My life in travel: Kele Okereke
'Berlin was the first time I travelled alone – it was completely eye-opening'
Saturday 13 July 2013
Kele Okereke is the lead vocalist of Bloc Party. The band headlines Latitude Festival this week (18-21 July) and releases its latest EP Nextwave Sessions on 12 August (blocparty.com).
First holiday memory?
I grew up in east London, but every year our local church would organise seaside trips to places such as Margate, Clacton and Southend. It was only a day-trip, but I always had a great time and loved being by the sea. I look back on those experiences really fondly now, because they were the first times I left where I lived to go somewhere else in Britain.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Brighton. I could see myself living there if I wasn't in London. There's something really wistful about seaside towns, especially when they're not in season. It would be interesting to see the city in winter.
Berlin, because it was the first time I'd travelled outside of the UK on my own. I didn't really know anyone, but I went over for a month and it was a completely eye-opening experience. For the first time I saw a different kind of life.
It was summer and I was surprised the weather was so hot, because I'd always assumed Germany to be a cold place. I went to the Tiergarten and there were all these half-naked Germans sitting about in this huge park in the center of Berlin, drinking steins of beer. I met some incredible people in those four weeks.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Be open to the people that you meet. I've travelled in situations where I've not known anyone, but you get taken on some pretty incredible adventures, just by chance encounters with someone you meet in a bus, train or bar.
Ideal travelling companion?
My tour manager, Martin, because he's so practical and makes sure I get where I need to be. I've never missed a plane in 10 years, because there's always someone ringing with a wake-up call and making sure my flights are booked. When I get home, I can't even change a plug.
Greatest travel luxury?
I've been getting into wearing tracksuits on planes recently. Martin has a velour one that I'm super-jealous of.
One of my favourite things to do when I'm in a city is to walk out of the hotel in a straight line for an hour and see where I end up. That way, I don't get lost.
When I lived in New York, I'd walk along the West Side Highway and the Hudson River to Lower Manhattan. New York is such a built-up city that you constantly feel buildings are bearing down on you but that route was the closest I'd get to experiencing nature.
I started reading Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Sanskrit text with annotations, when I was on holiday in Miami, which was good because I was in a relaxed state of mind at the time, so I was able to absorb it.
Where has seduced you?
Australia. It's my favourite place to perform and it's my favourite place to visit. I love the food, the people, the way of life and the weather. The band has toured pretty much everywhere: Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania, but my favourite place is Byron Bay in New South Wales. It's paradise. There's a festival there called Splendour in the Grass, which is always a real pleasure to play.
Hôtel Amour in Paris. It's a boutique hotel with great décor. The room that I was staying in was painted like a boudoir, with 1970s photography and vintage magazines in a glass cabinet.
New York. I fell in love with the speed of the city, it's such a 24-hour place, but I also think it's a quite hard environment too. Everyone works around the clock because they know that if they don't, somebody else is going to be snapping at their heels. That breeds a certain kind of climate that I'm not sure is very hospitable to live in, but it's still a really cool city. I loved my time there.
I'm going to be home for a month from the end of July to the last week in August. I can't wait because I've just moved to south London and I want to see Brixton in the summer.
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