From the UK to the US: BONES UK on life during the pandemic and new single “Souls”

Premiering "Souls" from the EARTHWALKERS tour in partnership with Monster Energy Outbreak Tour

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In December, BONES UK band members Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg partnered with the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour to bring a new tour experience for fans during the pandemic age. The collaboration called EARTHWALKERS has seen the band performing in beautiful natural venues, one in particular, The Bloomhouse in Austin, Texas—a fairytale mystical style house set amidst the hills—they call their Safe House. Performances have included unique situations like one from a quarantine bunder and another from the middle of a football field for a single fan.

Earlier this month, BONES UK released EARTHWALKERS filmed at The Bloomhouse. “Where there’s a will, there is always a way,” says BONES UK.

About the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour

The upcoming chain of events features planned performances alongside spontaneous live and digital sightings, serving as both a tour and a time capsule documenting these bizarre times. BONES UK’s journey will involve helping solve the unique problems facing the band, their fans, and the entire world — from isolation and hunger to mental illness and eco-consciousness.

With this COVID-friendly 10-date tour across the U.S.A., Bones UK and Monster Energy are on a mission to play live music within the restrictions of this strange new landscape. Raw, gritty, and reflective of the events currently playing out on the world stage, EARTHWALKERS finds the band reconnecting with themselves and one another, initially surfacing live from their quarantine bunker, and re-emerging into the world via shows from a variety of breathtaking settings, including an empty music venue, in the middle of a football field, an aerial drive-in performance in a field and on a lake.

“Like every other band, all of our shows, tours, and festivals were canceled for 2020, which was obviously totally heartbreaking,” said Bones UK. “But we’re always looking to solve problems — not simply accept them. I think that’s an ethos we and Monster Energy share: taking matters into our own hands, finding the solutions, embracing the new landscape, and working with it. Making sure our fans’ safety is a top priority, but also creating experiences they will never forget — experiences that we actually wouldn’t have come up with if it hadn’t been for the restrictions we have all been facing this year.”

“It’s been so brilliant to work with a brand that has said ‘yes’ to all of our ideas and just supported us in making them happen,” the band continued. “This is the first — but will most definitely not be the last — adventure we and Monster Energy will go on together!”

“Souls”

Next from the Safe House is “Souls,” a simplistic dreamy song where Rosie and Carmen are shown inside The Bloomhouse performing on their Fender guitars—a Strat and the Acoustasonic Strat—blending together for a pleasing sound.

In Conversation with BONES UK

We had the pleasure of chatting with the duo, Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg. These two artists have been staying true to themselves and true to their art before and throughout the pandemic. With exciting new projects and a hopeful tour for the fall, they fill us in on what they have been doing during the pandemic and what the future holds for BONES UK.

I wanted to talk a little bit about your EARTHWALKERS project. It’s such a great idea. I’ve watched a handful of the videos and things that are great. What inspired that idea because it’s very unique, you know? A lot of people have been doing their shows from home, but you guys chose to be out in nature and choose locations. How did that come about?

Rosie: It came about because I can’t deal with not doing stuff. So we were just trying to problem-solve. I was like, I can’t accept this, I just can’t accept that we can’t do gigs. Our management was like, “You know, why don’t you do some live streams?” And we were like, (laughs)…we just thought it wasn’t a good representation of what we did—me and Carmen in our pajamas singing something. It just didn’t feel right. We decided to do a drive-in. Before we knew it was a thing. No one had done them yet. So we did one of the first ones in Los Angeles. It was really small in a parking lot. It wasn’t the same as a normal gig, but it had different emotions, and that was kind of interesting. We had this tour booked with Monster Energy, which was meant to be a normal tour, and we basically pivoted on that.

Carmen: It was in collaboration with Idol Rock that this whole thing came about. Then Rosie laid out this whole plan; it kept on changing, but there was a whole plan for it to be a proper tour.

Rosie: We were gonna have a tour bus. So the whole thing was gonna be ten shows. We still got a lot of the ones we haven’t done yet. So I just came up with problem-solving shows. Like, how do we do this? We need a safe distance. Let’s try this. Let’s do a show to one fan. If you need a safe distance and you need fans to not be near other fans, just have one fan.

We really stripped back everything, and that’s where the EARTHWALKERS thing is.

That video was great!

