Is there a formula that makes a band great? And if you find the elusive formula, how do you keep the mix right?
Everyone has their own style and personality; so it goes with a band. Do you have to be a drug-addicted tortured soul or a little shy and withdrawn, or a band that feels the need to share a gluttony of hidden feelings, or behave like a bunch of adolescent a-holes? Let’s not forget the popular angle these days, flash some skin, nothing grabs your attention like a naked body. It seems only a fool would run with idea of: a friendly, easy-to-talk to, intelligent, reasonable and polite, really just down-to-earth bunch of nice folks. Well, refreshingly, Bombay Bicycle Club is a just that.
This indie band started out young, when they were just 15, now in their mid 20’s and they’re already accomplished veterans of the stage and it shows. Bombay Bicycle Club are Jack Steadman, Jamie MacColl, Suren de Saram and Ed Nash.
What I find interesting is that many bands have a tendency to start out this way, at one time, even superstars like the Beatles, where simple young lads from Liverpool. (No emails please, I’m not saying BBC are the next Beatles.) But like everything else in life, things change, shit happens, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst.
And this band is not adverse to change. They started with a more guitar driven sound, with thier first album, “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose”, in 2009. From one musical genera to another, without missing a beat, their second album, Flaws, in 2010, more of a folk-rock, acoustic style, full of sweet harmonies. The next was “A Different Kind of Fix”, which is more in line with indie rock today with sampled loops and a sophisticated rhythm. Their latest album, “So Long See You Tomorrow” added a twist of experimental electronica close to the style they were initially known for.
Jack Steadman, the lead vocalists, commented recently on the controversy of tax evasion by the Arctic Monkeys on BBC Radio 5 Live:
“I think it’s quite disgusting.” He added: “But I’m also aware of how quickly you can change as a person, not that it forgives you. But I’d be lying if I said I’m going to be like this my whole life, because I’m sure the Arctic Monkeys when they were young boys in Sheffield and you asked them this question would say ‘absolutely not, this is horrific’, but the things that have happened to them and what they’ve been thrown into has definitely had a huge effect on them.”
And the band has often commented that the Arctic Monkeys is one of the bands that had a huge influence on them.
Before this event, I’d heard of the band, basically in passing, with an occasionally song over the airwaves. Little did I know, their live performances are superlative! This may be one of those bands where the live performance, outshine the studio stuff, rare but wonderful to see and hear.
The song, “Evening/Morning” was a solid piece of work, which I really enjoyed. And Ed Nash didn’t disappoint, rocking the bass line riff, with style and movement on stage. Photographically, animated bass players are a treat, typically they don’t move around much, staying in place, keeping the beat steady, along with the drummer.
“We’ve never been to a country where we were greeted with such love,” said Jack, addressing the crowd in-between songs. And after the show, they were real troopers, testing many Filipino delicacies, including balut, a boiled duck egg with a small embryo inside.
My favorite song of the night was “Feel”. The style here is a closer match to their namesake. World music, built on Bollywood sample from the 1954 movie Nagin. It’s a snake charmers dream, with electronic basslines and string-driven melodies.
“I feel like we’ve found the balance between making it interesting and intelligent, but also not highbrow or elitist,” says Jack. “You want to satisfy the people who like the technical side of music, but someone listening on the radio should be able to sing along. If you can find that balance, it’s incredible.”
“Carry Me,” wrapped up the set, more of a dance anthem, think; the National mets Cyndi Lauper. A bold song with an offbeat rhythm, with a vocal refrain looped like a sample and idiosyncratic sound mixed in for good measure. I’d see this as the direction of a future album, but who knows. I only hope they change, but remain the same, can’t wait to hear what they produce next…
Special thanks going out to the gang at Karpos Multimedia for bringing the band to Manila, nice work as usual!