Bombay Bicycle Club: An Interview

Article published on April 18, 2014
Article published on April 18, 2014

The band from London are buzzing after their fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow topped the charts in the UK. Cafébabel spoke to singer-songwriter Jack Steadman about the new album, Bollywood, Eastern influences and tiny rooms in Tokyo.

Ar­riv­ing at the Tra­bendo to meet Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club, we see Jack Stead­man from a dis­tance. He is walk­ing to­wards us, smil­ing with his gui­tar round his neck. He in­vites us onto his tour bus, of­fer­ing us beers left over from the night be­fore in Ham­burg. Still smil­ing he says they couldn’t have found an uglier place to stay than the park­ing lot be­hind the Tra­bendo where they have spent the day in Paris. We can only agree. There are mounds of mud and scaf­fold­ing strewn every­where.  On tour, this bus is the bed­room and the liv­ing space of one of the most suc­cess­ful bands in Britain. Even though the band are all under 25, Bom­bay Bi­cy­cle Club can look back on al­most a decade of band his­tory. While talk­ing, Jack, the band’s singer and song­writer, lays his hands on a cush­ion as if he wants to rest them for the evening gig in Paris.

Café Babel: How's the tour going ?

Jack Stead­man: Tours are al­ways up and down. We started in Brus­sels, we went to Am­s­ter­dam, Copen­hagen, Ham­burg and then we are here in Paris. The shows in Scan­di­navia were in­cred­i­ble, we never played there be­fore, so the crowd was ob­vi­ously super ex­cited. And then last night was a bit weird in Ham­burg. I got a feel­ing that Ger­man au­di­ences are big­ger fans of our older ma­te­r­ial, which is more heavy and gui­tar-based, more ag­gres­sive and then when we played the new songs with the more East­ern in­flu­ences and the more light dance-ori­ented ones, they were just a bit con­fused.

CB: Is there a dif­fer­ent feel­ing in the cities that you are tour­ing from when you were tour­ing them first of all?

JS: The thing about going back so reg­u­larly when you are in a band is it makes you re­al­ize how you have changed, be­cause you are doing the same things, whereas a year ago tours were very dif­fer­ent for us. We didn’t take them as se­ri­ously and we par­tied the whole time and the shows were some­times awful and we were hun­gover. We spent two years pro­duc­ing this record our­selves and we put so much love into it. We go on tour and we want the show to be good now and that is such a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude to be­fore where tour­ing was just an ex­cuse to party and have fun.

CB: Do you find it's pro­duc­tive to read­ the press or do you find it tor­tur­ous?

JS: It is a ter­ri­ble idea, but it didn’t stop me from doing it. I am in a re­ally happy place right now, where I just don’t re­ally care. As long as some peo­ple like it and we can do our shows, that is fine.

CB: I once saw you in Cam­bridge and I lost con­trol of my arms and my legs, they just went wild. How would you like peo­ple to re­spond to the music?

JS: I just want peo­ple to be smil­ing the whole time.

CB: What would you say is the mes­sage of your music?

JS: I don’t think the music has a mes­sage, but as a band we kind of want to be the band, that when you are in the au­di­ence you kind of want to be on stage with. We are just kind of nor­mal guys and there is noth­ing mys­te­ri­ous about us at all. We just look kind of goofy and nerdy on stage and I love that be­cause there is no pre­tence at all. And if you com­bine that with the fact that we made the record by our­selves with not a lot of money and it got to num­ber one in the UK that sends a pow­er­ful mes­sage to peo­ple: you don’t need to wear fancy clothes and you don’t need to be a dick head be­cause that is what rock­stars do. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on an ex­pen­sive pro­ducer, you just have to love good music.

CB: Are you into pol­i­tics at all?

JS: The op­po­site. 

CB: What is the op­po­site?

JS: I don’t care at all. I don’t pay at­ten­tion to it.

CB: Was there ever a mo­ment, when you saw pol­i­tics as some source of cre­ativ­ity for you?

JS: Never. (si­lence) It is just mu­si­cal in­flu­ences, it never has any­thing to do with some­thing that is hap­pening around me.

CB: What were the key in­flu­ences when you started to pro­duce music?

JS: It started off with Flea and John Fr­us­ciante, I was thir­teen and start­ing to play the bass. He was all about im­prov­ing and I fell in love with that.

CB: Was there a plan B when you went to school? Or is there some­thing in your head that tells you if this stops today I am going to do some­thing else?

JS: After school I was going to study French at uni­ver­sity. I had a place at Man­ches­ter. But ever since I've been writ­ing music, I knew this is what I was going to do. So I never thought about any other job. I al­ways had a very strong con­fi­dence from a young age that this was going to hap­pen. I don’t know why. I think music is the only thing that I have con­fi­dence about.

CB: In a few years time when you’re free, what can you see your­self doing?

JS: I’ve got two plans. One is: I am going to start a jazz café, I don’t know where, but I don’t think it can be in Lon­don. But it’s based on these ones that I saw in Tokyo. I visit Tokyo every year and just go record shop­ping. The shops there are about the size of this room (maybe 10 m2) and there is a man be­hind the bar and 10,000 records all around and just two big speak­ers in the cor­ner. You go there and no one talks be­cause you just lis­ten to music. It is like a li­brary and I fell in love with it. I have never seen any­thing like this out­side Tokyo, so I would like to open my own.

After that I would like to be­come a train dri­ver. I just think it would be a great job. Free­dom of mind. I don’t think it will ever hap­pen, be­cause I can’t even drive a car.

CB: Where does the Bol­ly­wood music in your record come from?

JS: It comes from a film called Nagin. It’s about a snake charmer. That's the theme music for it. I spent a month in Mum­bai. I was just lis­ten­ing to a lot of records and going record shop­ping. It is taken di­rectly from it. It's just a sam­ple.