An Absolute Art:
Dissecting the Creative Process with Bombay Bicycle Club
Words and Photo by Cher Dunn
After releasing their new album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, I got to chat with Jamie MacColl (guitar) and Suren de Saram (Drums) backstage after their show in Philly, while Jack Steadman (lead vocals, guitar piano) and Ed Nash (bass) graciously signed everything under the sun for every fan at the merch table after the show. As a megafan, I couldn’t wait to ask the boys about their progressive, electronic influenced new album, their creative process with their artwork, how to make a culturally appropriate music video, and projections during their live shows. I also talked to them about their summer plans, playing many European festivals as well as Lollapalooza, only this year, they won’t get to camp at Glastonbury for fun while not showering for 6 days.
So Long, See You Tomorrow is a gorgeous progression from their third album, A Different Kind Of Fix, and new influences can be heard throughout the album. Jamie explains, “There were quite a lot of influences when making the album, and they always seem to be changing all the time…even now. I think one of the main influences which I guess started with the last album with songs like “Shuffle” and “How Can you Swallow so much Sleep?”. Where it’s gone is actually becoming more interested in electronic music. Maybe not necessarily specific artist but just they way that you make that type of music- so using samples, and electronic drum loops. I guess musically the most obvious influence on this album was Bollywood music which you can hear on a few songs. But it doesn’t perhaps define the album as much as the press release would make out.” We laugh as he continues, “I can’t think really think of any specific artists necessarily (that were influences). Jack, who is the main songwriter mainly seems to listen to jazz when he’s not making music. But I don’t hear a lot of jazz elements (in the album).”
Bombay Bicycle Club always seem to have incredible artwork, music videos, and live visuals. I had to ask what their creative process was after the music was made. Suren filled us in, “We are always really involved in the album artwork. But video wise we realized the less we’re involved the better they usually turn out. In the past, we tried to be very involved in the videos and the kind of the video we have in our head at the start and we somehow find it difficult to get that idea across exactly to the directors so we had some videos in the past that didn’t really turn out how we wanted…”.
Jamie continues, “I think it’s quite hard to make a music video as well. I think the one where the spark really came from us on this album was “Feel”, and that kind of tied into all the Bollywood influences on the album”, He continues, “We were sitting in a cafe in Australia somewhere… It was an Indian cafe and they were showing Bollywood videos on the TV and we were thinking wouldn’t it be amazing to do something like that?”. He smiles, “and that was even before we had a song that had a 45 second Bollywood sample on it! And I think it just seemed like the natural thing to do. But we wanted to do it right so we couldn’t have any involvement in it really. Because it had to be done in Mumbai, by people that worked in Bollywood, and I think if we’ve been in it, it almost would have ended up like that Avril Lavigne video… where it seems like we were mocking that culture when really we want to celebrate it”.
In so many ways Bombay Bicycle Club are doing it right, their album artwork and live visuals really make their music, and the ideas behind the music come to life. Jamie told us about their artwork, show projections and animation: “Ed our bass player has always taken the lead when it comes to the artwork. He is a very good artist in his own right and always seems to have very good ideas.” Suren adds, “Yeah he also painted the cover of Flaws, our second album.”
For So Long, See You Tomorrow, they went through an artists house in West London. Jamie continued, “When a graphic designer comes to you and says, ‘What are the themes for the album?’, it’s the time you have to start really thinking what the album is about. Some ideas were coming up. Ideas of repetition, musically and the lyrics. I think the central theme lyrically that I kept coming back to, how I interpret it anyway, is that a lot of the lyrics are about a relationship that is on the verge of ending but keeps going on nonetheless…the last lyrics on the album, the one that just repeats “Keeps going round and round and round..” I think sums up the album very well. When it came to the artwork, that tied up to the circle of life and the idea that things are always changing and has a tendency to change but just goes on. So on the album cover, you see the night and day and the man walk around the earth for what seems like eternity. For the live shows, for those that seen it, the projected animations are based on the album cover. You see the man in some form always walking always moving forward but goes around in circles as well.”
Suren tells us, “For the live show, we have a good friend called Anna [Ginsburg] who’s a really good animator and who’s directed a couple of our recent music videos. She is very talented and was heavily involved with the animations for our live shows, along with a guy called Adam who’ve we have worked with in the past. Adam comes from a more technical background and Anna comes from an animation background, so they complimented each other very well.”
Jamie reiterates, “Again, we’ve just stayed out of it. We do really like it although some I think could have been better…” He jokes, “The canoe man I still really don’t understand…what’s going on there??”. We laugh as Suren continues, “We did have some ideas for it. For “Feel” Jack knew he wanted a snake involved (in the animations) coming in”. Jamie agrees and explains, “Because the sample that’s used at the start of that song is from a film about a snake charmer and that is still a melody that’s played by snake charmers in india. So basically we’ve sampled one of the most famous songs in india pretty much..without realizing it.”
If you’ve read any of the festival announcements you’ve probably seen their name mentioned a lot. Bombay Bicycle Club have a busy summer ahead playing festivals, although they might not get to play around in between. Suren says, “We’ve got a very busy summer particularly June and July. It’s a lot of festivals, many European but we are doing Lollapalooza here.”
“My Dad’s getting married!” Jamie says excitedly then continues, “That’s the one weekend we have off..all summer”.
Do they get to stay and enjoy the festivals and see other acts? Not this year. Jamie explains, “I don’t think we’ll be able to play then do anything really. In the past, we would go camp for the whole weekend… like Glastonbury or Reading. But that’s not really feasible any more. We’ve got to go do other festivals. We all went to camp at Glastonbury last year just for fun!”. He looks at Suren, “You did the fancy camping. I was out with the people,” he says smugly before adding “[I] didn’t shower for 6 days… can’t do that again”.
Bombay Bicycle Club continues their tour tonight and tomorrow with two sold out shows in New York with Royal Canoe as support. For tickets and tour information click here!