Interview: Bombay Bicycle Club

Interview with Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club

Introduction

After a well-earned rest, Bombay Bicycle Club are back with a fourth album inspired by their travels around Europe and Asia. We grabbed band member Ed Nash for a quick chat about Bollywood, So Long, See You Tomorrow and staying sane on the road.

Questions and answers

You took some time out between A Different Kind Of Fix and this album. Was that a conscious choice?

Yeah, it certainly was. I think we needed a break, just because we were on tour for so long that we didn’t give ourselves time to rest. If you’re touring all the time, it’s hard to have that initial spark of inspiration to write songs: you just end up writing about tour catering and all the other boring day-to-day aspects! Even though it was an intentional decision to take time off, we still spent the majority of the time making this album, so I guess it was more that we took time away from the public, to work out what we wanted to do next.

Having released three records in as many years, was there any fear that you’d lose momentum during your break?

Not really, no. I think almost the opposite. Because we’d done so much so quickly, and toured for pretty much a year straight, there’s always this fear that you’ll give people too much; that you’ll over-saturate the market, and it might not necessarily be a special thing for people to come see you play.

You and Jack went travelling, didn’t you?

Yeah, I went to some of the places Jack went to. The two of us played at a festival called NH7 in a small town called Pune, just outside of Mumbai, and then he went off to Mumbai and I went down the coast and did the obvious, Beatles-inspired Goa trip by myself. And then I went back to meet him in Mumbai to help him out in the studio for a week, and he stayed out longer. India felt like an assault on all of my senses. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way; I’ve never been anywhere like it.

How did your experiences travelling inform So Long, See You Tomorrow?

I think Jack initially went out just for a change of scenery, but when he was in Mumbai he started listening to all these Bollywood soundtracks, just for fun, and he ended up sampling them in a couple of songs on the album. So I guess the songs themselves provided that initial spark of inspiration, even if that wasn’t our intention initially.

With the Indian influence, the album could have very easily veered into Kula Shaker territory. Were you ever concerned that you’d be able to incorporate those sounds sensitively?

My god, the most fear ever. Aside from anything else, we’re called Bombay Bicycle Club, so we were so scared that people thought it would be a gimmick, when really it had nothing to do with the name whatsoever.

But I guess it depends on how you incorporate that kind of music into your songs. In our case, it’s not that those sounds are influencing the songs: we’re literally sampling them, so you get this full-on Bollywood sound on the album, and not just a snippet.

Aside from Bollywood soundtracks, were there any specific musical reference points?

Not specific artists, but it’s quite similar to a lot of hip hop and dance music in the way that it was constructed. Like dance music, the structures of songs are all loop-based, and there are peaks and troughs where you bring up the tension and make it exciting and then you drop it down.

Also, I guess the songs all started off initially like hip hop songs, because instead of starting off on a guitar, bass and drums, they all started off on a computer. And most would be these completely crazy hip hop songs with Bollywood samples that didn’t sound anything like Bombay Bicycle Club. The challenge was reinterpreting them so they fit in with what we were doing, while still retaining the exciting part of that initial demo.

Why did you choose to self-produce this time?

We actually tried going to two producers to demo the songs, and while we came back with quite good results, they weren’t as good as the demos that we took in initially. We just found that we were trying to recreate the demos, which seemed a ludicrous thing to do. As soon as we realised that we already knew what we wanted, doing it ourselves seemed like the obvious answer.

Also, previously we’d gone into quite big, fancy studios to record and that could be quite intimidating, especially when we were younger. This was a very enjoyable way of working, and I’d certainly do it again.

But was it difficult losing that objective perspective, particularly when it came to judging when a song was finished?

Yeah, that is the only down side of it; I definitely agree with you on that point. Sometimes you have so much freedom that you do lose perspective on the songs, so much so that you take it too far. And that’s almost when you know a song’s finished: you look back at it and think, “Actually, it’s not very good anymore.” Then it’s just a case of taking it back a couple of steps to the point where it’s at its best.

We got a guy called Mark Rankin in [to the studio], to help us engineer it and do some of the more technical aspects. So he provided an outside point of view at the times where we had completely lost our minds!

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

I really like the last track because it encapsulates the two sides of the album. It starts off as this really washed-out, slow, peaceful vibe with big group harmonies and lots of reverb, and then gradually speeds up into this massive, psychedelic, electric freak-out.

Alongside regular vocalist Lucy Rose, Rae Morris sings on the album too. How did you discover her?

Lucy recommended her to us actually. She’s just got this voice... She’s probably one of the most unbelievably naturally-talented people I’ve ever met. She’s never had singing lessons or piano lessons, or anything like that, but she can play and sing better than anyone else. And her voice is the perfect contrast to Lucy’s.

Lucy has got this beautiful, soft voice that’s fantastic but doesn’t work on some of the bigger tracks on this album. So by using them both we’ve got both ends of the spectrum there. Rae will be supporting us on our UK tour, actually, so hopefully she can come on and sing some of the songs.

It’s a huge tour you’ve got booked. How are you feeling about it? Do you enjoy touring?

Yeah, it’s what I prefer to do more than anything else. I think it’s first and foremost what Bombay Bicycle Club is good at doing: we’re a live band. And it’s amazing to see people enjoy the music you make, right in front of you, and to interact with and meet people that appreciate what you’re doing. Plus we’re going to Sweden, Denmark and Spain on this tour, which are all places where we’ve never played our own shows before.

Does it ever get a bit much being constantly on the move? How do you stay sane?

I’m not sure I do stay sane, really! I guess sometimes it gets a bit much if you’re travelling a lot but, when you think about it, it’s pretty much the best job in the world. So when I get a bit crabby or annoyed, I think about that and it puts it all into perspective.

Are you playing any festivals?

Oh yeah, we’ve got big plans to do festivals. They are not public yet unfortunately, so I can’t divulge which ones we’re doing but we’re certainly going to be making appearances.

Finally, what’s been the highlight so far?

I was thinking about this the other day, and I think it was probably the first tour that we ever did. We were going around the UK for eight or nine days in this van, playing to maybe 30 or 40 people a night. And we were probably terrible at the time as well, but just the idea that people wanted us to come out and play – in a place that wasn’t where we grew up – blew my mind. The thought that we were getting somewhere and that it was working out was probably one of the most exciting feelings I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget that.

January 2014