Bombay Bicycle Club
Bombay Bicycle Club
It might seem odd to describe Bombay Bicycle Club as veterans given that nobody in the band is older than 24, but this is the London quartet’s fourth album, each one more successful than the last, which is a notable achievement in today’s climate of rapid ascents and sudden declines. Their steady rise is something that rarely happens anymore — a band given space by their label, Island, to evolve unpredictably with each release and take their audience with them.
So Long, See You Tomorrow is their richest, boldest and most euphoric album yet, and their first UK number one. This autumn, following a string of international festival appearances including Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds, Latitude, Fuji Rocks and Lollapalooza, the band will play their first ever UK arena date at London’s Earls Court. They have a healthy, ever-growing following in continental Europe and the US, too, with all of their dates having sold out. The more risks Bombay Bicycle Club take, the bigger they get.
“I feel like we’ve found the balance, making it interesting and intelligent but not highbrow or elitist,” says frontman Jack Steadman. “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.”
Bombay Bicycle Club are Jack Steadman (vocals, keyboards and guitar), Jamie MacColl (guitar), Suren de Saram (drums) and Ed Nash (bass). They grew up in north London and signed to Island after leaving secondary school at 18, releasing their guitar-driven debut, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, in 2009. Their second album, Flaws, in 2010, saw an unexpected change of direction: folky and intimate, it was nominated for the Ivor Novello for Best Album. Their third album in as many years, A Different Kind of Fix, arrived in 2011. Living up to the title’s promise, it was a dramatic departure, with agile rhythms, sampled loops and vertiginous swirls of guitar.
So Long, See You Tomorrow is yet another leap forward, a beautiful collection of songs that owe more to experimental electronica than to indie-rock. In fact, the whole album is one giant loop, because it is bookended with the same melody — the beatific title track effectively segues back into the surging, string-laden opener, Overdone. Compounding the sensation is the last lyric the listener hears: “Keep going round and round and round…”
Jack, who writes all the band’s songs, can trace his absorption in loops to the first music he made as a teenager, using a simple pre-GarageBand software program called eJay. “Everyone talks about how our albums have been different, but from my point of view, this was there the whole time,” says Jack. “I started recording music at 15 on my computer and it was far more experimental than any of the Bombay stuff.” (This he attributes to “getting into stuff like Boards of Canada and discovering psychoactive drugs — a lethal combination!”)
Rhythm is the key to So Long, See You Tomorrow. The show-stopping first single, “Carry Me,” is a tough, restless dance anthem, its vocal refrain looped like a sample. Echoing the album’s theme of circularity, the interactive video, which allows viewers to animate the band, was inspired by the great 19th century stop-motion photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.
Second single “Luna” has a slippery, sun-kissed ambience, opening with the busy patter of tablas. The Indian influence is even more prominent on third single “Feel,” expanding on a snake-charming melody from the 1954 Bollywood movie “Nagin” with thick electronic bass and an explosively optimistic chorus. The video was shot in India and has a Bollywood theme. “Eyes Off You” is a piano-driven festival torch song fluctuating between turbulent peaks and glittering pools of melancholy. “Home By Now” bathes in harmonies as folk meets hip hop, while “It’s Alright Now”‘s tender sentiments are offset by bracing marching-band percussion. The sighing melody of new single “Come To” slowly blossoms into starry-eyed shoegazing textures and consoling harmonies.
So Long, See You Tomorrow was heavily influenced by the cultures that Jack experienced during a series of songwriting tours. He travelled, often by himself, to India, Japan, Turkey, the Netherlands and around the UK. “It made me happy,” he says. “And when you’re feeling good you’re going to start creating things. I need to be feeling energetic to write new music.”
Sometimes he would remain in a country after the band played a show and immerse himself in the local culture, as he did in India. At other times he selected places randomly on holiday-lettings websites and took himself off to see what happened. This led to a spell living with a family in the middle of the Turkish countryside. “I turned up with all my equipment and stayed for three weeks, and ended up feeling like this weird adopted kid.” [At one point he was taken to a travelers’ camp because they were the only people for miles around to have a drum kit he could borrow, and they turned out to be dazzlingly accomplished folk musicians who performed especially for him, although the drum kit turned out to be “the worst I have ever seen in my life”.]
So Long, See You Tomorrow was written and recorded between May 2012 and October 2013 and produced by Jack in the band’s own London studio, a decision he took because he was fed up with being “incapable of describing what I wanted with words. You just end up sounding like a terrible A&R man.” The album was also partly recorded in north London’s famous Konk studios and engineered and mixed by Mark Rankin (Adele, Plan B, Queens of the Stone Age, Florence & the Machine), with vocal contributions from regular collaborator Lucy Rose and impressive newcomer Rae Morris.
“I think there’s a romantic side to the album, although I always try to leave the meaning of a song open,” says Jack. “When I write it’s very much a stream-of-consciousness thing. I think maybe the audience can be the psychologist that analyses it for you…'”
“We want people to interpret the lyrics in their own way,” says Jamie. “I do think it ties into our lack of cynicism though. More than on any of our other albums there is a feeling of hopefulness.”
