Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman on therapy, Guy Garvey love and saying farewell to Earls Court
Your fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, was recently nominated for a Mercury Prize. Were you disappointed to walk away empty handed?
Not really. At the time I was just having an incredible evening. I hadn’t really heard any of the other bands, embarrassingly. I got to sit there for three hours watching them all perform and I found it really inspiring. For a band like us, who are quite established with four albums… I don’t really know what the Mercury would have done. I was happy for it to go to an up and coming band. That’s where an award like that should go.
Earlier this year you said you’d been “put off” big shows, now you’re playing a sell-out Earls Court show (capacity: 20,000). What changed?
There was a time when we were playing these massive shows, mostly big festival slots. It was a few years ago on our last record, and we were a bit overwhelmed.
I don’t think we were ready. But when we played Ally Pally two years ago and Glastonbury this summer – it felt like we’d made it. We felt a lot more comfortable. So I think we had to take some time to get used to everything.
You’ll be the last people to ever play at Earls Court. How does that feel?
It’s weird really. I‘m torn between two emotions: it’s our last show of the year, and for that to coincide with the last show at Earls Court is quite a cool thing. But at the same time, it’s pretty f*cked up they’re just going to tear the building down and build flats. I don’t know how something like that can happen. I was surprised it wasn’t a listed building to be honest.
Doing anything special to see the place off?
We have something up our sleeve, but we want it to be a surprise. We’ve spent a lot of time looking and we found something perfect. We’re very happy with it. But I can’t tell you.
Tell us more about the daily therapy sessions you guys do on tour – are you the new Metallica?
Oh god. I think maybe we used the word therapy as a joke and it got taken a bit too far. The thing about touring is there are some times when you feel very alone, even though you’re with a big group of people. It’s just nice to organise a time of day where we all get together. It doesn’t mean we need to start talking about our feelings, but we’re just there together.
Have you had any strange fan encounters?
Well I find them weird, definitely. The last one I can think of was a girl bursting into tears in the US, which I was completely not ready for. It’s not like ‘Oh girls are always crying’ – it never happens. I just gave her a hug. She asked if I could write a message in her diary and I thought that was quite sweet, so I said something like: ‘If you ever feel alone just put our record on and I’ll be there’, thinking a diary is private, no one’s ever going to see this. It was on Instagram the next day. I was cringing. I trusted her.
You’ve previously said you find being a frontman difficult. Has that got any easier?
At your own shows you feel a lot more comfortable and confident in your own shell, because everyone is there to see you. I think the need to be a good frontman really manifests itself during festival season where you’re like: ‘Oh, there are people at the back about to walk away; I need to scream into my microphone and be charming to them.’ It’s just not my personality. Jamie, our guitarist, would be a much better front man.
Do you think the era of loud, egotistical front men/women is coming to an end?
Probably. The thing is, bands used to be really mysterious and you could be this different person. You could invent who you wanted to be. There was a lot of theatre involved in music, which kind of goes away when you wake up in the morning, take a photo of yourself walking your dog and post it on your Instagram account.
Who’s the best frontman?
Right now? Guy Garvey. We toured with him in Australia once and I copied so many things he did on stage. I was captivated by him. Also, seeing him say the same things every night I realised you don’t always have to be spontaneous, even though it can appear like that. You can just do the same tricks every night, which is easier for me.
What did you think of U2’s straight-to-iTunes-album? Did they deserve all the sh*t they got for it?
I thought it was pretty silly. It just shows how disconnected they are from young people, because they obviously thought it was a great idea. The reaction was completely predictable. But I did find it strange. People pick on them because it’s really fun to pick on U2. You don’t see people complaining about adverts that pop up every three seconds on their Facebook page or album adverts before YouTube clips. People seem to accept that and it’s kind of a similar thing.
We’ve heard you’re a bit of a book nerd. Can you recommend a good read?
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, it’s probably my favourite book in the world. It’s 1973 and he takes a train across the world, and has just inspired me to do the same thing. It’s why I fell in love with the romance of train travel.
Finally, you came up with your name on a whim. Ever wish you’d chosen something else?
Every day. It’s a silly name. Everyone does silly things when they’re 15, but not many people have to deal with it for the rest of their lives.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s new single, Home By Now, is out on 1 December