After Global Breakout, Bloc Party Targets America

Excerpted from the magazine for

Having played a critical role in the rise of 1990s U.K. indie powerhouse Creation Records, label executive Dick Green has a new international hit in British rock act Bloc Party.

Green signed the four-piece to his London-based independent record company Wichita, which he established in 2000 with former Creation colleague Mark Bowen. Green is best-known as managing director and co-founder with Alan McGee of the now-defunct Creation, home to Oasis, Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream.

On Feb. 24, Bloc Party's debut full-length, "Silent Alarm," bowed at No. 6 on the Eurochart Top 100 Albums list and secured top 10 chart positions in nine European markets. "Literally it's exploded everywhere in the world at the same time," Green says.

Now it's North America's turn. Atlantic-funded Vice Records, licensee for "Silent Alarm" in North America, thinks it has a potential breakout star with the band, which was one of the most buzzed-about acts heading into the South by Southwest Music Conference.

But with the London-based act already being billed as "the next Franz Ferdinand," Vice wants to temper the commercial expectations that are quickly building up around the latest "it" band to emerge from Britain's alternative rock scene -— at least for now.

"With this cascade of U.K. hype we could have leapfrogged that [step] and tried to make this band more pop the way a major label would," Vice GM Adam Shore says. "But we're really [aiming] to build the right foundation for them in America so they can have a long career."

For their part, the members of Bloc Party -— singer Kele Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong —- are warily eyeing the prospects of what they call "careerism."

"I don't know that I agree with the idea of 'breaking' in America," Okereke says. "I have no desire to be the biggest band in America, or anywhere else. The bigger you get the more pressure you get. All I am concerned about is playing shows here to people who want to see us."

Creatively, Bloc Party draws upon influences as varied as Radiohead and Talking Heads, as much as the rhythmic roots that have given rise to Franz Ferdinand, the band with which it is most often compared.

The band is scheduled to do four tours in America in 2005. The first one kicks off with its SXSW appearance. The band will also embark on a tour of Europe later this year, taking in a string of summer festival dates.

Excerpted from the March 19, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to subscribers.

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