This is the type of story that gets made into a movie that doesn’t seem believable. Rosie Bones grew up in the entertainment world in London (her father, Bill Oddie, is a writer, actor, musician, comedian, etc) and performed in bands like Oddyssey, BIGkids and Rosie Oddie and the Odd Squad in her late teens and early 20s. Meanwhile, Carmen Vandenberg trained at London’s Academy of Contemporary Music and became a session guitarist at the age of 18, playing with the likes of Kate Nash.
A chance meeting at a London blues club in 2014 led to the formation of Bones UK but before Rosie and Carmen could start building a backlog of songs and a fan base, they were asked by none other than Jeff Beck to collaborate on his 2016 album, ‘Loud Hailer’. Not only did Rosie and Carmen share songwriting credits and perform as part of Beck’s band on the album, they also got their first taste of U.S. touring with the guitar legend which ultimately inspired the move to L.A.
Things moved fast and furious for the duo once the relocation happened – they met Highly Suspect backstage at Lollapalooza in 2017 where the “My Name is Human” band invited Bones UK to open their tour that fall. Since that time, Bones UK has shared stages with Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, Alice in Chains, Palaye Royale, The Struts, Glorious Sons, Tom Morello and Badflower. Oh yeah, did I mention they were nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance? (Gary Clark Jr. won the award on Sunday night)
On Friday night, Bones UK will hit the Schottenstein Center stage as the opening act on the winter leg of the Korn and Breaking Benjamin bill and will get the crowd warmed up with a unique post-industrial, hard rock sound. If you’re wondering whether or not rock is dead and want a glimpse into the future, make sure you’re in the arena when Bones UK hits the stage. The duo return to Columbus on Friday, May 15 to perform at the Sonic Temple Festival alongside bands like Metallica, Royal Blood, Dirty Honey and Sleeping With Sirens.
I hopped on a conference call with Rosie and Carmen last week to catch up on things that have been going on in the Bones UK world.
Bones UK just played at the NAMM convention. What can you tell me about it?
Rosie: This is the third time we’ve played NAMM, we always play for Black Star, who are our amp company. They are fucking amazing. We didn’t really get a chance to look around. We had one show at 3pm and then we played an amazing show called The Imperial Ball which isn’t actually anything to do with NAMM, it’s a charity benefit just outside of NAMM. We played with Queens of the Stone Age and Johnny Depp, which was INSANELY cool. That was a real highlight. NAMM isn’t quite our bag, we’re not real techie.
You don’t seem to be shy about approaching other bands and artists that you like.
Rosie: The way we got our first ever tour was just by going up to people. We got backstage passes to Lollapalooza and just hung out backstage. We met Johnny from Highly Suspect and they asked us to tour with them. We understand that you’ve got to hustle in order to get things and most really amazing tours that we’ve come from bands wanting to spend time with you. We love people, we make friends very easily so it’s easy for us.
Is it always hustling for the band or are there bands you just want to meet?
Rosie: We don’t really get starstruck. You only need to meet a couple of famous people to know they’re just normal people. Usually, the more famous they are, the more nice and shy they are. The biggest people are actually the nicest, the lower echelon tend to be the slight dicks. We just see people as people, you know?
How do you feel about bands coming up to you and asking for autographs and to take pictures?
Rosie: We find it very irritating. (laughter) We want all fans to stop talking to us (laughter) I’m being sarcastic. We love it!
Carmen: We love it when they come up to us after the show.
Rosie: We always go out to the merch desk, we always talk to as many people as humanly possible. It’s so fun.
I think about how different things are from when I was a teenager and going to shows. There was no internet or cell phones that could be used to take photos. It took real dedication to meet a band, you’d have to arrive really early and hang by the backstage door and hope to catch them as they ran into the club.
Rosie: Face to face is always the best thing ever. We kind of interact with fans online but it’s definitely not the most enjoyable experience. The more enjoyable thing is getting to meet people.
When you were younger, did you ever try to get photos with bands?
Rosie: Not really our bag.
Carmen: We like artists but we never did that.
Rosie: We’re not fanatical. We respect musicians a lot. I don’t particularly care about having my picture taken with a famous artist, it’s more about a human interact than it is about ‘Look who I met last night’.
