Just a little feature I wrote about Bombay Bicycle Club for the August issue of Clash…
From ‘indie landfill’ to magpie musicians, Bombay Bicycle Club are back, and ready to take on the critics
If there’s ever a time that a musician shouldn’t talk to a journalist, it’s when they’ve had a few drinks. Lead singer Jack Steadman seems to have forgotten this rule tonight, however.
“I feel like an old man, I’m not gonna lie,” he slurs. “I’m losing my hair already. I’m going to go bald, and I’m an old man, and I’m happy about it.”
Premature balding wasn’t high on our list of topics for discussion tonight, but whatever. We’ll roll with the meandering mind of our folically-challenged 21-year-old lead singer for the time being.
Clash is speaking to the boys backstage at Optimus Alive festival in Portugal. Having played a successful set, they’ve kicked back with a few beers and been to see some of their favourite artists play.
“We were in the front row for Primal Scream,” enthuses Jack, his eyes shining through a beery haze. “It was so nostalgic I thought I was going to cry. My first ever psychedelic experience was listening to Screamadelica.”
Maybe it’s not beer, but the flashbacks that have addled his brain instead. Whatever the poison, we’re faced with a very affable Jack and his guitarist band mate Jamie MacColl. While Jack’s happy to shoot from the hip, Jamie is picking carefully through his words.
Regardless of their approach, both are charming, and self-deprecating. Until we hit upon the subject of Island, their label. Jack’s off again.
“Our label are great, they really support us. But we can’t help thinking, ‘You lot don’t have a fucking clue’. When we recorded Always Like This, and played it to the label, they were like, ‘I’m not really sure about the song. It sounds a bit weird.’ And then it turned out to be our most famous single.
“It happened again with Ivy and Gold on the second album, it was our most successful song. We thought, ‘Well, here we go again. You guys don’t know shit’. It’s paying off, ‘cos the label completely trust us now, ‘cos we’ve always been right, and they’ve always been wrong. It’s a great position to be in.”
Hmm, we wonder what Island would have to say about that?
Despite the bravado, there’s definitely a vulnerable side to this quartet. When speaking about their constantly evolving sound, Jamie offers some real insight into the band’s insecurities.
“I think we got hurt by a few reviews of our first album that said it was indie landfill,” he says.
“So it was something that we said we’d always try and avoid. We decided to start challenging ourselves more.”
And challenge themselves they have done. From typical schoolboy guitar-toting indie kids, they’ve traversed the often tricky path of musical experimentation to reinvent themselves as acoustic troubadours on last year’s critically acclaimed (and Ivor Novello-nominated) ‘Flaws’, before landing at the jaunty, sensual electro-pop offering of latest LP ‘A Different Kind of Fix’.
First single Shuffle gives a hint of the point that BBC have reached in their evolution. With its upbeat piano hook, horns and catchy pop vocals, it’s an infectious slice of summer for the discerning indie fan who worships Animal Collective.
This new sound was achieved in part with the help of Ben Allen, who produced a chunk of the LP and worked on Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.
“Everything he does sounds quirky,” says Jamie, “It’s that American indie sound that’s like interesting pop music, which is the benchmark in making music that’s accessible to a lot of people but still cool.”
‘Accessible but cool’ appears to be the aim for BBC. “Our motto which we always say to our label is ‘Nothing lame’,” proffers Jamie.
Lame may be out, but the confessional lyrics are still in place, and much of this album relates to relationships, from wrestling to get the upper hand with a lover to being cheated on.
“Relationships are the only thing that I know what to write lyrics about,” says Jack. “I don’t think any of my lyrics are good. The reason why I started making music is because I don’t know how to express myself. And now I’ve got myself into a situation where I have to write lyrics. I really don’t know what the fuck to do!”
Just keep doing what you’re doing, Jack. But maybe hold back on the balding confessions.
To see this article in full on ClashMusic.com, click here.