It's daunting being in a male dominated industry like the band scene. It's easy to compare yourself to the few other women that are in it and doubt yourself and give up on the whole thing.
Bonneville is an integral part of Yorkshire’s burgeoning alternative music scene. Known for her vocal talents in Gwen and South Bank Suicide Club, her distinctive voice has already made an impact in York, with these first few original songs being the start of a much-awaited solo project. Combining elements of confessional lyricism with a deep immersion of pop sensibility, Bonnie Milnes is one to watch in 2018.
One&Other: Bonnie, I have seen you walking round York dressed as a giant Primate - care to explain?
Bonnie Milnes: Ah, the gorilla. It’s not like my alter ego - haha - it’s for the track ‘Chimpanzee’. It was supposed to be a chimpanzee suit but the budget didn’t stretch that far.
You know in the 1960s, they shot a chimpanzee into space. For a period of time after coming out of a relationship and moving to a new city, I felt like that chimpanzee. The video is trying to explain that feeling, and I think it does so really well.
(It’s the first of three songs and videos coming out over the next month.)
O&O: Tell us all about this new band: how did it start? How does it differ from Lungs and are you collaborating with any of the same people?
BM: I was at the Hovel one night (Young Thugs Studios), with Dave (Washing Machine Repairman), Jonny (Hooker) and some other mates and I’d been thinking to myself, "I wanna make a record here" but because I don’t sing unless people ask, yeah. I just thought, on the offchance they ask me, I’ll play them. They asked at the end of the night, "you got any new ones Bonnie?" I was like yeah, I got three actually. Played the three and they all liked them, I think it was Jonny who said, "You should make an EP!" and I said, "Yeah I want to, can you help me?" and we did it.
I’ll sing other people’s songs no bother, but that night I was so nervous. Kinda, like showing everyone my diary. But I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and I think and these songs are just an extension of that. They’re about issues which I’m sure a lot of people relate to, I’m just telling a story that hopefully people can engage with.
My main man Theo writes for the other bands. The Lungs/Gwen play very fictional tracks. They’re set in a world that isn’t ours and about people that we don’t know. I love being in bands, Theo and the band are my best mates and I much prefer working with people rather than on my own. I can’t wait to play with them again on 29 March supporting The Howl & The Hum.
Dan Lucas, Bradley Blackwell and Jonny Hooker are three of the best musicians in York and I have been lucky enough to work with them on the coming EP. Michael Simmison on keys and Tom Beer’s on it somewhere playing trombone I think.
O&O: Is there a song we can share?
BM: Here, you can have ‘Chimpanzee’ and there’s another coming out in a week or two.
O&O: Have you any live shows planned?
BM: Yes, the show of all shows at the end of April. One&Other will of course get front row seats. Probably somewhere very classy like the Minster.
O&O: What made you go it alone?
BM: I’ve got a lot of songs and I know they’ve got potential, I saw an opportunity where I was in York for a while with the support of a great label and went with it.
O&O: What’s been your proudest moment in your career so far?
I’m so lucky I’ve played loads of shows around the country with my best friends in the world. I’m proud to be in such a sick band doing what we love. In terms of a ‘career’ I wouldn’t call it one yet but I reckon that’s changing over the next few months.
O&O: Do you have any words of wisdom for young girls (and boys) sitting at home, singing into their hairbrush, desperate to get on stage and sing?
BM: I’ll aim it at the girls cos this is the advice I wish someone had given me. It’s daunting being in a male dominated industry like the band scene. It’s easy to compare yourself to the few other women that are in it and doubt yourself and give up on the whole thing. When I first played with a band I was well nervous and there were a thousand times I could have so easily stayed within my comfort zone. I didn’t know one other girl in a band at this point and constantly felt out of place (that’s bad). But I said ‘yes’ and I asked for things and played loads of times until I stopped looking at the floor and started having the best time on stage.
Strong people lift each other up, everyone is rooting for you (promise).
O&O: Who do you look up to in the industry?
BM: Musically, Paris Hilton… aesthetically Nicole Richie.
No… it’s got to be Gaga. She is insane, wow. I had tickets to go see her last month and she cancelled. Get well soon Gaga, I love you. Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief), Molly Rankin (Alvvays) are all really cool women who make good music.
O&O: You have ten mins to write a song (hypothetically) - how do you find inspiration?
BM: I dunno man, I’ve got to be in a strange place to write a track. I normally write about love, which is the strongest, strangest feeling and really, I can only write a song when I feel something which I couldn’t say in words. I could write a song in ten minutes but it probably wouldn’t mean much to me.
Dan Lucas and I wrote a country song, ‘Route 25’ in about 10 minutes which is a Bruce style American anthem. Yet to be recorded.Young Thugs Records