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Do It Yourself: Q+A with Bombay Bicycle Club

So much for your New Year’s resolution to drop 10 pounds. British band, Bombay Bicycle Club, dropped ‘So Long See You Tomorrow’ at the top of this year and has been on an extensive and exciting run since. Album four in their decade long career has already landed the band many firsts: #1 album, Mercury Prize nomination and even a spot in their own music video. The lads are back for a round two tour throughout the US. Ahead of their west coast stretch, we chatted with bassist Ed Nash on their massive year, doing it yourself, and… proper Yorkshire tea? They may be a band, but still Brits:

LA CANVAS: Where are we catching you right now?

ED NASH: I’m in Glasgow, Scotland at the moment. I’m here to DJ, what I do when we’re not on tour.

LAC: Whoa! How’s the mood there? They just finished independence elections.

EN: It’s a peculiar mood. The results were announced not too long ago. Everyone is just getting on though, nothing’s crazy. It was fair voting, in an amicable way.

LAC: Yes, the kingdom remains united. What’s it like where your band’s from in the UK? 

EN: We started in Crouch End, a suburb of London. It’s It’s a peaceful place with lots of musicians and coffee shops and creative types. I really like it there.

LAC: Looking back at pics from early days of Bombay Bicycle Club, you all were so damn young. Do you feel that time has really flown by in the near decade since your start?

EN: It’s quite scary and embarrassing looking back. Most bands get big in their early to late 20’s, where we are now. Usually, you have your look or style and yourself in order by then (laughs). It’s been a public growing up for us, we started when we were like 15 or 16 and we put out our first album around age 18. All of our friends were going off to university when our band broke.

LAC: What valuable lesson learned would you advise yourself at that young age?

EN: Someone once shared some advice when we were starting out, and I’ve stuck to it. He said that you need to be good to people on your way up because they’ll be the same people you see on your way down. Know that if you’re a dick while things are going, then you won’t be treated well when you have nothing on your side. It is really important. You can’t and won’t be famous forever.

LAC: That said, it has been a stellar year for Bombay Bicycle Club, which took off with the release of your latest record in February. How does it feel to land your first ever #1 album?

EN: It feels great but truthfully, it’s not as important to us as the reception that we’ve been receiving from people out in the streets telling us how much they love the record. We prefer the quality than the quantity.

LAC: It’s clear in the album that your sound is further evolving, can you share more about the musical direction for So Long See You Tomorrow ?

EN: You’re right. The direction for this one rolls on from the last album. We’ve added more electronic loops, drum machines and such to get people dancing.

LAC: Are you finding your goal to make more dance-floor friendly music fulfilled?

EN: Yes, there’s certainly been a change from our shows from when we first started, which were more aggressive and wild. You can see this especially when we play in the US. We are having a great reception, on top of people just loving to dance there.

LAC: What’s your move?

EN: I am a terrible dancer, and it’s quite unfortunate. I have long hair though and I just wiggle it around on stage. If I could, I would name the move “The Willow Smith” (laughs).

LAC: Could you pick a couple tracks on this album that you absolutely love to dance (terribly) or jam to?

EN: “Feel” would be one of them. It’s almost like a diary. I didn’t write the words but it takes me back to the time and place that inspired us for the song. Jack and I took a 3-week trip to India not too long ago, and it was amazing. The second one would be “Overdone,” because it just so much fun to play live. Everyone really gets pumped for that one.

LAC: Unlike your previous albums, you guys decided to self-produce this new record. Why DIY? And why now?

EN: It was a great experience self-producing this record. We initially went to 2 producers but we didn’t feel that they got it right. We already knew the direction that we wanted to go in and doing it ourselves made things easier. In the past, when we were younger, we found it a little hard out speak out or expressive ourselves to producers. We now had the comfort to suggest whatever ideas we had and to do the music our way. I feel like the songwriting, recording and production was all amplified. I feel that it brought us more together as a band too.

LAC: Speaking of doing things, what’s a skill or talent that people don’t know you have?

EN: I paint portraits. I can’t say that I’m very talented but I do enjoy painting portraits of my friends and family. Many people don’t know that I did that cover of our Floors album. The problem is that I don’t have to paint more often because of touring. When we have some time off though, there are some paintings that I’d like to finish.

