Brought up on a parental influence of punk, the Bentham brothers have kept musical vitriol in the family in the form of Strange Bones. Sounding as if hardcore punk was pummelled through a warped lens of distorted vocals and acid drum and bass, Strange Bones converge The Cramps and The Prodigy in a heady experimentation. A raucous atmosphere, live shows have seen frontman Bobby hanging bat-like from the rafters clad in a gas mask, but this four-piece put in more hard graft than boisterous on-stage antics. From writing, recording, producing and mixing music, we talk to Strange Bones about their creative process.
Your childhood was rooted in punk music, do you remember the first gig you went to? Was there an active decision to pursue music or was it a subconscious product of your upbringing?
W: It was probably One Way System or UK Subs maybe.
B: I think it was Holidays In The Sun Festival, that’s what made me want to do music actually, we were tiny and standing on the side of the stage and I remember thinking “What the fuck is this!” We got thrown into it, we were always sitting round with my dad, playing twelve bar blues.
Your most recent releases have been collaborations, have they changed the way you think about music?
W: Lockdown happened and we’ve become obsessed with other people!
B: I love collaborating, you create something catastrophically cool; it’s two different entities coming together to make something new. I’ve always had an idea in my head of what I want things to sound like, but I’ve never known how to get there. I experiment, instead of doing just one thing, which bores me.
Was it difficult to relinquish some of the control with these collaborative songs?
B: At the start yeah because if you have a strong vision of what something should be it’s hard to stray from that, but then you understand and realize the power of collaboration and how someone’s art that you admire mixed up with your initial vision is only going to be great.
You often direct your own music videos, produce your music and artwork, do you feel that your visual work influences your music, and vice versa?
W: It’s all one and the same, different art forms merge into one. The album artwork belongs to the same message as the music.
B: Having that 360 approach and doing it in-house is a way to sustain yourself and not get overwhelmed. That’s another reason why we have this amazing relationship with Calva Louise, with two bands chipping into each other’s projects.
Have Strange Bones broken any bones during your hectic live shows?
B: I don’t think I’ve ever actually broken a bone (touch wood.) The worst thing that’s ever happened is that I jumped off the stage and ripped a muscle at the bottom of my back three songs in.
W: The funny thing is it was the most pathetic jump I’ve seen him do, he’s jumped off eight-foot barriers before and this jump was like a little skip. He just collapsed in a heap on the floor.
B: That was the same gig with the blood! I smashed my hand open and my white guitar went red. I walked off with a red guitar and a broken back, it was pretty savage.
Regarding the future of live shows, are you apprehensive about the lack of audience or atmosphere?
B: I refuse to do socially distance gigs; I just want it to be the same. The audience is the fuel to what we do on stage.
Has lockdown been a help or hinderance for you? How have you been passing the time?
B: I’m not really doing anything different to before, I used to spend my time writing and recording anyway. It’s probably good that there haven’t been any shows in terms of productivity levels, it would’ve been a nightmare trying to get the albums ready if we were doing the tours we were supposed to do.
W: The whole world is relying on TV and film at the moment. Art in general, even just a magazine or a book, is what the whole world is turning to, to get through isolation.
B: The last time I felt truly inspired, weirdly, was during the last lockdown when I went into a depressive slump. I wrote a few of the album songs following that.
You often shift though influences, what can we expect from the debut album five years on from your first EP?
B: A good way to look at it is that my song writing has been an experiment, all of the different styles we’ve gone through have now been mixed together and made coherent in the album. Recording here has been really beneficial to the creative process, we can do everything we need whenever.
How do you know when it’s finished?
B: That’s something you have to learn the hard way by just committing to it. I have thousands of songs and projects on my computer just unfinished in a graveyard, they’ll rot there forever.
W: It’s the age-old question. Like with a painting, you have to get to a point and be decide, without taking anything away or putting anything else on. You have to learn your craft and be confidence that it’s right.