Gordon Moakes is in Japan and he sounds tired. Bloc Party are on the Asian leg of their current world tour and he’s a little weary of batting away the same old questions.
Perhaps a little monotony isn’t so hard to accept when it comes with being one of Britain’s most adored indie rock bands – one so widely revered for creating perfectly balanced, multifaceted pop songs that everyone feels the need to detail the specifics. And since the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2009, bassist Moakes and band-mates, Kele Okereke, Russell Lissack and Matt Tong have been on the end of a very public smothering.
Even in this context, Moakes speaks generously, gesturing that there’s another, more personal idea behind the title of their much-anticipated fourth studio album, Four. When you really boil it down, Bloc Party is just four people from London, who – when left in a room together – always find a way to strike sparks.
Nicholas Acquroff: How are things in Japan?
Gordon Moakes: I’m always a bit mind boggled by Japan when I’m here. The culture is very different, really, isn’t it?
NA: Aren’t they really polite in the crowds?
GM: There’s always a hush between songs; they’re always very polite and humble.
NA: Once you’re finished on tour, life must become very normal again when you just sit down write together…
GM: At the end of the day, there are just the four of us. There are four opinions and four things happening. It should never be more complicated than that. When it works, it’s a pretty simple relationship…you put four people in a room with their instruments and something will happen.
It’s a good band to be in from that point of view, because all four of us have something to try and ideas to work with.
NA: Does that feeling stay the same throughout the life of a band? When you were playing as Bloc Party before the first album, was the feeling still the same?
GM: Well it goes in cycles. There is a danger that sometimes you’re not engaging with it [the music] or thinking about it. If you’re in one of those bands where the set list is the same every night and you are away for months at a time playing the same shit over and over, it can drive you mad. There is a danger that you can slip off into another thought process. I’ve looked down at my guitar before and gone, ‘Wow, I was just thinking about something completely different’ [laughs].
But you’ve just got to break from touring and keep moving the set around and engaging with it. You’ve also got to write new songs and keep adding them to the set.
NA: Is there something about music that keeps you going, something that always keeps you in the game?
GM: That’s an interesting question actually. I started as just a music fan really. From there it was a natural step to want to play along to records. I think it’s a passion and it became something we did as a hobby.
At the start we did gigs, but I was still working. Then gradually it started taking over more and more of my life. Then you realise, after playing loads of gigs, that maybe you’re alright. Because that is the question you always have: ‘Am I any good?’ There are heaps of bad bands out there and you wonder if you’re one of them.
NA: There must have been times when you thought, ‘What am I going to do when I come to the end of this?’
GM: Yeah, that’s true. I was in bands when I was younger with people who’ve gone on to be teachers and things. It was just a phase or whatever. But for me, I just think, give me a bass guitar and a beat and I’ll start playing. It’s just how I am now; it’s always going to be something that is a part of my life.
NA: I’ve got this romantic vision of Bloc Party, this notion that after you get back from tour, everything is stripped back and you’re back with your families. After everything is done, does it go back to just you and your instruments again?
GM: Yeah, you compartmentalise things, don’t you. There are times when I’m completely obsessed with music and there are other times when I wake up and I’m just not thinking about it at all. I’m thinking about breakfast, mainly [laughs].
Having a young family is nice. It’s nice having a flipside to music, so that you’re not completely mad over it like you were when you were 24. It’s nice being able to do both…
It’s an amazing thought that our band – friends who have been making music together for 10 years – goes up onstage to play music to 20,000 people. And then it’s funny how I’ll be up the next morning just making toast and watching reruns on TV. But it’s good. I’m lucky to have that balance.
Bloc Party plays Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion tonight (March 13) and Melbourne’s Festival Hall tomorrow night (March 14).