Research Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. It’s extremely interesting. In 79 AD, the city of Pompeii was buried under volcanic ash and mud after the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius erupted. Thousands of people succumbed to a horrible fate after the eruption and were buried under layers of volcanic ash. Now, the city is an archeological site where scientists can use a special method to reveal the people of Pompeii exactly as they were when they died. Some of them are holding onto their most precious possessions, others are holding on to cherished loved ones. There’s some really powerful imagery there, that same imagery led Dan Smith - the founding member of Bastille - to write the band’s song “Pompeii.” He talked about the song with Alternative Addiction in a recent interview.
“I was reading a bit about what happened when Vesuvius erupted and wiped out Pompeii,” said Smith. “There are some really interesting books about it. The pictures of reconstructed bodies in the position that they died, that stays with you. It’s just such a potent image. I was thinking about that. I imagined a conversation between two of these sort of charred bodies and the conversation they would have reflecting on the city and other things. The song really came from that.”
The subject is interesting, but there’s more to it than that. The percussion is unconventional and one of the main hooks in the song features chanting. That’s not something we’ve heard in a lot of popular music. At least not styled the way that Bastille has styled those chants. Smith talked about adding those chants to the song and how big of a challenge it was to find the right way to record them.
“Initially I thought it was a bit of a risk. Then I demoed it and layered my vocal quite a lot . When it came time to record it on the album, we got some friends in the studio to beef it out and then it just became bigger and bigger.
“Before we recorded it properly I tried to get the crowds at gigs to sing it to make it thick. But I would get self-conscience about that and I’d feel cheesy trying to get them to sing along. That song came from a place where I was used to it sounding big, then it was just about trying to replicate that in the studio. Because a lot of my songs start in my bedroom where it’s just me, I layer my vocal a lot. That’s sort of one of themes on the album. With Pompeii, it seemed important to get some other voices on the track on that vocal line. We’ve got some friends in a band called To Kill a King, and they’ve got some deep voices. They helped us on the song and did great. t’s just wicked to get a series of different voices involved.”
Whatever Smith, Bastille and To Kill a King did, it worked. Pompeii has exploded all over the globe and has become a massive hit for the band. Smith had always noticed that the song received a great reaction live before the band was getting popular, but he never expected it to get as big as it has.
“In the UK over the past few years we’ve released lots of EPs and singles. I think we had always wanted “Pompeii” to go out with the album when it was time to put that out. In some sense, we had some confidence in it, but we never imagined that it would take on the life of it’s own as it has. We never imagined the kind of reception that it’s gotten in loads of different countries around the world that we’ve never even been to. That’s been a really nice surprise and not something that we could have ever imagined to happen at all, let alone to us.”
The song is just one excellent track among many on Bastille’s debut album Bad Blood. It’s available now. For more on Bastille visit, www.BastilleBastille.com.