Music interview: Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club
Bombay Bicycle Club
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If there is one band in Britain that is doing nothing but increasing in popularity, it is Bombay Bicycle Club.

After their début album, 2009’s I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, peaked at a modest 46 on the UK album charts, their subsequent three studio releases have all made the top 10. Earlier this month, their fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow was released and became the band’s first number one record. It also became their first effort to chart in America, even reaching number one on the US Heatseekers chart.

Bombay Bicycle Club have been known to never repeat a formula just for success. After their first album, which was quite heavily rooted in the indie rock world, they release Flaws a year later. This album was entirely acoustic and centred around a much more folk-oriented sound. Despite mixed reviews, it fared far better in terms of sales than I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose.

This time around, the band say that their latest effort is not such a radical shift. “I think our bassist, Ed, summed it up quite well when he said it is an evolution, not a revolution”, drawls lead singer Jack Steadman. “There are moments on the album that will come as a surprise to some people, but as a whole it’s a development. We haven’t reinvented ourselves, or anything. I think when we released that acoustic album straight after our début, I think that really surprised some people and it worked really nicely for us because all expectations were sort of removed. It was such a drastic turn to do a different genre that it gave us a sort of freedom after that to do whatever we wanted, because nobody was thinking ‘oh, they’ll just do another indie album, like the first one.’”

For that reason, Steadman says that there is no pressure when it comes to recording- at least not from their label, anyway. “All the pressure was internal, really. I produced the album myself this time, which was the first time I’ve ever done something like that. It was necessary to have that kind of pressure from the other guys. When you’re doing it yourself it’s easy to get carried away, so the other guys were very helpful in driving me and telling me when to stop, basically.”

Aside from giving the band their first number one album, So Long, See You Tomorrow is also a landmark for them as the music video for the single Carry Me was interactive, making it possible for the viewer to manipulate the group member’s actions within the video. “We were thinking about the sort of general themes of the album and the artwork”, explains Jack. “A lot of it is based on loops and animation and sort of repetition, and we wanted to incorporate that into our first video because we knew that this video was our comeback. This was what most people were going to see as the return of Bombay Bicycle Club, and we wanted it to be really special. This company approached us and we thought that’s perfect. Something completely innovative.”

A common problem for bands when recording is deciding which songs will make it onto the album. However, in the case of Bombay Bicycle Club, Jack explains that they never usually had this problem, until they recorded this album.“Traditionally, we’ve been a band that writes 10 songs and then puts them on the album. Bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, they record like one hundred or two hundred! With this album, we definitely set the bar really high, and the benchmark was super, super high, so there was a case of just waiting for that song to come that met that criteria and discarding the ones that didn’t. It was important for us to be really hard on ourselves.”

Now that the band is starting to make a more substantial impact in the States, Steadman says that it is quite refreshing to play in such a large country, which he feels may have been a little more accepting of Bombay Bicycle Club than some British audiences. “I love touring there”, he begins. “I like the variation you get with America; you can feel like you’ve visited four different countries because of all the climates and the cultures. Also, I feel like in the US we got to have a fresh start, and in this country it’s difficult for some people to see us as something different from that first record we made, which was very straight forward, guitar-based indie music, and since then we’ve really been trying to get away from that and in America it’s more about the last album, which is great.”

That being said, Bombay Bicycle Club are currently in the middle of a sold-out UK tour. Despite their album hitting number one, Jack says that the band don’t raise their expectations when they release a new record. “I think the label has high expectations”, he laughs. “It’s always nice. It’s like a feel-good thing, a stupid ego thing. For me, personally, it’s all about if we can go and play in as many countries around the world as possible then I’m happy, because I just love the travelling aspect of being in a band. I think we want it to be top five, basically!”

Scott Caizley.

Scott Caizley: From Leeds couuncil estate to classical pianist