Saturday, 3 November 2012

INTERVIEW WITH BROTHER & BONES


Listen With Monger talksexclusively to Rich Thomas, frontman, guitarist and songwriter with up andcoming Folk-Rockers Brother & Bones

Rich Thomas in full flow
It’s been a long time since I've sat on the steps of Bretonside Bus Station in Plymouth talking music withpeople I hardly know. Probably about 16 years in fact. So sitting here on thiscold, autumnal night chatting to a man with long hair, wispy facial hair and along overcoat, feels odd but reassuring at the same time. The man in question, the man being
questioned, is Richard Thomas - singer, songwriter, acoustic guitarist andgenerally accepted heart-throb who fronts Brother & Bones. I've been a fanof the band for a little while but as with anything interesting or exciting, I've wanted to scratch beneath the surface and see what makes the band tick. Not tomention the fact that there is precious little information on the band aroundas they prefer to let their music and near-legendary live shows do all thetalking.

A relaxed but tired looking man sitsnext to me, happy to talk about music, his love of the Southwest and theexperiences of the band’s first headline tour. “We’re four dates in to the tourand we’ve done a couple of headline shows and the reaction has been great. We’replaying new stuff from the new EP as well as some older stuff that we’ve beenplaying around with and reworking. There’s also some even newer stuff that’snot quite ready to play live yet but hopefully by the end of the tour we’ll beplaying some even newer stuff”. You can see that playing the songs live is whatreally matters to Mr Thomas as his eyes light up when we’re chatting but forone of the hardest gigging bands in the UK, what has been the highlight of theirnumerous live dates this year? “There’s been so many gigs and they've all beenfun in so many different ways. There have been points where it could have beentragic but they end being a lot of fun. Like when played Beachbreak Live we hada power-cut about 15 minutes before the end of the set but we turned it in to anice little drum interlude. Yannis [Sachinis, Drummer] just went on this epic,10 minute Bonham –style drum solo with the lights out which was amazing. Wealso played a gig with Feeder on Lusty Glaze beach in Cornwall and the weatherwas just perfect with the sun setting behind the crowd while we played. So we've been really luck really and played some amazing shows.”

Brother & Bones, they give you wings. Sorry.
Now we all know that the Brother& Bones live show is the stuff of legend but without great songs to backthem the band would only be half as good as they are. The originality of theband’s music means that you can’t compare one song to another and that begs thequestion, where do the band draw their influences from? “ We've got a veryeclectic taste across the five of us. For instance, Si [Robinson, Bass] listensto a lot of Jazz which you wouldn't believe when you see him flinging his bassaround on stage. He’s also an amazing keys and trumpet player and plays uprightbass, he’s one of those people that you want to hate because he’s so talentedreally! Yannis is in to a lot of heavier stuff as well. There’s a lot of crossovertoo though, we’re all in to Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine and Incubus.Myself and James [Willard, guitar] really love a lot of Blues players likeStevie Ray Vaughn and we've got a lot of Ray Charles in the van. Personally I’mreally interested in songwriters like Dylan or Ray Lamontagne and I listen to alot of older stuff like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young and other 60sstuff. Hopefully we put that all together and it gives us a fairly unpigeonholablesound”. When I register my surprise at the singer’s willingness to cite Incubusas an influence, Rich jumps on the point, “I don’t give a fuck about whatpeople think is cool, I do give a fuck about good music though and I certainlygive a fuck about Incubus”. 

Having grown up in theWestcountry, there was always a frustrating, invisible barrier somewhere nearBristol that prevented any kind of success seeping through to the talentedmusicians of the region. So, with Rich having grown up in St. Ives, Cornwall,what does he think of the current music industry in the area he loves so much. “Ithink industry is the wrong word. It’s more of a scene and industry tends to belocalised to London. We had to learn very quickly how to deal with the industryup there because it’s still so cutthroat. But there’s a lot to be said forkeeping that naivety that you are allowed to have in the Southwest, keeping thehonesty that comes with performing the music in the place it was created. Maybeit’s a good thing that Cornwall is that little bit further away from theindustry as it means musicians can keep that purity and honesty in their music.The downside is that there is a lot of great music that might never see thelight of day but its better that it gets written in the first place which mightnot happen in a less open creative environment. There are times when being abig fish in a small pond can stunt your growth but I firmly believe that youcan make and take your own opportunities so it doesn't matter where you comefrom, if you’re willing to work hard enough then you can make your own success.I mean, Reef were huge and we've all seen what Muse have achieved.” We breakoff at this point to discuss Muse’s gig in the part-time greasy spoon behind usthat was once known as Tramps and marvel at the journey bands can go throughfrom playing in ‘every toilet’, as Muse once put it, to entertaining sold outstadiums.

Rich Thomas - intimate moments
If there is any justice in theworld, it won’t be long before Brother & Bones are playing to biggeraudiences and, for once, we’re talking about a band who is ready to entertainon that scale. I ask if the energetic and full throttle live performances thatare synonymous with the band are thought out or a more organic occurrence. “It’snever been premeditated but the way we play gives us the freedom to move andthe music we create kinda means you have to move. And we’re passionate people,y’know? Without wanting to sound too pretentious, the passion comes through themusic and out through the performance so, yeah, I guess organic is the rightway to describe it. The other thing is that performing is a very reciprocalthing and we get a lot of energy back from the crowd which just pushes us on toperform better and that makes the crowd go even crazier and it becomes this self-perpetuatingprocess. I've always believed that even if you’re just sat on a stool playing aguitar, people can only enjoy your music as much as you enjoy making it. As aband we enjoy each other’s company both musically and personally so it’s justgreat to be able to jump on stage and have fun with these guys.”

With everything seemingly ontheir side, the inner Manager in me is begging to know what they've got plannedfor the next year. So I asked. Well, it was an interview after all. “We’replanning on a full album release in 2013 which will feature some stuff from therecent EP as well as some new stuff that’s being written at the moment but weneed to find the right producer to work with. That’s our main priority at themoment, we want to create an album that really stands the test of time and is alasting piece of work. We’re heading over to Europe in March as well to playsome shows in Germany, France, Holland and hopefully Ireland as well. We’re allabout the live experience so it will be great to play to some new audiences.” So,with stage fast approaching, we wrap up our chat but on the way back to thevenue I want to get a few tips of new bands to check out for the blog and Richis keen to share a few of his favourites. “There are so many bands out there thatI could mention but I’d probably forget someone! In terms of good friends ofmine that are making music, there’s a girl called Rokhsan that I've done alot of shows with over the years who is amazingly talented. She’s ready tostart going places I think and is an incredible songwriter with such a uniquevoice. I’m also really in to Kill It Kid who are a really heavy, Delta-Bluesyband that I've been liking for a while.” And with that, Rich disappears in tothe venue to be greeted by smiles, hugs, handshakes and the odd furtive lookfrom a group of giddy teenage girls. So to add to the talent and good looks wenow have to add charm, wit and intelligence to the Rich Thomas CV. Since whendid budding rock stars turn in to such eligible bachelors?


Live Dates:
06/11/12 – Mama Stones, Exeter
07/11/12 – Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds
08/11/12 – Soundhouse, Leicester
09/11/12 – Boileroom, Guildford
10/11/12 – Moles, Bath

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