Rosie: Yeah. (Laughs) It’s cool, right? So we just kept riffing on these ideas and put this tour together, and then, obviously, the first that happens is COVID. I don’t know whether or not to do COVID solving-problem tours. It felt wrong. We always wanted to be safety aware. So we went back and took away some of the bigger ones and then did the ones that we could that made sense. We’ve got lots to come out which we filmed. But yeah, it’s just this idea of problem-solving and not just sitting at home and being like, “Oh, I can’t wait for touring to start up again.” It just felt like that’s all anyone was doing. We’d run into this pit of just sort of waiting until touring happened again. That’s not something we, as artists, can accept.

Carmen: But also, you made it into a story, and it became quite cinematic—not cinematic but a different process. With Rosie, we can’t just do something, that’s just the way it is. It’s a whole art thing. No, it’s just a beautiful thing – that’s been the fun bit of it.

Rosie: Because of the whole dystopian thing. But then we all had that—when it suddenly felt like the end of the world was here. It was the nature and stuff we wanted [to portray] that is important. We all had that moment when the restaurants went, and the bars went, and all the things we were used to went; what’s important? It’s like the planet earth, and what are we doing to this place? We really stripped back everything, and that’s where the EARTHWALKERS thing is. Just two people traveling across planet earth with nothing else happening except just trying to do shows because that’s where our heart is.

Carmen: What ended up happening as well was that everywhere we went, and everywhere we filmed, we tied it with a goodwill initiative. We were doing things that mattered to us, which was making a change, doing something that would help, whether it’s your neighbor or anything, so It became like a bigger project.

Rosie: It was so great to do. We want to do so many more. We are supposed to have a tour at the end of the year, but honestly, it’s a format that we think we’re gonna be doing that forevermore. The experience for the fans is a whole different experience. One fan that has a show to yourself, like, when does that happen, you know? (Laughs) This is f–cking cool, so we’re gonna keep doing it.

Watch BONES UK’s EARTHWALKERS SAFE HOUSE performance here.

How did you two find each other because it’s really hard to find a creative counterpart?

Carmen: Well, we met in a blues bar in London, in Camden Town. I used to love going to blues jams and playing all the time. It’s just always been one of my favorite things. Rosie was there one night, and then we started talking. Um, we had quite a few whiskeys and .  . .

Rosie: I was nursing some kind of a horrific break-up. So I think I was there like, solo, drowning my sorrows at the bar, and then she gets up on stage with like a load of old men. Those blues jams are amazing, but they’re usually like, old men. Then she [Carmen] gets up, and I’m like, “Oh my god, who the f–k is that?” And so I talked to her afterward, and I said, “We ought to go back to my place and just play together,” and that was kind of it. Then we decided we wanted to do something. We didn’t really know what it was going to be when we started the band. And then we were in LA about a month later.

Wow, so it began quickly?

Rosie: We did. We’d both been in different bands for a while. We just couldn’t quite bear to do the same circuit in London. Like, the thought of starting a new project and playing the same venues. You know, we love those venues, but we’d done that circuit a few times. We needed something more exciting. So we were like, “Let’s go to America and see what that’s like.” We got a residency at the Viper Room—we sort built it really sort of.

When you recorded your 2019 album, Bones UK, what were some of the inspirations behind the music? I know you worked with producer Filippo Cimatti. How did he help bring your sound together?

Rosie: It’s definitely the three of us. He did a lot of the production stuff—he’s a f–king genius at that stuff. And it was always us three, you know? The oldest songs come about in different ways as well. A lot of the time lyrically, picking what we want the song to be about and then sort of building from there. We had a lot of those songs that were quite old—well, they weren’t old, but already out. We didn’t know if we wanted to release an album. We didn’t know what we wanted to do as our journey. There were a lot of things that had already been out, and we just signed a deal, and we needed to make an album, so we just put them all together. We’re looking forward to the next chapter of Bones and this next record. That was definitely the first incarnation, and this will be the next one.

What does your songwriting process look like? You mentioned you pick a topic, and it starts with the lyrics?

Rosie: Yeah. Well, it totally varies. A lot of the time, it comes from lyrics. A lot of the time, it’s like this is what we want the song to be about. Then we build the words outwardly from that. So I think with good songwriting, for me, I’ve always thought, you have to get what the heart of the song is, what your message is. What’s on the T-shirt, you know, what is the beautiful spirit? Then you build out from there. So what is this song about? What does it sound like? So it’s like sort of painting a picture. I think a lot of the time with music-making, there so many different ways you can go, so you have to sort of put up some walls. Like do we want people to feel sexy when they listen to this? Do we want people to dance when they listen to this? You want to feel heartbroken? And then, once you start putting those up, then the song kind of writes itself in a way.

