News Reading & Leeds 2012: Bombay Bicycle Club: ‘We’re Halfway Into Writing The Next Album’

At DIY we’re very much getting into the party spirit ready for Reading & Leeds Festival this weekend, and there’s one band we definitely can’t wait to see take to the Main Stage. Having played Hyde Park as part of the Olympic bonanza, Bombay Bicycle Club have cemented their status as one of the most popular young bands around. El Hunt rang up guitarist Jamie MacColl for a quick natter. As well as chatting festivals and the new album, Jamie told us about the band’s hidden sporting talents and divulged that everyone, even Bombay Bicycle Club, has a soft spot for the Spice Girls.

How are you doing? Whereabouts are you guys at the moment?
Yeah, I’m not too bad thanks. We’re just at home at the moment, just recovering from our last American tour, and it’s all about starting to get ready for Reading and Leeds, tomorrow.

Wicked, so, as you say, you’re playing Reading and Leeds, what do you think of the festival?
Well, this year we’re doing it and we did the year before that so we’ve done 6 years in a row now [laughs]. I actually do think it’s my favourite festival - I mean not as a fan necessarily - but to play there, I do really like Reading. Just because it’s where our audience is I guess, and the crowd’s always really good and it’s very atmospheric. You can’t really ask much more, as a performer.

You’re more popular than ever now, I mean normally when I tell my mum who I’m going to be chatting to, she kind of goes “yeah yeah yeah”, but isn’t really sure who I mean, but this time she went absolutely mental [Jamie laughs]. I don’t think that’s a rare thing though, and Bombay Bicycle Club do seem so well known now, and not just by serious music fans. Are you enjoying the widespread popularity?
Yeah, I mean nothing really changed for us I don’t think, I don’t think we feel any different, and we’re not really the kind of band that, like, we don’t have like celebrity friends or do anything wild or controversial, we kind of just keep our heads down and get on with it. We don’t really say anything outrageous. I think we’ve kind of, just gone about our business and got quite successful without having to do anything stupid to get there I think. I think that’s quite nice.

Did you ever expect things to reach this level when you started out as a sixth form band?
No, we have very low expectations, which means that they’re always met, pretty much [laughs]. I dunno, we’ve always just kind of made it up as we go, to an extent. Releasing an acoustic album as your second album would normally be a death wish, but we somehow seemed to get away with it. I think our philosophy is that we want it to be fun, I mean, that’s why we did the band in the first place, it was because we enjoyed playing music together. I think that’s what’s kept us going, now, and I think if we weren’t still enjoying it now, we probably wouldn’t want to do it.

When you’re recording an album - I mean you mentioned your acoustic album, ‘Flaws’ and that’s a very good example of you doing just that- do you try and ignore the outside pressure to deliver and just do your own thing musically?
Yeah, to an extent, I mean, just like any band on a major label it does have that pressure, and also we put pressure on ourselves by releasing three albums in two and a half years. So yeah, now there’s maybe that expectation that we’re going to do that forever, when we just can’t. I don’t think we can do that, or know whether we’d even want to. I think we’ve made it easier on ourselves by changing the sound on every album, I do think it is easier to do something new rather than just trying to recreate the same album over and over again. When bands do that I just think quite often they have their break on the first or second album, and it’s diluted from that point on. It gets worse and worse without changing much. I think trying something new has made it a bit easier, but I mean, we’re kind of reaching that point where I think we’re thinking what else we can try without doing something completely insane and making, like, a jazz album or something, which would actually be a death wish. We’re not going to do that! But yeah, having said that, we’re halfway into writing the next album, so…

So… we can safely say that your next album isn’t going to be a jazz album then! [Although the very next day after our chat, Bombay Bicycle Club tweeted that they were anticipating a drunken free jazz jam session with Two Door Cinema Club, so who knows!] What direction will the new album take?
I don’t really want to commit to anything, in case we say things at the beginning of the album cycle and go on to regret them, but it does pick up where the last album left off, to an extent. It picks up on the more electronic elements as well, so it’ll be more in the realms of ‘Shuffle’ and ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ from the last album I think.

So now it’s really starting to take shape, have you tried out some of the new stuff live yet? Can the fans at Reading and Leeds expect any cheeky sneak previews?
In America we were doing two new songs every night, and they were going down really well, so that’s great, and yeah, we’re going to play one at Reading and Leeds too.

You guys supported Blur in Hyde Park at the Olympic closing ceremony, I mean, that’s probably your biggest bookings in the history of…well, ever. How was it being involved in something so huge?
It was great, I’m a massive Blur fan, and also with them now, you never know if it’s going to be their last gig or not. If we have ended up playing at Blur’s last gig, that’s pretty cool [laughs]. Also, just being involved in something that’s roughly associated with the Olympics as well, because it’s something that actually stands the test of time, I think. It’s not something that we’ll probably have here again in our lifetime, so it’s cool to be involved in that sense.

