Sunday 22 October 2017

Get on yer Bombay bicycle

Don’t be fooled by their hipster attire, these freewheelers can party with the best of them: their latest ‘creative’ foray has resulted in a ban from budget hotel chain Premier Inn. Confused? Eamon Sweeney gets the lowdown

Bombay Bicycle Club
Bombay Bicycle Club
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

We expect our rock stars to be slightly debauched and elegantly wasted, so it's a surprise to learn what Bombay Bicycle Club front man Jack Steadman has been getting up to on a day off in Dublin.

"I went to my first university lecture this morning," Steadman announces. "A friend of mine who goes to UCD asked me to go to a philosophy lecture.

"It was really funny and strange, because somebody recognised me, who is also coming along to the show tonight. He couldn't believe his eyes. I think I gave him quite a fright.

"It was very interesting, but I just couldn't believe how many people were on their laptops not paying any attention whatsoever. People were just messing around on Facebook. They pay massive fees and just sit there."

In case you think Bombay Bicycle Club are a bunch of philosophy loving nerds, they do hold the distinction of being barred from the Lenny Henry endorsed Premier Inn hotel chain.

"We didn't like the artwork on the wall so we rearranged it," bassist Ed Nash reveals. "As it happens, they quite liked the artwork, so we had a little falling out.

"We never, ever want to go back there so it's fine," Steadman continues. "There's a certain charm to Premier Inns, but we haven't stayed in one in a long time. They're slightly better than Travelodges in that they're a little notch above them, apart from the artwork."

On the eve of the release of their fourth album album So Long, See You Tomorrow, the London band appear to have developed a strong work ethic as hard grafters as opposed to hedonistic party animals.

"The new songs require so much effort that there's no way we could play them drunk," Steadman laughs. "We could have for the first album no problem at all. Playing a bit of guitar is just fine, but it's all hands on deck now. We do warm ups before the show and have herbal tea. It's all very civilised.

"We've a great crew who have been with us for years," Steadman continues. "The soundman tells us very, very bluntly if something is dreadful. We are not surrounded by yes men, which tends to happen with a lot with famous people. Everyone around them loves them. They become self-indulgent and make awful music.

"If anything, we're harder on ourselves than ever before. The bar has been set high on this album and there's so much to do. We forgot to rehearse the old songs, which is embarrassing. We played Limerick the other night and the new stuff was note perfect, but the old stuff was full of mistakes."

Steadman seems to be spot on about being hard on themselves, as reports from Limerick were positively glowing. Bombay Bicycle Club made sure that their short Irish tour saw them venture beyond all the usual stop offs.

"We've always wanted to do a tour in Ireland and not just do Dublin, Cork and Belfast," Nash says. "The venue in Killarney was very unusual. It was like a community centre. There was a karaoke night for old-age pensioners in the next room, a pageant for girls, and line dancing. Then was a swimming pool on the other side. Put Bombay Bicycle Club in there and you've got a very potent and heady mix of entertainment under the one roof.

"The Killarney show was pretty weird, but a festival in India was by far the strangest thing we've ever played at," Steadman continues. "We turned up and they hadn't got any instruments for us until we were just about to go onstage. The young Indian bands were insane. You'd have a metal band and a traditional Indian band back to back.

"You go there and you realise that young people are just the same everywhere. They like hip-hop and absolutely everything. They're very cosmopolitan.

"We are naturally quite introverted people," Nash adds. "When you go to a festival, you're not playing to your own audience anymore. It's something we're slowly getting used to. Whereas in a club, you can be yourself and the crowd knows you."

Regular visitors to these shores, Bombay Bicycle Club have even ventured into the legendary Copper Faced Jack's on Harcourt Street. "We had a terrifying experience in there," Nash recalls. "The sawdust on the floor is mad. I might poke my head around the corner to have a look later."

The multi-talented guitarist, songwriter and singer Steadman is a true blue Jack of all trades, as he also oversaw the production of So Long, See You Tomorrow.

"You work in a studio from 11am to 11pm, which to me is the least productive part of the day," Steadman maintains. "You want to be doing 11pm to 11am. That's when you get your best ideas and that's the best thing about having your own place that you can dictate your own schedule. We work in both a home studio and a big 'proper' studio for want of a better word.

"Samples became the catalyst for songwriting on this album rather than an acoustic guitar. The spark came from going record shopping and hearing something and taking it and making a song.

"I'm completely and hopelessly addicted to record shopping. I spend all my money on it and it's a great thing to do on tour. There is a small group of people rebelling against MP3s and their terrible quality, discovering vinyl and finding it very exciting."

The other two members of Bombay Bicycle Club come from very illustrious musical backgrounds. Suren de Saram's father is a well known classical cellist called Rohan de Saram, while Jamie MacColl is the grandson of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, and the nephew of the late Kirsty MacColl, who memorably duetted with Shane McGowan on Fairytale of New York.

"Their whole family histories are absolutely amazing," Nash gushes. "Jamie's grandmother is a Seeger, which is terrifying to think about. His Dad is also great guitarist and produced some material for us."

Expectations are high for today's release of So Long, See You Tomorrow. All three Bombay Bicycle Club albums have been gold certified affairs with their last two efforts gracing the top ten. Flaws was nominated for an Ivor Novello award and managing director of Festival Republic Melvin Benn views them as future marquee name headliners. However, Nash and Steadman seem completely unfazed by all the commotion.

"We don't look ahead very much as a band," Steadman says. "We're always content with where we are, which isn't necessarily a good thing, because a bit of ambition is probably healthy.

"When we started out, we were just happy to play to anyone. Musically, we've always been ambitious. We are going to be brave with the music, but we're not desperately chasing fame. We'll be happy with 500 people a night, because that's more than enough to have a good time."

  • So Long, See You Tomorrow is out today.

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR

The Seeger and MacColl musical dynasties hover around Bombay Bicycle Club. Here are some of the biggest and best.

The Wainwrights

Elton John calls Rufus Wainwright "the planet's greatest songwriter." His sister Martha is also a feted songwriter.

They follow in the family footsteps of their father Loudon Wainwright and the late Kate McGarrigle.

The Cash and Carter Clans

The fourth posthumous Johnny Cash album will be released this March. "My father's music is for the people," John Carter Cash has said. ".Would the world be a darker place if his music wasn't here? I believe so."

The Marleys

It has been joked that Bob Marley had enough children to start a football team – in addition to a number of bands! Sharon, Cedella, Ziggy and Stephen formed the Melody Makers and released eleven albums. Ky-Mani has worked with PM Dawn, while Damian Marley is the only Jamaican artist to win two Grammys on the same night.

The Coltranes

When jazz legend John Coltrane passed away in 1967, his wife Alice kept his legacy alive with spiritual and cosmic compositions. Ravi and Oranyan Coltrane have both won acclaim, while Alice's grand-nephew, Steven Ellison, has released original and innovative music as Flying Lotus.

Irish Independent

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