Carmen: It makes the riff and any ideas happen. If there’s a word that Rosie’s kind of created, it makes it so much easier than just putting stuff out.

Rosie: Yeah, and it’s always good. The vibe’s gotta support what the heart is, so it’s all cohesive, and that then extends into the videos and stuff. Then it naturally writes itself rather than a square peg-round hole. A lot of the time, we go back to the heart. Don’t we [to Carmen]? We’re like, now what’s the heart of this? What are we trying to make people feel? What emotions? What message? Then the music builds out from there.

You’ll never be able to reach the standard, the upper echelons of like, my male band because you’re women, and so stuff like that definitely is an impetus for us to write immediately.

Some of your song content talks about toxic masculinity in the music industry. Did you ever worry that there would be any backlash in the industry because of it? Were there experiences that prompted you to write these songs? Or was it just something you noticed from gigging?

Do you want to talk about “Girls Can’t Play Guitar”? That was from a genuine story. We played some of our first gigs, and a guy was speaking to me outside, having a cigarette being like, “Yeah, but like, you know, your band… You’re like, you’re cool, but you’re never gonna be as good as my band.” It was literally because girls can’t play guitar. You’ll never be able to reach the standard, the upper echelons of like, my male band because you’re women, and so stuff like that definitely is an impetus for us to write immediately.

Right. Like, your lyric in that song is, “It’s biologically impossible.”

Rosie: His insinuation was like, biologically, women don’t have the hands. That was his argument! That women’s hands aren’t dexterous or big enough to play guitar as well. It was like Hendrix, (laughs), I’m sorry????

And Carmen is an incredible guitarist. Did you ever get any backlash in the industry for having lyrics and songs like that?

Rosie: Yes, Only with “I’m Afraid of Americans.” (Laughs) Yeah, that’s the one we got most. With the other ones, I think what we really try and do—what I try and do as a lyricist—is to never be preachy or man-hater-y. It’s always with a sense of humor. I think that’s a really important thing because I think there’s a way of being a feminist which can be quite isolating for people. You know, it’s kind of like, we hate everyone except for a certain amount of women that are feminists, you know? And that’s not ever what we wanted to be. We always wanted, through humor and clever lyrics, is put the question mark over it. Like, “Guys, there’s like (laughs)… Like, this is a stupid comment, isn’t it?” And then, without being like, “F–k the man that said this!” So we’ve been quite considerate with that. We didn’t start the band to be like a feminist band. We just wanted to sing about stuff that has affected us, and that just happens to be some of the stuff. I mean, you [Carmen] have had a few guitar things come up with you, with blokes.

Carmen: Yeah, I mean we’ve had that. Or especially with sound guys coming into venues. Things that have happened where it’s just like, “Who’s the boyfriend that you’re carrying the guitar for?” That’s always happened. But it’s just like Rosie was saying, you’ve just got to let it not affect you and just persevere with what you want to do. They’re the ones that say something stupid or be amazed when they actually hear you play. We don’t actually end up caring.

Carmen: We are feminists in the way that everybody should be a feminist if you think that anything’s possible or equal. So it’s not that. It’s just, as Rosie was saying, we’re not here to have to define the word with non-feminists that are non-man-hating. The word itself should just be that. That’s the only backlash we get. If someone just goes, “Oh, you should shut up, you’re a pretty feminist.” Then they really don’t know the term.

Rosie: Yeah, but the “I’m Afraid of Americans” one, that wasn’t a feminist one. That was one we played—the Bowie song. We did that when we were down South, and they would get mad at us.

Carmen: It was somewhere else, further down, but it was just like, “Yeah, you should be afraid.”

Rosie: “You should be afraid of Americans!” We were just like, oh. we weren’t expecting it, which is quite funny. We were like, “oh my god.” Then we’re like, “F–k, of course!” We’re saying we’re afraid of you. Like, I feel like, oh god.

Do you think that the pandemic is gonna make some permanent changes in the music industry? The way people go to concerts. Or the way that music is produced? People have been doing recording remotely, and that opens up the window if there’s somebody you’ve always wanted to record with, but they’re in France. Now you can do that because of technology. Are there any other ways you think the music industry’s gonna change because of the pandemic? 

Carmen: Yeah. I think some of it definitely has changed simply by the fact that a lot of venues have had to shut down. That just cut the amount of venues that there are to play at when things open. Other than that, I just don’t know.

Rosie: I don’t think it’s comparable. I personally am not a fan of digital working, so I would never do that.

