‘Interview with Strange Bones’. It feels a bit bonkers to type that. I was blessed to chat to Calva Louise last month, who just so happen to share a house with Strange Bones. And now, after speaking on the phone to Bobby Bentham, Strange Bones’ frontman, it feels like I’ve completed the puzzle. Enough waffling, though — let’s get into it.
RECORD WEEKLY’S INTERVIEW WITH STRANGE BONES
Hi Bobby, how are you? Nice to meet you!
I’m good thank you, how’s it going? And yeah, nice to meet you, too.
I’m well thanks, it’s great to get to speak to you.
The last year tipped life as we all knew it on its head. When I spoke to Calva Louise a month or so ago, they mentioned both bands living together. How was the last year been for Strange Bones?
Ha, yeah, it’s a bit of a mad house here really! We all do everything together, so it just makes sense to all be under one roof.
Living together has certainly made things a lot easier. We’ve been focusing so hard on getting the records ready and doing everything in-house, so it’s not been terrible for us. The only bad thing has been not getting to do shows.
In fairness, though, this time has given us an opportunity to focus, which we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We’ve put 100% of our energy into creating a body of work that we’re all really proud of and happy with. We’ve really had the time to experiment. It’s been a good experience in that sense — not maybe for the whole world haha.
Haha yeah, not ideal for everyone. But it’s worth making the best of it, and it sounds like you all have.
It’s been a learning curve as well. Doing the Strange Bones and Calva Louise albums at the same time has meant it’s been pretty crazy towards the end. But it’s been good. I’m definitely happy with how it’s all gone with the process. But I’m very much looking forward to doing some gigs. I can tell you that now!
Oh my gosh, I bet. I’m looking forward to seeing you at gigs! I’d give anything to be back in a sweaty crowd haha.
Ha, yeah, it seems like a lifetime ago that it was normal to go out and be in a room full of sweaty strangers. It feels like a thing of the past, you know? Something you’d read about in a fucking dystopian novel haha.
When did you form the band and how did it all come about?
So, me, Jack and Will — our guitarist and bassist — are brothers. Our parents kind of threw us into music in that sense haha. They used to take us to punk gigs as toddlers, so we were introduced to that environment very early on. We’ve always played music together in many different forms. It just felt like a natural progression, though I can’t remember exactly when it came about. We then met Nathan a couple of years ago.
Strange Bones, until now, has been kind of a big experiment for me with songwriting. I’ve always kind of known what I’ve wanted it to sound like, in a way — well, more of a feeling really. With this album, I think I’m kind of there. It’s been years of fucking about with random things and going in a million different directions, to then come to this one route that meets in the middle.
That’s really interesting. I guess bands must always have that period of experimentation, to see what they can do together and what they want future tracks to sound like. If you feel you’ve found that path now, that’s so exciting. I can’t wait to hear it.
Yeah, it’s exciting for me, too. It’s as if I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for, without even knowing entirely what it was that I was after. And that’s with music and art, in general. I’m excited to get this new music out into the world.
Which artists have been most influential on the band’s sound?
To be honest, I don’t take much influence from others anymore — not in terms of the music I make, anyway. I’ve been into everyone from The Cramps to The Prodigy, though. Plus a lot of drum and bass, and old-school punk.
I feel like I take more influence from visual art these days, and films as well. I’m really inspired by film soundtracks. One film that actually inspired me on this album was ‘Mandy’ — I don’t know if you’ve seen it?
Ah no, I haven’t. One for the list.
I’m always telling everyone about this film. I’ve told my brothers to watch it about a thousand times! The soundtrack is amazing and the imagery just captures you.
I’ll have to check it out! I think it’s ace that you’re inspired by so many things, not just music. You’re led by what you enjoy making creatively.
Yeah, I don’t like being massively influenced by an artist while I’m working on something, because you could listen to them and be subconsciously adding aspects of their material into a project. I don’t think I really listened to any music, at all, while putting this album together. My excitement for films makes me more inspired and I was trying to just focus on the noises I’m making. That’s much better for me. That way, it’s not an audible, sonic influence; it’s more of a feeling.
I totally get that. It’s surely better to be governed by anything that inspires you, rather than confining yourself to a type of music.
Oh definitely. I think, when I’d just started Strange Bones, I was writing songs and then I’d be like, “wait a minute, I’ve heard that riff before.” I felt like I could’ve been ripping someone off and I didn’t even know who it was. So, yeah, it’s a difficult one. But I now just stay away from music outside what I’m making.
I’ve seen you guys live twice in Leeds now — the first time was at Oporto with Calva Louise and my pals, Fudge., supporting. Do you rate the gigging scene in Leeds?
Our first ever gig was actually in Leeds, at Verve! I used to live in Hyde Park as well, down Brudenell Road. Leeds is great though — we’ve done a few shows there now, including one at Hyde Park Book Club.
