Bombay Bicycle Club: From Many Sounds, One Band

Jan 13, 2012
Originally published on January 14, 2012 6:14 pm

Bombay Bicycle Club isn't from India, nor will any of its members roll through the U.S. on bicycles during their upcoming tour. But the four British indie rockers are bringing a new sound to the States — albeit one with echoes of The Stone Roses, Radiohead and other British rock acts of the past 20 years.

"I get so in love with a band that I just end up pretty much copying them," says Jack Steadman, the band's vocalist and songwriter. "I hope that the originality can come from the fact that you're in love with a thousand bands, and they all sound completely different, so that when you copy all of them at once, that's how you create something new."

With all its members still in their early 20s, Bombay Bicycle Club has been described as "a young band in a hurry." With their release of its third record in as many years, the group is living up to that reputation. A Different Kind of Fix is lyrically oblique — a big shift, Steadman says, from his earlier work.

"I think I was a lot less self-conscious when I was a teenager," Steadman says. "When I listen to those early songs, I feel like an adult, discovering that diary under your bed that you wrote when you were younger. You're embarrassed by it, but at the time, you weren't afraid to write all your feelings down in that way."

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Time now for music.


RAZ: The band Bombay Bicycle Club isn't from India, nor are any of its members necessarily into riding bikes, but the four British indie rockers are getting a lot of attention in the U.K. with some critics there counting them as the most exciting band in British rock in years. All four band members are still in their early 20s. They met in high school and cut their first record when they were all just 15. Bombay Bicycle Club's front man Jack Steadman said age was a problem when they started out, especially because the only gigs they could get were at bars.

JACK STEADMAN: Well, the trouble was we were all under 18 and all our friends were. So we had to sort of find the sort of emergency exits to all these bars so that our friends could actually come through the back door and watch us.

RAZ: Right, because, obviously, they wouldn't be allowed in. How did you guys come up with the name, Bombay Bicycle Club? It's a great name.

STEADMAN: Yes. Pretty much, we were just on our way to our first gig, and we didn't have a name yet. So we drove past this restaurant in the car that we were in, and it was called Bombay Bicycle Club.

RAZ: And that's it?

STEADMAN: And that was it, really.

RAZ: Have you eaten there?

STEADMAN: They actually, a year later, they said, do you want to come in and have dinner on us? And so we got a free curry out of it.

RAZ: That's not bad. I wanted to - I want to ask you about, obviously, the music on this record. It has an electronic sensibility, but it's also very layered record. And I want to hear a track that's called "Shuffle."


RAZ: This is just one of the catchiest songs I've heard in a long time, just grabbed me the first time I heard it, that piano, the upbeat, soaring vocals. Tell me about this song. What is it about?

STEADMAN: This is a song that actually started off as a song which I was doing as part of my solo project, which is all electronic. I was really just getting into sampling music instead of writing it on guitars. And it was the sort of writer's block that I had during this album, which made me go into that stuff and try and adapt it into a band.


RAZ: Tell me about the process of putting some of these songs together.

STEADMAN: It's usually just like a really small idea that I have. And I record in my bedroom, and I just send it to the band. And that's something that we just all work on together, because I'm really bad at finishing things. So I start a lot of songs, and they'll help me get it all finished.


RAZ: Once the band started to get more attention, you eventually won a contest to headline a pretty significant music festival, right? And that was sort of...


RAZ: I mean, that was the beginning of where you would eventually land.

STEADMAN: Yeah. It was funny because we did that festival; we had to go back to school. I mean...

RAZ: After that (unintelligible)...

STEADMAN: Everyone was saying, you know, this is it. You've made it. This is the beginning. And then we were like, well, actually, I think, well, let's just calm down and make sure that we do it right.

RAZ: Did you - any of you guys, the four members of the band, ever think about going to university and putting the band on hold?

STEADMAN: Yeah. We all had places at university, actually, but that was just us being sensible, I think. I've always known that this is exactly what I want to do.


RAZ: I'm speaking with Jack Steadman. He's the front man for Bombay Bicycle Club. It's a British band, and they have a new record. It's called "A Different Kind of Fix." Do you write most of the lyrics?

STEADMAN: Yeah. I write the lyrics.

RAZ: The last lines of "Lights Out, Words Gone," you hear the words: When the light is out and the words have gone, let me be the one to try it on. What is that song about?

STEADMAN: I guess it's just about going to bed with someone. That makes it sound really creepy.

RAZ: No, no.


RAZ: No, no. It's a classic theme in music.


RAZ: And your earlier songs seem to have clearer stories, whereas the songs on this record are more penetrable, difficult to know exactly what they're about, almost like there are fragments of stories in these songs.

STEADMAN: Yeah, no. I definitely agree. I think I was just a lot less self-conscious when I was a teenager. When I listen to those early songs, I feel like an adult discovering, you know, that diary under your bed that you wrote when you were younger. And you're embarrassed by it, but at that time, you weren't ashamed to write all your feelings down in that way.

RAZ: And now you feel like you have to hide it a bit more?

STEADMAN: I think so, yeah. I think that's becoming a bit more abstract because you are just a bit more self-conscious.

RAZ: Because people are parsing your lyrics more now and sort of reading them more carefully?

STEADMAN: Yeah, that's probably it. It's something I'd like to try and work against, to be honest, on the next record. I think it's nice to just be unashamed and just - that definitely appeal to a lot of people anyway in the beginning.

RAZ: On this record, Jack, I hear a lot of really powerful influences, particularly British influences: Stone Roses from the late '80s, early '90s, Roni Size and the drum and bass sound. And this song, "Still," has an unmistakable Radiohead quality to it.


RAZ: How do you sort of decide how far to go in the direction of the bands that influenced you versus kind of stepping back and try to create something completely new?

STEADMAN: Yes. I think I got so in love with a band that I just end up pretty much copying them. And I hope that the originality can come from the fact that you're in love with 1,000 bands and they're all completely different. So when you copy all of them at once, that's how you create something new.

RAZ: And is it fair to say that Radiohead's a band that you love?

STEADMAN: Oh, yeah. Of course, yeah. Definitely one of my all-time favorite bands.


RAZ: You are all headed on a long tour, including your first headlining tour in the U.S., right, starting in - next month, I think.


RAZ: Are you excited about that?

STEADMAN: Yeah. I mean, it's a mixture of excitement. And, like, that's going to be the longest tour we've ever done, so we're all sort of just, I guess, a bit nervous about it.

RAZ: Is it strange to go to places - I know you're going to be going to Asia - and people are singing the words that you've written, to see that in the audience?

STEADMAN: Yeah. It's really, really surreal. A couple of weeks ago, we played in Hong Kong, which is where I was born. So that was like one of the craziest moments of my life because I went back there 21 years later and there were all these people that were singing. And it was just a really, really surreal and a very, very cheesy, corny moment.

RAZ: That's Jack Steadman. He's the vocalist for the British band Bombay Bicycle Club. Their new record is called "A Different Kind of Fix." It's out now. Jack joined me from London. Thanks so much for being with us, Jack Steadman.

Thank you very much.


RAZ: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Check out our weekly podcast, the Best of WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. You can find it on iTunes or at We post a new episode every Sunday night. Tomorrow on the program, we ask: If Ronald Reagan were running for president today, could he get the GOP nod? Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.