Interview: Bombay Bicycle Club
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on August 6, 2014
Bombay Bicycle Club, the young, indie-rock superstars who, having dropped So Long, See You Tomorrow early in the year, are already on their fourth record. It’s their greatest, most multi-dimensional album to date. They’re arriving on Aussie shores next month and we were fortunate enough to have a chat to the talented and humble Ed Nash.
G’day Ed. Where are you calling from?
I’m just in my flat in London.
What’s on the radar for Bombay Bicycle Club before you head over to Australia in September?
We’ve got quite a lot of UK and European festivals— Reeding, Leeds, and all through Europe.
After a big festival run like the one you’re on at the moment, is it hard to shift gear into headline tour mode?
It is different but I don’t think it’s that hard. The set list is the big thing. At festivals we play our bigger, more upbeat tracks because not everyone in the crowd is going to know who you are. Whereas at a headline show, you would hope the audience knows your music. We always kind of hope to ‘convert’ people at festivals.
So with your headline shows you want to take the audience on more of a journey?
Yeah, very much so. That’s entirely it. We’ll do some of the quieter songs, do some extended stuff. You can craft far more of a mood and a theme with your own show.
Your latest record, So Long, See You Tomorrow, came out earlier in the year. How do you feel about the album half a year after its release?
I’m becoming more and more fond of it, and the impression I get is that our fans are too. We thought it was a ‘summer’ album, and I think it is a summery album. It suits the weather here at the moment. I know it’s winter in Australia, but we’ve been having beautiful weather and it really suits that kind of vibe. The album has really come into its own and the songs have been great for the kind of European festival season that we’ve been playing.
It was a bit later than this time last year that “Carry Me” dropped, and it was a lot different to your previous work. What were the reasons behind using that song as the lead single? Did you deliberately pick a song that contrasted so greatly with the tracks from your previous records?
It’s entirely that. That song is the most aggressive song on the album and I guess it’s also one of the hardest ones to get into in terms of the sound. There’s a lot going on in it musically, a whole heap of rhythms, and it is confusing that first listen. But we thought we might as well go in hard and hope that it would turn out for the best. You only get one shot at giving a first impression of an album, and we went for it.
The rest of the album is less intense but still very different to your earlier efforts. In particular, there’s a real international feel to it. Was that a conscious thing?
It wasn’t so much a conscious thing. Jack [Steadman] went off, and I went off with Jack a couple times to various places to write songs for the album. Obviously it’s heavily Indian influenced. That came about from us living in India, travelling around India, and at the time Jack was sampling Indian Bollywood records. He was just doing it for fun because he happened to be in India. It wasn’t a pre-meditated thing. We weren’t trying to be gimmicky with the name or anything like that. And then it just kind of found its way onto the record. You can hear little hints of where we were and what we were up to, just because we were inspired by it.
How do you think the album has been received by Indian audiences?
I would love to know. It’s funny, we played one show in India, and we went out there with two acoustics and a bass, and the people there were incredibly receptive. I really enjoyed it, but unfortunately we haven’t been back to play again. It would be interesting to play those Indian inspired songs there, and fingers crossed they’d like it.
Did you work with any Indian musicians in the lead up to the making of the album?
Not really. The Indian sounds you hear on the album are all just samples from Bollywood records that we re-appropriated. We had to get permission and clear all the samples, so we had involvement in that way.
Do you think there needs to be a greater emphasis on Western musicians to reach out to foreign music communities and for audiences to be more open to those diverse influences?
No, I don’t think there needs to be. Each to their own. I don’t think there’d be any point unless you were interested in those kinds of sounds and the dynamic that they added to your own music. It wouldn’t work otherwise. We almost didn’t go with the Indian sound because of our name; we thought people might find it gimmicky, but it really worked.
Are there any other sounds you want to incorporate in your future work, or places you want to visit and be inspired by? Or do you think you’ll return to your roots?
We’ll never consciously return to our roots. We just make the music as it comes along. In terms of going to other places? Then yeah, sure. There’s loads of places I’d love to stay, with the band and myself personally— South America and other parts of Asia. In terms of incorporating those sounds into our music, we wouldn’t make plans to, but if we happen to be inspired or influenced by their music, then sure.
What are your thoughts on City Calm Down, your support act for the Australian tour?
I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet. But all our support acts in Australia have been fantastic in the past so I’m gonna check them out when I get the chance.
Do you enjoy playing to an Aussie audience? How does the vibe compare to a UK show?
They’re actually pretty similar. In terms of all the audiences we play to globally, it’s probably the most similar to a UK audience. In Europe they’re incredibly reserved. In America they’re more reserved but kind of dance around a lot. In the UK there’s a lot of energy and a lot of passion. We’ve certainly found that in Australia as well. They’re fairly representative of one another.
There is a bit of a sweet spot for Bombay Bicycle Club in Australia and you do have quite the following here. When you perform in Australia, is it like being on home ground or do you feel like an outsider?
We’re made to feel so welcome anywhere we go, it’s actually unbelievable. The fans, the people who work in the venue— everyone is just so accommodating. I have to say, in Australia especially. I’ve never met such a lovely bunch of people. I’m not just saying that.
You guys started kicking round when you were 15, 16 years old and in less than a decade you’ve achieved a level of success that most people don’t ever experience. How does it feel to be in your mid 20’s and to already have such a huge influence and stake in the global music scene?
I honestly don’t know how to answer that.
I mean, obviously it’s unbelievable when you remove yourself from it. It’s something I only think about very occasionally because you don’t really ever get to stop; you just have to get on with what you have to do. It feels, on a day-to-day basis, very normal. It’s all I’ve ever really done. We left school and we started doing this immediately. I’ve never known anything else but this.
Do you ever think about what you’d be doing if you weren’t making music?
Yeah, all the time. We had places to go to university and I wanted to do an architecture course which would of been entirely wrong for me. So I’m very fortunate with how everything happened and how it’s worked out. I can actually do something that I enjoy and that’s so important. I wouldn’t be doing the right thing otherwise.
And what’s been your favourite release of this year?
The War On Drugs album (Lost in the Dream).
Maaaaate, so good. I’ve heard that answer from about three different other artists I’ve talked to this year. Everyone just froths over it.
So gooood. I can’t get over it. I’ve played the shit out of it and I still keep listening to it. It gets better and better.
Bombay Bicycle Club are touring in September. Tickets here.
Thursday 25 September – Forum Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday 27 September – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Sunday 28 September – The Metro Theatre, Sydney