Kele: \"The Boxer\" Going Another Round With Splendour

Bloc Party frontman and successful solo artist, Kele Okereke is known for being extremely shy but also quite opinionated when it comes to being interviewed. As a massive fan of both his solo record and his work with the band, I was fearing that this interview would take a downhill turn and I'd be left listening to "I Still Remember", hugging a pillow. But as I chatted with Kele, who is currently in New York, I was put at ease by his polite and easy-going manner, as he opened up about solo work, a possible Bloc Party reformation, and about his highly anticipated return to Australia for Splendour in the Grass.


Last seen on Australian turf last year during the Parklife tour, Kele presented audiences with some pretty memorable performances of songs from his debut album The Boxer. Touring a debut album so close after its release has its risks and it was clear that Kele was as much in the dark as the crowds were as to how his live solo gigs would go down. "I remember the first show, in Brisbane I think, we didn't know what to expect." Kele admits. "The energy from the crowd was so electric, it just completely humbled us all. We weren't expecting that kind of reaction and it was a really brilliant experience."


In terms of the production of The Boxer, any pressure surrounding Kele's move to separate from the hugely popular Bloc Party and present a record that would be carried off equally as successfully didn't factor into the musician's mind. "There wasn't any game plan with making this record other than making a record I was really proud of." he explains, "The fact that it's been so well-received has been a real blessing."


Was he worried about the reactions from some of the more hardcore Bloc Party fans who may have been worried as to what this would signal for the future of the band? In a reply of complete and utter frankness, Kele opens up about the topic. "I didn't really want to have lots of guitars and stuff on the record, because that's what I do with my other band. I've never been worried, ever, about how things are going to be received because that's not the reason why I make music. It's about expressing something you want to express and that's it."


The Boxer, produced by Alex Epton, aka XXXChange, traversed the indie rock genre of which Kele has become strongly associated with, to display a move into dance and electronica. With Bloc Party supposedly to begin work on a new record later in the year, would Kele be introducing these elements and fusing the old with the new? "If Bloc Party makes another record, it'd have to be something opposite to what I'm doing now." he states quite firmly. "It'll probably be very organic because I've done this [the solo album]. I've made this record by myself, so I don't need to do it again."


As for current projects, along with touring the album, Kele is also a budding author, working on finishing up his first book. "It's been something that I've been doing for the last two years, that's why I'm here in New York, I have to finish it!" he laughs, when I ask him where the majority of his creative attention is focussed at the moment. While concentrating on his book seems to be at the top of Kele's priority list at the moment, his return to Splendour is one that he is excited about. "I can't wait. Right now we've finished touring the record, so I'm kind of in book writing mode, so I wasn't really into the idea of performing. The only reason why I'm coming out to Australia is because I really like going to Australia, it's my favourite place to tour. It was really important, coming here, for me."


It's not the first time Kele has played at the massive festival, having appeared with Bloc Party on the line up in 2005, 2007 and 2009; however, with a string of club dates accompanying his visit back to Australian soil, those of us who can't get to Woodfordia this year are being given a chance to experience Kele in a more intimate setting, something he's also looking forward to. "It's brilliant because you get to look people in the eye, you get to have an intimate connection with the crowd and I think that is priceless. It's something you should never take for granted because it's important to have these moments."


Whether you're waiting for him to regroup with Bloc Party or you're enthusiastic to see where he goes next, you can guarantee that Kele rocks up to put on a show and entertain; and as someone in the crowd, there isn't any better guarantee than that.


Kele will be playing in these cities, as well as at Splendour in the Grass: Tuesday, 2nd August – Billboard, Melbourne Wednesday, 3rd August – Metro Theatre, Sydney Friday, 5th August – HQ, Adelaide Saturday, 6th August – Villa, Perth

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