Kele Okereke: 'Being in Bloc Party isn't always easy'

The lead singer and guitarist on being bold and life beyond the band – including DJing and writing a novel

Kele Okereke and I are sitting in Brixton Village, south London – the covered market where rows of glistening meat and oddly shaped yams jostle with trendy pop-up restaurants – watching a fight between two men. No punches have yet been exchanged, but the air is thick with expletives. Okereke offers his analysis of what has just happened. "Someone's been fired," he says. "One of them told the other, 'Don't bother coming back to work!' I think we just witnessed a life‑changing moment."

It's tempting to suggest that Okereke knows more than most about what happens when professional relationships go sour. Bloc Party, the band he formed in 2003 with his old schoolmate, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong, had a well-publicised hiatus in 2009, amid rumours that they couldn't stand one another.

These rumours were quashed, at least in part, by last year's acclaimed comeback album, Four, which the band are following up with a new five-track EP, The Nextwave Sessions, out in August. They also have a rash of live dates over the summer, including a headline gig at this month's Latitude festival, but they'll be parting ways again in the autumn.

Okereke won't be drawn on the personal issues behind the band's second break-up, though they are plainly there, between the lines. "There have been some things going on behind the stages," he says, choosing his words carefully, "and now we're working our way through it." Later, he adds: "Being in this band isn't always the easiest thing. We're four British young men that maybe aren't the best at expressing ourselves or our emotions."

What Bloc Party are good at, though, is making music. The Nextwave Sessions is a short, sharp shock of a record, wearing its hip-hop and dance influences on its sleeve: the lead track, Ratchet, is somewhere on the broad continuum between Dizzee Rascal and the Pixies. Okereke describes his diverse musical interests (he loves rap and is a house music DJ) and those of the rest of the band as the most important reason for having some time apart: "We all have lives; we all have families; we all have other interests. It's not unheard of, or unhealthy, for us to go off and do that for a year."

Come the autumn, then, Okereke will be focusing on his DJing, making a club-only record, and possibly working on a second solo album (his first, 2010's The Boxer, did well; as to whether he'll be making another, he offers only an enigmatic "that would be telling"). He will also be writing fiction: he's been working on a book of short stories, but is planning to ditch that in favour of a novel; he has also turned his attention to journalism of late, writing for the Guardian and for various blogs. "I love doing things that feel different," he says by way of explanation. "That's what I get excited about: throwing a curveball."

The Nextwave Sessions is out on 12 August on Frenchkiss. Bloc Party play the Latitude festival on Friday 19 July


Laura Barnett

The GuardianTramp

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