Your set-up in Hyde Park wasn’t too shabby, but were you jealous that you didn’t get a giant inflatable octopus, like Fatboy Slim?
[laughs] Was that in the actual closing ceremony, in the stadium? I saw the first 45 of that – I didn’t think it was very good actually, the closing ceremony. I thought the opening ceremony was a lot better, it was very original, and represented all the eccentricities of Britain, I think. The closing ceremony was more of a standard pop show. But it was enjoyable, and everyone likes the Spice Girls, I guess [chuckles]

If Bombay Bicycle Club had been in charge of booking all the acts, who do you reckon you would’ve put up there?
Well, I mean, I reckon they went after a lot of the ones we might’ve picked. I’m sure people like The Rolling Stones must’ve been asked and turned it down. I would’ve thought after the opening ceremony, and how successful it was, people would want it to be involved in the closing ceremony as well, but who knows.

Now it’s all over, we seem to have gone straight back to moaning about everything. I thought it was nice when we got along, personally! Are you suffering from post-Olympic blues, or have you managed to shake them loose?
Yeah, well it was obvious that it wasn’t going to last [laughs] the high. I mean, we actually spent most of the Olympics in America, and we only came back for the last little bit, so I’m not suffering too much [giggles] I’ve been surviving fine.

If Bombay Bicycle Club had to pick an Olympic sport to compete in, which do you reckon you’d have the best shot of getting gold in?
Is this, like, a serious question or… shall I answer jokingly?

It really depends; I think you can answer exactly how you like. No being modest about any hidden sporting talent though…
Well Suren, our swimmer… [hesitates, before bursting into laughter] what am I on about, swimmer?! Drummer! Suren [de Saram], our drummer, I think he swam for London or something in the youth games, so I’d probably send him, and Ed [Nash] is a very good diver, our bass player. I think we’d have to have a sort of medley of events that each of us could compete in. I don’t know what I would do. I’d probably do something like rowing. That looks fun.

So can we expect some kind of Bombay Bicycle Club Olympics soon, or is that asking a bit much of your schedule?
My friends were saying yesterday that they want to organise an Olympic sports day, so I think maybe we’ll enter a team into that – the Bombay Bicycle Club team.

With a team name like that, you have to have a go in the velodrome, surely?
Yeah, definitely. [laughs]

So, now the big Hyde Park gig is done, the UK tour is more or less wrapped up, and festivals are kind of coming to a close now too. Reading and Leeds is your last date in the UK for a while. Are you sad that the touring is winding down at all?
Erm [hesitates] no I’m not! We’ve spent the last 18 months on tour, pretty much solidly, so we’re kind of looking forward to an extended break, I think. We still have some touring left in America and Australia, and I think the last date we do in Australia is New Year’s Eve, so that’s a pretty nice way to end it I think. Get away from the British winter [laughs].

You’ve noticeably amped up your stage production haven’t you? I saw you at Benicassim and at first I thought it was David Guetta setting up from the amount of LEDs and strobe lighting [Jamie laughs]. When did you introduce all of that?
Well we’ve been doing that since September, pretty much when we started touring ‘Different Kind Of Fix’ properly in the UK. It kind of centers around the album artwork, which we all really love, it mostly plays off that. It’s representative of us playing to more people and needing to put on more of a show, I guess, as things get bigger.

Melvin Benn, the guy in charge of Reading and Leeds, he said that he thinks Bombay Bicycle Club are future headliners. Is that what you’re aiming for next, the arenas and main stage headlining slots?
I think he’s saying that because he’s put a lot of faith in new bands quite high up on the Reading and Leeds bill this year, like us and also The Vaccines, The Maccabees, Two Door Cinema Club, we’ve all got big slots. I do think there is a need to try and find some new bands that are capable of headlining festivals and I think that’s part of the problem, why there’s been a downturn in interest in festivals this year. Everywhere we go, there does seem to be the same bands headlining festivals, and The Cure, who we’re on before at Reading, we’ve played with them so many times this summer on the same stage when they’ve been headlining. It’s just people, I think, go to a festival a lot of the time because they have one band you can only see there and it’s an exclusive thing. I don’t really get the sense that’s been the case this summer.

In terms of new bands or singers, are there any must-see new acts at Reading and Leeds?
Well I mean, generally the bands we choose to support us on tour always end up doing fairly well. Lianne de Havas isn’t at Reading I don’t think, but she played with us on our last tour and now she’s got a top five album or something. There’s a band called Dog Is Dead [on the Festival Republic Stage] who I think will do very well, they’re a good guitar band who I think might help to fill the void in the sense of there not being very many guitar bands who are selling records. Theme Park as well [who are also playing the Festival Republic Stage] who we went to school with, and they’ve supported us quite a few times, we like them a lot. Lucy Rose, as well [another Festival Republic slot] who obviously sings with us. I heard her single the other day playing at the gym, so that must be a good sign. I do think she’ll do very well.

We’re big fans of all of those at DIY, so excellent selections! What’s next for Bombay Bicycle Club then, are you very much about getting your head down, or is it time for a well earnt break?
Well, as I said we’ve written about half the album I think, so it’s a case of writing more, and finding the right producer I think. These days I think every album does matter, you can’t put anything out that’s not great, because I think people’s attention spans are so much shorter, and so we will be working very hard on this one.

Have you got a release date in mind or are you playing it by ear?
I don’t want to put any pressure on ourselves, but I will say this time next year.

Bombay Bicycle Club will perform at Reading & Leeds Festival from 24th - 26th August. The band also have a warm up gig tonight (23rd August) at Bournemouth’s O2 Academy.

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