Just mere hours before Bombay Bicycle Club took to the stage of a heaving Rock City, Impact‘s Sarah Dawood caught up with Jamie (guitar) and Suren (drums), who filled us in on their BBC Live Lounge session that very same day, their experience as 16 year olds playing at V Festival and their musical progression from album to album…not to mention their short-lived friendship with Tinie Tempah…
How’s the tour gone so far?
J: It’s been good, as you can see we’re pretty tired! It’s been the first big UK tour we’ve done in about a year and half, and the first electric tour we’ve done in longer than that, so it took us a while to get back into the swing of it. We’re kind of seen as a band who’s always around because we’ve released 3 albums in just over 2 years, but in reality we haven’t done that much touring.
Have there been any particular places you’ve enjoyed the most?
S: Sometimes the ones you don’t expect – no disrespect to Hull, but Hull was one of the most enjoyable of the tour!
J: I really enjoyed Lincoln as well!
S: Partly because less bands go to those places so everyone’s more excited about bands playing.
So you did a BBC Live Lounge session today in London – how did that go?
S: Yeh it was cool – we were a bit worried about the cover (Video Games – Lana Del Ray), we only worked it out yesterday and the day before.
J: I was worried about the interview. We have a history of bad interviews, particularly on the radio.
A little less pressure when it’s for a magazine, eh?
So with your release of ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ this year, which has a relatively more relaxed and REM-style sound to it than your first album, would you say your music has matured/ changed somewhat?
S: Yeh it’s definitely gone through quite a few changes I guess, all our albums have been pretty different from each other. I guess our early stuff is your more standard indie-rock, then we went through our little acoustic phase on the second album.
J: Musically, this one is the most mature. I think the obvious thing is us being more comfortable in the studio and more comfortable with technology and the intricacies of our instruments. The songs are great on the first two albums, the new album’s probably just a little more refined.
You performed a few years ago at a free acoustic gig on Nottingham campus in the New Theatre – do you feel you are targeting a student/younger audience?
J: Yeh, definitely! It’s always been young.
Because you guys are pretty young yourselves!
J: Yeh, I’d like it to be a bit more all-encompassing to be honest. I think older fans can be a bit put off by the prospect of going to gigs with a load of 16 year olds, which is how I feel to be cynical about it, and I’m only 22. I don’t know what the solution is to that. I feel like a lot of the teenage boys are just there to fight rather than actually enjoy the gig. But it’s kind of getting a balance, because I don’t like crowds that stand still either …but I don’t want them to fight, so…maybe I’m asking too much!
You get quite a lot of acclaim for your live, acoustic sound – do you prefer your electric sound or your acoustic sound?
J: I definitely prefer playing electrically live to acoustically. I think Suren does as well, I think we all do to be honest.
S: It’s just more fun basically. Not to say acoustic stuff isn’t enjoyable to play as well, but with electric, we’re just more busy, we’re burning more calories. It’s a bit of a work out!
What made you decide to create your acoustic album ‘Flaws’ then?
J: It was never really a conscious decision. A lot of the B-Sides for the first album were acoustic songs. We went into a session to do some B-sides and we left with four songs, and we thought it would be a waste to use them for B-sides so we thought, why don’t we make an album? We never really wanted it to be a big thing, more of a side project if anything, but it sort of spiralled out of control!
‘Indie’ is a really broad term that people might class your band under. Personally, I feel you have quite a distinctive and recognisable sound. Would you place yourselves loosely under a certain genre?
J: I don’t even know what indie music really means, or what it ever really meant. We use guitars…?! Some of the songs on the new album lean more to pop music than indie music, like ‘Shuffle’, and ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’. The first two albums were very much built around guitars, and whether it was acoustic or electric. The songs started and finished with the song-writing on guitar, but now a song could start with a sample or a loop or something so guitars are more just another instrument we use as opposed to being the centre of the main song-writing.
With so many other guitar-based bands around at the moment, how do you think you’ll go about achieving a sense of longevity?
