These Brittle Bones Interview

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Raised in Singapore, but now residing in London, Chris Jones, who performs under the name These Brittle Bones began out of his bedroom aged only 12. He has released four EP’s, writing and producing the majority of the music himself from his bedroom in Singapore.

In this time he has managed to feature on Spotify’s official Lush and Atmospheric playlist for over a year as well as perform at some of the top music events, including Fred Perry Subsonic, Mosaic music festival and was even the youngest ever performer on the main stage at Music Matters. He has also been acclaimed by some of Singapore’s largest publications, such as Time Out, The Straits Times, Juice and Nylon as welled as being retweeted by American actress Chloe Grace Morëtz!.

Now Chris is living in London and balances his music whilst studying English Literature at University College London (UCL), the young artist is releasing new material with his latest single Healing.

How would you describe your sound/vibe?

My sound has definitely evolved since the earliest tracks I started putting out when I was
thirteen (‘Flecks’ in 2012, ‘Anchor Bleed’ in 2013), but I like to think that the emotional
undercurrent of my music has remained largely intact. I’ve always been interested in
atmospherics and electronics, but for a long time lacked the ability to create such soundscapes in my music. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt a lot about production techniques and have since been able to channel the original emotive core seen on my earliest tunes into new and exciting ambient mediums. I’d currently describe it as ‘ambient indie pop’ or similar, but labels are always restrictive… I can’t promise that tomorrow I may wake up and want to write a garage rock tune, haha!

How did These Brittle Bones begin?

I’ve always been interested in music and similar modes of expressing/documenting/recording the self, but as a proper ‘project’ it was likely around 2011 that I began to consciously upload my material online and to play shows. I’d been living in Singapore for a few years and began to get closer to local producers and musicians who were very kind to me in those early days (and still are), though I’ve since taken more personal control over the project. I played my first show as These Brittle Bones in 2012, was playing local festivals in 2013 and by the end of my time in Singapore, I’d opened for Perfume Genius and played for Fred Perry a few times. It was a real journey – emotionally in particular. Now I’ve moved to London for university, the project continues but also starts again in some sense; a lot of my followers are (naturally)
based in Asia and thus my move to the UK sees me starting here relatively new, which is both refreshing and daunting!

Where does the name These Brittle Bones come from?

I was massively into Daughter around 2011, particularly their early EP, ‘His Young Heart’.

I’ve spoken elsewhere about how I connected with a particular lyric from their track,
‘Candles’ (‘Well I have brittle bones it seems / I bite my tongue and torch my dreams’) and was particularly attracted to the kind of self-destructive energy this song explores. I’m quite an emotionally-volatile individual, and feel very deeply, and the moniker came to represent these aspects of my personality. It (somewhat paradoxically) gave me a newfound strength – that in admitting my inner frailty I was able to exercise control and manipulate it in creative and artistic ways.

What inspired “Healing”?

‘Healing’ was written at a time of emotional recuperation, very soon after the publication of my last EP, Effects. On that record, I was exploring the death of my grandmother and the impact of a breakup and felt that I had (in a personal sense) successfully purged any lingering demons I needed to get rid of. Far from lacking material to write about, I sort of consciously wanted to move away from exploring the themes of loss/grief that I’d written about on that EP and embrace a new kind of optimism I had found through the recovery of emotional wounds; my figurative “healing”. It was written in June/July 2016 – a time of great political change – and it seemed I couldn’t really escape from the themes of remedy/resolution/curing which I wanted to record on the song.

Where did the idea for the video come from?

