Bastille lead singer-songwriter, Dan Smith, breaks down their third album ‘Doom Days.’ The album is structured like a loose concept record with a discernible narrative cohesion. The album was developed during a time where the band members were finding themselves after their breakout single “Pompeii.”
Smith describes the concept of Doom Days as a direct reaction to their “big sprawling” 2016 sophomore record Wild World. That record had a heavier electronic dance influence. Smith said, “Touring Wild World meant singing songs about reacting to the world’s changes every night, and the production that we created around it was a very heightened version of those ideas — there was a lot going on.” he recalls. “We wanted to make a record that was all about pure hedonism and totally shut off from the problems of your life and issues of the world.”
“Quarter Past Midnight”
Smith wanted to articulate a feeling of when the evening’s over and people can go home and that there’s always a group of people that just wants to continue to venture off the night to see what’s going on. He wants people to feel like people are in the back of an Uber flying through the city and capturing the night light of the city at night.
He’s written 20 to 30 verse because there was so much to say but not much space to say it. He also wanted to allude to the characters being in this space where they’re not in control of what they’re doing, saying, or going.
It’s about stupid decisions the band members do when they know it’s not good for them. It’s also about a turning point in the relationship where you both know it’s toxic and is best to end things, but there’s that part of you that doesn’t want to let it go. The song speaks about collective decisions we seem to be making, that some people view either as great or bad, but ultimately we have to live through it. Smith wanted to litter the album with pop culture references.
Smith wanted the idea of this song to be about a passive observer at a house party and seeing all the ridiculous things that people do and say. Smith says sometimes when he knows what a song is about, he’ll slip down a rabbit hole of writing pages of lyrics and cutting back to picking favorite verses that can be hard.
One on end the song is about being that person that doesn’t want anyone to leave a party and wants the night to never end. It is also about a breakup and living in weird times where the world is polarized and people refuse to engage with each other and have a conversation.
“A Million Pieces”
This is a 90s nodding rave record about coming to a party while someone has cornered you about politics. The point of it is that having conversations about the topic is okay, but can that conversations be held until another time. The riff at the beginning is a nod to some riffs from the 90s.
This is the last song the band members wrote for the album. They had a week before the album was finished and Smith wanted to add another song. They were flying to Australia for three gigs and had one day at One Eyed Jack’s and went in to record the song. On the flight to Australia, Smith went to a studio in Melbourne to record the song.
Smith said, “So this weird song that happened in a week between London, L.A. and Melbourne essentially sums up everything we wanted to say on the album.” He needed to articulate what he was escaping from. He wanted it to have no structure and flow like a rap, and to cram in as many references and points about life and anxieties in 2019.
This was the first song that had breakbeat 90s sound. It’s about throwing yourself into the night with someone and feeling naive and having a blast till sunrise. Smith said, “Then there’s a quote at the end from a Russian gentleman talking about Russian rave culture at the end of the Soviet Union and suddenly feeling this freedom to do what you want and be hedonistic. I thought it summed up the sentiment well and they were up for us using it so we sampled that.”
The song came from their love of Frank Ocean’s album Blonde. The band wanted to do something that felt intimate, honest and kind of stoned and woozy that sums up that moment at 4:00 a.m. The feeling you get when you’re surrounded by people you may or may not know that have messed up contentment issues. They got their friend Rittipo, a saxophonist, on the track. It adds a beautiful nighttime vibe.
This song is one of the last tracks Smith wrote for the album. It’s a positive song about a hookup that both parties are engaged in and knowing they’ll never see each other again. Smith wanted to write something that felt warm and positive. He said he pushed himself to write in a different way with a big chorus and half-spoken tumble or words.
“Those Nights” might be my favorite song we’ve ever made. I wanted to build a track that felt like the end of the night; it’s woozy and aimless and blurry and maybe not really sure what’s going on, it’s the yearning for human contact,” said Smith. Rittipo came in and they listened to a lot of Bon Iver. He played a lot of jazz and they let Rittipo create a hazy nighttime warm hug feel. The band also got a gospel choir to come in the studio and used their vocals to feel as if you hear voices in your head. Smith wanted the beat to sound like it was coming from the room next door. For the outro, he wanted a musical outro that allowed the musicians they brought in to just go off on one.
The song is about waking up on the kitchen floor and suddenly the anxieties of everything that’s happened, the problems of the world you’ve been trying to forget, and then you get a phone call from that one person who can set your head straight.
He wanted the album to have an arc, it would have been easy to end it in a negative way, but forcing themselves to have a bit of optimism felt important to the album.
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