Danny Brown backstage on day one of the 2012 Hard Summer Music Festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park on August 3rd, 2012.
In the mid-2000s, Bloc Party emerged with a sound and attitude that built on the fashionable retro art-rock coming from acts ranging from New York City's The Strokes to Scotland's Franz Ferdinand. But while Bloc Party's prickly, angular music fit in with the sounds of their cohorts, frontman Kele Okereke gave the band an individuality the others lacked. With a voice that conjures the cockiness of the Fall's Mark E. Smith, the twitchiness of the Voidoids' Richard Hell and the anguish of the Cure's Robert Smith, Okereke and company created an urgent new punk rock for the disaffected emo crowd. The band's second album, A Weekend in the City, released in 2007, shot to Number One on the Independent Albums chart and Number 12 on the Billboard 200.
Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack met in the late 1990s at England's Reading Festival and realized they shared similar interests in music. Soon after, they formed a band that changed its name several times before settling on Bloc Party in 2003. By then, they'd enlisted bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong, and released their first single, "She's Hearing Voices," on the Trash Aesthetics label. When a copy of the single landed in popular Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq's hands, he played it often, called it "genius," and invited the band on for a live performance.
After another single, "Banquet," on the Moshi Moshi label, Bloc Party signed with Wichita Recordings in 2004, releasing a self-titled EP. The band's debut album, Silent Alarm, followed in February 2005; it met with rave reviews, shot to Number Three in the U.K. and spawned several successful U.K. singles. The following year, Bloc Party played sold-out shows in Los Angeles and Berkeley. Silent Alarm went on to sell more than 350,000 copies in North America and more than a million worldwide.
The band exceeded expectations when its second album, A Weekend in the City — in which Okereke, a second-generation black citizen of the U.K., tackles touchy topics including British racism and post-9/11 paranoia — reached Number 12 on the Billboard 200 in 2007, selling 48,000 copies. In the summer and fall of 2008 the band dropped Intimacy first as a summer digital release followed by a CD release in October. Co-produced by Jacknife Lee and Brit-pop mastermind Paul Epworth, Intimacy is their most dynamic album to date with jittery pop, stadium anthems, and introspection that Okereke attributed to a break-up before the album was recorded.