Bombay Bicycle Club Aren’t Slowing Down

Bombay Bicycle Club interview with Northern Transmissions by David Saxum. The UK band are releasing their new EP Fantasies, out February 23rd
Bombay Bicycle Club photographed by Tom Oxley

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Suren de Saram from Bombay Bicycle Club. Our conversation covered a spectrum of subjects, including their latest album released in October and their forthcoming EP slated for release on February 23rd of this year. Furthermore, we delved into their eagerly anticipated North American tour scheduled to kick off on March 4th. As anticipation builds for their upcoming tour, we eagerly await the opportunity to witness Bombay Bicycle Club’s electrifying performances firsthand.

Northern Transmissions: Do you feel like your guys’ music has matured as you guys have matured? You guys started out as a young band and went through school together, right?

Suren de Saram: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, we started when we were 15 back in 2005. We just got together to play at a school called Assembly. So that was our first gig, which was very rock and roll. And looking back, our roots were as a sort of indie guitar band. You know bands like Strokes, Pavement, those kinds of bands, they were like our big influences.

I’d say going through our discography, over the years, we’ve kind of changed quite a bit from album to album. So we’ve got six albums out now. Our first album, quite guitar based, like I said. And then our second one, we switched it up completely and did like an acoustic, like folk record, basically. This wasn’t like a big master plan at the time. But looking back, it was quite a smart move, I think. Because then it sort of just gave us license to do what we wanted after that. Because no one really knew, no one was really expecting anything in particular from us to release such different albums.

We subsequently went back to the electric sound. But we were introducing more electronics and samples. A lot of our songs started being born from Jack sampling different records. And then our most recent album we went on a break between our sort of fourth album and fifth album for a few years. And in that time, we were all kind of doing different things. Jack, our singer, and Ed, our bass player, both did their own solo projects. And you can hear influences from both of those on bits of our past two records, particularly our last one. You can hear quite a lot of Jack’s solo projects, Mr. Juke’s at times. So yes, I’d say our sounds have changed quite a lot. We have changed a lot.

NT: I think it’s great when bands stay together and you can see the progression, especially from a younger band, as they mature through life and they go through different life experiences. Would you say that your individual listening habits have changed over the years too? And do you think that’s reflected in the music?

SDS: My listening habits are quite strange. My listening habits are kind of all over the place. I’m not sure that what I listen to really finds its way into Bombay’s music, or my drumming. Maybe subconsciously it does.

I come from a jazz background. My first drum teacher was a jazz drummer. So that was kind of some of the earlier stuff that I was listening to. I suppose you could say more recently you kind of hear Mr. Juke’s inflection on the past couple albums. And you know, Mr. Juke’s stuff is pretty jazz influenced at times. So yeah, I guess you could say that it’s sort of found its way into Bombay’s music in some small way.

And then I’m also always listening to quite a lot of classical stuff. My dad’s a classical musician. So I feel like what I’ve always listened to has been quite far removed from the music that Bombay actually made, if that makes sense. But probably on some level it has had an influence on our music. At least it had an influence on me as a musician. I don’t know, maybe it’s had an influence on Bombay’s sound somewhere.

NT: Yeah, certainly. So with the new album, I think a lot of critics have said it’s really vibrant and a big creative milestone for Bombay. Do you agree with that? Do you think it’s a kind of a revolutionary shift in the discography?

SDS: Um, I don’t know. I think, with this album, we were just a lot more relaxed in the approach. So obviously, it ended up being possibly the most eclectic album. I guess that’s kind of debatable because quite a lot of our albums are quite eclectic. But I think this is probably almost eclectic.

And there’s definitely songs that ended up on My Big Day that we would have written off as being not suitable to put on a Bombay Bicycle Club album in the past. Songs like the opener and that’s one of the ones that had a big kind of Mr. Juke’s influence. And maybe in the past, it would be like, I don’t know. Jack should keep that for Mr. Juke’s.

But definitely our approach to this album was just kind of like, let’s have a bit of fun. It sounds basic, but that’s sort of what we’re trying to get across with the album. And we kind of tried to carry that onto our live shows. Like, we’re trying to make our live shows like a bit of a party, really, and this kind of like a light-hearted sort of celebration, really.

