SCAN meets… Bombay Bicycle Club

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In recent memory, no other band seems to have caught the imagination of Britain’s Youth as well as London’s Bombay Bicycle Club. It’s probably because they’re not too far removed from teenage life themselves, what with their members being propelled into the spotlight at the tender age of 17. Yes, 17. I bet you feel old and useless now, don’t you? Why haven’t you made an album yet, eh?!

That was back in 2006, now a few more years down the line they’ve just released their third album, A Different Kind of Fix, which has been incredibly popular with critics and the public reaching number six in the U.K charts. Hours before their biggest headline tour to date at the Manchester Apollo I caught up with guitarist Jamie Maccol and drummer Suren De Saran for a chat about their music, fans and their trip to Brazil.

So to start things off, what Bombay Bicycle Club songs would you recommend Lancaster University students listen if they’ve not heard you before?

Jamie: I’d go for the first song off our second album Flaws, Rinse Me Down, I just think it’s a really good song and an easy way to see what we’re about.

Sarem: I’d pick Emergency Contraception Blues, I just think they’ll be blown away by it.

So this is the 7th date on your pretty extensive UK tour, how’s it going so far?

S: It’s been really good, and very exciting because it’s the biggest UK tour we’ve ever done. And it’s the first time we’ve been able to do a UK tour with a full production too, with the cool stage set-up and the cool lighting and that.

J: Yeah, and this is the first time we’ve done a proper UK tour in, what, a year and half now? So it’s just good to finally get out here again.

And you’ve sold out almost every venue you’re playing at, that must be quite satisfying for you as well?

J: Yeah, precisely, I think we’ve sold out every venue we’re playing apart from Lincoln…

But that’s Lincoln for you I guess, especially during harvest time…

J: Haha! Yeah, Lincoln on a Sunday night… hardcore, isn’t it?

It is indeed. So how are you finding playing the new material live for the first time? Is it getting a good response?

S: Well yeah actually, we had some great reception for it at the festivals we played at in the summer, and it’s gone down really well here too.

[many affirmative noises]

So I’m interviewing you for a Student paper, and most people at the University are your age or maybe one or two years younger. So what’s it like being so young and on the road when most people your age are just thinking about going clubbing or their next essay deadline?

J: Yeah, well I’m only 21… well, I turned 22 the other day actually but yeah. I don’t think it’s as glamorous as you would think though! Although to be fair we’ve been doing this since we’ve been 17 so we’re used to it now. We went through a stage of partying… a lot a few years back, but we don’t really do that anymore, I just thought it was a bit boring really! But I’m sure on the last night of the tour we’ll act our age and everyone’ll just go mental.

Yeah, your last night is at the Brixton Academy in London, so it’s a kind of homecoming, are you excited for that?

J: Well yeah, for starters it’s the biggest headline gig we’ll have ever done… well, actually tonight is the biggest headline gig we’ve ever done, until London. And then we get to see all the people we’ve not seen in a while. Really looking forward to it.

You’re heading abroad to Europe and South America after you’ve done that, what are you expecting from that? Is the fanbase completely different abroad?

S: Well we’ve actually been to Brazil once before actually, we got invited to some sort of awards show… I still don’t know what it was really about though to be honest, all the bands in the world seemed to be there!

J: But yeah, there’s a really huge appetite for music there, especially in South America, and it’s the same kind of place as, hopefully, India and China, they’re all emerging markets who’ve got lots of money and this voracious appetite for music.

[At this point some very loud drilling occurs, right behind a wall with a prominent ‘DANGER! ASBESTOS!’ sign on it.. We all have a giggle that we’re all slowly dying of asbestosis at this very moment.]

Erm, yeah, they’re extremely passionate, probably the further away you get the more passionate fans you get, probably because we, and other bands from Europe, don’t go there too often. Maybe that’ll change though! We’re going to Sao Paolo this time which is meant to be completely insane, they’re meant to have this incredible love for indie music so we’re really looking forward to it.

You’ve said before that your second album, Flaws, came together almost accidentally as a fully acoustic record. There’s been an obvious progression in sound from ‘I Had The Blues…’ to ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ – what influenced this?

J: Well yeah, like you said Flaws just kind of happened. So there’s this change in style from the first album to the third album that’s blurred by the fact that we did an acoustic album in the middle. But I guess like with Flaws, we weren’t really aiming for any particular sound when we made our latest album, it’s just come together naturally as we learn more about ourselves and what kinds of music we like. Like you were saying about University, people there are finding out about themselves and figuring out what they want to do, we’re just doing the same thing, really, but in terms of music.

Your new album sounds more psychedelic in places, and in others it a lot more shoegazey than before, is this the kind of music you were listening too when you were figuring out what kind of music you wanted to make?

J: Yeah, exactly. Everyone seems to be listening to the same sort of music at the moment anyway, lots of stuff from the eighties especially, so that’s probably why it came out like it did. I played the record to my dad and as soon as it had finished he said it sounded like it was from the eighties, and then he just started reeling off this huge list of bands from then that I had never heard of! We love incorporating new sounds and ideas though, it’s just a part of figuring out who we are.

It’s good to see you branching out, a lot of successful bands seem content to play it safe at the moment. So are you going to go further with this in the future? Will the next album see Bombay Bicycle go dubstep or reggae?

J: Haha, well there is actually a small dubby bit on the first album, so we’ve done it before in a way. And it’s funny that you should reggae, because we did a session for XFM in Manchester before we came to the venue, and we actually did a reggae version of one of our songs, so who knows!

So were there any artists in particular that inspired you? Bob Marley maybe?

Not really to be honest, again it was just a matter of taking all the stuff that we like to listen to and having that influence our music, rather than trying to pin it down to one style or to emulate one artist or another. There’s a big difference between some of the songs on the album which kind of reflects that, just trying to work out what sounded best as we went along.

S: Yeah, it was a natural progression from the first album really, not so much the second. We kept bits from the first album, louder bits, and like Jamie says they’ve just changed because of what we’ve been listening to. But then you could say that we took lots of stuff from the second album too, like the vocal elements. I guess I’ve just contradicted myself there, haven’t I! Ha ha.

So is it hard to emulate the new sounds in a live environment? There’s a lot more going on than just guitars/vocals/drums now, you’ve got samples and synths and loads of other things going on…

J: Like I was saying before this is the first chance we’ve had to properly show these songs in an environment that suits them, you know? With the light show and the big stage and eveything. It is harder though, definitely, we’ve got loads of three part harmonies going on which has been carried over from Flaws, and that’s probably the hardest thing to get right. In terms of the actual performance as well, we know the songs from the first album get a really good reception because they’re full of these big loud/quiet moments and it’s easy to get involved, but there’s a bit more going on in the new songs, you could say they’re not as immediate, I guess. Obviously with Shuffle and things it’s easy to dance to, but with other songs, maybe not so much.

And right, finally, I just wanted to ask you about curry, since we’re in Manchester and all. Do you think it’s better than other curries in England? Because the last three bands I’ve seen, Beirut and Death From Above, have said that Manchester is the home of the best curry they’ve ever had. I’d like to get your opinion.

J: Haha! That’s an odd question. I couldn’t say to be honest, I’ve had curries here before and I don’t think it’s better than any other curries I’ve ever had. I guess it’s because those bands you mention are from America, and you don’t really have that culture of spicy Indian food over there.

Click here for a live review of the Bombay Bicycle Club gig at the Manchester Apollo.

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