While awaiting his lift to the studios of xfm where his band are soon to record a radio session, Jack Steadman is doing a spot of reminiscing.
"We were asked to do assembly in front of the school," he recalls of the formation of what was to become the Bombay Bicycle Club in Crouch End back in 2005. "We were the only musicians in our class so we decided to get together. We did a cover of Cissy Strut by The Meters. It was all right but it did not have any words so everyone was a bit bored. It's a really good song though."
In those days the band were called The Canals but, says Jack, "we hated that name" so they searched around for another before alighting on a chain of Indian restaurants in Balham, Hampstead and Holland Park. And (the musical version of) the Bombay Bicycle Club was born.
"Not that we like our name at the moment," confides Jack. "That's what happens when you start young – then it just sticks. We are just trapped. But the Arctic Monkeys are successful so..."
The Bombay Bicycle Club certainly have youth on their side. All their members – singer Jack, lead guitarist Jamie MacColl, bass player Ed Nash and drummer Suren de Saram – are just 19 years old.
Their first breakthrough came in 2006 when they won the Road to V competition on Channel 4, which led to them opening the V Festival in Chelmsford and Staffordshire. "Our guitarist saw an advert for it – we thought it would be funny if we tried," explains Jack. "We entered it jokingly, in a way. Then we got this message saying, 'You are through to the final'.
"It was good," he adds. "It was definitely a catalyst, it surged things forward a bit."
The following year the band released a pair of well-regarded indie EPs. "We had a management company who could fund it all, so we just started our own label (Mmm...)," remembers Jack. "That was fun. It was something cool to say to everyone: 'We have our own label.'"
The EPs, and a single which followed on the Young and Lost Club, were all produced by Jim Abbiss, whose previous clients included the Arctic Monkeys, Editors and Kasabian.
"He had worked with our guitarist's dad (Neill MacColl, son of folk singers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and half-brother of Kirsty) who used to be in a band called The Bible. It was just a bit of nepotism. He came to a gig and really liked it and offered to do it for free. We've built up a nice working relationship with him – he ended up doing the album as well."
At the tail-end of 2008 the band signed to Island Records, one-time home of Bob Marley, Traffic, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention. "That was one of the first offers that we got," says Jack. "We had been putting it off so much because we were at school (the band completed their studies last year). We didn't want to hear any offers at all. But as soon as we heard it was Island we just said, 'Yes'. It was one of the labels that I loved, growing up."
The Bombay Bicycle Club's debut album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose came out to widespread plaudits in July, with critics noting the band's breadth of influences. That's reflective, says Jack, of the members' differing tastes. "I think the main thing is that we don't really listen to British guitar music. I listen to a lot of early 90s American guitar music.
"I don't really listen to bands any more," he adds, anticipating a possible future problem. "It's going to be hard to write the second album. There's only so many bands that go in different directions second time around either for good or bad."
For the moment the fans are definitely on their side. At Reading Festival last month the audience caused havoc by rushing to the barriers when the band took to the stage. "At anywhere else we would be taken aback but we have this special relationship with Reading," says Jack. "We've played there the last couple of years and every year it's got a bit crazy. Hopefully they will let us play there again next year for the fourth time."
If Leeds Festival was less frenzied, it was "still a lot of fun", he adds diplomatically.
Quite what their most fervent admirers will make of the band's next release is less certain. It's an EP of folk songs, featuring among others versions of John Martyn's Fairytale Lullaby.
"We got to do it in David Gray's studio which was really nice," says Jack. "It's like a huge church.
"We always wanted to do something completely different. We all love traditional British folk music. They're not just interpretations of our rock songs. We've just got to persuade Island to release it. We will just do it ourselves if they won't."
In the meantime there's a UK tour to look forward to. For Jack the lure of the road is unbeatable. "It's a lot more interesting than being in a studio," he says. "In the studio I found it hard to say what I was thinking in my head. Playing live there's a huge sense of freedom. It's the most interesting part of being in a band. You meet a lot of interesting people."
As for the future, Jack's hoping the next album, which the band have already started writing, will be recorded differently. "We were too obsessed with perfection on the last album," he says. "It loses a bit of its feel when you do 100 takes and repair everything. I would rather do it quickly and give it a bit more energy.
"Not that it's going to be a jazz album," he chuckles. "It's still going to be roughly the same."
The Bombay Bicycle Club play at the Cockpit on September 25.
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