Carmen: So many people do it just to show off. Maybe the memory is just enough, you don’t need to have that picture.
I’ve been watching your Instagram stories – you’ve been pretty active with posting videos. That seems to be a great way to document what you’re doing. Is it something that you’re documenting just for being in the moment or are you using it to document the history of the band and capturing footage that could end up in a documentary some day?
Rosie: Anything on Instagram, it’s very instinctive. It’s not thought out. I think if we were to ever do a documentary or something like that, there would be a bit more of a point to it. I think documentaries that are really successful delve into a question or try to solve something. If we were to do something, it would be more like that. When it comes to Instagram stories, it’s just very much what’s going on right now. I don’t think it would be that documentary worthy!
I had to look up to see if you’d ever played Columbus and based on my research, it looks like you’ve played Cincinnati and Pittsburgh but never Columbus. I wonder, if I asked you if you’ve ever played in Columbus, you might not even know since you’re in a different city every night.
Rosie: Carmen’s really good about remembering.
Carmen: We haven’t played in Columbus but we stopped there for dinner once. We started doing this tour book where we put down things we like in different cities that we’ve been to, like restaurants or bars.
Rosie: I need to get my memory jogged.
Do you get the chance to check out cities while on tour or is it roll into town, do soundcheck, eat dinner, play the show, pack up and drive to the next city?
Carmen: Until we get a tour bus, it’s pretty much just making it in time to the club. But, if we have the day off, we love to go around and discover.
Rosie: We always try to eat the local foods and see the sights in the time that we have.
Have there been any cities that you’d like to go back and visit once you have more time to explore?
Carmen: New Orleans!
Rosie: New Orleans. The one that we keep getting tantalizingly close to but have never seen is the Grand Canyon. Every tour, we’re almost there, like, “We can do it guys” but then something happens and we have to leave just before we can see it. We’ve been so close so many times, we’ll have to make it happen at some point.
I just visited the Grand Canyon for the first time two summers ago and no matter what you’ve heard, read or viewed, nothing can come close to describing what it’s like to actually be there in person.
Rosie: WOW! WOW!
You’ve toured with a bunch bands, both your age but also bands that are older and have been doing this a lot longer than you. Do you try to take away some learning moment from every band you tour with?
Rosie: Always. Every band has something to offer and helping us gain experience and how we can better ourselves. Even just learning tour dynamics of how some people want their space, some people want to be spoken to, there’s so many lessons.
I’m guessing with the bigger bands you tour with, it becomes more of a business – there’s more crew members, there’s more process, you start loading in earlier and according to schedule. With smaller shows, you’re probably hauling your own amps in and things can feel a little more touch and go.
Rosie: The big ones have crews, it just depends on the size of the band, not necessarily the age. There are bands that are our age that have stuff going on as well. We love it all. But, genuinely, we’re perfectly happy as long as we get a dressing room. Some of the smaller club gigs have got much more of a vibe. We did kind of an arena thing with Stone Temple Pilots, it was more amphitheaters. This one (with Korn and Breaking Benjamin) is going to be the biggest tour that we’ve done because it’s all arenas. I think we’re definitely stepping it up. It will definitely have it’s cons as well. I was speaking to my friend about it last night and saying that you just lose a lot of the kind of vibe with the audience. So, we’ll see.
Carmen: They are so far away.
Rosie: Yeah, they are so far away, you can’t really look people in the eye. A lot of stuff we’re used to doing, we’ll have to adjust and it’s going to be a whole new performance. It’s going to be really exciting. What I’m trying to say is that bigger is not necessarily better. I think all gigs have their own thing.
You’ve been together for a few years and have released a few singles that got a lot of airplay but your first album didn’t come out until this past July. Was that conscious? I know – in 2020 – a lot of bands are going the singles route, putting out a new song every couple of months rather than dropping a 10 or 12 song full length on people.
Rosie: That wasn’t the reason why but it makes sense. I kind of struggle with wondering if albums are even relevant any more. We have a very fluid work flow, so we’re writing and recording all the time. We don’t really use studios. Because of that, we didn’t end up with a collection of songs, it was more like we’d write something, record it at the time that we wrote it and then we kind of wanted to put it out. It’s a very hand to mouth way of doing things. We’re not waiting to get into the studio where we can record 12 songs, it’s like we just do it as they come. That’s what made sense to us, just release songs as they come, so that’s what we did. Then when we met our label, it made more sense to put everything together and box off that collection of songs so we can move on.
