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Their Big Days - The Triumphant Return of Bombay Bicycle Club

18 March 2024

The overcast skies and a slight drumbeat of rain offered an ever so subtle parallel for those who eagerly filed into Chicago’s Metro last Thursday evening. It was close to a decade earlier and in strikingly similar conditions that London’s Bombay Bicycle Club made their then appearance at Lollapalooza 2014 in support of their fourth studio record, So Long, See You Tomorrow, a performance that would be among their last in the United States before the band announced an indefinite hiatus in January 2016.

After regrouping in 2019 and releasing Everything Else Has Gone Wrong just two months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, their continual evolution in spite of overwhelming global circumstances has proven that they are undoubtedly the most consistently creative alternative band that has emerged from the UK in the last 15 years. Their latest release, My Big Day is nothing short of an ethereal sonic experience for fans. Blending equal parts of their post-punk revival sounds reminiscent of I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose with a distinct electronic flavor, the record is by far their most experimental venture to date, and it paid off tremendously. Currently on the US leg of an international tour that includes stops at festivals like Glastonbury and Pstereo, the band has returned to great fanfare back to the United States where anxious fans have long awaited the return of their familiar favorites.

Few venues in the American touring space are as revered as Metro. Located just adjacent Wrigley Field, the room has welcomed many of the world’s most famous acts in the last 30 years, and for many, the booking represents a watershed moment as a sure sign for greater things to come.

In speaking with Jack Steadman and Ed Nash, it’s fair to assume that they’ve found a rhythm that few touring bands have.

So you guys are back in the States, how does it feel to be in the U.S. post-COVID, on a new run of shows with a new record? Any surprises?

Ed: No surprises. It’s just as we thought, but we love being back. I mean, Jack’s on stage every night and it seems cheesy, but we mean that, like, it’s really fun being out here and traveling around from place to place. It’s just so different and every day is exciting, just the kind of geography and towns, but then also the shows are just really fun. People are very, kind of, generous and kind and it’s kind of much more relaxed than certainly in the UK and in Europe, you know, people are very attentive and very warm and welcoming, I find.

Jack: It’s a great combination of the crowd being amazing and just nothing really compares to in the States in terms of like the scale of the country, the long drives you do, the scenery, and as like kids raised on like Hollywood and American culture, we just still feel like, you know, it’s incredibly exciting coming over here.

And so I think it’s interesting, right, because like you guys have had, I think, two very distinct pauses, post-2011, you guys went and did your own thing and then with COVID, you had that additional second pause – so I have to wonder, you know, if COVID never happened, like let’s reverse a few years, where do you think the trajectory of the band would have gone?

Ed: That’s an interesting question. I think probably in the same direction, you know, when we got back together, we were all sure that we wanted to do it.. we took the time off essentially 2015, everyone did their own separate things, you know, personally and professionally. And realized that we enjoyed doing the band and that’s why we started doing it, otherwise I don’t think that would have been the case and we wanted to do it, it’s just COVID got in the way. So when all of that finished, we made this new record and I think it kind of started going again, basically, you know, we went to tour the states and come back and do all of that then… It’s just there was a little unintentional pause after the intentional one.

Jack: It’s so heartbreaking because I’ve been going to merch after a few of these shows and talking to people and it seems like the common theme is that someone discovers our music just as we go on hiatus, they wait until we announce, finally announce a show and then COVID happens and it’s like this double whammy for them. And so, so many of them, it’s almost 10 years waiting to see us live. Which, I mean, it is horrible, but also in a funny way, it’s really made some of these shows, you can kind of feel the energy in the crowd… which has been quite exciting. You know, people just like having that first experience.

It’s got to be pretty surreal being in this kind of your whole lives.

Jack: I think that was the big reason, well, one of the big reasons why we took the hiatus, because it was everything that we’d ever known. So for us more than maybe a lot of bands, we were getting to a point where we were wondering what else was out there, which I think was like a healthy thought. And in that sense, it was really good for us to go and just almost just like, we had to discover that for ourselves to then come back and keep doing it. Otherwise we’d still be here being like, oh man, like, is this, is this everything?

So do you think that time in COVID was an additional help? Or was it kind of, I imagine it was a little aggravating?

Ed: When you don’t choose to do it, it’s totally different. It’s forced upon you.

I mean, the silver lining with that is it was obviously aggravating. We wanted to be playing shows, but we got another aspect that I think we all think is better than the one we would have taught. And I think had we not had the time off and the space to focus on that, we wouldn’t have made a record that’s so kind of different and diverse and takes a lot of time to do.

So it lets you guys kind of focus.

Ed: So that would be the silver lining. But I think really when it was all canceled, we wanted to be playing shows. Now we get the best of both worlds.

You guys are eventually headed back into the festival circuit and I do wonder about the difference between UK and US shows, like Glastonbury, right? And all I hear is how it’s just this surreal, like unbelievable experience. So what are those big differences in the US and European festival circuits?

Jack: There’s definitely pluses to both.

