Bombay Bicycle Club: “Our keyboard player ruined our relationship with the Pixies”

Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman talks to PERRI CASSIE about writers block, new material, playing Joy Division covers with Peter Hook and awkward encounters with the Pixies.

With three albums under their belt now, Bombay Bicycle Club have an eclectic repertoire; from bouncy indie pop, to splashes of 90s fuzz, and the accomplished pop hooks and electronics of last year’s A Different Kind of Fix album. The BBC embarked on their maiden voyage to Australia earlier this year touring with fellow Brits, Elbow and were greeted with a demand for upsized venues and additional shows. They will return over the new year as part of Falls and Southbound festival lineups, with a handful of headline shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to keep them busy in the first week of 2013.

Ahead of the return visit FL caught up with frontman Jack Steadman on the phone from the New Orleans stop on their recent American tour, to check in on the progress of his solo career and find out what the band has in store for us when they return.

There are some quotes of yours that certainly suggest your solo stuff is gathering momentum, I’ve seen terms like “more electronic”, “more improvised””, influenced by African music” thrown around, `what are the developments on that?

That’s always just been something that I do on the side. I’ll always bring my studio on tour with us, it’s always on the bus. I think it’s just kind of therapeutical to have an outlet which isn’t in the limelight as much as Bombay, where you’re not thinking about a fan base, or a radio, or something like that. You’re just going back to what you used to do, which is making music for yourself. More and more recently it’s the solo stuff that is creeping into Bombay as well, it’s probably where you hear the sort of more electronic influence in our newest material.

Do you think you’ll release anything official by yourself?

Maybe, I don’t know, I’m in two minds about it because it might sort of ruin the whole essence of it. Right now it’s the complete opposite; it’s not something serious. It’s just something to give away for free and just to have some fun with, but we’ll see. Maybe in a couple of years.

So you’re here for Falls Festival, I’m sure since your last visit you had no shortage of festival offers, what was it about Falls that convinced you guys to join the bill? And who are you looking forward to seeing most?

To be honest I don’t know much about the festival, but any excuse to come to Australia we were going to jump on it. Our last visit was one of the funnest tours we’ve ever been on. Most of us had never been before and we didn’t really know what to expect and we just had the best time. Since being booked for it everyone we’ve talked to has been like “oh Falls, yeah Falls, you’re going to love it” and we remember we bumped into The Temper Trap and they were singing its praises, so yeah, we’re really looking forward to it.

Tell me about your last visit to Australia. Were, and are, you still surprised by your reception down here?

It’s like we were never on the tour, it was just like a holiday, we just hung out heaps, we weren’t that busy, we didn’t have that many shows, so yeah, it was super fun. We were definitely blown away by the response when we got here, because we didn’t really know what to expect.

I know you suffered a bit of writer’s block for A Different Kind of Fix. A lot of your lyrics seem to revolve around doomed sort of lop-sided relationships, and obviously those sorts of topics are popular amongst listeners because let’s face it: everyone knows a girl like the one you write about. Is it hard to come up with thoughts on such a topic when you are, by all accounts, in a functioning relationship?

You would think it is, but really it’s when you’re in a relationship where it sort of gets more complicated, it’s almost more interesting to write about. When other things start happening and things become forbidden I think that’s just another avenue to explore. A really common theme is “you really love someone but they don’t love you” and that’s sort of forbidden love, and it’s the same when you’re in a relationship and traveling around the world – that’s happening on a daily basis.

Lucy Rose has been pretty present on a couple of your albums, and she’s just dropped her debut which I understand you make some appearances on, you guys obviously have a closer relationship with her, any chance of her making her way down here with you at the end of the year?

I think she’s pretty busy now, so I don’t think she’ll make it to Australia, like you said she’s got her own thing going on now. Maybe she’ll just do the occasional UK show now, but in terms of touring on a global scale I don’t think she’s available. We still hang out all the time though; she’s definitely going to be on our next record no matter what.

I heard you’ve already got a few demos down, and have even played a couple live, are you hoping to have the next album out sooner rather than later, or do you think you’ll take a bit longer between albums this time?

We’ll definitely take a bit longer with this record, obviously in this past it’s been pretty quick, but we’ve only got about four or five tracks that we’re happy with right now, and we’re just taking it slow, we’re thinking about producers, I guess we’re hoping for maybe a late 2013 release, that’s kind of what we’re looking at.

I really quite like the direction of ‘Carry Me’.

Yeah well we’ve been playing that one a lot, we’ll definitely be playing that in Australia, we’re gonna hopefully have three tracks ready for Australia, we’ve been talking about it and we want to rehearse a couple more, so you guys will get to hear some more as well.

Now that you’ve sort of got a start on the new album what are the hopes for it? You’ve been lauded as future headliners for the likes of Leeds and Reading, do you think the next one could be the album that pushes you to that level?

I guess so, it’s not really healthy to have those thoughts at the back of your mind when you’re writing a record. I try not to think about it. It just fucks with your mind and you just start thinking “oh well I like this song but is it going to be good enough for the headline stage?”. The more criteria you put on it, the more difficult it is to write. So I’m just going to keep a clear head, and if I like it I’ll show it to the band, and if they like it then we’re going to put it on the record.

You’ve also said in the past that you struggle to interact with other bands as a unit, purely out of awkwardness more than anything, has there even been one particular scenario where you guys just got kind of overwhelmed and wanted to sink into the ground? What’s been the most awkward band moment for you?

Definitely when we met the Pixies, that was more our keyboard player than any of us. He’s definitely one of the more awkward members of the band and he went up to the guitarist of the Pixies and couldn’t think of what he was going to say, so he just goes “do you know Slash?” He thought that every famous guitar player in the world knows each other and probably hang out all the time and he just wanted to talk about Slash and this guy was just looking at him like “what the fuck are you talking about!?” [Laughs]. So he kind of ruined our relationship with the Pixies.

I know the band have some hang ups about your name, and the sort of first impression that you think you might have set early on, do you yourselves feel your breaking away from that mold of “NME band” and creating new impressions? Or do you still worry about?

For me personally, that’s why I love touring outside of the UK so much, because I feel like we’re not really judged on those first impressions like we are in the UK. I think for a lot of people outside of the UK, A Different Kind of Fix is sort of the first thing they heard.

You can’t really get your first two albums down here..

Yeah well see that’s the thing, the first album was such a long time ago that we feel very distant from it, so when we go to places like America and Australia I feel like we’re sort of treated with the kind of respect that I think we deserve. Whereas in the UK there’s a lot of people who probably heard the first record and sort of haven’t tuned in since because they dismissed it as just quite standard indie music.

So you got to perform with Peter Hook recently, tell me a little bit about that.

That was a lot of fun, it was for this African Express thing, and we did a cover of ‘She’s Lost Control’. It was pretty similar to the original but it had a few differences that we had to teach him, and it was the most surreal thing. We were standing there trying to show him the parts and I was just thinking “this is the most crazy situation, it’s his song”. Before we went on stage he comes up to me and says “I’m just going to follow you on this one, you lead, I’ll follow” and I don’t think that will be something I’ll ever forget – Peter Hook coming up to you and telling you he’s going to follow you on a cover of his own song.

Bombay Bicycle Club headline shows:

Tuesday, January 1 – The Regal Ballroom, Melbourne

Wednesday, January 2 – Factory Theatre, Sydney

Thursday, January 3 – The Tivoli, Brisbane