Tab Interview: Bombay Bicycle Club
TABATHA LEGGETT speaks to Bombay Bicycle Club’s Suren De Saram about the band’s achievements so far and their plans for the future.
Bombay Bicycle Club have come a long way from their school gig-playing days. As the summer festival season draws to a close, I spoke to Suren De Saram, Bombay Bicycle Club’s drummer, about the band’s achievements so far and their plans for the future.
The interview didn’t start well. Imagine, if you will, the following conversation:
‘Hello, it’s Tabatha from The Tab,’ (An unfortunate name at the best of times) ‘Am I speaking to one of Bombay Bicycle Club?’
‘Oh, great. Which one?’
Speaking to Suren was a bit like trying to make conversation with an 11-year-old schoolboy who won’t quite make eye contact with you and fidgets relentlessly. He’s clearly very shy. Surprising, really, since he has nothing to be shy about. The band has quite an extraordinary story. Having met in school, the boys (Jack Steadman, Jamie McColl, Suren De Saram and Ed Nash), decided to take a gap year and see if they could make a career out of music. ‘Now we’re on our second gap year,’ Suren told me, ‘And we’ll be on our third soon.’
Bombay Bicycle Club has been described by The Times as ‘artfully understated’ and by NME as ‘a band who defy convention’. Their second album, Flaws, which Suren modestly described as ‘a side project that randomly escalated and turned into an album,’ entered the charts at number eight, and NME named them ‘Best New Band’ this year, beating The XX, La Roux and Mumford & Sons.
And yet, Suren mumbled and nervously giggled his way through our interview. Take, for example, his response to asking how the band was named: ‘Um. We just walked past an Indian restaurant, and we thought the name sounded catchy. We regret it a bit now, but it’s too late to change it.’ Bless.
Suren hasn’t realised that he’s famous yet. ‘I’ve still got a back up plan,’ he explained. ‘In case this band thing doesn’t work out. At the moment, we’re seeing what happens and going with the flow, but I had planned to study Music at university. I think Jamie wanted to study Classics, Jack wanted to do French and Ed wanted to study Art. He’s very arty.’
So, what has Suren enjoyed most about being in the band? ‘My personal highlight so far has to be the first gig we played at Reading in 2007,’ Suren explained, ‘We were the first band on, and we expected everyone to be asleep. But, they weren’t – they came to see us!
‘But we’ve had some terrible gigs too. I remember in 2008, we were on a month long tour, and our first gig was in Shrewsbury. We were playing in a venue that seated about 700 people, and the promoters had spent loads of money on lighting and special effects. And then five people showed up.’
Suren is as sweet as he is coy. Every time a fan comes along to a Bombay Bicycle Club gig, he seems genuinely pleasantly surprised. I’m sure he’s lovely, and I don’t doubt that he’s trying to play the media game; he’s just not very good at it. The most irritating part of the interview was his reluctance to ever give me a definitive answer. Does he like small or large venues better? ‘I think small, intimate, hot and sweaty venues can be the most fun. But you get a massive rush from big venues too.’ How revealing.
And what does he think of over-produced, manufactured pop music? ‘It’s easy to accuse people of being over produced when they produce popular material. How do you know they’re not just really good at being popular?’ In what I can only assume to be an attempt to avoid causing any controversy, Suren won’t criticise anyone or anything.
Finally, I ask Suren what his plans for the future are, and he misunderstands. ‘I’m going to Reading Festival, not to perform but to see Arcade Fire and Blink 182. I can’t wait!’ Then he realised what I meant. ‘Oh. It’s hard to say. I think the next album will sound more like the first album; it’ll be electro. Oh no. Not electro. You know what I mean: it’ll have more electronic elements and less acoustic stuff.’
When I hung up the phone to Suren, I felt a bit relieved. Getting answers from him was a bit like drawing blood from a stone. But, I do think that what Bombay Bicycle Club are doing is truly admirable. They’re four boys who thought they’d see if their childhood dream could take off and now they’re enjoying their success. Yes, Suren is awkward, but he’s kind of charming too.