Bombay Bicycle Club unveil 'unexpected' new album
If the old saying 'tidy house, tidy mind' holds true, then the mini studio-cum-'man cave' currently occupied by Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman is a worrying visual depiction of a chaotic mind.
Luckily, that is completely at odds with the friendly, softly spoken bookish 20-something currently nibbling on a handful of olives.
A large print of Max Ernst's 1921 surrealist painting Celebes dominates a smallish room with high ceilings - piled high on temporary shelves are albums and a pile of pillows that suggest that many evenings have turned into all-night recording sessions. Several acoustic guitars lean against the walls in varying states of decrepitude and a small portrait of Snoopy looks on.
A mixing desk sits in front of the Ernst print, with speakers boasting petite jam jars on top, a copy of a vintage book on fishing sits on the coffee table.
This little room of wonders in a non-descript office building in west London is where Steadman has been listening to the final mixes of songs from the band's forthcoming as-yet-untitled fourth studio album.
In fact, the final mix of the album's closing track, the somewhat fitting So Long, See You Tomorrow has been sent to Steadman within the hour and he is itching to listen to it, which effectively means that this will be the first public play of the new material.
It's all very exciting and actually a bit of privilege to be witness to a very small piece of history being made. The track is gorgeous, a long intro of descending minor chords before Steadman's airy falsetto waltzes in and out of a gentle melody.
A false ending gives way to a full on, euphoric smack round the face ending. Steadman admits: "We wanted something that was a little bit like the Chemical Brothers".
Just a few tracks have so far been released to the music press and admittedly without having heard much of the new album, it would be inappropriate to suggest it is the perfect finale.
However, on the strength of a first listen, it sounds like a fitting ending to any album, particularly one that will be nearly three years in the waiting by the time it is released in early 2014.
"We take a lot of time thinking about the album as a piece of art and how it should flow rather than just be happy with 10 good songs and not really care what order they go in," admits Steadman.
"Its kind of like an added bonus for people who listen to the whole album," agrees bass player Ed Nash.
Formed as The Canals in Crouch End in London in 2005 when they were teenagers, they eventually settled on Bombay Bicycle Club after a chain of Indian restaurants.
Their debut album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, was released in 2009, charting at number 46. Flaws, released in 2010, hit the top 10 with the acclaimed A Different Kind of Fix just missing the top five in 2011.Indian influence
Carry Me is the first track from the new album to have had its first play on national radio, on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show. It kicks off with range of samples and synthesizers and, at first listen, the electronic sound seems to be a radical departure from the three albums which precede it.
However subsequent buzz on social networking sites has been positive despite Steadman's worries about fans' reactions.
"The reaction has been the best we've had so far to new music," says Nash.
But, playing a stealthy get out of jail free card, Steadman adds: "The stage we are at now, is that the expectation is the unexpected. So when people hear our single and it sounds completely different, then that comforts them I think because that's what they want".
Take that would-be haters.
The song's video too, is a massive step forward and allows the viewers to animate the band and two dancers. They have used stop-motion animation before in the video for How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep from their last album.
The new video is inspired by the work of Eadweard Muybridge, an English pioneer of in motion-picture projection, most famous for his horse in motion, produced in 1878.
Feel, another of the albums tracks begins with a sample of Bollywood-style music, influenced by a month Steadman spent in Mumbai.
"Even before I went, I was getting into old Hindi film soundtracks and collecting them and there isn't really another style of music which has the same number of really catchy hooks," he explains.
Rather than following the rather cliched well-trodden path of travelling to India to find himself spiritually, the singer immersed himself in the fast-moving, cacophonous buzz of the city which is home to 20 million people.
"It's probably the most high-paced and generally crazy city that I've ever been to which meant I couldn't really relax, I always wanted to jump up run around make music."
Nash, however, admits he spent the same amount of time in the altogether more sedate setting of Goa, the beach resort on India's west coast, "Yeah, I took one for the team," he smiles.
Another track, Luna, begins with an Indian Tabla drum before launching into a piece of '80s-inspired synth-pop.
Recorded at The Kinks' Konk Studios in London, the album is the first that Steadman has entirely produced himself.
"We did go through a couple of producers but when it didn't work, we said, 'We think we've been avoiding the subject but maybe should do it ourselves'. It was a difficult decision," he admits.
"The label has been good with us, I think they trust us, we're not a self indulgent band and we have no qualms about turning a song into something that's quite poppy".
And the Chemical Brothers reference suggests the band want fans at forthcoming live shows to pull on their dancing shoes.
"Yeah because some of our gigs have turned into manly fights with people killing each other", says Steadman. "It's quite a sight to behold because sometimes we're playing a really soft song and this circle in the pit starts and people are throwing punches at each other.
"Sometimes the music we play is very aggressive."
There is talk of a UK tour sometime early in the spring but for the time being there is the small matter of a name for the album.
"There's a few things in the pipeline," said Nash. "It needs to sum up Eadweard Muybridge and loops and themes of the album. It's quite difficult".