“Growing up, people would always say I was too happy to be depressed, or too social to have anxiety,” says Liza Anne Odachowski, the critically acclaimed songwriter better known these days by her stage name Liza Anne. “In their eyes, because I was one thing, I couldn’t also be something else. I think we all exist in duality, though. I can be everything and nothing all at once.”
Duality is at the core of Liza Anne’s arresting new album, ‘Fine But Dying,’ her debut release for indie powerhouse label Arts & Crafts. Synthesizing the elegant sincerity of Angel Olsen with the wry lyricism of Courtney Barnett and the unapologetic candor of Feist, the music is both tough and vulnerable, bold and withdrawn, a helping hand and a middle finger. Firing on all cylinders with distorted alt-rock guitars and explosive drums one minute, hushed and delicate the next, it’s an eclectic collection that reflects the messy complications of growing up in the modern age, as the 23-year-old grapples with the fallout of falling in love, reckons with the patriarchy, and stares down the panic disorder she refuses to let define her. ‘Fine But Dying’ is the sound of an artist taking total control of her life and her art, a proud misfit crafting an aggressively infectious kiss-off to an industry (and a society) that’s tried to box her in from day one.
“Being a young woman playing music in Nashville, everybody had their opinions of who I should be and what I should do next,” says Liza Anne, whose music is as decidedly un-Nashville as it gets. “They wanted me to be happier and softer and easier because people are conditioned to only experience women in entertainment as a force of goodness and kindness and light. But just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have to be soft and happy and nurturing all the time. It’s pretty inhumane to expect a human being to represent only one side of themselves. We embody too many contradictions.”
‘Fine But Dying’ follows Liza Anne’s self-released 2015 breakout album, ‘Two,’ which garnered more than 20 million streams worldwide. NPR praised the record’s “deeply introspective” songwriting and “searing reflections,” while Nylon called it “a stunningly somber album” and dubbed Liza an artist with the “keen ability to turn even the smallest of feelings into a sweeping song.” The record earned her dates with Joseph, Margaret Glaspy, The Oh Hellos, and Bears Den, among others, as well as festival slots from ACL to Daytrotter Downs.
Though Liza Anne commands a stage like she was born to do it, a career in music was far from her mind as she grew up in the quaint, sheltered community of Saint Simons Island, Georgia. She discovered songwriting one summer at sleepaway camp, when a guitar class helped her realize that the notebooks she’d been filling with poetry and prose could be set to melodies. Raised in a deeply religious household, Liza’s first taste of public performance came on Sundays when she served as a local worship leader, and though she’s since moved on from the church, the experience proved to be formative for her.
“I learned at a very young age how to manipulate an entire room full of people to feel what I’m feeling,” she says with a laugh.
When it came time to cut ‘Fine But Dying,’ Liza Anne brought both her band and her producer, Zach Dyke, to France’s legendary La Frette studio, a 19th century mansion on the banks of the Seine. Dyke and Liza’s recording chemistry had been undeniable since they first met during college in Nashville, and though Liza dropped out of school to tour full time, the pair’s creative relationship continued to grow deeper and break new ground.
“Zach is my best friend and my magic charm,” reflects Liza Anne. “Working with him just feels like working with your other arm or another part of your brain.”
In a six-day whirlwind, they recorded eleven new songs that embodied the raw energy and tense emotion that Liza Anne had long carried in her head but never yet captured on tape.
“This is my ‘woman at her wildest self’ album,” she says. “It’s a place for me to express all of the things about womanhood and the human condition that I was experiencing without fear of feeling like I’m ‘too much’ or ‘not enough.’ People used to talk about my music in such sweet terms, but they weren’t sweet things that I was going through. With this record, I’m not sugarcoating anything any more.”
On album opener “Paranoia,” Liza Anne weaves together lilting pop sensibilities with moments of frenetic release as she confronts insecurity and doubt. The result is an addictive, Cranberries-meets-St. Vincent gem, and it proves to be a perfect entry point to an album unafraid to bare the multitudes it contains. Liza’s crystalline voice is alternately beguiling and jarring as she sets her distress to music on “Panic Attack,” sends up the hollow phoniness of southern hospitality on “Small Talks,” and sneers and snarls her way through the third-wave feminist anthem of “Kid Gloves.” On the gentle but bruising “I’m Tired, You’re Lonely” she channels the eerie beauty of Jeff Buckley, while “Closest To Me” is a reverb-soaked look in the mirror, and “Control” faces off against some of the darker voices in her head.
“There are moments in the song ‘Control’ that question what it feels like to be in love,” says Liza Anne. “The whole album is really a catalog of my first few years of falling in love with someone but doubting I had the capacity to actually do it.”
‘Fine But Dying’ proves that Liza Anne is a woman with the capacity to do far more than she’d ever given herself credit for. By casting off the restrictions of who and what she “should” be, by writing with unrepentant emotion and without concern for the constructs and confines of “femininity,” she was able to discover her truest self and create an album of incredible power and vision, one that fully reflects the rich duality of its author.
“This album gave me space to find my voice,” says Liza Anne. “In the end, I always want to make art that’s provocative and that challenges the stereotypes of what women are supposed to be or how they are usually experienced. Songwriting isn’t just fun for me, it’s necessity. It’s my way of escaping my body and inhabiting it at the same time.”