since we've actually been able to come together.
But even with the likes of Zoom and Facetime, Bartle finds that there is nothing quite like a group of musicians making music in the same room together.
"I write music and I’m able to do it on my computer and send it out, but I think that in a band it's important to be in a room and play together. I think that’s important for the album as well, to be able to do it together as a four. So Covid wasn't great!"
Covid may have tested Bloc Party, but being back in front of packed crowds has been well worth the wait. For them, performing in front of a live audience brings a special kind of energy.
"Recording the music is a release because you are literally sharing a song, but actually playing it live feels more raw. You're actually getting to do it in that moment with people watching. It's also a bit nerve racking being back after two years of not doing it. I remember the first gig back that we did - we've only done three so far - and I usually get really nervous before gigs. This one was the first time that I was actually in the moment and just had a really good time, because I really appreciated it. I was so happy, but then for the second gig I was back to being nervous, but for that one gig it was just freedom."
Born in London, Bartle has proved to be a fast rising talent in the drumming community. She appeared on BBC1's Radio 1Xtra with the group Rough Copy and appeared as a drumming double on the programme Toast of London (Channel 4) before joining Bloc Party. That being said, she was unfamiliar with the band’s work prior to joining.
"I didn't know any of the members or the band because when they were in their prime era, I was about twelve when Silent Alarm came out. Maybe I had a teenager’s taste in music, but like a girl teenager's taste. I was listening to pop music, girl groups and boy groups, but I think that's normal for that kind of age. Then I really got into bands about a year or two after that, and yet I just hadn't heard of Bloc Party. Everyone loves a lame cheesy boy band song but we all keep it to ourselves when we’re alone in the shower."
"The way I joined was through a mutual contact through just trying to be a drummer and just working in the industry. He put me in touch and basically just sent on a video of me playing on YouTube and then I auditioned. Actually, I think the fact that I’d never heard them was actually better - it made it possible to just play. I respected them as musicians and I could hear that they were great but I didn't have the same feeling as if I was like ‘Oh my God!'".
The band's forthcoming album Alpha Games is a notable departure from the soulful, groove-driven rock approach of 2016’s Hymns. With its spiky riffs, propulsive drums, and confrontational lyrics, Alpha Games is a far more aggressive sound.
"The album’s definitely an angry kind of record. I'd never done an album in the band, I joined around the time of Hymns. They had someone else play on that record. I think that this album felt like it needed to happen. There was some kind of angst in me...maybe that feeling was contagious as well."
"I wasn't going to play the drums gently. I wanted to really go for it. I think that's what drumming is really good for, it's just kind of a way to escape and just get it all out - like therapy."
Alpha Games is out Friday 29 April via Infectious / BMG
Tickets for Block Party's 2022 UK/EU tour are available HERE.
Listen to the latest singles from Bloc Party's upcoming album Alpha Games below:
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