Bombay Bicycle Club live in New York
- By Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani -
- Mar 12, 2012
It’s been six years since Bombay Bicycle Club emerged from lead singer Jack Steadman’s bedroom and were crowned winners of Channel 4 television’s Road to V festival, the music competition that launched their career. During that time the North London four-piece has bested the likes of Mumford and Sons, scooping NME’s Best New Band award back in 2010, and more recently featured on the movie soundtrack to box office behemoth Twilight. Yet, there is still something endearingly low-key about the awkward indie pop collective from Crouch End. Halfway into a U.S. tour to promote their third studio album “A Different Kind of Fix,” and frontman Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl, drummer Suren De Saram, and bassist Ed Nash are seemingly taken aback by the level of interest from fans that have flocked to venues in Seattle, Canada and now New York. “We weren’t expecting it to be a sell-out tour, so it’s been nice,” said De Saram before the band played the Bowery Ballroom, N.Y., on Monday night.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. BBC has had a storming start to 2012, headlining the UK’s legendary Alexandra Palace venue that holds almost twenty-times more fans than the Ballroom’s 550-capacity space. But it accounts for the fact that BBC was in an understandably buoyant mood and dispatched song after song with verve.
At one point a retro-style metal fan was brought on stage to cool off drummer De Saram as he performed one of many solo flourishes during a crowd-pleasing hour and a half set that was peppered with newer material but didn’t skimp on old favorites ('Cancel on Me' inspired a sing-a-long). Under the glow of the Ballroom’s muted spotlight, lead singer Steadman moved into the mic and flashed come hither eyes at the crowd during 'Bad Timing', as he half-sang/half-moaned, “Can I have your wayward stare?” The pluralized sound of 'Lights Out, Words Gone' flooded the venue with balmy reggae percussion. Backing vocals were given a helping hand from ethereal-sounding English songstress, Lucy Rose, who has accompanied BBC on their U.S. tour (she’s been likened to The Velvet Underground’s Nico). And despite the acoustics in the balcony leaving the gig sounding a tad flat according to some fans, BBC’s raffish charm inspired the notoriously immovable New York crowd into dancing (well, alright, swaying – let’s not get carried away) to How Can you Swallow So Much Sleep, the latest track taken from A Different Kind of Fix, that received a Tom Vek remix earlier this month.
“The new thing for this album is the whole electronic aspect, which we’d never really explored with the previous two,” said De Saram. It’s true that A Different Kind of Fix retains a vaguely hypnotic quality that Flaws – the band’s predominantly acoustic second studio album – crafted so well, albeit to less commercial acclaim. “I think we must have confused some of the fans of our first album “[I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Off] by releasing the second album.” admitted De Saram. “Now, we’ve probably just confused even more people,”
To an extent, he’s right. A Different Kind of Fix has seen the BBC develop a sound that has left critics scratching their heads, lurching for comparisons - Belle and Sebastian sensibilities, a hint of Animal Collective posturing – to help group them into a neat box. However, BBC is quite happy to evade classification and concentrate on debunking the “indie rock” label that they find slightly redundant. “I don’t know if we’ll ever find a sound that we’ll stick to,” De Saram said earlier this week.
For the time being, BBC is set to experiment with a more urban sound. Lead singer/songwriter Jack Steadman has penned a couple of tracks with a hip-hop vibe, (so we’re told), for a follow-up to A Different Kind of Mix that is already in the works. It will be another departure for the band as they are to part ways with long-standing producer Jim Abbiss, the man also been responsible for shaping the Arctic Monkey’s sound. “We probably won’t work with Jim for the next album,” De Saram said, while quick to offer praise to the man he credits with giving them a “kick up the backside” in past albums to finish songs.
Abbiss, who’s been the band’s producer since they finished high school and released debut EP The Boy I Used To Be (2007), took a back seat on A Different Kind of Fix. Instead, the band entrusted themselves to maverick producer Ben H. Allen (Animal Collective, MIA, Matt and Kim) and spent a couple of weeks at his pared-down studio in Atlanta, GA. The Spartan surrounds agreed with frontman Steadman. “Jack likes just recording in his bedroom a lot. He likes feeling at home when he’s recording and it had that kind of vibe in Atlanta…rather than a big scary studio,” said De Saram about the band’s experience with Allen, who favors a Mac computer over the bells and whistles of large mixing desks.
For now, they’re concentrating on playing out the U.S. tour, looking to a summer of European gigs and festivals, where they’ll be joined again by current tour-mates, Toronto band The Darcys, and sticking to a very civilized fitness regime. To wit, BBC bassist Nash merrily signed autographs after the gig and chatted to fans in between sipping a (Jack Daniels-less) Diet Coke, demonstrating the “healthy rule” that the band have half-jokingly imposed on themselves for the past few weeks. “This tour has been very dry alcohol wise,” drummer De Saram admitted. “We’ve only had a couple of big nights but apart from that it’s been pretty low-key. Whenever the hotel has a gym we go. It doesn’t sound very rock and roll at all, does it?”
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