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British band Bastille taken aback by mainstream success

By Rollo Ross

LONDON (Reuters) - The success of the alternative rock group Bastille which has stormed the British album and single charts this year has taken no one by surprise more than the band itself.

The four-piece that played its first gig two years ago has topped the UK album charts with "Bad Blood" while their single "Pompeii" has hit the top 10 in Britain, Ireland, Belgium and Italy while getting wide radio play in the United States.

Singer-songwriter Dan Smith, who wrote most of "Bad Blood" on a laptop in his bedroom, said he was stunned by their rapid rise to fame and the fact the band's recently announced UK tour sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale.

"We can't complain at all but because we didn't aim for this we didn't know what to expect," Smith, wearing a grey hoodie with his hair in its trademark backcombed style, told Reuters television in an interview in an old church hall in east London.

"We have the most varied job in the world, we do so many different things and go to so many different places but ... we all, in a lot of these situations, feel like competition winners who got the wrong ticket."

The band, signed to EMI Music, was founded by Smith and revolves around him, named after his July 14 birthday which is Bastille Day celebrated in France for the 1789 storming of the fortress in Paris that started the French Revolution.

Smith is the only band member to feature in their videos.

Asked whether the band was a democracy, keyboardist Kyle Simmons quipped: "It's not. It's not democratic."

But Smith quickly jumped in to explain that he had a strong sense of visuals and how he wanted the videos to look so took charge of that part of the band's image.

"On the live side of things I think it's much more democratic," he added.

Smith said the band's music seemed to appeal to differing ages with his songs avoiding love and focusing on subjects ranging from mythology in the single "Icarus", "Pompeii" about the Roman city and "Laura Palmer' based on the murdered schoolgirl in the "Twin Peaks" television series.

"I'm not even remotely interested in writing that is autobiographically. It's not what drives me at all," said Smith.

"I'd rather write about things that I find interesting or I'm reading about or watching at the time."

Before embarking on their tour this autumn, the band is supporting Muse's stadium tour in May and June and playing many of Britain's most popular festivals including Glastonbury.

They will also play at the Rock Am Ring festival in Germany and the Summer Sonic festival in Japan.

Smith, however, is determined not to let fame affect the band and readily admits that some performances scare him.

"The thought of playing a stadium terrifies me," he said.

"I like to think we'll keep our feet firmly on the ground and who knows? This time next year we could all be back to our old jobs and working in a shop or whatever."

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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