Aw nice! I’ve been to plenty of shows there. What a venue.
Yeah, it’s a funny little venue, that! I really like it though. Leeds has a really good scene for gigs, I think — and I like how small the city centre is. You can walk from one side of the other in no time — not like in Manchester or London, where you’ve got to travel about an hour just to see a mate. It’s a different story there.
Which are your favourite venues to play and which are you most looking forward to crossing off?
I think my favourite gig that we’ve ever done was at KOKO with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. That venue was just next-level and it looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie. That was definitely up there as one of the best.
In terms of places I wanna do, I’m really keen to get out to America. Some of those venues! But in England, it would probably be playing KOKO again, actually, as a headliner. I don’t know if it’s still around — there was a fire, so it might not be still going. But that would be the dream if it is still open. It’s just such a cool venue.
You mix and produce for both Strange Bones and Calva Louise. Anyone else? Can you talk us through that process a bit?
At the moment, I’m just producing for the two bands. I really do want to work on more production for other artists, but it’s purely the two at the moment, as it takes up so much time. Now these albums are done, I’ll be able to get into some other projects. But it was non-stop with no sleep when I was mixing the two, side by side, especially as there were deadlines. I was definitely starting to go a bit mad towards the end haha. But it’s a massive achievement to do the two at once.
I’d also like to enter the realms of scoring for TV. It’s a whole different world but I have some contacts in cinema who might be able to help me get into it. As I said before, I’m so inspired by films and a lot of that comes from the soundtracks, so it would make sense to get into this. It’s the soundtrack that grabs me — I get hooked. It’s an exciting thing towards, anyway — to be able to dictate the movement of an image.
But it’s all down to time — I’ll probably be working on the next albums before I know it haha.
Haha yeah, not enough time in the day as it is — let alone when we can do more after June! We’ll all have to combine old routines with new.
That’s the thing — if we’d have still been doing shows, like we were before the lockdowns, there wouldn’t have been a chance I’d have got it all done! But hey, silver lining and whatnot.
Are you in a position now to book shows again?
Everything keeps changing, so we’re pencilling gigs in but it’s just hard to know. I mean, even the other day, there was that Liverpool festival demo, where 6,000 odd people or something were in there together. So yeah, while it feels one day that there’s not a chance, you then see that on the news and think gigs might be possible again soon. We’ll see.
We’ve just viewed this as a chance to step back and get production done. It’s felt like there’s been no point booking anything, as it’s just a case of rescheduling, rescheduling and rescheduling. It’s a waste of energy otherwise. But there’ll definitely be shows soon…
It’s the disappointment of it all as well — not just for fans, but for yourselves, all geared up to play and then told it can’t go ahead. I fully agree and see the sense in not booking anything until the picture’s clearer. It’s quite demoralising otherwise.
Definitely — especially for the agents doing all the bookings! Some bands announce tours, reschedule and postpone, and it’s too much.
Yeah, you see artists posting on Instagram about gigs and I’m there, thinking, “that’s not going ahead.” It just doesn’t seem likely.
I’ve thought that about festivals as well. But, as I said, everything’s changing daily! It’ll go one way or the other.
Have you managed to get out to do some things yet and go to the pub? And what are you most looking forward to after 21st June, all being well?
We’ve done some things and it’s been alright. But I don’t know — I feel like the way people behave has changed. When we went to the pub, I didn’t feel that bothered anymore, do you know what I mean? It was like, “yeah, whatever.”
Yeah, oddly, I’ve felt it. Perhaps it’s been because of the cold weather and the relentless rain, but there’s certainly been an anti-climax to it at times.
Haha yeah, I thought, “is this how I used to spend all my time before? This is rubbish.” I was just ready to get back home and make some music haha.
It’s different with shows, though — that in-the-crowd feeling will be euphoric. And same for us playing! As soon as people hear that loud music again, the atmosphere and sense of unity within that crowd will be amazing. That’ll bring people back to normality a bit, I reckon.
Can you let us in on some Strange Bones spoilers for the rest of 2021?
The album, ‘England Screams’, is coming on 20th August, but there’ll basically be A LOT of new music coming out building up to that and beyond. In the coming months, we’ll essentially be unveiling what Strange Bones as a band has been leading up to and is all about. It’s the boiling point now — like, just the start of what I want us to be and where we’ve been heading. But it’s still just the beginning! And we need to get the ball rolling with these shows, too, then we’re set.
Well, if that’s not the biggest, most immensely exciting build-up to new music ever, I don’t know what is! The well-deserved hype and album countdown properly begins now, too, as the video for the record’s first single, also titled ‘England Screams’, is on YouTube.
Until then, you can catch Bobby and Strange Bones on their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and full website. Plus, keep your beady eyes on Calva Louise’s socials as well, as Bobby’s masterful mixing is behind their next album release.