Following a five year hiatus and an 18-month tour celebrating their first #1 album, Bombay Bicycle Club did the last thing anyone expected. They broke up.
With no plans to reunite it’s a small miracle that they have returned and they’re not empty handed. Their fifth album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, drops tomorrow the 17th of January and is a transcendent body of work. They may have been gone but they certainly weren’t idle.
We caught up with bassist Ed Nash to chat about side projects, writers block, and the future of Bombay Bicycle Club.
Bombay Bicycle Club have caught their second wind and the sails are full. Their fifth album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, is a spectacular return to form and their finest work yet.
HAPPY: So you’ve recently returned from a five-year hiatus wherein you sold all your instruments and pursued other projects. Why sell the instruments?
ED: I mean, the simplest answer and the truthful one is we didn’t know if we were going to do the band again. We left it open ended and called it a hiatus, which it was, but we honestly didn’t know if we would be coming back. We had a lock up storage space around the corner from me and it was costing loads of money so we decided to sell the lot. Which was a really stupid idea because a year later we had to buy everything back. But yeah honestly we weren’t sure if we would ever do the band again and it was completely up in the air. It wasn’t like LCD Soundsystem or one of these bands who said they were going on a break but knew they would be coming back, we truly had no idea.
HAPPY: Were you able to locate any of those same instruments?
ED: Well we kept all the really important stuff. I still have all my basses as I’m incredibly attached to them. But we sold amps and all the stuff you need for touring. That’s all gone, we will never get that back.
HAPPY: There’s a great lyric in your forthcoming album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, which says “I guess I’ve found my peace again, and yes, I’ve found my second wind.” What gave birth to this lyric?
ED: I think it comes from two places really. Jack who wrote the song personally was struggling to write music for quite a long time. For a year or two before we got back together he was just doing other stuff. It was only in writing music for this record that he got back into the swing of doing it again and I think that song was a big turning point for him. So for him it was a personal battle. The reason we stopped almost five years ago now is because we were tired. We were constantly on tour and had been in the band since high school, we were sick of it. But this is the second wind of Bombay Bicycle Club.
HAPPY: Your final pre-break show was also the final show at London’s iconic Earl Court Arena, it was your biggest show to date and you had come off the back of an 18-month tour of your first #1 album. Is it sad to see the venue demolished?
ED: It was quite big yeah. It was over a hundred years old that venue and now they’re turning it into flats which they are doing to quite a few places in London. So it’s a real waste of the cultural heritage of London, especially the musical heritage of London. You get all these venues turned into flats for money rather than people cherishing them for what they are. So it’s a shame in that respect. But it was really cool to play the last show there, and we had David Gilmour there with us who got to do the first and last ever show.
HAPPY: Wow! What was it like being on stage with Gilmour and playing such an iconic song as Wish You Were Here?
ED: It was pretty weird actually. I learnt the chords and just played the most simple I could. Just held the notes because I really didn’t want to fuck up and ruin the song with him. So I just stood still and made sure I didn’t screw up and yeah it was really surreal. He’s a really nice guy as well.
HAPPY: There is a tremendous sense of ascension and indeed triumph throughout the album. Is this album indeed a triumph?
ED: *laughs* I don’t know. That’s for other people to decide. I’m really happy with it. It’s my favourite record that we’ve done by quite a long way and the one I listen to the most but I guess that’s normal for bands with new music. But I don’t know, it’s a record that a lot of other people might not like but I certainly love it.
HAPPY: What was the rest of the bands reaction when you announced plans to get the back together?
ED: Well when we started conversations about it took a while. Everyone was in different places. Jamie our guitarist had been doing a degree for three years. He was deep in academia and was underway with masters when we decided to put the band back together. Suren was touring a lot and doing session drumming so it was a shift for him too. As for Jack and I. We were just recording and writing music for the last four or five years so it wasn’t a huge shift. But for those guys it took a little while.
HAPPY: Yes, and during the hiatus you wrote music under the name Toothless, great name, was this borne out of a necessity to keep creating?
