Fa Bonx are a new, mysterious bunch who seem enamored with the forgotten junkshop glam rock also-rans of the early 1970s; bands like Jook, Hector, Hammersmith Gorillas, and a mess of other proto-punk groups even your Anglophile record collector uncle probably skipped on the way to sifting for T Rex and Sweet records in the used bins. But Fa Bonx are taking a reverse career tract from their heroes. Instead of starting out as a major label stab in the dark, tossing out one great single, and then being summarily forgotten once the trend has zipped by, Fa Bonx have chosen to be forgotten right now, after releasing their sole awesome single.
Jilto Boy/The Rinda (What’s Your Rupture?) is the best rock ‘n’ roll 7-inch to sneak into your mom’n’pop shop in 2014, a super-duper scrunchy slab of that ’70s glitter bombing with pub rock punch, stringy lead vox, and some sax shoving it all along, with a fresh feel from not aiming to ape the style exactly. But good luck figuring out any details from the curious foldout sleeve and info-less labels. Even after chatting with singer Alice Bonx, I’m still not sure if his British accent is a put-on. And even though he said he was calling from a park in Denmark, I swear I heard the Mr. Softee tune in the background.
Where is Fa Bonx based?
We’re kind of debased really, we live all over. At the moment I’m in Alborg, in Denmark, but I live in Pembrokeshire, Wales. But I don’t spend a lot of time there.
Well, because it sucks! I mean it’s beautiful. Dylan Thomas is from near there. And there’s lots of fish and petrified wood, just lovely. (Laughs). But it’s a bit isolated.
So you have to rush off to glamorous Denmark every once in a while?
Yeah, it’s my heaven! Train tracks in Alborg! Yeah, sorry about the trains keep going by. Anyway, I travel all over for my job, in electrics. The rest of Fa Bonx really don’t stay put anywhere for more than six months.
I just picked up your single a couple weeks ago at a local record store. They told me, “This is great, you’ve gotta get it!” I did, I loved it, and that’s about all I know of Fa Bonx.
Well, Kevin (Pedersen) from What’s Your Rupture, he’s the catalyst…
Pedersen cuts into the conference call: “Hey guys, just want to let you know that Nigel won’t be with us. He said he had ‘very important meetings to make.’ So I apologize. See you later.”
Okay, so Nigel is my older brother, and Bonx is our last name. Our parents are Dutch. And we were a bit sheltered. Fa means “between.” And as we were a bit sheltered, we felt kind of alone together, so the band name means, “between Bonx.”
How long have you been a band?
Not long as a band, though me and Nigel have been playing music together since we were children, well teenagers at least. Children? You can’t call it “music” if you’re that young. But Kevin was kind of the catalyst. We met him through our mutual love of Brett Smiley, played him some of our stuff, and he told us to persue it. That was about three years ago.
So you’re obviously a fan of the ‘70s glam, pub rock, junkshop stuff, whatever you want to call that early ’70s British stuff?
Yeah, I mean our parents are sort of irritatingly cool parents, so we were listening to their great records. Like it’s a child’s job to be an arse to the parents, to do something different. But they kind of already inhabited the place where the kid could’ve gone, so it’s irritating. So I got my toes wet in loads of that stuff. Like The Rinda song, it’s directly ripped off an Ike Turner tune, so that’s also what we’re coming from, more soul stuff. But yes, we got into the Hammerstein Gorillas a lot. David Bowie, the Sweet, John Vincent…
Never heard of John Vincent.
Oh, he’s a radio DJ in Australia, so he doesn’t really speak English, y’know, because he’s from Australia. (Laughs). So, me and Nigel were already talking this stupid talk: Fa Bonx, Rinda, silly words. That was already our thing. But John Vincent had this song called Ow Ya Goin. It’s English, I guess, but it’s like speaking in tongues, and we wanted to do that with Fa Bonx.
Yeah, one time my friend and I tried to talk to each other as if we were in Slade, like leaving out a lot of letters, all that. But we couldn’t keep it up for more than about an hour.
Oh yeah! We think language is the key to good music.
So what the hell is a “Rinda”?
Well, it’s like someone on the edge, like on a boundary, it’s a thing and also a person. Mostly representative of cowardice though, like someone on the outside who’s afraid to step in. There’s a line in the song, “Where’s your spine? Are you the Rinda?”
