“People Treat Us Like A Gimmick...”
Bombay Bicycle Club on the pitfalls of being freshfaced and uber-talented...
It’s busy in the Macbeth in Shoreditch tonight. The pretty and pretentious youth of London’s east end gather on the terrace in the cool evening air of the late summer, puffing resignedly on cigarettes held up to painted lips. There’s a hardened, London look to most of the kids here, which makes it easy to spot three of the Bombay Bicycle Club boys as they shuffle through the smoke for our interview.
Much has been made of their youth by the music press, which is funny because there are lots of young acts about at the moment – Late Of The Pier, Cajun Dance Party, Laura Marling to name but a few. They don’t even look especially young. But there is a kind of sullen reservation in the way they conduct themselves, that soon becomes apparent as shyness. Save for the exuberance of their guitarist, Jamie, bassist Ed and vocalist Jack stare quietly at their shoes, seeming rather endearingly unsure how to answer questions. They might have some confidence yet to gain, but as far as their music is concerned, for a band that have been gigging and writing for over three years, their debut album certainly is a long time coming.
“The last few years have been building towards recording, which is a long time to put together a debut album, especially if you’re semi-well-known,” bassist Jamie says of their plans to record a LP. Semi-well-known is almost an understatement. Bombay Bicycle Club have been a staple festival band since they won Channel 4’s Road To V in 2006, and have been gigging successfully ever since, making quite a name for themselves on the indie circuit as Britain’s baby-faced answer to the Strokes. The only problem being, with their GCSEs only just behind them, there was very little the band could do during term time. “The interest in us was always peaks and troughs,” Jamie explains, “because we’d do festivals in the summer, and then we wouldn’t be able to do anything while we were at school.”
But no longer. The boys finished their A levels in July (Jamie solemnly admits: “School always came first,”) and have decided to take this year off to concentrate properly on the band. While their friends move away to start uni or fly off on exotic gap years, Jamie, Jack, Ed and Suren are getting used to everyday life in a band. “I don’t know what to do with myself now!” Jamie exclaims, with a happy grin, “When we’re not on tour or recording there’s nothing to do. We came back from a month on tour and we just wanted to take a break, but then you realise you’re just sitting at home all day, and all your friends are going on their gap years to East Asia or wherever.”
With this in mind, the boys are keeping themselves busy this month recording their debut album. Lead singer Jack pipes up behind a long greasy fringe that they’re thinking of calling it ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’, “but that might just be a song on it, we’re not sure yet.” As to the album itself, fans can expect quite a bit of unheard material. Bombay Bicycle Club have been lucky enough to secure Jim Abbiss as producer, the man behind numerous Mercury nominated long players from the likes of Adele, Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. The boys talk excitedly about the prospect of Abbiss’s handiwork on the album. “He’s very versatile,” Jack lauds, before Jamie interrupts, “I think he’s very good at bringing bands like Kasabian and The Arctic Monkeys into the mainstream whilst keeping their edge.”
“Winning a Mercury,” guitarist Ed contributes, finally, “that’s our aim.”
Winning a Mercury is not exactly a one-of-a-kind ambition for a young, gigging band. The difference is, that with the intelligent musicianship and unlikely performing experience of Bombay Bicycle Club, their chances of achieving the outer reaches of British rock celebrity are perhaps not so slight. Each of their tracks combines wide-open-eyed lyrics about adolescence with swirling Bloc Party-esque keyboard and guitar textures and angular, catchy Strokes riffs that stick in the head and induce front row mayhem at gigs.
The only decider for Bombay Bicycle Club, this year, will be for them to get people to finally stop thinking of them as schoolkids and start seeing them for what they are: the most promising act to emerge from North London since Bloc Party. “It sometimes feels as if people aren’t taking us as seriously as if we were older,” vocalist Jack frowns. “People treat us like a gimmick!” Jamie adds, indignantly. “The NME is always saying things like ‘Out of term time, Bombay Bicycle Club are…” he tails off.
Jack adds, “People seem to have picked up on the fact that we’re really young compared to other bands, and have taken advantage of it.”
With school behind them and an album currently in production, Bombay Bicycle Club have a lot to prove in the coming months, especially to those that have underestimated them in the past. For now, as they shuffle off, all awkward handshakes and shy smiles, one can only think that if this young London four-piece can put together an album that is even just a fraction as promising as their early demos, they won’t be quite so unassuming for much longer…