Bloc Party's Kele Okereke on Purging Bad Vibes, 'Hippie-ish' New Single

"I wanted something that reflected the states of joy," says Okereke of band's "The Love Within" video

According to Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, new single "The Love Within" is a meditation on "sublime connectivity to the world." Credit: Rachael Wright

The new Bloc Party single — "The Love Within," out last month — ended a lengthy hiatus for the dance-friendly Brit-rock band. Frontman Kele Okereke released his second solo record, Trick, last year, but his main group hasn't put out an album since 2012's Four. Accompanying the hyper-focused electronic track was a lineup change: Joining Okereke and co-founding guitarist Russell Lissack were newest additions Justin Harris and Louise Bartle, both of whom will make their Bloc Party studio debut on Hymns, out January 29th.

Below we're premiering the video for "The Love Within," which features a cast of characters showing off their extreme dance skills in a mall. Each individual transforms into another (look out for an Okereke cameo), and the end of the clip features a reptilian surprise. Before the video's release, we spoke with Okereke about finding happiness, the influence of spirituality on Hymns and Bloc Party's recent lineup change.

What is "The Love Within" about?
I guess it's about embracing feelings of joy and being connected. I think it's ultimately about trying to explain that feeling of rapture and joy that comes with being in love with the world or universe. It sounds quite hippie-ish when I say it like that, but I was reading from [William Blake's] collection Songs of Innocence. Something struck a chord with me, this idea of being connected to the earth and nature. The idea of sublime connectivity to the world that is around — that's the idea that stuck with me. How do I describe this transcendent feeling of joy that can come from surrendering yourself to a higher power? In the vaguest, most hippie-ish terms, that's really what this song is about. It's about being in love with the stars, the earth and nature.

What was the concept behind the video?
In terms of the video, the only rule that I had was that I wanted something that reflected the states of joy. I think the video does that. It captures being lost in the moment and that's the one way I feel like the video is connected to the song.

Your new music has come along with a lineup change. Was there ever a point where you thought the band wouldn't go on?
To be honest, I was feeling like things wouldn't carry on while we were last touring the states in 2013. For various reasons, I thought — as a band, the way we were communicating and interacting — it didn't feel right. In my mind, I was starting to think that this wasn't something I really wanted to do anymore. We had a situation where we parted with our drummer from the band, and after that, I felt like I was enjoying being in the band. It wasn't all bad vibes all the time. I thought, this is something I wanted to continue. Then I felt like, we have to make another record. It can be fun being on the road, which is something I was starting to question at the start of 2013.

What influenced you the most on your upcoming record, Hymns?
There were lots of things that influenced me and fed into the record, musically and lyrically. I was reading a lot of Blake, a very fantastical writer and poet who had a very spiritual nature in his work. I was listening a lot to devotional music: hymns, gospel music, songs of worship and songs of praise. I went back to my parents' house and got all my old hymn books that I used to sing at church when I was a child. During the process of making the record, I was really obsessed with finding out the function of devotional music. 

How do you think fans will react to this Bloc Party record? Is it very different from previous ones?
I don't know — I have absolutely no idea how anyone is going to react to Hymns. But I've never been too concerned with how people are going to react to things. The point of making the record was that it was coming from a very honest place. Musically and lyrically it was all coming from a different place. It was very cathartic, and it's something I still feel connected to. To be honest, I'm not really thinking about what people are going to make of it. To me, it was a labor of love. I'm just glad it's done, and I'm glad people will get to hear it. My relationship to this record is a very personal one. I thought it was a record that I had to make. I think once people start to hear it, they'll see what I mean.