Five years ago it would’ve been fair to say Bombay Bicycle Club were headed down a sure-fire track to burnout. By the end of 2015, after nine months touring with So Long, See You Tomorrow – their first album to reach the UK chart’s #1 spot – the band’s four core members were clamouring for a break. In January 2016, at their peak success to date, they got it, leaving fans bereft as they announced an indefinite hiatus to pursue other projects.
But this month, Bombay Bicycle Club return well and truly to the fold. On Friday 17 January they’ll officially launch fifth LP Everything Else Has Gone Wrong – with a Rough Trade-programmed show at Bristol’s SWX on Monday 13 January to celebrate. Excited to be heading back to Bristol, an old and favourite haunt on the live circuit, they’re looking forward to meeting fans – and maybe catching Big Jeff in the process, says Bombay Bicycle Club’s Ed Nash.
the starting point for it, funnily enough, was “not doing the band”
Cutting somewhere musically between first LP I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose and number four’s So Long…, frontman Jack Steadman has dubbed the new album an ode to the refuge music offers in anxious times. Amid the climate crisis and grim political wrangling, there’s been plenty to want to seek escape from.
Bassist and lyricist Ed Nash explains to Nitelife: ‘This album’s about finding one’s place in the world; companionship, what to do in the future, technology… I guess the starting point for it, funnily enough, was “not doing the band”. We had a long time off and in that time, everyone had grown and kind of become adults. Coming back and having that life experience really informed the music and lyrics.’
Coming back and having that life experience really informed the music and lyrics
It was around a year-and-a-half ago that Steadman and Nash got together to start writing what would become Everything Else…; trekking down to a mate’s house in Cornwall for one week of every month to write music and hothouse ideas.
‘We were working separately from one another, but we had each other there to talk about what we were doing and compare notes, and just work on the stuff together when we needed to,’ says Ed.
‘That was a way of just getting out of day-to-day life and entirely focus on something. At that place in Cornwall there wasn’t even a pub, there was nothing else to do, so we were there doing music from nine in the morning to seven at night – all day like a job. That’s how the main chunk of the album happened.’
there wasn’t even a pub (…) so we were there doing music from nine in the morning to seven at night
Eventually, they took their output to the rest of the band. Together they worked the songs into shape, then headed to the studio last March and April to record with Grammy Award-winning producer John Congleton; with follow up sessions in LA over August and September. A super-quick process, especially when you consider So Long, See You Tomorrow took nearly three years to write, and another one to lay down.
From what we’ve heard of the new record so far, a hiatus proved to be just the tonic Bombay Bicycle Club’s members needed to reinvigorate mentally and physically, grow and create outside of the group. No minor thing, given they’d spent a decade playing together, since they were mere college kids in North London. In that time, they’d produced four LPs pretty much back-to-back, with each one landing a BRIT Certified Gold Award.
In the three-year gap, Steadman released an album under the moniker Mr Jukes. Lead guitarist Jamie MacColl launched Undivided: a campaign to bring together both Leave and Remain voters under 30 to have their say on Brexit negotiations. Nash, meanwhile, produced and toured his debut solo album as Toothless, with BBC’s Suren de Saram on drums.
We got to find a part of us that we hadn’t really been able to because of lack of time
‘We got to find a part of us that we hadn’t really been able to because of lack of time, so I think everyone grew doing these different things,’ says Ed of the hiatus. ‘I learned a lot and was able to contribute, certainly, a lot more than I had before. Or maybe in a different way to before. Everyone is a more rounded individual after that time off.
Everyone is a more rounded individual after that time off
‘Through doing that – and I can only speak for myself, but – it made me really appreciate what I hadn’t before. The other people in the band, how exciting it was to be able to tour and make records and make albums; do all those things with other people that you love and in a way that other people care about as well. You realise that it’s such a rare thing and it’s to be cherished.’
That realisation prompted Nash, Steadman and co to start talking about reuniting for a run of live shows to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of their first album. Muscle memory kicked in and the result was a mini tour, on which they played their 2009 LP track list in full. The shows were rammed; they’d been missed.
We were young and restless and had our eyes set on different stuff
It was an eye-opening experience that threw up a few different things, says Ed. ‘Firstly, when we released I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, we only toured it for a couple of months before moving on. We were young and restless and had our eyes set on different stuff. And the shows we were playing were to 150 people. 10 years later, we were playing it to 5,000 people in London. You realise how much it’s grown and how much it really means to people.
‘The other thing was, I thought the shows might be full of people my age who’d had the album at the time and were coming back for some kind of nostalgia trip. And there were a lot of those people, but you also had older people and teenagers who’ve come to the album later on and it’s speaking to them – we had this very, very varied range of people. I was very humbled by it. It wasn’t that popular when it came out and now it’s some people’s favourite album, which is incredible.’
I thought the shows might be full of people my age (…) coming back for some kind of nostalgia trip
Realising they weren’t quite ready to retire Bombay Bicycle Club after all, coming back together for the tenth anniversary became the natural catalyst for the group to start work on new material. They hooked back in singer-songwriter and close friend Liz Lawrence to sing throughout Everything Else Has Gone Wrong as she had through So Long…, and pen lyrics for the track list.
A flash later and they started trailing single Eat, Sleep, Wake on Instagram; a more mature but still-tingly take on their classic sound. Then title track Everything Else Has Gone Wrong came out not far behind – a song all about ‘finding hope, safety and comfort during times of despair, when everything is crumbling all around you’, tweeted BBC.
With the first two singles already racking up millions of streams on Spotify, it’d be understandable if Bombay Bicycle Club were starting to feel old pressures starting to build as their fifth LP gets set to drop. But, says Ed, they are now older, wiser and, now reinvigorated, determined to take a healthier approach to this next album tour.
‘At the end of So Long…, the right thing to do – or on paper the right thing to do – would have been to make another album as soon as we finished the last one. We were really popular and we could have capitalised on that. But for us emotionally it was the wrong thing to do.
it’s better for us, it’s better for the fans and hopefully it can keep us going for longer
‘We’d like to be happy, mentally and physically doing this. And if we play a few less shows, if we do them in a different way, then it’s better for us, it’s better for the fans and hopefully it can keep us going for longer. You see bands burn out all the time, or fall out with each other, and we’re in a position for that not to happen now.’