Here’s an excerpt from the Bloc Party cover story that appears in Sentimentalist Magazine issue 24. For the full text, check out the back issue. Enjoy!

In a skyscraper, above the clouds, Gordon Moakes sits leg crossed tightly like a tangled rag doll in the midst of a rudely white, erroneously enormous Atlantic Records couch, checking the time on his calculator watch and frantically texting to the outside. Kele Okereke sits on the other end of this grey “artist’s lounge” that looms over midtown Manhattan, politely grinning and chatting, arms folded, with a skinny blonde lady, while Matt Tong is bedridden in an Atlanta hospital with a collapsed lung and Russell Lissack is unaccounted for. Not exactly as planned for their fall American tour, but they’re doing what they can.

Moakes is somewhat enthralled by “what the masses really do” in places like North Carolina, where the band stopped at a Cracker Barrel one Sunday morning to witness “people who obviously just come straight out of church dressed really stiffly and kids our age and younger, looking like they’d never been subjected to European culture at all.” It’s a brave new world out there for the band, not only with middle America under their belt, or band members spit out all over America with collapsed lungs and interviews in the clouds above Manhattan, but because they’ve got something more ambitious than perhaps even they expected, slated to be spat out to a fickle public and an all-consuming British media in only a few months.

Three months later, the release date fast approaching, Okereke slips into incomprehensibility on the phone, having endured a deluge of interviews that have rendered his earnest thoughts dampened in the face of a numb tongue. He spits out words, mumbling and pushing forward some of the most politically minded opinions British culture has recognized in recent years, but sometimes it’s hard to get it all out. Still, he insists the media is not a source of anxiety. All the critical attention? “It doesn’t affect me,” he quips. “If other people really are disappointed, it doesn’t really affect the reason we created this [album] in the first place.”

 Back to that corporate “artist’s” room. Moakes is somewhat at ease, because America–Crackle Barrel, cosmopolitan cities, and all the masses in between–lazes in a giant media pool that affords plenty of depth for acts like his to dodge bad reviews and float on with the good ones (check out our last one in issue 23). Unfortunately for the idealists out there who can’t live with putting out the same record over and again, England’s another story. Across the ocean, “you kind of live by [the media], and you die by it. It’s often happened, especially in a music press that is notoriously fickle, that if you fall out of favor, it can finish you.” So how did our scattered quartet fight the tempest of opinions waiting silently to strike it down or raise it towards unknown heights? They transcended the trite forces of the trendy to bring about something not entirely recognizable, or so they hope. Stay unpredictable, kick dust at the windy British media, and you might “stand more of a chance of staying in the distance.” At the very least, it’s certainly not that “post-punk” they got pinned to in their freshman Silent Alarm.

So how did they take these brash steps away from what made them big in the first place? “I think as people, we’d have found it difficult to put out a record that’s similar, because it wouldn’t have satisfied us,” says Moakes. Still, it wasn’t going to be easy, and Okereke admitted a difficulty separating himself from the process, even after the product was packaged with art and ready for the markets. “We’d read just if we had more time,” he says. For Okereke, the effort was driven by a lyrical approach that engaged none of the vague word games of his freshman album. Instead, Okereke wrote terse, character-driven sketches. And though “all creativity is an extension of yourself,” it’s certainly not veiled autobiography when he sings “I’m sitting, on the roof of my house / With a shotgun / And a six pack of beers” at the beginning of “Hunting for Witches”, an actively political piece about depictions of race and ethnicity in the post 9/11 media.

For Okereke, being political wasn’t a willful act. “It was, ‘this is what we wanted to say, this is what really made me angry’… it wasn’t because of an obligation to talk about [the political]. It was an escape really. I was just trying to get it out of my mind.” It’s Okereke the monk, unconcerned with the worldly effects of his inner divinations (“I don’t really think about how [music] is really disseminated by people”). He views the cultural landscape of pop music with a similarly puritan disdain. “Songs don’t really mean anything anymore… a lot of pop music has become less about actually saying anything.” For the most part, songs are “something you just put on to get geared up to go out,” with content that is largely lost to its listeners. He still holds faith in some–those on his band’s message forums, for instance. His thin layer of hope lies in the possibility that music “can provoke some sort of dialogue… that’s all I can really ask. I know that the majority of the people won’t even listen to the words.” Very thin layer of hope. –Jeremy Krinsley