top of page
< Back

Bombay Bicycle Club


Bombay Bicycle Club... and friends 

Alice Browne chats to one of indie's most enduring bands about the ease and importance of female collaboration on their feature-laden EP, Fantasies 

A matter of months from their sixth studio album, My Big Day, and Bombay Bicycle Club are showing no signs of slowing down - let alone stopping. Amid a massive UK, Ireland and US tour alongside the release of a new EP, guitarist Jamie MacColl puts it simply, chatting backstage at Leeds O2 Academy. “We’re loving it… but it’s fair to say I’m absolutely knackered”. 

Sonically, though, this exhaustion doesn’t translate. Despite making music together for nineteen years, the band seem to be in their most high-energy era yet. My Big Day boasted a layered and eclectic soundscape bursting at the seams, so much so it became impossible to hit the breaks. 

‘I think with this album we were just in a more hardworking and creative mentality than in the past, it became incredibly easy to just carry on,” says Jamie. “Before, we’ve been guilty of just putting so much into it that we’ve ended up quite burnt out by release [...] this one just felt like a different tempo’. 

And so, Fantasies was born. With it came features from long-time friends and collaborators Lucy Rose, Liz Lawrence and Rae Morris, as well as hotly-tipped newcomer Matilda Mann. It’s a strong continuation of My Big Day’s collaborative spirit (features include Holly Humberstone, Damon Albarn and even Chaka Khan), but with a heartfelt, nostalgic feel. “A lot of the songs feel like throwbacks to me, even if not sonically, just because we’re working with artists we have in the past”, Jamie says. “Even the song with Matilda, who’s a relatively new voice and person for us to work with, it’s definitely a jangly indie song, similar to the kinds of things we were doing 15 years ago”. 

For a band that found their fame so young, and at such a specific moment, nostalgia can be a strange legacy to contend with. Jamie points out that, perhaps, this late 2000s feel is the very reason the tracks didn’t fit the album. Rather than taking issue with the memories, though, the band felt it was fair to give them their space: “It’s a little bit more comfort zone Bombay, but it’s one for the hardcore fans in that way”. 

This, too, feels like the natural progression from the free-wheeling spirit of My Big Day, an album made up of surprising collaborations and slippery genre gear shifts. As the album takes ambitious nods to breakbeat and trip-hop in its stride, the EP is a reminder of everywhere they’ve been so far. Collaboration, both as the medium and message, runs deep across both projects, uniting respective moments of wild innovation with true-to-form excellence. “Once we knew Rae and Liz were doing it, it just felt natural to lean into the whole Bombay and friends idea and get Lucy involved.” 

The decision to get newer friend Matilda on board, Jamie details, was for both “commercial and artistic reasons.” Working with newer voices, in a scene sometimes rooted in old ways, is clearly important to the band, who have always done well to champion up-and-coming acts. “It introduces you to new ideas and ways of thinking, it keeps you in touch with the zeitgeist — obviously Holly and Matilda appeal to a slightly younger audience, but it goes way beyond that too.” 

That past, though centred on heavy teen nostalgia for many, has had its own reckoning. Making their name in an era dominated by men with guitars, it’s crucial to view Fantasies as a project with female artists at the forefront, in ways that previous Bombay projects have also nodded to. Reflecting on what that means politically, Jamie is ambivalent: “I guess I’ve never really thought of ourselves as activists, as much as other artists are. On reflection, maybe we’ve done more in terms of doing, rather than speaking on issues publicly… it’s always felt like predominately genuine creative reasons, rather than actively or exclusively making a statement”. 

The kind of ‘accidental activism’ is perhaps not the narrative we may first be drawn to, but this approach is not without merit, particularly in how readily it identifies the women that Bombay work with as great creatives first and foremost, rather than tokenistic collaborations drawn up for performative pats-on-the-back. “Maybe you could view our approach as an inadvertent form of allyship,” reflects Jamie, pondering their sense of community. “The outcome is there and I guess that counts for a lot overall.” 

Labels aside, it’s a testament to the authenticity that has played a huge role in the band’s longevity in a sometimes stale landscape. Though outliers to the 00s indie lad culture and implicit misogyny that came with it (Jamie himself describes them as “slightly more effeminate boys making jangly music”, even in their early days), they’ve been in the game long enough to see how far things have progressed — and where the industry continues to fall short. 

“There’s a long way to go, obviously, but in a lot of ways there has definitely been a shift for the better. Off the top of my head, the biggest and most interesting artists in these spaces aren’t solely men anymore”. Behind the scenes, though, there’s still a long way to go. “Something we do notice is, looking around the venues and in technical roles, is that it’s still really male-dominated. I don’t think there’s been enough of a concerted effort to change that just yet.” 

Reuniting with old friends and reckoning with the past, it feels like the band are ready to assess how far they’ve come. Now well into the swing of their return, Jamie describes their first album post-hiatus, 2020’s Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, as a necessary challenge. “Personal relationships as a band felt more important than the art — when you’re just trying to make it function again, there’s more emphasis on just having a good time with it.” 

Without this period, though, we wouldn’t get the band in the assured, yet liberated, state we see them in today. “It really feels like we’re at the top of our game”, Jamie says with genuine excitement. “It’s been important for us to just relax a bit and realise it doesn’t matter… or maybe it does, but not in the ways we once thought.” 

As the band continue to grow together, it feels like they’re making some breathing room, away from expectations, to embrace the past, present and future in equal measure. “[This era] - It’s all very fun and, to be honest, just a bit silly, but people seem to be enjoying it — it’s great.” What next, then? For Jamie, his fantasy remains pretty simple: “Next tour, we’re getting a T-Shirt cannon!” 

Bombay Bicycle Club’s Fantasies is out now.

Words by Alice Browne
Images c/o Andrew Benge, @bombayinsta, Phoebe Fox
bottom of page