To this day, one of the best gigs that I have ever been to is still Bombay Bicycle Club in The Set Theatre in Kilkenny back in November 2013. The intimate venue in the centre of Kilkenny city seemed like an unusual location for the London four-piece to perform given that they would be used to playing much bigger venues across the water, but the smaller confines of “The Set” lent themselves perfectly to the band’s distinctive indie rock sound and ensured an unforgettable night of live music. Having not been overly familiar with the band prior to this show, I was unsure what to expect when going to see them live, I was left blown away by the massive energy that the band played with from start to finish. Front man, Jack Steadman, cut a charismatic and enigmatic figure on stage, with his distinctive vocal and undeniable stage presence.
Bombay Bicycle Club had first come to the attention of this writer when they were invited on to RTÉ’s, The Late Late Show, back in early 2011 to perform their new single, Lights Out, Words Gone. It left me instantly wanting to find out more about the band.
Members Steadman (vocals and guitar), Jamie MacColl (guitar and vocals) and Suren de Seram (drums) met while in school together in their teens. They would soon be joined by Ed Nash (bass), and Bombay Bicycle Club, a name inspired by a chain of Indian restaurants across Britain at the time, were born. After a period of playing smaller London venues, the band got their big break by winning the Virgin Mobile “Road to V” competition on Channel 4 in 2006 which would grant them an opening slot on the Channel 4 Stage at the V Festival of that year.
To date, Bombay Bicycle Club have four studios to their name, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose (2009), Flaws (2009), A Different Kind of Fix (2011), and So Long, See You Tomorrow (2014), each one demonstrating the willingness of the band to experiment with different genres.
2009’s debut album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, was a typical offering from a young indie rock band. The songs were guitar and bass driven and were performed with the energy and enthusiasm of a band who were just starting on their journey. There was a simplicity to the songwriting that while charming, left the sense that they were capable of more. The first single of the album, Evening/Morning, stood as the perfect representation of where the band were at this stage of their development, with the aggressive bass riff from Nash mashing perfectly with the intricate drumming of Surem.
Their follow up offering in 2010, Flaws, was proceeded by the single, Ivy & Gold, and it was immediately obvious that the band had taken a change of direction and were moving more towards a folky sound. The album had a distinctive acoustic sound that was a marked departure from the sound that had been heard on their debut LP.
Album three, A Different Kind of Fix, that was released in 2011 would prove to be a defining album for the band and would successfully bring their music to a wider audience, as well as being very well received by many music critics. The album marked another shift in sound and genre for the band from the soft folk sound that they had ventured towards on the previous LP, this album was instead indie pop music at its finest. The album would also provide some of the most notable singles by the band, Lights Out, Words Gone, Shuffle, and How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep (a single that would be included on the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse).
Fans of the band would then have to wait until November 2013 when Bombay Bicycle Club would premier the lead single off their soon to be released new album, Carry Me. Instantly this felt like a departure for the band, the song seemed to be solely made up of textured rhythmic beats created by aggressive bass, played by both Nash and MacColl, and a difficult to fully nail down drumming track by Surem. It instantly created a sense of excitement for what was to come.
The album that would follow continued on the progression heard on the track, Carry Me. So Long, See You Tomorrow made use of the electronica sound that had been heard on the previous LP and there was a definite sense of the band attempting to take influences from different international sounds – probably influenced by the travelling that Steadman was doing while writing the album.
Late January 2016, however, would bring the news that the band intending on taking an indefinite hiatus from music citing a wish to try and do different things, an announcement that was met with huge disappointment by the loyal fan base of the band. Steadman (under the name, Mr. Juke’s) and Nash (under the name, Toothless) would go on to release solo material in early 2017, which would delay any chance of Bombay Bicycle Club reforming in the near future.
Bombay Bicycle Club constantly attempted to challenge themselves during their songwriting, afraid to stand still or get stuck in one specific style or genre. Every album marked a another step in their evolution and it is the hope of this writer that if they ever decide to make music again that they will continue this theme.