LA-based alternative rock duo, BONES UK released their long-awaited, self-titled debut album this summer. FMS caught up with singer-songwriter, Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg to chat about their move to LA, touring in America and co-writing Jeff Beck’s Loudhailer.
On their self-titled debut album, BONES UK confront everything from the beauty industrial complex to toxic masculinity to music-scene sexism, embedding each track with choruses primed for passionate shouting-along. “We just wanted to talk about things that we care about and feel passionate about. There are certain things that we wanted to say, and messages that we want to inspire people with,” states Rosie, whose powerful vocals are paired with electrifying, obscure riffs, often compared to those of Nine Inch Nails. “It’s hard to pick a favourite track. It’s like picking children,” adds Rosie. “They’re all there for a reason. ‘Black Blood’ is very special to both of us.”
“We love living in America. We love America.”
Their cover of David Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ shows the unpleasant side of the American clichés. The BONES version often rings like that of fellow industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails with great guitar distortions and torn vocals, but with their emblematic interpretation of the lyrics, as well as Carmen’s personal classic rock influence. The video, shot in their usual black and white tones and striking lighting, shows them as the 20th Century American icons with a darker twist.
“We wanted to play with American stereotypes and go darker on them,” says Rosie of the video. “It’s like the seedy underbelly of the American dream.”
The duo originally recorded the cover for The Howard Stern Tribute to David Bowie, the King of All Media’s compilation celebrating the legendary artist. “We got asked to cover this song by Mr. Howard Stern and knew it was perfect on so many levels. Obviously lyrically relevant in the current political climate. Not all Americans are scary but ONE is f***ing terrifying!”
“’Beautiful Is Boring’ is one of the best tracks to play live. The groove on it you can sink into HARD and it’s a bit of a calling card message for us.”
Filled with lyrics that outline the music industry and Hollywood’s uncomfortable truths, their self-titled album is full of anger and criticism. But their message is also one of body positivity. And it is a recurring theme across the whole album. Especially stressed in songs like ‘Limbs’ and ‘Filthy Freaks’ with lyrics like “No one else does me as well as me” and “I like your day time / but I’ll learn to love your night” where self-acceptance is at the core.
Nearing the end of the tracklist, ‘Creature’ is a definite standout on the album. The powerful lyrics about ignoring criticism and celebrating imperfections top off an incredibly catchy song with a great melody and mighty riffs.
Their move from London to Los Angeles has not only influenced their views on the commercialisation of body image and music industry, but also society as a whole: “We moved to LA because we wanted a change and we’d been in London for quite a while,” states Rosie. “We wanted to do something different. LA is kind of okay for bands, there’s a lot of bands, it’s quite oversaturated. We love living in America, we love America.
“I think London is quite oversaturated as well, there’s lots and lots of people and London is kind of smaller as well so you feel it more. In LA every single person is an actor, a musician or a screenwriter. The slight difference in LA is that everyone’s a bit more supportive, we were kinda getting a bit bored of how people are quite negative in London sometimes. We love London but sometimes it feels a bit fake.”
“The sunshine makes people happier,” adds Carmen, originally from Madrid in Spain. The self-taught guitarist kicked off her career as a musician at just 18, alongside singer-songwriter Kate Nash, and has since worked with artists such as Cher Lloyd, The Kooks and PVRIS. Carmen also regularly contributes to Blackstar Amplification’s YouTube channel, both with BONES and solo.
“We never ever want to be labelled as a feminist band that hates men and just talks about female problems, we talk about things that we know and that affect us.”
Although they are an established band with an incredible list of shows behind them, BONES would not have been able to keep their unique personality without some resistance: “You know, they’re trying to make us tour with just women,” says Rosie, “but that’s not what it is about. We’re just a band that happens to be girls, we don’t want to be a ‘girl band’ […] We never, ever want to be labelled as a feminist band that hates men and just talks about female problems, we talk about things that we know and that affect us. It’s not like we set out to man-bash. It’s things that happened to us that we talk about.”
“Music is a great platform if you’ve got something to say,” adds Carmen.
Rosie controls the knobs on everything visual in the BONES world. “Lots of the time an idea comes for the visual pretty much at the same time the song is being written. You don’t need a load of money to create a sick video. You just need a good concept. If the idea is good, then you have to just execute. The amount of times people blow a shit ton of cash on a video that will never be good because the idea isn’t good is stupid. The BONES visual world is just an amplified version of who we are so it’s pretty easy to execute.”
“The BONES visual world is just an amplified version of who we are so it’s pretty easy to execute.”
In between studio sessions and performing shows, they like to hang out in “little weird, tiny places,” says Rosie, who loves Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, “because it’s jokes.” Carmen is more a fan of the French bistro, La Poubelle, and hanging out with their dog, Sandy. “We found her wandering around near our house,” says Rosie. “We don’t know where she came from. And we are not quite sure what breed she is… we think like a Pomeranian and long haired chihuahua mix. She is super cute.”
Fellow eclectic artist, Grandson is their “favourite human in the World,” and one of the artists they both recommend we check out. “The first time we met him was a year ago at Lollapallooza and we just sort of like, we ended up hanging out the whole weekend. Me and my mates were there as well,” says Rosie. “At some point there were like seven of us in one room.”
Another big act they met there, Highly Suspect, invited them on their American tour: “Lollapalooza was like the glue that stuck our career together,” explains Rosie. “It was the first tour we did in America, it was the first time we felt like a real band that existed in a different place. The fact that they took us on tour, barely knowing us, it was great.” Carmen is quick to agree. “They’re really special people,” she adds.
Aside from simply taking BONES UK stateside, the duo have also co-written Jeff Beck’s Loudhailer, which they then performed on tour alongside the legendary guitarist. “It was an amazing experience,” says Carmen. “It was mind-blowing. It all just happened all so quickly.”
“Jeff is a ridiculous legend,” says Rosie. “Watching him play was incredible.”
Having already completed a 12 date US tour to promote the album – “’Beautiful Is Boring’ is one of the best tracks to play live. The groove on it you can sink into HARD and it’s a bit of a calling card message for us.” – there’s no plans for a follow-up in the UK anytime soon. But good things are on the way. “We can’t say for now but things are coming up,” says Rosie. “We’re excited.”
“Can’t wait,” adds Carmen.
BONES UK will be touring with Tom Morello later this month. Full tour dates below.
Their self-titled debut album is out now.
21 – Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN, United States
22 – Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL, United States
28 – Emo’s, Austin, TX, United States
29 – House of Blues Dallas, Dallas, TX, United States
05 – Roseland Theater, Portland, OR, United States
06 – Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA, United States
07 – Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Canada
21 – Bogart’s presented by Cricket Wireless, Cincinnati, OH, United States
Photo: David Solorzano