Carmen: I mean, just eyeing the landscape, and we’re not the kind of digital workers. We need hands on and in somewhere. We’re just very analog, put it that way. I hope it hasn’t damaged it too much, but we’ll see. And if it has, then there will be new ways it’ll come out.

Rosie: I think change is good as well. I think that this is definitely something that we’ve learned—positive or negative. It’s forced us all into a space where we have to think outside of the box with things, which I think is never a bad thing. I know it’s very easy to get doom and gloomy about things. Obviously, we all want to be playing big shows again—I can’t f–king wait. It’s gonna be amazing. It’s also meant that every artist had to think “What’s important to me? What do I need?? You had to think about things a bit more—think of different solutions, which I think is always good. I think some cool things might come out.

So what’s lays ahead for BONES UK?

Carmen: Get out of the snow!

Rosie: Yeah. (Laughs) I hate the snow! The heating on in my house is number two. We’re recording a record. We’re meant to be in El Paso right now, doing pre-production for the next record, so that’s what we’re doing. Me and Carmen are gonna go in on our own with no producer at first to just really get the ideas down properly. I feel that that’s a good kickback of this year is to really strip things away and get to the heart once again. Just me and Carmen in a room and just getting some ideas really pure, and then we’ve got a drummer coming in. Get some ideas down, and then honestly, not sure. I’ve bought a car. (Laughs) But we need to get this record done. That’s what we’re doing. 

Carmen: Go on tour!

Rosie: Yeah. Touring. There’s a tour booked in at the end of the year, but we shall see.

Is there somebody who you hope to work with? Or are you just gonna see where it goes?

Rosie: We’re gonna see where it goes and introduce things as and when they’re necessary. That’s the plan. A lot of our budget can be spent on just putting you in rooms with big producers but what we believe in is getting that heart really tight. The heart of the song needs to come from me and Carmen. Carmen’s been doing some production stuff, so she’s gonna be sort of doing that side of stuff with me and her together. Then we’ll see from there. And then if we feel that song’s an amazing dance song, then maybe we’ll speak to someone more in the dance music world. Someone in more heavy rock music, you know, we’ll work that out if we need it.

Is there any advice you’d give to a young person starting out in the music industry?  Someone who’s kind of trying to navigate the climate of the way things are. 

Carmen: In the current situation right now, I’d say don’t get your head too stuck in the clouds or don’t get too low—just keep on doing it. Do it because you love it and to never stop. I think that is what I would recommend. Maybe it’s better to be doing it right now because you’re not influenced by the whole music industry, and you’re doing it for the sake of what you want to do.

Rosie: I think, yeah, only do it if you love it. My main thing is there’s so many people that do it because they think it’s gonna be like, limousines and tequila shots. Sure, that happens, but a lot of the time, it’s not. If you don’t really have something to say or something that you really feel that you want to put out in the world—if you’re just doing it for the superficial s**t, then don’t do it.

Last question, as artists right now, are you reading a book, listening to musicians? Who’s inspiring you? 

Rosie: Well, I’ve got loads. I’m in this amazing Airbnb surrounded by art books. So I’ve been reading a lot of art books. [To Carmen] Who’s the art book I had out the other day? I’ve totally forgotten the name.

Carmen: Magritte.

Rosie: Magritte! Yeah. So I’ve just been reading loads of art books and filling my head with lots of different people’s processes and how they get inspiration.

Carmen: I was re-reading Devotion by Patti Smith, which is on why she writes. I just finished Big Sur by Kerouac. I’ve been reading a bit of poetry and stuff like that. I’ve got Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes here for the studio time. I’m reading Nietzsche.

Connect with BONES UK:  @bonesbandbones

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Born and Raised in Miami, FL, Vanessa started playing music at a young age. Progressing through high school, Vanessa was playing and performing on multiple instruments including guitar, piano and trumpet. She was awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. During her time there, she studied the guitar playing of such influences as Pat Martino, Slash, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Eric Johnson and many others. After graduating with a degree in Music Business, she went on to work with such artists as Pat Metheny and Christian McBride. After years in the business end of the industry, she decided to pursue her own performing career and moved to Atlanta, GA. Once in Atlanta, she was playing with several groups, and doing recording sessions.  A year later, she was chosen as a finalist by Beyonce to audition for her all-girl backup band. Vanessa has traveled the world playing guitar, visiting countries such as France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Japan, South America and the Caribbean. She has performed on the bill with such renown artists as Darius Rucker, LA Sno, KISS, Skid Row and Paramore. She is currently recording and performing as the front woman for rock trio, BAST. www.vanessaizabella.com