The video was recorded around September 2016, when I knew I’d be moving to the UK for university exactly a year later, and thus I very consciously went about making the video a kind of homage to Singapore – the city I’d spent my most formative years and had been living in for longer than the UK. I was in contact with a local director called Jorik Dozy (who works at ILM) and he felt very much in tune with the themes of the track. He developed an extremely ambitious concept involving attaching blue LED lights to a BMX bike, and following the emotional journey of an individual as he roams the (somewhat ethereal) nightscape of Singapore, and finally finds personal release in the places/individuals he meets along the way. I was very inspired by Dickens’ essays on ‘night walking’ at the time –something I was all too familiar when jetlagged from the eight-hour time difference between the UK and Singapore – and too would find myself biking in the very locations we would later shoot the video in. The experience of the main actor in the video (biker Lexington Tan) is essentially that of my own, but I was very interested in deflecting my personality onto an actor for this video to lend it a kind of universal feeling, given this experience of packing up to move back home was a communal one shared by all my schoolmates in Singapore.

What inspires you?

Ooph. Just about everything! I’m studying English, and I very consciously approach the act of writing music in a ‘literary’ manner, so to speak – I’m interested in the parallels between literary and musical writing in general, where these crossover/diverge – and concern myself with symbolism/imagery/sound patterning etc. I’m hugely inspired by the writings of T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, and often like to explore the feelings their work stirs in me musically, if that makes sense. It’s somewhat cliché, but I’ve always been a bit of an outsider to my age group/locale/even gender, and music/writing has often been a kind of mental exercise to chronicle my reactions to these feelings and (to some extent) find a release from them.

More recently, on the material I’ve written since ‘Healing’, I’ve been very aware of writing about my emotional/mental response to place and geography – having moved from Singapore to the UK in this time – and particularly in response to the impact of urban place on my ‘inner life’. I’m very interested in documenting processes of thought and feeling more broadly (hence Eliot/Woolf), which is something I’ve taken from my studies in literature and began to apply to music.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Lots. I think Nils Frahm’s latest LP, All Melody, is my record of the year even though we’re only in June – I saw him at the Barbican earlier in 2018 and am still somewhat in recovery (!). Jamie Isaac is someone I’ve been following for a long time and I love his new record, (04:30) Idler. When I came down to London to write ‘Healing’ actually, I almost exclusively listened to Couch Baby. A few weeks later, his music came on when I was serving coffee in Singapore at a café I used to work at, and I basically teared up in front of a customer because of how much his stuff reminded me of London – the city I still can’t believe I get to call my current home.

How would you say the music scene in Singapore differ to the UK?

There’s much crossover. Singapore is obviously a lot smaller, and thus has a smaller number of musicians/listeners – but the talent unbelievably comparable. I began playing music there at a time when there was a lot of talk about local, Singaporean music having a distinct lack of support amongst its residents, but I think stigma/reluctance to listen to local music has been successfully combatted in recent years since the rise of streaming platforms and international opportunities for Singapore-based musicians.

How are you finding balancing student life with your music?

It is, naturally, very challenging at times. The project almost has to take a sort of back-burner during term-time, and I tend to spend the summer/holiday-time quite strategically allowing myself time to write as I know I won’t have this luxury when uni is in. I do find that the two interact in all sorts of interesting ways, however, and I’d definitely never turn down an opportunity if I’m able to rejig my studies in some way.

What was it like when you were retweeted by Chloe Grace Moretz?

Insane!! Completely unexpected and came entirely out of the blue. She tweeted my track
‘Numb’ from the Effects EP with the caption, ‘vibes’, so I’m very pleased to hear she was
vibing to that song as much as I am, ha!

What does the future hold for These Brittle Bones?

It’s impossible to tell! Hopefully lots. I feel more confident as a writer in the sense that I am very alert right now as to what I want to write about, how I want it to sound, and the like. I’m very excited about the new material that’s been written since ‘Healing’ – which I think is bolder and better – and am hoping it won’t be long until this comes out. Chris Jones, however, has two more years of uni at least; I’m very dedicated to my English studies and like to envision a future where I’m able to pursue literary research whilst simultaneously writing and performing the music it inspires. I guess we’ll just have to see!

You can listen to Healing by These Brittle Bones on Spotify below

 

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