Teenage sensations move on from silly songs and bad hair

Bombay Bicycle Club played the V Festival when they were all 15 years old. Now 21, they chuckle at their past with Gillian Orr

The problem with being so precocious is that some of your youthful impulses stick around forever to gently mock you. It is something that the London indie quartet Bombay Bicycle Club know only too well. Having been on the scene since they won the "Road to V" competition when they were 15-year-old schoolboys (the prize being an opening slot at the festival), they are now all 21 years old, on their third album, and not averse to the odd cringe at some of their earlier decisions.

"The band name, for example, is pretty ridiculous," laughs bassist Ed Nash. Yep, naming your band after a chain of Indian-takeaway restaurants certainly has all the hallmarks of a healthy adolescent sense of humour.

"Or calling a song 'Emergency Contraception Blues'," groans frontman Jack Steadman, shaking his head at the title of the instrumental opener on their debut album, 2009's I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose.

They go on to reminisce about some questionable hairstyles and outfits before shrugging. "But it's all part of being young, you know?" says Steadman. "Everyone has embarrassing things they did when they were a teenager but for most people, it's not all over the internet. We can just laugh about it now."

It's almost impossible to talk to Bombay Bicycle Club (also comprised of guitarist Jamie MacColl and drummer Suren de Saram) without discussing their youth, so inextricably linked have they been to the so-called "underage" scene since their inception in 2005. Of course, there were older fans too, but it was their peers who really embraced the band, and their earlier gigs were famously raucous affairs. Teenagers, who can be so under-catered for when it comes to live music, finally had a place to let loose.

But this year has marked a huge turning point for the band. They might have already had a top 10 record and been nominated for an Ivor Novello award, among other accolades, but between their superb third album, A Different Kind of Fix, and some blistering festival appearances this summer, there is a definite sense that Bombay Bicycle Club have moved into the big league; that a fine band just got very good. Co-produced by Animal Collective collaborator Ben Allen, the album charted at number six and its inventive, experimental sound drew rapturous praise on its release back in August.

But it's not just the public and critics who are suddenly seeing Bombay Bicycle Club as genuine contenders, the band seem to be taking things more seriously now too, although they realise that they might not be able to persuade everyone to give them a go.

"It's always very difficult to shake off the first impression you have of someone. I'm sure there are people who won't buy our album because they associate us with being a young band," says Steadman. "But then if The Pigeon Detectives suddenly released this genius album I probably wouldn't listen to it, I would just go, 'The Pigeon Detectives? They suck!' People are like that, they're prejudiced." When I meet Steadman and Nash at a south London rehearsal studio, they are preparing for their UK tour, which comes to an end next Wednesday with a sold-out show at Brixton Academy. In the past they've eschewed proper tours for support slots, festival appearances and, in a move that must have tested their record company, asking fans to suggest places for them to play. Off the back of their debut they ended up performing in a puppet theatre, down a mineshaft and at a replica castle. After the release of their 2010 acoustic album Flaws, they chose to play a series of churches up and down the country, which probably sounded lovely but did little to improve their profile.

"Our touring has been a bit of a joke so we've had loads of time to write," says Steadman, which goes some way to explaining how they have managed to release three albums in as many years, a feat practically unheard of these days. "At that stage we didn't really realise how serious this was and we just wanted to have a good time. We just thought we'd have a laugh with it."

"We're stepping it up as of now," Nash chimes in.

They're not really a typical young band. While they are certainly funny, in person they come across as a little awkward and nerdy, they pay no attention to their image, and there's a definite absence of bravado. Considering they are currently being touted as one of the most exciting bands around, they are curiously self deprecating and lacking in grand plans. When asked if they think they have the potential to be one of Britain's biggest bands, as some pundits suggest, they shift uncomfortably.

"Well, we played the Barfly [a 200-capacity venue] last night and I had a really good time and it made me think I kind of want to play small venues," says Steadman. "All bands say that, but I miss having that mad intimacy where anything can happen. But then playing to a huge crowd at Reading was amazing. I think the level we're at now is nice. That's classic Bombay, to just be like, 'I'm happy where I am,' and not be ambitious; never thinking about the next thing, just being content."

It's hard to know how honest Steadman is being; he's obviously a driven person, not to mention talented. After the jangly indie-pop of the band's debut and the acoustic folk of their second album, Steadman was responsible for the new direction that their third album took. A long-time fan of electronic music, A Different Kind of Fix features synthesisers, sampled loops and reverb throughout, and Steadman is even credited as co-producer.

"The electronic elements just happened because that's what I was into when I was writing the songs," says Steadman. "It's hard to make electronic sound good without being geeky about it. If someone doesn't know anything about it, it would sound awful. It's not like with the guitar. You can have someone who is not very good at guitar, like Bob Dylan, and he's still a genius but with electronic music you can't be bad with the software. It just doesn't sound good, it doesn't work."

It will be interesting to see where they decide to go next. Their career has so far been full of surprises and hopefully will continue to be. They certainly have a bright future and, in the meantime, the gigs get bigger and the crowds more diverse as more and more people – of all ages – discover them.

"This time we have so much equipment with us we have to have a lorry as well as the tour bus," Steadman excitedly says. "To think, five years ago we had our parents driving us to gigs and now we have our own lorry."

"Yeah," grins Nash. "We're a real band now."

'A Different Kind of Fix' is out now. New single 'Lights Out, Words Gone' is out on Monday. Bombay Bicycle Club are on tour until Wednesday ( )www.bombaybicycleclubmusic.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice