Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nick Grimshaw, lead vocalist Dan Smith of Bastille launches the neo-synth pop quartet’s headline gig at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern with full-throttled aplomb. The thunderous piano chords of ‘Icarus’ ricochet off the walls of the intimate venue, while Smith’s bouts of frenetic drumming provide a sublime fury in an evening which sees an up-and-coming band deliver a near stadium-quality performance.
Though it’s only their second visit to Oxford, Bastille have already amassed a cult following of dedicated fans, some feat for a band yet to release their debut album. Named after Bastille Day, the day on which lead singer Dan Smith was born, Bastille has flourished from the meagre roots of a struggling south London musician, to the formation of a fully functioning band, a far cry from Dan’s musical origins of writing music in his bedroom. Regardless of their success up to this point, lead singer Dan Smith still writes and produces his own music. The creation of the band has not altered the integrity of his musical synthesis, which is mirrored in the intensity of his live performance.
Smith’s musical influences range from Bon Iver to artists like Kanye West. Whilst iTunes terms his music ‘alternative’, Smith prefers to regard his musical offering as pop music with ‘integrity and depth’, a breath of fresh air in a pop music market saturated with lyrics dealing with insalubrious issues of debauchery and clubs. Without any pretentious effort to actively create ‘independent’ music, his music seems to reject categorisation. Smith’s conscious decision to create an album with a highly varied sound – from the evasively eerie ‘Overjoyed’ to the rhythm-driven ‘Icarus’ – allows Bastille to escape a uniform tone. On being asked who the implicit second person address in his songs refers to, Dan replies coyly that ‘it could be anyone, or even myself’. This modesty can be seen in the creation of his videos, which he states he does not want to feature in. Bastille prove to be a refreshing break from musicians in pursuit of fame, letting the music purely speak for itself.
Bastille’s much anticipated debut album, which is set to be released in September, will feature a mix of sweeping epic choruses, ethereal pervasive echoes, and stripped back vocal tracks, according to Dan. Expectations are clearly high for a singer brave enough to channel an array of sound types, and who has been given the chance to record at Abbey road studios. But if September seems too far away, there will be plenty of opportunity to see them live in the upcoming months.
The experience is certainly recommended. An irresistible dynamo of energy, Smith launches himself into the crowd (admittedly given the size of the Jericho, this isn’t an ambitious endeavour) to perform an encore of ‘Flaws’. With vocals slipping somewhat in the mass of bodies (and let’s not forget, outstretched hands lead to dangerous eye-gouging territory) the rendition is nevertheless carried by Smith’s forceful presence and the band’s well executed electronic basslines. All things point to a triumphant performance by a band surely on the cusp of bigger things.