J: Well I think doing ‘Flaws’ sowed the seeds for having a long career, because I think it immediately showed that we can make other kinds of music. I don’t know if we could recreate the first album even if we wanted to; I think that’s the pitfall a lot of other bands have. I think you’ve got to try to push things forward, that’s how you keep it fresh. I think that’s how Jack’s able to keep producing a lot of songs over a short period of time; if you’re not bogged down in one way of song writing or trying to write one type of music, it becomes a lot easier. That can be frustrating for fans though if they’re particularly attached to one album.
But then if they’re your fans, they should appreciate your music changing!
J: Yeh, but a lot of young people are so stuck in liking one type of music, and if it falls outsides the boundaries of that, they’re often not very receptive.
But as I was saying before, you’ve got a distinctive sound so even if you’re adapting and changing…
J: Yeh. Regardless of what it is, hopefully it still sounds like Bombay Bicycle Club.
What artists and genres would you most like to collaborate with and experiment with?
J: Different producers, we’re probably not going to run off with an R n’ B artist…
S: Tinie Tempah…
J: Suren would like to work with Tinie Tempah.
S: He asked me. He said he’d like to work with us.
That would be quite cool! Did you turn him down?
S: He sent me a BBM; we tried to follow it up…
Tinie Tempah sent you a BBM?!
J: Yeh, Jack has him on BBM!
S: We know him, because he records on Atlanta and he dropped by the studio one day because I think he was on tour…
J: Not to see us…I think he was recording some vocals or something…
S: And that’s how our friendship with Tinie Tempah started!
J: …and ended.
Do you ever get star-struck in situations like that?
J: No…we’re not celebrities…maybe Tinie Tempah’s a celebrity. I’ve never really been starstruck by anyone.
S: I got pretty excited when we were 16 and we played V Festival…I got pretty drunk and at the time the Bloc Party drummer was my drumming hero and I met him backstage.
J: We just p*ssed loads of people off at that festival basically…
J: Like Fatboy Slim, think we p*ssed him off.
S: He was just a bit rude…
J: Girls Aloud…were they there?
S: Yeh, we were looking into their dressing room and apparently that was inappropriate or something.
V Festival have a diverse selection of artists don’t they?
So, about V Festival…you first got noticed on the popular music scene after winning Channel 4’s ‘Road to V’ Competition in 2006, and were then asked to play the opening performance of the festival that year. That must have been pretty nerve-wracking for you! How did you feel at the time? Was talent high at the competition and what was the competition process like? Aside from p*ssing everyone off backstage, what did you get up to?
J: We just had to do a gig really, and submitted some songs.
S: The first stage was voted for and the finalists were judged.
J: We were just 16 year old kids having a laugh at everyone else in the competition. It was a do-or-die kind of thing so..that’s probably why we won, we didn’t really care.
J: I was on a rugby tour in Australia when I found out we won.
S: At the time, it was pretty fucking exciting.
J: we probably weren’t ready to play at V festival to be fair!
Did you play on the main stage?
J: On the second/opening stage – the Channel 4 stage I think it was. It was a f*cking big stage. We’ve done so many festivals where you’re first on and they open the doors as you go on stage, but there was a surprising amount of people. And I also remember as soon as we went on stage, there was a thunderstorm…typically.
Have you all always wanted to be musicians or did you envisage other career paths?
S: Both our dads are actually musicians as well but I don’t think either of us grew up wanting to be musicians.
J: I don’t think it’s healthy growing up wanting to be a rock star. I don’t think any of us have any particular appetite to be famous fullstop. I didn’t necessarily think I’d be a musician but I’ve always liked music. But then…everyone likes music. I’d like to be famous in a country I don’t live in, maybe Germany or Brazil…somewhere with hot women. This is for the Nottingham Uni paper right?
J: My girlfriend’s definitely going to read this. She has lots of friends at Nottingham.
Bombay Bicycle Club released their third album ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ in August of this year, and are currently undertaking the biggest tour of their musical career so far. To check out their BBC Live Lounge Session, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/sessions/2011-10-17_bombaybicycleclub