LAC: And more awesome news! Congrats on your Mercury prize nomination for this year. 

EN: Thank you. It’s completely overwhelming! It’s truly one of the best awards, and it’s a pleasure to be nominated with many of my favorite bands. We honestly had no idea that this would happen. Actually, I had bet 10 pounds that we would not be nominated, so it’s a win-win for me.

LAC: If you do win, who’s the first person you’d call to tell?

EN: I’d call my sister, she’d be excited! I’d say my parents but I’m not sure that they’d understand the capacity or have the right level of appreciation. They’d be like “what’s that?” (laughs).

LAC: In the mean time, Bombay Bicycle Club is embarking on another ambitious tour across the US, also to Europe and Australia this fall. As the summer festival season ends, you’ll now be performing more indoors. Are you excited to see how the new songs resonate this second go around? And will you be switching up your live show?

EN: I’m looking forward to this second tour so much. We’ve been playing festivals for the last 3-4 months, mostly festival shows and that’s mainly shorter sets. I’m looking forward to doing full sets again. We’re also dying to play some of our older material, along with the new songs. We’re bringing some friends along for this tour, which includes a live keyboardist, who is probably the hardest working person amongst us because he’s also triggering samples, and doing other cool stuff. Liz Lawrence is joining us on vocals too, she’s a killer singer! Expect visuals of old 19th century stop animation and interpreted album artwork. It’s gonna be a good time.

LAC: Your west coast run kicks off this week, with Bombay Bicycle Club performing in LA Oct 3rd at The Wiltern. Have you spent much time in California?

EN: I’ve spent quite a bit of time in California actually. When I was 18, my friend and I booked a flight into LA and a flight back home from Portland, with no plans in the weeks in between. We took a road trip on Greyhound across the state, and have the craziest stories. It’s now absurd when I think about it.

LAC: Oh man! What are you most looking forward on this visit?

EN: In-N-Out burger! We are stopping there immediately when we arrive. We’ll also have some time off in San Diego and I’m looking forward to chilling at the beach. Hmmm, maybe I’ll try surfing.

LAC: When you’re on the road, what do you miss most about home?

EN: Tea. Is that stereotypical? Outside the UK, people really have a different concept of tea. There is a big need for proper English tea. I’m serious, we carry Yorkshire Gold tea bags on tour with us now.

LAC: And when you’re home, what do you miss most about touring?

EN: I miss seeing something new everyday. This is really the best job. I’d never get a chance to travel like this if not for my band.

LAC: I recently came across some Vines and other short funnies that you guys posted online. They had me dying! I have to admit that I was surprised to see a silly side to Bombay Bicycle Club, as your band comes across as more serious and shy in many of your interviews. Has anyone else ever mentioned that before?

EN: Wow, yeah. In the past, people often were like “what the fuck?” and had a bad perspective of us. The thing is, we were very young and quiet and awkward. People take this as rudeness or standoffish but we’re not like that, we like to have fun too.

LAC: Your music videos are always so interesting and feature fantastic aesthetics. “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” “Luna,” and “Carry Me” are favorites that come to mind. Where do these ideas come from?

EN: With music videos, our general rule is less is more – the less involvement from us, the better. We usually find a treatment to fit what we want, then we let the director and creative team do what they do, but it must be authentic.

LAC: You guys have made it a point to not be in your own music videos. What changed your minds for “Carry Me?”

EN: We have input in the concept but we don’t feel the need to be in the videos just for the sake of it. It always needs to make sense. Yes, we’re featured in the video for “Carry Me” but it could literally be anyone the way the video is animated.

LAC: You may not admit it right now, but you guys looked great and did good job in the video!

EN: (Laughs) Thanks.

LAC: Anything you want to close with?

EN: It’s always lovely to meet people while out on tour, come say “hey” after the show.

*You’ll have that chance for a howdy this Friday, October 3rd, when Bombay Bicycle Club performs at The Wiltern. Check out their Mercury Prize nominated new Album of the Year in the mean time. You can thank us later.

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