Interview: Bombay Bicycle Club


Alexander Reeve got to chat with Suren De Saram, drummer of one of the UK’s biggest indie bands, Bombay Bicycle Club.

1. You put a lot of energy and emotion into your live performances, but which songs provide the biggest rush?

In terms of crowd reaction, it’s difficult to beat “Always Like This”. The breakdown is always one of the special moments in the set when Jack can stop singing and just let the crowd sing it for him. On the few occasions where the crowd isn’t up for getting involved, Jack sometimes forgets the lyrics at this point, as he’s not used to singing them!

2. Will any of your upcoming gigs feature acoustic songs from previous albums, or will you focus more on newer material?

It can be difficult playing the really stripped back acoustic songs in the context of an electric gig. It almost requires a different mindset for the audience – sometimes when we’ve tried to play quiet acoustic songs in an electric gig they just get drowned out by people talking. The plan is to play all of the new album, so it will be more weighted towards newer material. We’re trying to find that balance – we’re obviously on our fourth album now so we have quite a large back catalogue, but we also don’t want to be one of those bands that becomes self-indulgent and plays for hours on end. We think short and sharp is better. We’re trying to pick a good cross-section of songs from previous albums to try and keep everyone reasonably happy.

3. Were you more reliant on samples as opposed to guitar riffs and chords when devising the songs for this album? 

Yeah. 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.

4. How did you get introduced to Rae Morris, and why did you choose her to open your gigs?

We actually first came across her just over a couple of years ago when Lucy Rose was touring with us. Lucy couldn’t do an Asian tour we had coming up and so we were looking at possible alternatives and found Rae. In the end Rae couldn’t do the tour either, but her voice and songs left a serious impression on us and so we asked her to open for us on our UK tour a few months later. I watched her every night of the tour which I don’t think I’ve ever done with another support band – her music really struck a chord with all of us.

We’ve kept in touch since then and invited her to sing on a couple of songs from the new album, and then when it became clear she might be around to support us again on this tour we said yes straight away.

5. Do you get a lot of fan mail? If so, what are the coolest and strangest things you’ve ever received?

Not loads, but yes we get the odd thing. We’ve received some pretty amazing artwork from people in the past. We got this piece a couple of years ago which was the four of us on stage, but you could make each of us play our respective instruments by pulling these little levers. It was incredibly well made and I think the girl who sent it lived in America so the fact it got here in such good shape was also pretty remarkable.

6. Suren, will D-Twain be making the comeback we’ve all been waiting for? A lot of new fans are still unaware of the legend that made the Internet explode in 2011.

He’s on an indefinite hiatus at the moment, pursuing some of his many other interests. He’s quite shy so its unlikely to ever do any gigs but he may grace your ears with another song sometime down the line.

7. Which song from So Long, See You Tomorrow means the most to you, and why?

My favourite song from the album seems to change day to day. I think the last track, “So Long, See You Tomorrow” is maybe the most interesting sonically and I find the way it builds very satisfying. The first couple of minutes is a smooth combination of brass, metrically-displaced “electric bleeps” and these really nice vocal harmonies. It gradually builds towards this “psychedelic freak-out” outro, for which we set up two drum kits in the live room and Jack and I jammed along together. That was probably my favourite moment from the recording process.

8. You have discussed on a few occasions your preference for smaller, more intimate venues. Has this influenced your choice of venues for the upcoming tour in Europe and elsewhere? Also, does this mean you’ll be more reluctant to perform big stages at festivals?

Not really. It definitely used to be the case that we preferred the more sweaty, raucous and intimate shows, but that was when we were more of a guitar band and our setup was simpler. There’s a lot more gear on stage now in order to replicate these new songs live, so we need the stage itself to be a certain size which means we can’t go below a certain capacity really. We also really want to make these shows a step up visually, which means our production will be more complex. Essentially it feels like a lot of these new songs actually lend themselves to a bigger stage.

9. A slightly different style of question here. Have any of you ever been hounded by the paparazzi trying to catch you in embarrassing or unflattering situations?

We’re not really at the level yet where we’re getting hounded by paparazzi, which I am very thankful for. A couple of months ago we were in the same rehearsal complex as One Direction, and after seeing the madness that accompanies them everywhere, I’m glad we don’t have to deal with anything even close to that. We’ll get spotted by a fan every so often but we all live very normal lives.

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