So yeah, going back to the album another example would be there’s like a short instrumental track, Rural Radio Predicts the Rapture. That’s like track seven, I think, which is kind of a crazy, two minute long, instrumental sort of dance track, which I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have put on a longer album in the past.

We were definitely just more open-minded with this album. And I think we’re going to end upwith the most eclectic album today because of that.

NT: When did you guys kind of start working on the album? Were these songs pulled together from different periods?

SDS: Actually, there is one or two ideas on the album, for example, the last track Onwards, it goes into like this big riff at the very end of the song, this big guitar riff, which is actually an idea has been sitting around for like years and years. I can’t remember exactly whenit was written, like at least a decade ago, but we just never kind of found a place for it. And Jack wrote the rest of Onward, the first like two thirds of it. And one of us had this idea, to fit this big guitar riff that we had sitting around for years into it. I think there’s one or two ideas, on the album, that are actually quite old. But for the most part, writing probably started around 2020, I think.

Yeah, like a little bit just shortly after we released our last album, I think. During the start of COVID times, basically. I think I Want To Be Your Only Pet was the first full song that we had for this album. And yeah that was like mid or late 2020, and then everything else came after that.

NT: Did COVID impact the writing for the album at all?

SDS: In all honesty, no, I don’t think so. I know I said I Want To Be Your Only Pet came around about that sort of time. But for the most part, we actually weren’t writing loads during that whole period.

I feel like artists kind of tend to go one or two ways. Like, you had some artists who were churning out loads of stuff and writing loads of stuff and were finding inspiration from somewhere during that weird time. But yeah, we definitely fell into the other category where we weren’t writing loads during that period. We found it quite a difficult time in terms of finding inspiration, I think.

So yeah, apart from one or two songs, the majority of the album came about sort of like once COVID was less of a thing and we were out of the lockdowns and that sort of thing.

NT: On My Big Day and Fantasies, you guys are collaborating with a ton of fantastic artists. Is there anyone else that you would like to collaborate with yet?

SDS: Good question. Come back to me on that.

NT: Going back to your history a little bit, you said, you guys did your first show as an assembly and then your dad was a classical musician. So you kind of grew up around music then?

SDS: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, like my dad, there was always kind of music around the house, like my dad’s sort of like practicing cello when he wasn’t away on tour. Yeah, so he started teaching me kind of when I was quite young and then I took up drums a little bit after that. Yeah, so I mean, yeah, my dad definitely had quite a big influence on my musical journey.

NT: Yeah, for sure. Did you ever want to do anything other than music? Suren de Saram: I think at some point in my early teens, I wanted to be a chef, but I don’t know. I don’t think I’d actually be a very good chef.

During our break, Jamie went to university, but the rest of us have still not been. I started during COVID doing some things with an open university, so it’s like an online degree. Which I found really interesting and might potentially carry on doing at some point. And who knows, could possibly make that more of a thing in my life at some point. The courses were in social sciences, like criminology, sociology, and I’m quite interested in psychology as well. So yeah, they could be areas that I would delve into more at some point, for sure, yeah.

NT: Do you have any particular venues or cities that you’re looking forward to on the tour?

SDS: So 930 Club in Washington, D.C. we played there a few times now, and they’ve always been just like really very memorable gigs. So we have high expectations with that one, for sure. Toronto, we played at Danforth Music Hall, again a few years back, which was great. LA, New York as well. To be honest, Canada generally, like Vancouver, Vancouver’s always been fun. And then San Francisco as well. I’m probably just mentioning the tour now. But yeah, just excited to be back in North America.

NT: All right, circling back to that question then, who else would you like to collaborate with?

SDS: I would say, I don’t know, someone like, I’ll say Thom Yorke. Thom Yorke. Yeah that’d be a cool record.

NT: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about or wrap up before we finish up?

SDS: We’re just looking forward to coming back to Canada and North America in general. It’s been almost like a decade since we actually properly toured there. So yeah, we’re looking forward to it.

Order My Big Day By Bombay Bicycle Club HERE


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