Life+Times spoke with singer-songwriter Kele Okereke two years ago ahead of Bloc Party’s release of Four. As a follow-up to his 2010 debut release, The Boxer, Kele drops his sophomore solo album entitled Trick (via Lilac Records) this week. There is a clear distinction between Kele the guitar strumming lead crooner of Bloc Party and Kele the electronic based solo artist – both versions are void of hypocrisy, though the latter project is more emotionally vulnerable. Trick has a club life exterior with romantic feelings at its core. The track, “Coasting,” bears the lyrics “I unravel in your absence” sung by a female vocalist. Intrusive sadness cloaked by the annoyance of bad timing for a relationship sets the tone for “Silver and Gold.” The album is largely a love story that covers every emotion you may or may not (if you’re a cynic) experience in a relationship.
“It definitely feels like it’s part of a journey for me, this record,” Kele says. In this follow-up interview, Kele expounds on the continuous “journey” of carving his own identity as a solo musician.
Life + Times: I had a chance to listen to Trick and I love it. I have to commend you on the fact that you can hear the separation of your solo albums versus Kele of Bloc Party. Do you ever find that as a challenge?
Kele Okereke: No, is it a challenge? It’s not really a challenge to me because I’m a creative person and I love music. I have an interest in what’s going on so I think it would be a problem if it was like a concept behind it; because I guess with this record, you know, it was the artwork and imagery and everything it’s all kind of tied into the same thing and that all comes from me – you know, the images and ideas I’ve had. I think with Bloc Party it was very much a collaborative process like the combination of everyone’s interests and what not and that was cool. I guess with the solo stuff it’s solely my own so I can take an idea and just run with it. Yeah, that would be a problem if I didn’t have ideas, but I do have ideas. I have lots of ideas…The music we make in Bloc Party is a shared thing, a shared experience; but this isn’t a shared experience. This is definitely what I want to do, you know.
L+T: Absolutely. I get the sense of that with this entire album. It’s very personal and you’ve always been awesome with songwriting. Three of my favorite songs from it are “First Impressions,” “Closer,” and “Silver and Gold.” From the 10 tracks, do you have one that really hits you close to the heart more than others?
KO: It’s weird to me because the process of making a record it can be like quite a long, drawn out process. You know, I started this record in 2012 and finished it at 2014. So, that was like two years of me going backwards and forward with the songs and editing them, like changing them, you know – beating them up basically and not listening to them and coming back to them. So, for me when I hear the record I’m very much reminded about the process, about assembling a record – if that makes sense. So, I don’t hear the music separately. There’s lots of kind of memories about it – about how it was made.
Where I’m going with this I guess the point being that with all the songs you love them so intensely whilst you’re making them and then they become other people’s and you start to become restless and you have to share them. To me, I’m actually a bit selfish as an artist. I love the writing and recording process, but at the point the record’s done then it kind of loses its interest to me. I have been listening to the record, because we’re working out the live shows. I guess my favorite songs on the record at the moment are “Coasting” and “Stay the Night.” I like them both for very different reasons. I love the sentiment in “Coasting.” I love what the song’s about. I guess it’s really just about the moment of the start of a relationship when everything is fine.
L+T: So, were you pretty happy with the outcome of the album overall?
KO: Yeah, I was happy with the outcome. I’m happy with how it sounds. I think it does exactly what I was hoping it would do. With every record that I’ve made it’s been an attempt to document where I am as a human being at that point – just my experience, what I’m feeling, relationships that I’m having, the music that I’m listening to. That’s all I really want my records to do, to document for me. So when I look back at my records, it will be like a diary or something. I feel like this record very much captures where I was for the last two years in clubs kind of deejaying until three, four, or five in the morning just watching people come together and fall apart…It’s (Trick) about watching lovers come together and fall apart. Yeah, I feel that it captured that. The record hasn’t come out yet, but I know in six months’ time I will probably be sick of it like any record. Right now it feels exactly like what I wanted it to do, so that’s nice.
L+T: I don’t feel like a project – whether it’s a writer’s story or in your case an album – is complete without learning something through the process. What lessons have you gained from creating this album?
KO: I guess I learned that I’m quite resourceful. I don’t know. What did I learn about myself? (Pause) I learnt that it’s incredibly important for me to make music. This record took almost two years to make. I was in between kind of touring and just generally being exhausted from being on the road. Initially I thought I finished the record at the end of 2013, but like I needed to do more work on the songs. That was initially disheartening, but I carried on because I knew I wanted the record to be heard. It was a very long process, kind of getting new management, new record label, and doing everything myself basically. The reason I did it was because I wanted to share the music with people and I knew I had an idea or a vision and that [it] was important to get it out. It didn’t matter what happened just as long as the music got out and the people got a chance to hear it.