An Interview with The Coolest and Perhaps Youngest Band You Need To Know Right Now: CHARLIE BELLE!
Posted On 08 Apr 2015
Tag: Alex Turner, All Access, All Access Music Group, Amy Poehler, Artist Interview, Austin, Charlie Belle, Get To Know, Gyasi, Gyasi Bonds, Holy Mountain, Jendayi, Jendayi Bonds, Junk Of The Heart (Happy), KUT, NPR Music, Nylon Magazine, Smart Girls, South By Southwest, Strange Powers, Stubbs Outdoors, SXSW, The Kooks, The Magnetic Fields, The Moody Theater, Zoe Czarnecki
So who exactly is Charlie Belle? Gyasi Bonds (drums & vocals), Jendayi Bonds (vocals & guitar) and Zoe Czarnecki (bass) make up the melodic indie-pop group. They deliver a welcomed update of the 90s English “alternapop” sound on their debut EP Get To Know.
With the national release of their debut EP, the band is continuing to get noticed abroad, nationally, and at home. Nylon Magazine calls them, “The Coolest (and Youngest) Band You Need To Know,” and NPR Music hails the band as one of ten “Musicians You’ll Tell Your Friends About in 2015.”
Want to learn more about Charlie Belle?! Check out the following interview with their front-woman, Jendayi:
How did this band get started? Can you remember the moment when you decided to start this group? Were your families always supportive of this career path? Do you hope to have other careers?
When Gyasi and I were still living in Pennsylvania, our parents had signed us up for music lessons (guitar for myself, drums for him) just as a sort of “I play the saxophone after school” kind of thing. We never thought that it would turn into something more than that. But when we moved to Austin and saw that there were all sorts of people in all sorts of bands, we looked at each other and thought “Hey. We can do this!”. We had the tools to start a band, and it worked that we lived with each other, so we just started playing as a band. Our families have definitely always been behind us 100% since we decided we wanted to take music seriously. Whatever it is we decide to do, they make sure we are able to do it. I’m not sure if I hope to have other career! I’m really liking this one! I don’t know. What a question. I just don’t know. Maybe that comes with just being a teenager.
You all started learning how to play instruments very early on. What was it that kept you all at it?
Because we were so young when we started playing our instruments, there was definitely a lot of resistance. We didn’t feel like practicing to be honest! In the beginning our parents definitely made us keep at it because they knew that in the long-run we would appreciate having stuck to it. As we got older passion just kicked in and now it’s something that we choose to do and love to do. I wouldn’t take anything back for a second.
I have read that your band names comes from the Bonds siblings’ great-grandmother. Why did you decide to name the band after her?
We decided to name the band after our great-grandmother because of a few things; the first being that our grandmother is amazing, the second being that Charlie Belle is a great name, and the third being that it’s a distinct one. The “e” at the end is something that you don’t really forget once you notice it. Our grandmother loves it! She 100% supports the band and loves seeing us do what we do.
Do you three get along really well? What’s the silliest thing you have fought about?
The three of us definitely get along! That’s a lot of what makes a band successful. There are definitely times when Gyasi and I get into arguments though, given the fact that we are siblings. I think the silliest thing we have fought about was my getting upset at him for making faces while we’re going through songs, because it distracts me and makes me mess up during rehearsals.
Are you looking forward to turning 18 and then finally 21? Will this maybe open a few more doors for you as far as where you can perform?
I am definitely looking forward to turning 18 (that’s not too far away for me, a little bit over a year), and then turning 21. I don’t really believe this will open doors as to where we are allowed to play, but I do think it will make it easier to get booked (you don’t have to do as much convincing) and I think it will give us more respect in the music industry. A lot of people’s first inclination is to look down on us because of our age, but we are a band that wants to be taken seriously and sometimes it’s hard to get that point across.
Jendayi, what was it like being interview by Amy Poehler as part of her “Smart Girls” web series?
