Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 21st 2010 6:00AM by Jody Thompson
A frontman who's often painfully shy and once refused to give interviews, he's also steadfastly refused to talk about his personal life, whilst writing about it regularly in song lyrics. Now Kele's gone solo with Bloc Party on sabbatical, there's even more of a conundrum to relish. While Kele has discovered exercise and has bulked up to now sport a ridiculously buff body, musically, he's more stripped-down than ever.
He's not afraid to bare his torso either, as displayed in the hypnotic video to his blindingly-good debut solo single 'Tenderoni.' Not only that, but the singer, who used to stand front of stage at early BP shows bashfully hiding behind his fringe, busts out some dance moves too. Okereke laughs as confesses to Spinner, "Well, at least I had my female backing dancers behind me, they are incredible. I had to do a bit of dancing yes, I think I was a bit bad at it. But it does sit quite comfortably with me, doing all that stuff. I'm a big fan of pop music and I wanted it ('Tenderoni') to look, sound and feel completely different to what I'd done before."
Okereke insists that his solo record of assured electronica almost happened by accident too. "We said we'd take a year off but I wanted to carry on doing stuff. It was just a case of staying occupied. Before I knew it, having started these songs, I was back touring a record. I didn't even want to take a year off really."
Anyone familiar with Bloc Party's three albums --'Silent Alarm,' 'A Weekend in the City' and 'Intimacy' -- won't be surprised to hear that Okereke develops the band's electronic edge further on his debut solo album 'The Boxer.'
Okereke agrees. "I think there was always an element, yes. We've always had a love of the dance floor, definitely. In 'She's Hearing Voices' particularly, we had an electronic feel. Basically, the more I understand about recording, the more I've got into beats and suchlike."
Okereke said he'd become more and more in thrall to the thrill of the dance floor, having toured the world as a DJ since Bloc Party hung up their mics in October 2009.
"It's a similar energy to performing an incredible show. I really view it as the same thing. You want to make a room full of people lose their minds and go crazy. That's the biggest impact DJing had on me, it's made me really conscious of that kind of emotional and physical rush you can experience. I wanted to get close to that experience."
As for the title of his sparkling, hook-heavy, beats-and-breaks-stuffed new LP, Kele says that despite his new physique, he hasn't literally taken up pugilism.
"I'm not into boxing as a sport or watching people fight. I think it's kind of gross, but I like the idea of being really solely by yourself trying to achieve stuff. People being knocked down fighting but having to summon the power to fight on and make it work. Maybe that's what it's like making a record."
Having said that, the singer doesn't see that he has to fight to make the new record a success either, despite the pressure of his previous three albums being critically-acclaimed and each going into the UK Top 10.
"I'm not nervous at all to be honest with you. I made the record entirely by myself, there was never any pressure, not even any label pressure. It was just a fun, interesting exercise for myself. It's not like I'm a 16-year-old just been signed and it's all or nothing. I'm happy to just have a record out."
Okereke has already hit the road in the UK with his new glitch house and grime tinged-new material, backed by three live session musicians who he says have been friends of his for a few years. He takes his show to the US on July 23, starting at the Chicago Metro, before he heads back to the UK for Reading Festival on August 29, where, ironically, Bloc Party formed back in 2003.
So, the question which he's probably sick of answering most has to be asked -- when are Bloc Party getting back together?
Kele sighs, "We'll see. It's a conversation the four of us have to have together. I don't know how I'm going to feel. There's no animosity between us though, there never has been, we just needed to take a break."
With the quality of Kele's new material and the apparent ease with which he's adapted to life as a solo artist, we don't think we'll be seeing Bloc Party back in the studio anytime soon.
'The Boxer' is out on June 22 in the US and June 21 in the UK. To hear 'Tenderoni' and two other tracks from the album, go to his official website http://www.iamkele.com/