We’ve long been in awe of Brighton’s Blake Bastion, whose soulful tones and virtuosic fretwork echo acclaimed tunesmith Jeff Buckley. On his releases so far, the fast-rising singer-songwriter masterfully crafts music that’s both cinematic and cathartic, fusing worldly influences with rousing folk rock. With his brand new EP ‘Truce’ out now, we caught up with Blake Bastion to dig a little deeper.
Your new EP ‘Truce’ is terrific. How did each of the tracks come about?
“Thanks! Two were written when busking; the first track song and title of the EP, ‘Truce’, I wrote sitting on a bench in Worthing over a year ago in January. People were walking around looking depressed so I wanted to play something to lift the mood. It got a really solid reaction so I remembered it and developed it over the past year working on different arrangements, and digging more into the theme of depression to get the lyrics came the idea of suicide. If you could play music to convince someone to not take their life, what would you play?
The second track, ‘My Island’, is a mad one. I work up one morning and had the melody and lyrics in my head. I had to scribble it down as fast as I could and hum the melody into my phone before I forgot it. That’s never happened before or since, and the whole song was there sketched out in less than 5 mins.
The third song, ‘These Floods’, was inspired by a tour of east Africa last year. I had one gig booked at a club in Uganda that covered my flight and no other plans following that. A few hours after landing I got to the venue – an insanely beautiful spot right on Lake Victoria by the source of the river Nile. The stage was a floating raft that had a walkway from the bar going out to it made up from stacked beer crates – the dance floor area was flooded as the dam further downstream had pump issues, so the audience would be watching from a higher level above (the club had staggered platforms built out from the hill that led to the water’s edge).
By nightfall, it was time for me to play. Standing on the raft with a massive sound system strapped to it and just the sound guy for company, I stared across the river into the darkness but couldn’t see anything. The club lighting was low level and from a distance could hardly be seen. I had never been to Africa before, let alone on the river Nile, and didn’t know if there were crocs around (I was assured the last time one had been seen was two years ago). Anacondas were more common that time of year. Assuming that was a joke, and trying to forget about that last remark, I started bashing out the songs, spitting out mouthfuls of river flies that were drawn to the single lamp hanging near my head. By the sounds of things, not that I could see, the crowd were loving it.
I managed to get to the end of the set without being eaten by a reptile, and after making my way across the beer crates, trying not to fall in the water with my guitar in hand, I was met by local club owners, musicians, police and charity workers that all wanted me to come and do a gig for them. Over the following three weeks, I played every day in some incredible locations around Uganda, in what was a life changing and hugely inspiring adventure that really shaped the songs on this EP.
‘Aviator’ – the last track on the EP – was written when I was living in London. It’s an old song now, and I have loads of different versions of it, but the lyrics are some of my favourite and I wanted to include it in this EP, so we recorded it with the full band and gave it a new life.”
How did you start out in music?
“I grew up with music being played in the house constantly. My dad used to play drums, and there were always musicians coming over to have jams when I was a kid. Looking back that environment was amazing, it really gave me an ear for music and could be why I wanted to play guitar since the first time I heard it. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I finally managed to convince my parents to get me one, and I haven’t put it down since.”
What inspired the name Blake Bastion?
“Blake is my surname. I like what Bastion represents – strength; a person upholding their principles and beliefs. I like alliteration in song and even more so in names. Plus, at the time of inception and to this day as far as I know, there’s no one in the world using the same name.”
Who are the Top 5 biggest influences on the Blake Bastion sound right now?
“I’m getting into Chet Atkins, Idir, Ismaël Lô, Ramin Djawadi and Niteworks at the moment. I find the more music I listen to, the less I can get influenced by one artist. If you listen to who influenced your favourite artists, you start to find other influences in that, and it’s a never-ending rabbit hole. I love digging into old records in that way.”
Any other new bands that you’ve played with and would recommend?
“The Dylema Collective! They played after me at Wonder Fields festival last weekend. Amazing band. Also for local acts – Thelma and Greenness supported me at the EP launch party at Komedia. Both totally different, but equally great.”
And finally, what does 2017 hold for Blake Bastion?
“I’m going to continue playing live as often as I can. I’m also starting to focus on getting more regular content out, especially videos and live footage because most of what I’ve been doing live is not out there online yet. I’m working towards having a live show that is better sounding and more exciting than the records. The third EP is written already and recording in progress now, so will be ready soon. More new music, more gigs, and working as hard as possible to get the music out there!”