An Interview with Suren From Bombay Bicycle Club

Due to my many contacts in the music industry I managed to wangle an interview with the drummer of one of my favourite bands, and North London’s finest, Bombay Bicycle Club. Here’s what Suren had to say to my Paxman-esque probing questions.

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This Guy.

Welcome back Bombay, it’s great to have you back! Do you feel that these three years have benefited you as a band and from a recording/ musical point of view?

I think we’ve all improved individually as musicians. There are songs on this album that are a far cry from the guitar heavy 4/4 songs of our first album and for which you need slightly different skills. Ed (Nash, Bassist) and I in particular have spent quite a bit of time just playing as a duo and becoming a single unit. There are songs on this new album that really need to groove to make them work so we’ve been working on that, whereas in the early days it was more about just rocking out.

Also, with this album being self-produced, we’ve all obviously had to gain more knowledge of recording techniques and studio equipment. This applies mostly to Jack (Steadman, Lead Singer) as he was taking the lead with the production. Not having a big producer working with us, as on previous albums, meant that we all had to be more involved and vocal. We also started renting our own studio space a few months before recording started, which was integral to the whole album. Although we went to another studio to record most of the instrumentals, all the parts were brought back to our studio where we could take our time working on them. In the past we haven’t had this luxury because we’ve had to adhere to the hours of whatever studio we’ve been in.

There is a distinct lack of driving guitars on the singles released so far from So Long See You Tomorrow and they were also conspicuously absent on several songs on A Different Kind Of Fix. As a band whose debut album relied heavily on them, what has prompted this shift?

Jack has been writing his own electronic music outside the band for a while, and that influence has gradually started to creep into Bombay’s music. The way in which songs are written has changed over time. Whereas our older songs often used to be born on an acoustic guitar, more and more they start off on a computer now. Quite a few of the songs originated from sampling snippets of records – often old Bollywood records that Jack picked up while in Mumbai. Next it would often be an electronic beat that was added. This forms the basis, but from there they need to be turned into actual songs that would be suitable for us to play and for that Jack would usually then turn to a guitar.

So although songs usually don’t originate from the guitar like they used to, instruments like the guitar or piano are still integral to the songwriting process. We’ve always said any song should be able to be stripped back and interpreted on an acoustic guitar, so melody and harmony are still very much at the heart of it all.

Has being from London (specifically North London) influenced the band’s sound at all?  Also will there be another homecoming gig at Alexandra Palace?

I think our north London roots probably had more influence on us in the early days – less and less so now. There are some obvious references on some of the songs from our first album and early EPs, for example our song The Hill on the first album is about a part of Hampstead Heath which is a big park next to where we all used to live and where we spent a lot of time.

When we started out we were one of a number of bands to come from our school and neighbouring schools who began having some success, so it was a creative place to be.

The Alexandra Palace gig was one of the best nights of our lives. When we were younger we always used to rehearse in Jamie’s basement and could see Ally Pally from his window. I don’t think we ever dreamed we’d headline it back then. I think it would feel odd going back to do another show there now though – it feels like we should let that memory stay as it is.

The acoustic album Flaws you did a while back was great. Any plans to release a similarly themed album?

I’m not sure if we’ll release another whole acoustic album, but Jack continues to write acoustic songs on the side. In fact there’s a 7″ included in the box set version of the new album with two fantastic acoustic songs called To The Bone and Easier (what more incentive could you need?!)

You’ve been announced to play Coachella this year, are you nervous? How do you find audiences in America compared to audiences in Britain, what’s been you favourite place to play over there? Also is there anyone on the bill you’re especially excited to see?

This is the first time we’ll be playing Coachella so we’re excited. I’m looking forward to seeing Outkast, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Bonobo and Washed Out.

In general crowds in America seem to be a bit less raucous than crowds in the UK. By this I basically mean less drunk. They express their appreciation in a different way. One of my favourite American gigs was at a place called the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. It’s got this reputation as being one of the best club venues in the world amongst bands and I can see why. From a hospitality point of view they look after you incredibly well and have all the facilities a touring band needs (things like washing machines – it’s a great day when the venue has a washing machine…) The venue makes their own special 9:30 Club cupcakes as well which they give to the band. They’re just very attentive. Aside from that, the crowd we had there was unreal. I remember the applause after playing Always Like This just going on and on and on. We kept trying to start the next song but gave up. It was quite funny.

Favourite albums of 2013? Also, I know its January but favourite album of 2014 or any albums you’re especially excited to hear?

I thought Kanye West – Yeezus and Arctic Monkeys – AM were both great. This year I’m looking forward to the debut album from Rae Morris. She is a singer from the UK who has supported us on tour in the past, and she also sings on two songs on our new album – ‘Luna’ and ‘Overdone’. She has a stunning voice and writes some beautiful songs. I’m also looking forward to Fryars releasing some new music. He is a talented friend of ours who has done a lot of writing for some quite big names in the pop world, and is now starting to focus on his own music. Again, his new album should be coming out later this year.

Have you noticed that if you type Jack’s name into Google it says he is 85 years old and is the president of the American football team Kansas City Chiefs? Should you believe everything you read on the internet?

He leads a double life. Everything you read on the internet is, in fact, true.

Everything.

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