Bands making their way through the mire of the modern music industry can often find themselves facing the unenviable prospect of a brief, but beautiful, mayfly existence or a career of slowly diminishing returns. There aren’t many bands who can eschew these dominant traditions and only a select few manage to haul themselves steadily onwards and upwards, content in the knowledge that what’s in front of them is more exciting than what’s behind. Bombay Bicycle Club are one such band.
Formed in 2006 in North London and given a helping hand by the Road to V competition of the same year BBC have lithely adapted to the challenges of remaining interesting and important with aplomb ever since then. The release of their third album, A Different Kind of Fix, comes off the back of a bold left turn, in the shape of their sophomore acoustic offering Flaws, and neatly rounds off the trio that started with their endearing debut “I had the Blues but I shook them Loose”. Their extensive output belies their collective youth but is an accurate reflection of their startling maturity – perhaps an overlooked quality of the band. Has being so young changed the way that they’ve been received?
“When we started out people gave us a bit of leeway because we were young and you accept that there’s room to grow.” says lead guitarist Jamie Macoll “In a positive sense I think being young and having some songs about being young has always attracted younger and particularly adolescent fans. Hopefully young people find it easier to relate to us than to posturing rock bands.” If part of the attraction of BBC ever was the intrigue of seeing particularly young people performing brilliantly in a job usually reserved for people of more advanced years then their third album will put an end to that. It’s a cohesive well-executed record with an assured, polished sensibility.
“There was no real manifesto behind the album, but we were definitely all more involved and confident with how we wanted it to sound.” says Macoll “With the first record we were fairly intimidated by the studio equipment, we had no idea how anything worked.”
They may be more proficient in the studio, and A Different Kind of Fix sounds acutely assured and polished, but live they are still as visceral as ever, a fact sharply demonstrated by their performance at this year’s Reading and Leeds festival. For Macoll it represented the best parts of being in Bombay Bicycle Club. “Every time we play Reading and Leeds we say it’s been one of our favourite gigs. I think Reading and Leeds falls in quite a special place in the year; it’s the end of the summer and often the culmination of a lot of things. This year the album was just about to come out and it felt like quite a big turning point. It was also one of the few big gigs where the crowd sang back every word. We all left with very big smiles on our faces”
And why not? To continue to climb such a steep upward trajectory must be creatively daunting, but what better challenge to have? Where next for Bombay Bicycle Club? “We don’t really sit down and set out goals, it all comes quite naturally.” Macoll continues “People are surprised that we’ve produced so many albums, but I think it’s just a product of being young and restless. If we’d been at university we would have been figuring out what we want to do afterwards so I see this as a similar thing – for the last 3 years we’ve been wrestling with our identity and trying to decide what kind of music we want to make”
Importantly BBC are, in their own words, making the music that they want to make, a fact that can often escape bands crushed under label pressure and the weight of their own hype. Their sincerity and integrity is essential to their appeal and at a time when some of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside such qualities are needed more than ever, as Macoll elaborates: “When we left school indie music was certainly on the start of a decline. That period around 2005 when indie music had become part of the mainstream seems to have ended. With the odd exception, the days of major labels throwing half a million pounds at a band with 4 songs on a myspace are definitely over.
“Hopefully if we started out now things would have turned out the same. I don’t think we’ve ever been a band with a massive hype around us; we didn’t even get a record deal until after we’d made our first album. I think the way we’ve gone about things has been very natural.”