In Conversation With: Bombay Bicycle Club
Since their debut a little over a decade ago, Bombay Bicycle Club have become a staple of the indie scene. Consistently infectious throughout their divergence through sounds and influences, their impact on the alternative landscape of British music is palpable, with their lack of presence hugely noticeable during their 6 year hiatus.
Reemerging better than ever with latest album ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’ at the start of 2020, the band are now taking the time the pandemic has granted them to work on as much as they can in terms of new music.
Having recently delved into the world of live albums, I chatted to drummer Suren de Saram to chat the significance of the anniversary of this seminal indie classic, the pressure - or lack thereof - to match up to this, and the feelings of creative freedoms.
The debut album has and is still heavily celebrated within the music scene and that was shown with the 10th anniversary tour last November, how does it feel to know that something that you had created so many years ago is still being adored just the same now?
It’s a pretty amazing feeling to be honest, I think when we were coming back after our hiatus, like when the conversations started, we realised it was the tenth anniversary of our debut album. So when we were talking about getting the band back together it was initially about playing some of the old songs to celebrate that album which eventually morphed into making a new album! When we were coming back we weren’t really sure who would still be there, I guess, in terms of our fanbase and we weren’t really sure what it would look like. It was pretty amazing for us that, although it was a very short tour, that we did to celebrate the debut at the end of last year - we did five dates around the UK - it was touching for us to see that there were so many people in the crowd like a similar age to us. They’d grown up with that album as much as we did. But also what surprised us most was the younger generation there! It was nice to see that those younger than us had taken it to heart as well, it was an emotional five days for us. The show at Brixton is definitely one we’ll never forget.
Have you ever felt like you had to prove yourself within the industry after such a stunning debut?
Not at all really to be honest! It feels like for us as a band, its always been a slow burner I suppose, even when we released that album, sure it got a positive reception but it wasn’t like we had set the world alight in terms of like record sales or anything! When we released the album it did have a lot of success but it went under a lot of people’s radar. So we didn’t feel any pressure at all and every album since then has been a gradual build I suppose, with the audience we’ve been reaching. We were quite clever with our second album, Flaws, because that is completely different from the debut, its essentially an acoustic record, so we side stepped the second album syndrome a bit with it. It kind of gave us creative license to be whatever we wanted going forward, because it was very different from our first album, it was a great thing because people didn’t know what to expect from us, which is a great thing. Obviously after that we went back towards the more electric sound.
Over the years you can kinda see how much that album means to people and kind of gained popularity and all this, I can’t say we felt pressure from the time of release though.
After a number one record, you decided to go on an unexpected hiatus, did you feel like that helped you re-discover yourself as a band?
I think so yeah definitely, I think the hiatus was very important for the four of us to really just experience a bit of life outside the band. We started the band when we were at school and straight into this life, so it was really all that we’d ever known. So yeah it was really important for the four of us to get a bit of life experience, away from each other. I think the album we did before we went on hiatus - So Long, See You Tomorrow - you can kind of see the direction that Jack’s material is going in as he is the main writer, you can see the direction he wanted to head, and you can see that in the solo album he’s produced.
I think on the hiatus we sort of, got what we needed to get out of our systems a little bit and when we came back again as Bombay we had that energy. I think thats why with Everything Else Has Gone Wrong we ended up going back to our more guitar centred roots and to be honest we’re writing some stuff at the moment and it’s got even more of a guitar focus. I think we’re really revelling in that, got the electronics out of our system a little bit.
Being unable to tour and play festivals as originally planned to promote the album, have you found this to be something that has affected the album cycle or do you think it has been as successful as it would have been if you had gone on tour?
I mean yeah its completely messed everything up but we have to be grateful, it really could have been worse timing. We could have announced our comeback and then the pandemic and lockdown could have happened immediately, we’ve got to be grateful for the gigs we did get to play at the end of last year and the start of this year. When we were thinking about it, the EEHGW album campaign got cut short after like two months, we had a lot more planned beyond that. We just kind of had to regroup and change our plan of action. Our thinking is that we are trying to reschedule gigs for the second half of next year and booking onto festivals for next summer to be cautious. With the thinking that by then it will be a year and a half since the album came out, so we are definitely using this time to get started on some new stuff, which we will hopefully be able to release early or mid next year!
What was the decision behind releasing the Live Album of one of the anniversary shows?
To be honest every so often we will just like record our shows, just for our own sort of thing. So we recorded that gig at Brixton, not necessarily with the intention of releasing a live album at the time. It was just a really, really, really, special night, and listening back, it sort of captured something special and the energy that our live shows have. With everything that has happened this year as well it’s kind of turned out to be the ideal time to release a live album, to remind people what a live gig is!
I’m not sure we will release many - or any - live albums beyond this, it just so happened to capture a special evening for us so it felt like the right thing to do to release it!
I don’t know whether I speak for the rest of the band when I say this but I don’t think we have ever captured the raw energy we have when we’re playing live on a studio album, so personally that’s why I’ve been so excited to release this live album.