Like especially at festivals in the UK, there was a certain hedonism and just people just going absolutely wild, which can be very fun. But then this flip side of that, especially at some headline shows and especially when we were younger, was a certain almost semi-aggressive energy in the room. And here I find it’s just this very warm and loving and really wanting the band to succeed in the crowd, which I love and makes us all feel so safe on stage… it helps us relax and enjoy ourselves when we can see that the crowd is just being unselfconscious as well – and that’s very contagious, that feeling, so we kind of put our guard down a bit more.

I love the crowds here personally.

If you guys had to play another US festival and keep it consistent every year, what would you choose?

Ed: I mean, it’s going to sound like we’re saying it, but Lollapalooza is a good one.

It’s a cool festival. I’ve got very fond memories of it. Maybe it’s just playing, but when you’re looking out and you see the Chicago skyline, in terms of the view through the stage, it’s pretty cool. They have to look at us, but we get to look at the whole of Chicago.

That’s a big one.

It’s funny, because for bands, obviously it’s the crowd and the festival, but also what we remember so much is how you get treated as a band. It is funny, but those do really stick in your mind when you’re fed really well and everyone’s just really friendly to you and the comparison with the UK festivals too like over here, you’re treated so well. But if you play at, I don’t know, most UK festivals, they’ll give you some warm beer.

That’s it?

Ed: Oh yeah, for sure. If you’re lucky.

Jack: We were blown away the first time we came over here. We were like, what all this is for us?

Ed: We played the festival last year where there was one toilet for everyone that stage. There’s a real difference in hospitality.

I feel like the infrastructure in the UK is, I wouldn’t say it’s more well suited to shows, but…

Ed: You’d think there’d be something – I think they’re just so spread thin in the UK. There’s just so many… and then for a small country, they’re just, you know, you throw a stick and you’ll find a festival and here, I think you’ve got these key, like less number than the ones that do well and really do treat you well and splash out of it.

I do think it’s interesting too, thinking more largely about you guys coming to the US and I think the US having kind of a crisis in and of itself the last eight to 10 years. So now that you’re back, are you noticing that there’s like subtle things that you saw maybe when you were here last or are you noticing state to state that there are things that are interesting or different?

Ed: I think the other day how much, and I haven’t noticed it, you know, when you read the news, I guess it’s indicative of the news, but everything’s so kind of blown out of proportion… you’d think it’s kind of falling apart and at the brink of civil war, you know, sometimes. But to be honest, and I guess we’re just traveling around and everyone’s been nice to us today, I haven’t really seen anything that people haven’t even talked about politics.

Jack: It’s hard, I mean, we do exist in somewhat of a bubble touring the States. The venues are usually in quite cool liberal areas.
We talk to our fans mostly who are probably quite, I should think, liberal people. I would imagine. It’d be interesting to go out and meet some different [kinds of people].

Speaking of the fans, I think it’s interesting because when I’ve talked to some bands, for example, like they try to establish like very clear lines, right? But there’s this parasocial relationship that occurs with bands and, you know, the fans that follow them, and I think [to fans] you guys are very welcoming and you try to encourage that parasocial relationship. So how have you noticed that that’s evolved?

Jack: I don’t think much. I mean, like I said with us, the biggest indirection that I have at least is going out to merch. I know Jamie definitely is the thing that’s evolved most in terms of social media. Not only talking to fans, but like getting requests for a set list and, you know, getting this is a sort of two way feedback. Which is really cool. But for me, I don’t really engage with that as much.

As I did when we first came here, just trying to go and say hi to people. It really makes you realize the difference between your experience on stage and the crowds. Because you can be that very typical artist and like, oh, I made so many mistakes, oh, that was a bit, wasn’t like perfect tonight… [but then] you just go to merch and everyone’s had an amazing time and you feel less sort of bad about it anymore.

Do you find that there are tangents that you’re learning over time from fans that have reinforced that you want to keep doing what you’re doing? I’m sure there’s been maybe some interesting stories.

Ed: I mean, with new songs in particular, when you’re on stage, you can see you’ve been engaging with certain ones.

Jack: Singing along the words and with other ones, maybe not singing along the words and you can kind of, it’s different from country to country, you know. People like different albums and different songs over here and you can definitely pick that.

What’s the trend [here in the US?]

Jack: Our third record is very popular here. I think that’s in the UK, our first record and our fourth record. So seeing those differences as we move around the set, let’s think about what we’re playing and try to keep people in some of the records.

Obviously, you know, you guys have just put out this new record and, you know, I think it’s a little short-sighted for me to ask, but do you know what’s next? I can’t help but wonder, like, you guys again had that time to really solidify, like, a pretty experimental, you know, very varied and, you know, in-depth body of work – I have to imagine that, you know, you’re looking into the future and thinking this is a success, we like the sound, is this [new record], generally a trend you guys want to keep moving forward?

Jack: I think so. Well, the funny thing about the sound is that it is just by nature just very eclectic. So it’s kind of the doors open to do whatever you want. I guess the sort of strict constraint would be just, like, the quality of sound writing. That’s all that matters. So making sure that, you know, when you take away all the fancy production and play it acoustically, it’s still a good song.

Otherwise, you know, we could really surprise people with the sound of the next one and it wouldn’t be unheard of for us.

I’m seeing a lot of metal bands on the walls – maybe metal up next.

 

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