"We definitely took our time with this album" – hmv.com talks to Bombay Bicycle Club
Despite that fact that they're still in their early 20s, North London indie foursome Bombay Bicycle Club are actually just 10 days away from releasing their fourth album So Long, See You Tomorrow.
Self-produced by singer Jack Steadman, the album takes the band further away from indie rock and more in an electronic direction, with cut-up pianos, drum loops, Bollywood samples and blended percussion all featuring on the new record.
To find out about the making of the album, hmv.com caught up with drummer Suren de Saram…
Your new album So Long, See You Tomorrow comes out on February 3rd, how are you feeling ahead of that? Excited? Nervous?
"This is always the period that's not particularly enjoyable, it's the period where you've finished and you're just waiting for people to hear it. We just want people to hear it now. The reaction to the singles has been very positive, so it's all looking good."
The gap between this album and A Different Kind Of Fix has the longest one in your career so far, why was that?
"We definitely took our time with this album, more so than with other albums, that's not to say we rushed our other albums, but this one took longer to come together."
"We ended up self-producing the album, that wasn't our plan at the beginning, we tried out a couple of different producers and we couldn't get the results we wanted, so that made things take a bit longer. Jack (Steadman, singer) stepped to produce and we went from there."
What was it working with Jack as producer?
"We all had to get more involved, which was good. We've got better as our albums have gone on, but on our first album, we were so young and meek and we got given this huge producer (Jim Abbiss, producer of Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys and lots more) and felt quite intimidated. Any suggestions were too scared to say no to."
"We've got better, Flaws was a DIY album, we did it ourselves and the last album (A Different Kind Of Fix), we did some of it with Jim, some with Ben Allen and by the end of that we were a lot more confident and not scared to disagree with them. With this album, it was on us to do it, so we had to have all the ideas, we all had to speak up more. I'm normally quite a quiet, chilled out guy, but we all had to be vocal this time, it was a good experience."
How did the recording compare to A Different Kind Of Fix? Was it more complicated?
"Not really. From my point of view, this album is a mixture of electronic beats and live beats, so for each song I had to find a way to fit in. For example there's a song called 'Home By Now' which originally was all electronic drums, but when we got into the studio, we kind of felt it was a bit flat and needed to be more dynamic, so I got in the live room, got this big boomy drum sound and added that to the chorus. There was lots of experimentation going on."
How do you think it moves on from A Different Kind Of Fix?
"That record was when we really started playing around with electronic music. Take a song like 'Shuffle', it's built around a cut-up piano sample, on this album we've developed that sound so much more. We're definitely going down the electronic route, doing more sampling, mixing in more electronic beats."
As a drummer, how have you found working alongside electronic beats? Have you found it's threatening or liberating?
"It's interesting for sure. It's not just me either, at the end of November we did a tour in Ireland and we worked out to play these tracks live and we've all got a lot more gear! There are songs now where Ed (Nash, bass player) isn't even playing bass guitar, he's playing it through a synth."
"I've never found it threatening; it's just a different way of working. It's a question of finding the right balance and that varies from song to song."
You've all said that travelling around the world inspired this album. Was did that become the focus for the record?
"Jack feels less productive when he's back at home and is happier when he's away, so he went off travelling. I know he found India inspiring but he didn't go there to write, he didn't set out with the attention of making a track full of Bollywood samples, but it worked out that way."
It's a very ambitious record, what's it like to replicate it live?
"It's a challenge. We're not all stuck to the same instruments we were before, Ed's playing keys, we've had to get in a session keyboard player, everyone's busy on every song, playing percussion throughout the set, we've even got our techs playing percussion on a few tracks. We've still not played every track from the album live, there's a couple of tracks left to figure out."
Where does the album's title come from?
"It was actually Jamie (MacColl, guitarist), his suggestion. It's the name of a book he read (it's a 1979 novel by William Maxwell and recounts the events of a murder that occurred in 1921 in the author's hometown). We were struggling to come up with a title and we had some very strange suggestions along the way. This title fits the vibe, the last song on the album ends with this loop, which is also the record's intro on a track called 'Overdone'. The album is one big loop and we’ve built the album around that idea, it fits in nicely, the idea of the continuous loop."
Before this, you've put out an album every year, would you like to get back to that?
"It's impossible to say. This record took a while because we wanted to be completely happy with it, we can't say what'll happen next time."
So what's the rest of 2014 go in store?
"Touring, lots of touring. Europe next month, then the UK in March, then a very long American tour after that. Then festivals, we've not confirmed any yet, but we're in talks."
Which festivals would you like to play?
"Reading has a special place in our hearts, we first played there in 2007 and we weren't expecting a big crowd, but the tent was rammed. It's a special place for us."