But you’re demanding that answer from the listener, right? You’re not writing about a friend of yours who was a Rinda?
Well maybe. You could have a friend who is a Rinda. You could be one. But you don’t seem like one at all. You seem like a cordial, courteous fellow, and I appreciate you talking to me.
So there’ve been a lot of those bootleg comps going around the last few years focusing on that early ‘70s forgotten, glammy junkshop singles sound from the U.K., and obviously with the internet one can find loads of it. There is a great book of artwork of those singles that came out about two years ago too, from the guy who runs the killer reissue label, Sing Sing Records, that also reissues lots of junkshop stuff. And there’s Mighty Mouth Music, Radio Heartbeat, and more who’ve dabble in that stuff. So it seems like it’s been a bubbling revisionist trend for a while, but you don’t see many actual new bands really taking on that sound. Maybe because those records, while they were considered “cheap” at the time—and really that had more to do with critical value judgements about their “importance” in a serious mainstream music era of folk singers and huge stadium bands seeming like pop gods or whatever. But anyway, those “chintzy” glam half-hit wonder singles actually had horns and backup singers and were actually kind of produced. And maybe it’s hard for a young band today to mimic that sound on stage and tour with it?
Yeah, I think the cool thing about the real glam, the big bands like Sweet and Slade, they were really produced and had good gear. The junk bands didn’t, and it was a bit of a quilty project, stitched together. And the reason that stuff sometimes sounds “big” and “produced” was that they didn’t know what they were doing, and they just tried anything to get the sound the bigger budget bands had. And that’s the best, like ‘70s DIY. Our single was a home recording. The horns on our record was my mum. My mum played saxophones on that!
Plans for more recording?
Yeah, I think Kevin is going to do the next single. We’ve got another song ready, called 49 Stick, and another with the working title of Diamond Bonx. It’s a completely made up language. I mean it exists, it’s not fantasy, but it’s just between us Bonx.
So are you going to wear masks to keep up the mystery?
Ah, that’s a lot of effort. I’d rather put the energy into something else. I’m all for dressing crazy, but I want to look cool too.
And I guess having your mom up on stage might not look cool?
Well, my mum’s only irritating to me, she’s probably cool to others. And I’m not offended that you think my mother might not be cool.
I’m sure she’s a lovely lady. So have you played live much?
No, never, not yet.
So if you do, are you going to drag your mother up there to play sax?
Oh, god, I would die if that happened!
Well you’re going to have to find someone, because someone’s going to want to see you play live one of these days.
I want to play live, but it’s hard to get everyone together as you can see with Nigel, he couldn’t even call today. Imagine trying to practice and tour?
Nigel is your manager too?
Well yeah, I guess he is.
When Kevin said I’d be speaking to you and the band’s manager Nigel, I had this image of the tour manager in Spinal Tap, carrying around a cricket bat.
Ha, he wishes! He’d probably be carrying around a bag of fucking Oreo cookies. But yeah, I would love to fucking play!
So run down the whole Fa Bonx lineup.
Okay: Nigel Bonx on guitar; Alice, me, does the singing; Wren Awlry on drums; Monroe Munton on bass; and Allan Allen, second guitar.
Allan Allen. Wow. You know the adage that if a guy has two first names—like John Steve or Robert Sam—you can’t trust him. So two of the same first names, wow, you really can’t trust that guy!
(Laughs). Yeah, or, maybe he’s a deity of some kind.
Doubt it. So Giuda—there’s a good modern kind of junkshop band. Would you consider them a peer?
I love that first record a lot, that’s a fucking cracking album! The second one, see, I think it’s hard to do music that is no longer relevant and have it be relevant without it looking like, y’know, like rockabilly. I like Giuda a lot, don’t get me wrong, I like the vibe, and they dress like normal blokes, so they’re not dressing up too much, just the cool album artwork and such. And actually, when you think about it, on that second Giuda record, they sort of did what a band like that back then in the ‘70s might have done on their second album—try to make something a bit more polished. I just like the first one more.
So then ultimately we can ascertain that essentially there are no other bands like Fa Bonx in the world right now.
Ah, that might be the best compliment we’ve ever received. Thanks! So hold your breath, brothers and sisters, we’ll be there soon!
From What’s Your Rupture, post-interview: “I have been on Alice a bunch, and am getting nowhere. He sent a selfie in but then said, “Do not use it.”