BONES UK Take ‘People Power’ to the Grammys – Interview
This BONES UK interview came at just the right time. It was the middle of January and Australia was burning, Trump was being impeached and throwing the United States into despair and the world watched fearfully as all-out war in the Middle East appeared looming. Surrounded by nothing but wretchedness, there was a very big strain on my heart. Then, I dialed the phone to interview BONES, the U.K.-born female industrial rock duo, and what I got on the other end was genuine and immediate enthusiasm.
They answered in unison, “Carmen and Rosie!”
Their bright spirits instantly turned my mood around. As it turned out, that wasn’t by accident. Vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg always make it their mission to bring hope and happiness where there is none; it’s the driving force behind their music.
“Huge stuff is going on,” Bones says. “What we don’t do is let it drag us down. It’s fucking overwhelming, especially as an artist when you’re trying to make sense of what you’re doing. We need to do what we can. What we don’t do is just get depressed. We always try and work out solutions instead of just wallow in the problems.”
Perhaps that resoluteness and persistence is part of the reason they were able to snag a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance following the release of their self-titled debut album. That’s right. BONES were able to achieve something most artists don’t achieve in a lifetime right out of the gate.
“It is completely mental!” Bones exclaims. “The whole thing is completely insane. We kind of feel like this isn’t just about us. We’re representing new artists and our peers and we’re kind of doing this for everyone, so for us it’s such a victory for young, new rock fans. So we’re just proud to be doing this for all of us and everyone we know.”
Many other young artists in this situation would not be nearly as humble—or even selfless—but this duo insists upon it.
“We care for the voice of the young adults,” the vocalist continues, “and for people who need help feeling secure about themselves. We write songs like “Beautiful Is Boring” because we come from a place where we’ve felt insecure. So as much as we can use our music to empower people and make people feel like they’re not alone and they can come be part of our gang, and we can be their strength when sometimes they don’t have it, that’s what we love.”
BONES UK, "Beautiful Is Boring"
“Being able to inspire people helps [our] confidence,” Vandenberg adds. “[It’s] the ability of our words to be able to change things [and] be part of more things that we believe in.”
“You can be confident and still be vulnerable,” Bones assures. “You can be feminine but still be incredibly tough. As much as we can, we’re trying to teach ourselves to be proud of those things.”
This dichotomy of seemingly opposing ideals is at the very core of their identity, both as people and as artists. While the act’s music videos may be shot in black and white, their understanding of the world around them is not so. Bones and Vandenberg see issues like femininity and masculinity, for example, in a very nuanced way.
“I don’t think it’s just women,” Bones remarks on the subject of confidence. “I think lots of boys suffer from insecurity as well. We don’t speak to just girls. It’s very important to talk to the boys because they often don’t have the emotional support to be vulnerable. People need to stop comparing themselves to other people; that aspiration to be someone you’re not, and someone you’re never going to be. We can kind of teach everyone to be fucking proud of who [they] are, and how important [they] are…[their] scars, birthmarks—how amazing they are and how important it is to celebrate those imperfections instead of cover them up.”
Lyrically, BONES are not verbose. Musically, they put forward bare chords without much flourish, save for noisy reverb and simple electronic beats. Their song “Pretty Waste,” which earned them the Grammy nomination, repeats the same lyric, “What a waste of a pretty face” again and again. And this is precisely what makes their message of confidence so straightforward, unrelenting and unchallenged. Bold visuals, bold statements, bold nakedness—this is their take on rock ’n’ roll.
BONES UK, "Pretty Waste"
“What does the BONES world look like?” Bones asks. “That high contrast, bad-boy black and white filter over it—you’re in the BONES world. We love that grittiness. It feels seedy. It feels rock ’n’ roll.”
The vocalist also states that there were five words they came up with to describe their act before executing their vision: sex, motorbikes, snakes, black leather and whiskey. (Although, according to Vandenberg, the last word has since been altered: “We drink tequila now because it makes us happy, and we don’t fight as much.”) They are raw, they are assertive and their aim is to share those qualities with everyone.
“The best thing that we hear from people after we come off the stage is that they feel empowered by our show,” Bones remarks. “Performing live is our favorite thing in the entire universe. We absolutely love it; [being] able to throw that [energy] on to people and channel it.”
And they don’t just want their fans to feel empowered, they want their fans to use that sense of empowerment to make real change. They call it “people power.”
“Mainstream politics seems like it’s just insane and you can’t even deal with it anymore,” Bones admits, “but there’s so many local government things that you can be involved with. We just had the thing recently in England with the election [of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.] But look at your local people that you can elect. How can you help with your community? The people on your street, in your area? Your local school, your own homeless crisis? People get overwhelmed by the big things when sometimes, the small things make more of a difference.”
Watch for BONES at the 2020 Grammy Awards and get their new Unplugged EP here.
See BONES UK In The 50 Best Rock Albums of 2019