“It’s About Desire” Kele On His New Solo Album
Kele Okereke is ready to re-embrace the world. The Bloc Party frontman used the space afforded to him by the pandemic to dig deep, constructing his enriching ‘The Waves Pt. 2’ full length on his own terms. A work of introversion, it tested the musician to the limit. Follow-up record ‘The Flames Pt. 2’ is another deviation entirely – forceful, physical, and lustful, it’s the sound of someone re-engaging with the pleasures of the body, and often fraught emotions that come along with it.
Clash chats to Kele in the run up to release day, and the London based artist admits he still feels a tingle at sharing new art with the world. “I don’t know if it’s a pleasurable tingle!” he laughs. “But I really enjoy the period when it’s just yours, before you have to share it with people. That’s a magical time for me, when you’ve made this thing no one else can listen to.”
‘The Flames Pt 2’ nods to the sonic assault of those early Bloc Party cuts, while also incorporating aspects of the synth-laden groove that outlines his solo work. If ‘The Waves Pt. 1’ was about losing yourself, then this new song cycle is about relocating yourself in a new environment. “The last album tapped into that feeling of being adrift. It was written at home, during lockdowns, when I wasn’t sure what would happen… if I would ever be onstage again. So there was a sense of anxiety, and restlessness running through it.”
“With this record, it became important for me to visualise the next step. I wanted something that spoke of action and movement. I guess I wanted to get some of that danger back, really.”
The new album is part of a mooted triptych, another chapter in a four-part project that has yet to reveal itself fully. “It’s mirroring the elements – fire, earth, air, water. And what’s going to bind them all together is how I interpret those sounds and feelings.”
What binds these projects together is an emphasis on self-reliance, and a willingness to truly put himself out there. Of his solo realm, Kele explains: “I found that process incredibly liberating. It meant every creative decision had to come from me. So with this, I wanted to keep going forwards. To make this new sonic world.”
Constructed on the guitar, the new material is biting, immediate, and pleasingly DIY – at times, it’s like you’re being pinned up against the wall in his rehearsal room, besieged in feedback. He smiles: “I wanted this album to be very in-your-face… almost uncomfortably so.”
Lyrically, ‘The Flames Pt. 2’ is carnal. It’s an utterly shag-tastic indie pop record, one rooted in rutting, and app-based swiping. “I’m a sexual person,” he says. “That’s just where I am right now.”
“On this album, people are being driven to act in ways that maybe aren’t so healthy… but at least they’re acting. That’s why there’s so much desire in this record. It’s the first time I’ve been singing explicitly about sex. I guess I was leaning into sexuality more.”
“This is a record about transgression,” he adds. “It’s about desire. It’s about embracing that, even if it’s problematic. Even if it causes problems, you have to do what’s right for you.”
Kele is speaking his truth, in a way he’s always longed to. Bloc Party spearheaded the UK indie revolution, yet while love and passion are recurring motifs in his work he’s rarely been so honest, so explicit, and so virile. The change, he explain, is mainly due to age. “I trust that I understand the process now, and I’m confident that people will listen. Events in my personal life have mirrored the record. I feel like there was a sense of just wanting to be honest about that.”
Embracing honest, Kele is ready to face the changing seasons with a fire deep inside him.
‘The Flames Pt. 2’ is out now.
Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Flore Diamant