My Big Day

My Big Day

The sixth album by Bombay Bicycle Club feels like a glorious culmination of everything the North London quartet have done across their entire career. Since emerging, as teens, in 2007 with debut EP The Boy I Used to Be, their music has explored anthemic indie rock, propulsive electronica, jerky ’80s pop, plaintive folk, world music grooves and back again. Here, they take all directions at once to produce their most cohesive record yet. Vocalist Jack Steadman says that the guest-heavy effort—My Big Day features turns from Damon Albarn, Chaka Khan, Holly Humberstone, Jay Som and Nilüfer Yanya—was fuelled by the notion that bands should keep trying to cover fresh ground. “It gets harder the more albums you make to keep surprising yourself and your fans and do exciting things,” Steadman tells Apple Music. “Feeling like we’re taking risks is important.” The collaborative nature of My Big Day was inspired by the approach Steadman has taken with his solo project, Mr Jukes, working with an array of different artists. “Doing Mr Jukes and having all these different features—I had so much fun that I thought, ‘Why don’t bands do that?’” he says. “You don’t see bands do it very often.” It’s also the first Bombay Bicycle Club record produced by Steadman himself. “On this record, we learned that you have to toughen up a bit and get thick-skinned, speak your mind,” he says. “From the band’s point of view: tell me if they think a song is shit. It’s the only way we’re going to make a good record.” The album, he adds, is a snapshot of where the band—Steadman, guitarist Jamie MacColl, bassist Ed Nash and drummer Suren de Saram—are in their lives right now: “You can hear it’s quite a happy and optimistic record, we’re less self-conscious and more confident in ourselves. As a band we’ve never been closer and I think that’s reflected in the music.” My Big Day is a glorious statement from one of the UK’s most imaginative guitar bands. Steadman guides us through it, track by track. “Just a Little More Time” “This is a good indication of where our mindset was with the record. A few albums ago, we would’ve been quite hesitant to put it on. I would’ve sent it [to the band] and I think the response would’ve probably been, ‘Look, I really like it, but it’s just not a Bombay Bicycle Club song.’ If I wasn’t singing on it and you heard it on the radio, I’m not sure we would be the first name that sprang to mind. Our ethos for this album was, ‘Let’s not worry so much about whether it’s a guitar-y band song—as long as we’re all digging it, let’s put it on the record.’ It’s my favourite song.” “I Want to Be Your Only Pet” “This was the first song [we wrote] and the song that kick-started the whole album. It made us all think that we were ready to do this again. It’s quite heavy but it’s all being restrained, the drums are actually quite soft and jazzy. In a sense, it’s that feeling of something pushing against something but not being able to fully get out. The lyrics are a complete stream of consciousness. I was singing gobbledygook to try and finish the demo and Jamie heard it and was like, ‘Oh, keep doing stuff like that, it’s quite surreal.’ It’s quite abstract, almost like a dream sequence, which is a first for us. They’re usually quite heart-on-sleeve.” “Sleepless” (with Jay Som) “This started off in a co-writing session that I was doing with beabadoobee. I was making a beat on my sampler and it sampled this old Japanese movie soundtrack from the ’70s or ’80s. We made this song, but they ended up choosing another song that we wrote. I brought it to the band and it had this complete transformation from a quite hip-hop-y, Japanese-sample beat to putting in psychedelic guitars. We got in touch with [LA singer-songwriter] Jay Som, who’s the singer on it, and she added all these little bits and actually did lots of production on it, which was really cool. She’s an amazing producer.” “My Big Day” “This is maybe the most unique-sounding song on the album, even though whatever you do to the production, however you dress up a song, it still needs to have a pop song underneath it. We thought, ‘Let’s make a statement by coming back with something that’s quite bold.’ When it was first made, it was this sample that made it sound a bit like Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’. We called it ‘Eminem Meets Smash Mouth’, it’s almost got this ’90s American pop-punk thing. It’s quite a celebratory title, even though the song itself is about subverting the idea of celebrating a big day. It’s about closing the curtains and turning your phone off and being like, ‘Everybody fuck off!’ But the words ‘My Big Day’, to us, summed up the album, coming back after the pandemic and celebrating and being optimistic and joyful and a bit silly.” “Turn the World On” “This was the last song to be written. I was sat on the sofa playing the guitar and Jamie noticed what I was doing and started secretly filming me—because he knows that I’m not organised enough to remember anything or to make voice notes. The amount of times I’ve done something and thought, ‘Oh, that was cool, I’ll remember it’ and then the next day I’ve completely forgot it. I think it’s probably the most heart-on-sleeve and earnest song on the record. It’s about my son and how, since having him, it’s made me think about when I was a kid and also about my dad when he was my age, the new perspective on these things that you get.” “Meditate” (with Nilüfer Yanya) “There’s always one song on our albums that’s from old stuff that I used to do before the band. When I was at school, I would make loads of albums on the family computer. We found a song on one of those and developed the bassline a bit. We thought there was something missing because, musically, it had a fuck-you character to it, quite Queens of the Stone Age, but the way I was singing it wasn’t really doing the same thing. I’m not a very fuck-you kind of singer! We’d just played a show with Nilüfer, we’re huge fans of her, and we thought, ‘Oh, that’s completely her vibe vocally.’ She’s got this amazing attitude to her vocals. She came in and the whole song at that point made sense.” “Rural Radio Predicts the Rapture” “This is another one where we just thought, ‘Fuck it’. So many people have been like, ‘Wow, that’s a bit of a weird departure.’ I see this and ‘Just a Little More Time’ as very linked. It’s a sample of [music from the ballet] La Péri by a French composer called [Paul] Dukas. I took that sample—this is in the Mr Jukes era—and put the beat over it. For a long time, Jamie was like, ‘We need to make this into a song’, but I kept procrastinating and not wanting to do it. Finally, we all got together and finished it. I don’t think we could have made that song if we hadn’t produced it ourselves. It was very much like a surgical procedure to get every bit. I don’t know how I would’ve done that with someone else.” “Heaven” (with Damon Albarn) “I’d made a demo of this and we basically said, ‘Either we shelve this or we go completely maximalist with it, there’s no in between.’ We were imagining strings and brass and we kept referencing ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles, all that ’60s production where you’d get all these players to come in. I played it to Damon [Albarn] because I’d been at his studio, wanting to hear what he thought of the record. This was a song where, instead of giving any notes, he was just like, ‘Give me a microphone’, and started improvising over it, started writing over it. The hard part was getting him to then finish the song, once I’d left, trying to get in touch with him. I think he wrote the lyrics on the way to Coachella in a car [driving] across the Californian desert. He managed to find some time!” “Tekken 2” (with Chaka Khan) “I played this to Damon and said, ‘Hey, do you hear I’m doing that impression of an old disco thing at the end? Can you think of anyone that would be good on it?’ He was like, ‘Chaka Khan?’ I think I burst out laughing in his face, like, ‘Shut up, maybe you can do that, but don’t rub it in that I can’t.’ But then I walked away and thought, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose.’ Amazingly, she was the most straightforward of all the features to organise, just like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. I love the track. Here’s how much it costs. Come to LA and we’ll do it.’ I flew to LA on the way to mixing the album, so it was the last day that we could do it. She wanted to do it in this massive fancy LA studio with all the bells and whistles, but I just turned up with my little crappy Windows laptop and put it on the mixing desk and just plugged into that. I felt a bit silly. She was totally cool. She was very down-to-earth.” “Diving” (feat. Holly Humberstone) “‘Diving’ is another good example of the theme of this album, thinking not only about your future and getting older, but also looking back to when you were young. It’s quite an innocent song, a lot of imagery about those summers you’d have as a kid where the world seems so exciting and anything’s possible. We thought that the way I was singing it, trying to sing in a high voice, wasn’t quite delivering the emotion of it enough. I’d already worked with Holly [Humberstone] on a few other things and we knew that she was a fan of the band, so we just got in touch. After she recorded her part, it all clicked and fell into place, the delivery and the emotion of it.” “Onward” “When it ends, it’s just two guitars, bass and drums, very heavy; it almost felt like a way of saying, ‘We’ve been on this crazy journey, but we’re still Bombay Bicycle Club.’ Thematically, it made a lot of sense to put it at the end. It’s saying even after all this, there’s still more to come, after six albums, there’s still loads of ideas to come, and we’re still going to keep making music. It’s a very forward-thinking, optimistic song and it felt right to put that at the very end.”

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