Man. Being interviewed by Amy Poehler was so surreal. It all happened so fast! First it felt like this hypothetical thing, like “oh yeah I might be interviewed by Amy Poehler” and then I remember getting an email asking when our availability was and I remember thinking “Wow, I think this is actually a thing that is happening!”. I was definitely nervous but once I met Amy she was super nice (and super petite!!) and it was easy to talk to her. Definitely an experience I won’t forget.
What do you think of your music being called 90s English “alternapop“? Would you agree with this description?
I love our genre description! Usually when people ask what genre we play I struggle with explaining it. My go-to is usually something like indie-pop with a little bit of groove in it. I didn’t know how else to say it! But once publications started picking it up everyone kind of just settled into this “90s English alternapop” and I think it’s perfect. I would definitely agree with the description.
Tell me about when you covered “Strange Powers” for a series of videos related to the promotion of the documentary of the same name about The Magnetic Fields. It was filmed in Gyasi’s bedroom?
We filmed Strange Powers when I was 11 and Gyasi was 8. It was in his bedroom! We’re super tiny in that video, my hair is all crazy and my voice is all over the place, Gyasi’s earmuffs are way bigger than his little head. But it was a fun experience for sure.
What’s it like being a band in Austin? What have been some of your favorite venues to play at there? You all must really enjoy South By Southwest!
Being a band in Austin is a catch-22. On one end you get a lot of playing experience, so your instrumental and performing chops get really good, but on the other end it’s very hard to make a name for yourself because there is so much in this town. It’s a lot! And if you play too much around town, you don’t get people out to your shows. I would say Austin is a great place to become a band, but it’s hard to maintain one. I think my favorite venue experiences have been at Holy Mountain, Stubbs Outdoors, and The Moody Theater. Definitely some great times. South By Southwest is super super fun! The weather is great and the vibes are too. It definitely is exhausting, having so many shows clumped together (sometimes more than one in a day- sheesh) but when it’s all over it feels pretty good. And getting to be a part of SXSW not only as a musician but also as a fan is great too. You get to see so many musicians you love.
What do you all think is the best part about being in your band?
I think the best part about being in our band would be the fact that I live with Gyasi. It makes it super easy to come up with an idea and get great feedback instantly. It’s all in the next room over. Feel like a jam session? I drag my amp into Gyasi’s room and get going. Want to get a quick practice in before our show? Easy enough. It’s great.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making? Any songs that you can’t get out of your heads right now?
A ton of different things inspire me. When I write a song, I’m never able to say “This song was influenced by this band” because I just don’t think like that! I combine everything I listen to (which is a whole lot) and I see what sounds good. Lyrically, I always listen to Alex Turner’s songs, just because his writing is so complex but is still able to be extremely catchy and blow your mind at the same time. I love his words because they are all so poetic. At this moment however, I can’t seem to get “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” by The Kooks out of my head!
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place with the band (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
I think my favorite memory that’s taken place in the band has to be when we were in the studio at KUT (this had to be maybe 3 or 4 years ago) recording one of our old songs and we were at the point in the process in which we had to sing the backup vocals. The way that works is you get a mic and headphones and the instrumental track plays into your headphones and when you sing into the mic you can hear that too. You can hear all of the instruments and all of the vocals, including the other singers’. So Gyasi took it upon himself to whisper and sing super quietly into the microphone (so that nobody could hear but me) a bunch of goofy things I can’t even remember now and it had me in stitches! I couldn’t breathe I was laughing to hard. But nobody knew what I was laughing about, because his mic was going directly into my headphones.
When you aren’t performing or writing new material, what do you like to do for fun?
When I’m not working on Charlie Belle, I really like reading and listening to music, shopping, hanging out with my friends, and going to shows. Nothing too interesting!
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
When people listen to my music, I really would like them to pay attention to the lyrics. I think about lyrics most in a song, and I guess I want people to hear that. Lyrics mean a lot to me so I put a lot of work into them.