Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke is engaged in a titanic struggle to keep himself entertained. Last October, Bloc Party announced they were going on hiatus, citing internal tensions and the need for a break. Okereke initially intended to take some time off and relax like the rest of the band.
Nine months later, the 29 year-old front man finds himself embarking on a whole new career of sorts. Today he releases The Boxer, a debut solo record that wades into a dance-inspired musical genre unlike anything he’s done before. He’s been playing warm-up shows in Europe and now officially touring the U.S. with a new band, playing songs all his own for the first time.
And as if that weren’t enough, he’s chosen this year to finally publicly confront the issue of his sexual orientation, which he long resisted discussing in the press. “My parents are getting older,” he explained recently in a moving interview. “And I didn’t like the idea that they could possibly die without knowing something that is a big part of my life.”
What was supposed to have been a hiatus is turning out to be a defining year for Okereke — he’s taking control, shaping his own destiny, and he’s working his ass off. “I think watching people fight for sport is kind of gross, but I do like the idea that as a boxer you do have to rely on no one but yourself to get something done,” Kele explains on the record’s title. “You have to summon the energy and the strength from inside yourself — even though you’re getting knocked down and it’s hard, you have to keep going.”
He seems driven, as if on a mission, to keep going. “I’ll have time off when I’m an old man,” he said recently. Okereke arrived at our offices wearing the grueling effects of a 10-hour press day, but determined to press on. He proceeded to regale us for over an hour with personal candor and a riveting acoustic performance. He even weaved a tall tale or two into the mix — just to keep himself entertained.
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