ED: Yeah totally, Toothless is something I always wanted to do. Because we had been in Bombay Bicycle Club since we were 18 and we hadn’t had much time to do our own thing. Though I was always writing songs and playing bass when I had spare time to when we took the break it gave me the time to focus on something else. And, you know, whether Bombay is happening or it’s not happening, no matter what I’m doing in my life I think I’ll always write and release music. So that was just me working out music by myself outside of Bombay Bicycle Club. I’ve got another Toothless album ready to release as well. So when we’re done with Bombay this time round I’ll probably put out another record for Toothless. That’s probably the most exciting thing about taking this time off really is that now everyone has other parts of their life that they can pursue properly.
HAPPY: Amazing, I’m particularly into the uplifting Palm’s Backside with Marika Hackman, who just released a stellar album herself. What was it like working with her?
ED: Amazing, she’s incredible and I’m a really big fan myself. That’s why I wanted to work with her. Her voice is amazing and it really suited the song and she’s super fun to hang out with. I can’t stay enough good stuff about her and her own music. That most recent album she put out I still listen to now. Have you heard that one?
HAPPY: Yeah man I love it. Great album art! What excites you the most and least about heading back on tour?
ED: I think just meeting new people and playing shows is always the best part of touring. It would be amazing to come to Australia. Seeing the reaction to what you’ve done and talking to people about it, whether they like songs or hate them. Engaging with people about something you’ve spent a year and a half doing is a fantastic thing. I guess my least favourite thing is giving your life over when touring. Your home life goes away, you give away structure. Even simple things you take for granted at home like going to the toilet. On tour you have to plan when you’re going to the toilet. Having a shower becomes such a luxury. It’s all worth it though.
HAPPY: There’s a gorgeous lyric in Do You Feel Loved which says “Throw your arms around my neck and hold me tight, All the cracks around your head will fill with light.” It gives me this powerful imagery of the supremacy of love in a technological world. Can love heal all?
ED: *laughs* That is a big question for 8 in the morning. I’d like to hope so. I think it’s the best thing we’ve got but I don’t know if it can heal all but I can’t think of anything better to resolve situations and bring people together than love. I’d say it’s the best we’ve got but some things are just immeasurably broken.
HAPPY: You went through moments of despondency, and writers block, and times when you though ‘Why the fuck am I even doing music?’ What helped to alleviate these lows?
ED: It sounds weird and funny but the thing that helps and the thing that the album’s about is music. When you’re struggling to write music the thing that pulls you out of it is, if you push through and keep on trying, is music. You think, okay I’m not an idiot this is definitely worthwhile, so you just have to keep on trying. When Jack and I were struggling and writing in Cornwall we would go for a walk, watch a movie, have some dinner. I think to remain engaged and consistently listen to new music and fresh ideas. Watch films, read books, then hopefully you will get an idea that will pull you out of it.
HAPPY: Is there a secret ingredient to inspiration?
ED: Well, you see people who kind of loose interest with life and music so they just go and watch the cheesiest TV shows. They will watch ‘Friends’ on loop and if they have a spare day they’ll stay in bed. I think being interested and staying engaged with other creative people is really important. It’s inspiring and it will give you new ideas as well. I don’t know if that’s the secret ingredient but I think that’s the most important thing.
HAPPY: You have now been a band for 15 years, what your single greatest memory of this time?
ED: Of 15 years? Wow. So when we got back together for this record we spent a month in LA recording it. It had been four years since we worked together properly. We had obviously hung out as friends but it was the first time we’d hung out as a band in five years. To still have that relationship and comfort was incredible. Cause really if you don’t have that kind of relationship then what’s the point in doing it. I thought that was a really cool moment. To come back together after all this time of and still enjoy being in the company of the same people.
HAPPY: What does the year hold in store for you guys?
ED: So, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong comes out on the 17th of January. Then we have a UK tour, European tour, and a US tour. Hopefully we will make it to Australia, which would be later on in the year.
HAPPY: How do you feel having the album dropping in just a week?
ED: I’m excited I’m not nervous anymore. This will be the sixth or seventh record I’ve put out in my life. It used to bother me when people wrote bad things, in fact you read good reviews and overthink those too. But now I’ve come to the realisation that I’m very happy with the record and if people say bad things then I don’t really care. I’m interested and I think it’s interesting. But everyone has done the best they can do and we all really enjoyed so it so we will keep on going regardless. I’m looking forward to it.
HAPPY: Brilliant! Have a great tour it’s been real nice chatting with you.
ED: Thanks very much, take care!
Why Has Everything Else Gone Wrong is out January 17th. Grab a copy here.