I’m of the full album generation but my kids are of the playlist generation. I don’t think they have any interest in listening to entire albums, even by artists they love.
Rosie: Yeah, they aren’t going to listen to the songs they don’t like.
I was reading a GuitarWorld.com feature with Carmen where you mentioned 5 guitarists that you admire. Some of the usual suspects but the name that jumped out at me was John Mayer. I know he’s always been known as a great guitar player but when he first came out he was marketed to a pop crowd. I’ve started listening to all of his albums and I honestly believe when we look back in 10 or 20 years, he’ll be this generation’s Clapton or Beck or Page.
Carmen: He’s incredible. He’s got a very unique tone and style. He’ll be forever remembered.
Rosie: He’s great, he’s melodic as well.
When I was a kid, I stood in front of my mirror with a tennis racket and pretended to be Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch, Mick Mars. Who do you think kids are emulating these days when playing air guitar?
Rosie: Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) is one that I think will go down in history.
Carmen: Jack White, as a guitarist and overall artist. He changed tone, he created a whole new sound.
Rosie: Mike from Royal Blood. What about Carmen and me???
Of course! You’ve got a song called “Girls Can’t Play Guitar” which you’ve said is something you hear a lot and you’re out to prove your critics wrong. I’ve heard that statement, not necessarily about you, but in general. I always hear “Rock is dead” which I don’t agree with either. Are you trying to shatter those myths?
Rosie: I think there’s a huge resurgence of rock, I think the thing is that people got bored because people are doing the same thing that other people did. As far as bands that sound like other bands, like Led Zeppelin, I think that’s not particularly forward thinking. I think that’s why rock is getting a bit stale. I think what we’re trying to do is push rock and roll into the future. Bands like Royal Blood do that, they are not your average,normal rock and roll band. People like grandson do that – bands that are rock but don’t sound like another rock band that you’ve heard before. Those are the people that are really exciting and are going to save … not that it needs saving … but that are going to keep rock and roll going.
Let’s talk tattoos for a minute. Tell me about your first tattoo and your favorite.
Rosie: My first tattoo was “Fat Oddie” which was my nickname in school and I got it on my ass when I was 14.
Carmen: My favorite tattoo is the one that we got on the last tour, very drunk. It’s the date of our album release.
Rosie: It’s really badly done and we all got the same one.
Do you put much thought into your next tattoos or are you more spur of the moment and just decide “today is the day” for a new one?
Rosie: I’ve got all the addresses I’ve lived in, so I have to keep that streak going. Mine are really shit and like prison tats.
Carmen: A lot of mine were done spur of the moment. I just use one tattoo artist and she knows what I like.
You’re playing a lot of festivals in the U.S. this year. While I do think it’s great to be able to see so many bands over the course of a weekend, what I don’t like is that, due to proximity clauses that festivals make you sign, you can’t play your own show in the same city where the festival is for a certain amount of time before and after. So, because you’re playing Sonic Temple in Columbus, there’s a chance we won’t see you again until late 2020, if at all.
Carmen: That clause definitely applies to us. Our booking agent will tell us we can’t play somewhere or we’ll find a way around it. It’s only a 3-month clause.
Have you looked at the lineups of the festivals you’re playing?
Rosie: Yeah, they are AMAZING.
Are there bands that you’re looking forward to seeing at these festivals or will it be more like summer camp where you’re hanging out with your friends and catching up?
Rosie: We were saying that. I was talking with Josh from Badflower about this last night, saying how festivals are amazing because the pressure is quite low. It’s nice for bands, we don’t have our normal setup, the changeover is really quick and chaotic. It’s actually quite nice to fly by the seat of your pants a bit. It’s not the perfect show which is really cool. Often, especially with the England festivals, the weather is a bit shit. It’s kind of survival and then you get to go backstage and see loads of friends that you never get to see because you’re on tour the whole time. It’s a really great community thing, it’s like summer camp.