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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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Hangout ’13: Sound the Alarm—Bloc Party is Back

By Sarah McCartan

If there is anywhere in the world that is rightly deserving of a standing ovation for continuously crafting some of the finest musicianship, it is the United Kingdom. British rock band Bloc Party first appeared on the scene in 2005 with their debut album release, “Silent Alarm.” Standout tracks such as “Banquet” and “Helicopter” not only topped charts, but also quickly infiltrated dance party playlists around the globe, as have the endless remixes that have since followed.

During the years immediately succeeding the international success of “Silent Alarm,” Bloc Party continued to make their presence loudly heard. They executed two more albums, maintaining their popularity and widespread appeal throughout both releases. And then they grew quiet.

After four years of silence, the band has returned with a new album, titled “Four.” Bloc Party’s fourth album to date carries with it just as much balance as the name suggests, and on top of that, symbolizes a rekindled energy for the band.

Since the 2012 release of “Four,” Bloc Party has been selling out shows left and right, including playing their largest gig to date on their home turf in London. This summer Bloc Party can be spotted across numerous festival lineups, including Hangout.

The IN spoke with drummer Matt Tong while he was at home in New York for a brief stint of time between tours.

IN:  What has it been like jumping back into Bloc Party after a lengthy timeout?
TONG: For me it was quite intimidating because I hadn’t performed at all during that time. The other guys were a little less rusty. It took time for me to get used to being on the stage again. When it clicked it felt really good. It’s great to have an opportunity to travel the world again.

IN:  The other members seemed to have projects they were working on during the break. What were you doing during that time? Were you still playing music?
TONG: I was going to make up a funny story, but that would be a waste of your time. I moved to New York and I guess I got tied up in house renovations and building a studio in the basement. Then I kind of branched out into recording other bands. It seems like a long time, but really I was just happy to try and lead a normal life, have a regular routine and do guy stuff.

IN:  And now here you are—back with a new album. Where was “Four” recorded?
TONG: It was written and recorded in a studio in New York. I don’t think the studio is even open anymore. I guess we were its kiss of death.

IN:  Is this album title representative of how many years it’s been since your last release?
TONG: There is some symmetry there as it was four years between records. It was really the case that it had to be about the four of us reconnecting and learning to communicate again.

IN:  What would you say the biggest difference is between the new album and your previous work?
TONG: I think the principles behind the writing were different than how it ended up sounding. Previously the arrangements hadn’t been set in stone when we went into the studio and that can bog down the process. This time we all knew exactly what we wanted to do and had far more of a sense of purpose. We were a lot more organized by the time we got to the studio.

IN:  Have you been pleased with the response you’ve received from longtime fans?
TONG: We’ve learned not to take anything for granted. We definitely have fans who aren’t as keen on the old. The best way to gauge is seeing how many people are singing along to your songs when playing live, and that has been the case with the new songs.

IN: Not only have you released a new album, but you are also touring heavily. How does it feel to be back on stage and selling out shows? Your recent show in London at Earls Court boasted nearly 20,000 attendees.
TONG: It is satisfying and nerve-wracking as well. No one expected to sell out shows again. The London show was planned well in advance. I definitely was really nervous. But it went really well.

IN:  What’s next for Bloc Party? Is it too soon to tell?
TONG: We are touring until mid-July and we’ve started working on new material. I don’t see why we couldn’t keep carrying on.

A note to fans—If singing along at Hangout isn’t enough for you, or if you are simply looking to have Bloc Party lyrics on hand permanently as a keepsake, you are in luck! Frontman Kele Okereke recently released a lyric book as part of The Lyric Book Company’s “Lyrics of” series. The book catalogues Okereke’s powerful and poetic Bloc Party lyrics and also includes his solo material.

BLOC PARTY
Sunday, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Letting Go Stage

Back to IN’s Guide to Hangout Fest ’13