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The Exoneration of Dan Smith: Why Bastille’s Front Man is Not Guilty of Killing Indie

As much as I love NME, they posted an article a few months ago which left me fuming. This is my response...

The “Bastille-ification” of guitar music doesn’t exist. It is a figment of Mark Beaumont’s imagination while he yearns for a musical era which has long since been put to bed, no doubt in a “drug-dazed” stupor of its own doing. 

He may have the proverbial ‘knife’ in his hands, but Dan Smith contributes much more to the ‘alternative’ genre than he is given credit for. Let me explain. Mark Beaumont, to protest the so-called deterioration of indie music threatened to hire a Donald Trump style “inflatable Dan Smith from Bastille over the Electric Ballroom, wiping his arse with ‘The Queen Is Dead’”. Beaumont envisions the frontman as the poster child for everything wrong with indie music today; reducing the Grammy-nominated Londoners to an “indie boyband.” 

There are countless reasons why his claims are totally baseless; never mind that he is belittling London’s protest against arguably the most reviled man on the planet (Trump! Not Smith!) by using their proaction to project his contempt-that all the bands he once listened to are either spouting nonsense (here’s looking at you, Morrisey), dead or just plain shit-onto, genuinely, my favourite person in the world. 

Surely we should give the ‘Happier’ hit-maker a fair trial before we hang him out to dry? Dan is genuinely one of my nicest people you could meet, and I have the fangirl selfies to prove it, but more so, he is talented, hard-working and has been known to give away M & S carrot cake to devoted fans waiting for him after shows-what’s not to love?!

One thing Dan Smith is guilty of is self-deprecation; he would be the first to admit that Bastille’s music is not for everyone. That’s hardly cause to vilify Smith; accusing him of ripping off the entire indie genre (“Indie’ was reduced from a way of life to a denim jacket, £48.99 in Top Man”). His crime? Partaking in a Top Man modelling campaign. The man is attractive, let him live! 

As for Bastille being the “endgame of a 30-year plot to tame, contain, castrate and commodify alternative guitar music”, the oldest member is only 35. Give them a break, for f*ck’s sake! No one is pretending indie music isn’t facing its problems but there are more realistic ways to counteract them. Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell believes more “less expensive rehearsal rooms” could help. Mark Beaumont has ignored the fact that the live music scene in London has been under attack with many venues being shut down. This might have something to do with the ‘lack’ of talent emerging. However, Sam Fender with his single ‘Dead Boys’ has a lot of hopes pinned on him to revive indie music. Rag n Bone Man’s ‘Wolves’ EP was released on Best Laid Plans Records, co-run guessed it-our very own Dan Smith! So much for not making room for new talent! 

Also, the romantic notion that musicians must stay heartbroken and hungry; hell, heroin-addled even, might be pleasant for the listener, but the reality is that bands like Bastille work incredibly hard and even to tour to the point of exhaustion to earn their keep. And they are excellent role models. Self-destructive behaviour isn’t as attractive as it used to be, surely a good thing for musicians and fans alike?

Beaumont bemoans “indie’s biggest mistake was to become financially viable.” No doubt, he blames Bastille yet again. Are Bastille commercially viable? Of course they are! But why the f*ck shouldn’t they be? Especially having spent almost the entirety of 2017 on a (Wild Wild World) World tour, which coincided with the release of their second album, ‘Wild World’.

Importantly, Bastille have never claimed to be a ‘guitar’ band. If anything, they embrace pop and their latest chart-topping collaboration with Marshmello demonstrates that. 

The unprecedented success of ‘Pompeii’ allowed the band to experiment with mixtapes (Other People’s Heartache) which were available on Youtube, before Cease And Desist letters became too hard to ignore. Despite this, Smith still encourages fans to *coughs* illegally download the material if they have to. Hardly the way to make the big bucks, ey? Collaborations with artists-from Ella Eyre to Florence and the Machine (then relatively unknown). ‘Of The Night’, their version of Corona’s hit, was recorded before they were even remotely famous and it’s just a bit of fun between their songs about grief, the human condition and, funnily enough, Trump’s ascension to power. 

Beaumont reprimands Smith for his ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ references in his own ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ lyrics. I hate to do this to ‘Murph’ but if Beaumont wanted to have a gripe with anyone, it would be with The Wombats for ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ which was released years ago. 

Bastille go above and beyond when it comes to their fans, from setting up a voicemail service and calling ‘stormers’ for a chat to handing out hot chocolate before gigs in freezing temperatures, so when the accusatory ‘boyband indie’ article was published, it is safe to say that it caused outrage amongst Bastille’s fans. Many felt that the writer’s views were condescending: @bastilleaud “This week’s column: why bored, bitter, and hopelessly negative journalists must be stopped. Want to save music journalism? Kick out elitist men who think their music taste is superior to everyone else’s,” whilst @stillemagnolias expressed herself with the following choice words directed at the writer, “You’re not convincing anyone. You’re just angrily jerking yourself off, which is like one of the least fun ways to jerk yourself off.”

When comparing anyone to Sex Pistols, even in terms of record labels or contractual obligations it’s safe to say, the former aren’t going to fare well but it’s like trying to compare a current band to Nirvana. Impossible and totally pointless. Why do it? 

As far as Reading and Leads is concerned, you really want to blame (blame blame :P) for the downfall of a festival which famously had Daphne and Celeste headlining? I get it. You don’t like ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and probably prefer swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ to Smith’s, but please don’t even try to tell me, even for one second, that Bastille fare worse in your eyes that the ‘U.G.L.Y’ singers! I call bullshit! 

Today’s generation of music fans are much less clique-y about who they listen to so genre allegiances don’t play as much of a role when it comes to deciding who is ’good.’ “I guess it’s interesting that it comes at a time where I think just people don’t really care about genre any more. It’s not a thing,” Dan Smith (NME, 2016).

Photo credit: Twitter @bastilledan

1 comment

  1. Spot on, Narzra!!! Everything I thought was wrong with that blasted article laid out eloquently. Indie does not equal Beaumont’s narrow taste in music. Bastille’s lyrics are thoughtful, at times erudite, at times sarcastic, but always relatable. And they are always pushing their musical boundaries from their guitarless first LP, Bad Blood, to their creative mixtapes and collabs to the many cross-genre influences on Wild World. If Bastille is killing indie, murder away my lads! Just don’t stop making music.