We got the chance to chat to the exceptionally talented Bombay Bicycle Club ahead of their South African tour and found out a little bit more about the group, tips for picking up ladies and crazy concert antics.
MyCityByNight – As a South African, we get excited when we actually have electricity or running water (okay I’m exaggerating) – have you ever been to SA and what were some of things you heard about our country that seemed a bit odd?
Bombay Bicycle Club – I’ve never been to South Africa myself. To be honest I’m not sure I’ve heard anything about the country that I would call ‘odd’ but South Africa’s obviously a very special country in terms of it’s incredibly interesting history. I haven’t been this excited about going somewhere in a while, it’s just a shame we can’t stay for long.
You’re known around the world as an indie band, which at times is a little bit misleading – how would you describe the current sound of Bombay Bicycle Club?
Well we’ve changed sounds quite a bit from album to album. I think ‘indie guitar band’ would be a fair description of our first album, but like you say we’re quite a different band now. I suppose at the core we still are a guitar band in that the setup is still two guitars, bass and drums, but over the last couple of albums, electronics and sampling have started to play a bigger part and guitars now are often adding to the overall texture as opposed to being the main focus. A lot of our songs now start off on a computer as opposed to a guitar or a piano – it might be a sample to which an electronic beat would then be added and then the ‘live’ instruments like the guitars and acoustic drums would only come in at a later stage. In general I would describe our music now as more groovy than our earlier, more raucous sound.
Nowadays, I’m sure women literally throw themselves at you – for us normal blokes, what’s the best way to win over a lady?
Yeah it’s become such an issue that we’ve had to hire extra security recently. I have quite a few chat up lines that work well for me – most of them are probably not suitable for here though. ‘Is your Dad an alien? Cos you’re outta this world baby’ is one of my favourites and has worked on every lady that I’ve tried it on (none).
If you could do a song with one artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
Someone was telling me recently how Michael Jackson used to work – apparently he didn’t actually play any instruments but communicated to his musicians what he wanted each of them to do by singing each part to them. So for example he’d sing each note of the chord that he wanted his guitarist to play and the guitarist would then play it. I think it would be pretty fascinating just to witness that.
The latest album is called So Long, See You Tomorrow – how on earth did you end up with that as a title and what were some of the inspirations behind its sound?
It is the name of a novel by an author called William Maxwell. Jamie, our guitarist, came across it and we thought it fitted the themes of the album well. The main themes were repetition (the last lyrics of the album are ‘keep going round and round’) and loops (many of the songs on the album are based around little loops and the album as a whole is one big loop as the first melody you hear is the same that you hear at the very end) and we thought So Long, See You Tomorrow made sense.
I suppose the thing that made this album sound different to our previous albums was travelling. Jack spent time in India, Turkey and Japan amongst other places, not with the specific goal of picking up influences, but just to feel liberated from the rut of being in London. The Indian influence on the sound of the album is the most obvious – Jack would be buying old Bollywood records out there and then sampling them. In many cases these samples were the initial spark and the songs on our album grew from them.
When can we expect the new album?
We’re going to take a little break after we finish touring this album at the end of the year, most likely for a few months. I doubt we’ll be releasing another album before 2016.
You’ve played some insane venues and festivals in the past – do any of them stand out as especially memorable?
There are quite a few memorable ones. We’ve played at Lollapalooza in Chicago a couple of times and the view of the Chicago skyline from the main stage is pretty spectacular. We also played a festival called Clockenflap in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong and the view from the stage there looking at the Hong Kong island skyline was similarly breathtaking. For completely different reasons, the time we played an acoustic set down a mine shaft and also in a replica castle were also memorable just because they were completely bizarre.
Following on from that – what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen go down at one of your gigs (I’m sure the odd bit of underwear on stage is the norm)?
Yeah underwear is normal. There have been a few funny things happen in the past – Jack once hit a girl in the front row in the head with his guitar which initially looked like it caused quite a serious injury but luckily turned out to be not too bad. Seeing the dad of one of our support acts crowd surfing during our set was also quite funny. Louis our keyboard player, who also used to guitar tech for us, used to be into naturism and did some naked guitar changes back in the day which we used to enjoy.