By Brian Ives
One of the left-field hits of the summer is Bastille’s “Good Grief,” the first single from their upcoming album, Wild World. Like their monster 2013 smash, “Pompeii,” it’s a deceptively upbeat song: you can dance to it without realizing that it’s actually a pretty sad song. Frontman Dan Smith tells Radio.com that he specializes in that type of writing.
“With a lot of Bastille songs, sometimes the lyrical subject matter is quite odd, or dark. But we wanted the song to kind of capture the weird complicated mess that is the process of loss and the path that you take through it, like the massive ups and massive downs. We tried to create something that felt kind of happy/sad, but euphoric, and as messy as that situation and that progression of emotions can be.”
“I guess just a bit of a Trojan horse,” he continues. “In that it’s quite fun, and then if you really listen to it, you’re like, ‘Oh, God, this is really sad.’ But I think with a lot of the music that we like, it’s just about finding the right balance between the two things and that kind of tension of something that can feel uplifting and devastating at the same time.”
The line, “watching through my fingers,” touches on the feelings that many Americans are having about the upcoming election, and that British people (including the members of Bastille) had while watching the “Brexit” vote play out.
“I guess it’s meant to be applicable to anything,” Smith says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, God, I can’t believe this is happening.’ It’s interesting for us, a bunch of the songs on this album feel really appropriate right now. For us, the day that the Brexit was announced was the day we played the Glastonbury festival, which is our favorite festival. The world is full of quite crazy events at the moment, and the album touches on that feeling of sometimes watching the news and watching things unfurl, and how do you respond? No one’s got any answers, and obviously we’re not providing any, but it’s just that thing of watching things unfurl with complete disbelief and trying to figure out as a human being, what do you do in this situation? Do you just try and distract yourself? Do you ignore it? Do you engage with it?”
“Particularly because of the way a lot of the news is presented to us these days, in quite a dramatic, over-the-top way, I think it can really induce this sense of panic. And ultimately, we all just gotta wake up the next day, go to work, pay the bills, all that kind of stuff, look after the people around you, and also try and have fun and enjoy life, obviously. So it’s just about trying to touch on that.”
The video contains a number of different dream-like (or nightmarish) scenes, including a house on fire, a bank robbery, a naked woman, a game show, and people being chased by an unseen threat down a country road. And also, Smith’s decapitated head is seen singing. Then, all of the scenes start to merge.
About Smith’s bizarre appearance, drummer Chris Wood says, “The label was always trying to get Dan to video lip-synch, so he flippantly said, ‘Well, I’ll do it if I can be a severed head on the floor.’ Lo and behold, first shot was Dan in a green suit on a green screen being the head.”
Smith says, “We just wanted to make a fittingly mad and kind of bizarre companion piece to the song and take all these visual tropes like a bank robbery and all these different things from films and music videos and stuff, and smash them together and flip them on their heads. It’s just kind of a slightly bizarre dream logic sequence, but interesting and slightly provocative images. I think with music videos, sometimes people try to retell what the song’s about, and sometimes you’re trying to act out to them. I think it’s nice to have something that sits alongside it and doesn’t try to explain the song, but at the same time is a fitting companion.”
The band has been surprised by what people find controversial about the video. Wood notes, “There’s a few glimpses of female nudity in it. It’s not sexualized, but that’s been the biggest talking point at this point, despite that there’s bank robberies going on, which is apparently cool.”
Smith continues, “It was interesting, in the UK a debate was sparked about the glimpses of nudity. It was interesting for us to read some people being like, ‘Yeah, it’s completely cool,’ and other people are completely shocked and appalled by it, but somehow [those people] felt that the gun violence was totally okay. It always reveals more about you as the viewer than it does about what’s presented. It’s always interesting to see what it is that shocks people, and generally — bizarrely — it tends to be like nudity and sexual content that gets the harsher rating than loads of violence and death. It’s an interesting debate, way bigger than us and our little music video. But it’s something I’ve always felt like, as a massive film fan, is interesting.”
The song starts out with a female voice asking, “So, what would you maniacs like to do first?” It turns out, it’s an excerpt from the 1985 film, Weird Science.
Multi-instrumentalist Kyle Simmons says, “That was Kelly LeBrock [who plays the lead role of a robot named Lisa]. The film is amazing. It’s about these two geeks who can’t get a girl, so they make one. It’s just a film I’ve loved, and we’ve all loved… we’ve all seen it [right]?”
Multi-instrumentalist Will Farquarson responds, sheepishly, “I’ve not seen it. Am I the only one who’s not seen it?”
To which Simmons responds, “In the world. You should see it! [But] ‘Good Grief’ is the first song on the album, and the quote is this little tongue-in-cheek little nudge [to the fact that] it’s been like three years since our last album.”
But, happily, the wait won’t last too much longer: Wild World is due out on September 9.