Interview with Jendayi Bonds of Charlie Belle
Hey everybody. Welcome to the YouTube Channel of the School of Feedback Guitar. If you dig interviews, make sure to subscribe. I'll be doing a bunch of them in the near and far future. With both musicians who are pursuing music in their regular lives as well as beginners who are just like learning to play guitar and making it a part of their lives. My guest today is Jendayi Bonds. Jendayi, thank you so much for coming in and letting me pester you a bunch of questions.
It's not even a problem. It's an interview, like the e-mail you sent me, please I'm not sure, just like, "Of course."
Well, you're very nice to come in.
Thanks for having me.
Since most of the people who are probably going to be watching this learners of guitar, I guess they probably would want to know when you started learning and playing guitar and when you started writing songs. If you wouldn't mind hipping us to it?
Yeah. I want to say I started learning how to play the guitar when I was seven so it was about 11 years if I'm good at math. And I didn't, like the way I was learning, it was pretty like, we were just learning how to play songs. And that we were learning by ear. So, I knew how to play a bunch of songs and I kind of knew how to play the guitar. I went to Girls Rock Camp when I was nine and I kind of learned that I could write my own music and I think I started doing some of that myself, obviously, I'm not a prodigy and my stuff was really bad when I was little but I think that opened the doors and then I actually started writing when I was about 11. So I was writing songs. Yeah.
What was it like jumping into writing your songs at first mean? I think a lot of people have that experience where it's really rough going at first at first
I mean, I don't know if that was your experience at all.
No, it definitely was.
I, obviously I was so little like I didn't have much to pull from. At that point, I wasn't listening to a lot of music and just have like a few artists that I listen to that I could call mine. Stuff that like my parents were listening to and so the only heavy emotions I was feeling was like my brother was pissing me off and all my songs were about how he made me mad. So, it was weird. They were kind of like poems at first and then I like kind of-- it was very separate, I would come up with like a cool chord progression and I'll write a poem and then kind of figure out seeing the poem weirdly so that like worked with the guitar, you know?
And then, just as I started listening to more music and I think I'm older, obviously and I got better at guitar, I got better at singing and writing. It just became easier to kind of started, mashing[?], making sense.
Ah, right. I think a lot of people when they're starting guitar as adults, they get a little bit down perhaps because like, "I'm just so far behind" and when you start younger I guess, like the benefit of that is that you do have like, "Oh you're just young. You just playing guitar and it's just getting better slowly as it is," I mean.
Yeah. I would say the can[?] to playing when you're little is when you're older, you're actively decide to pick something up, right?
And I was little and I think I chose guitar because when I was little, my parents just wanted me to play an instrument. So, I as a kid, I hated practicing. Honestly, I hated the guitar. I didn't want to play the guitar. I didn't want to practice, I never practiced. And when you're a little older and you pick it up, you're picking it up because you want to pick it up. So, I think like picking it up when I was young, I very much appreciate that and when I was seven, we're like rocky, it wasn't like-- I just like about playing the guitar when I was seven. I wanted to do other stuff but I'm glad that I-- like now in retrospect I'm like, yeah, that was awesome. Like, no regrets, you know what I'm saying?
Just like as a kid, it's hard to focus. Like, when you when you're little like that.
So I just got good. I think the only reason why I got better at the guitar is because of all of the years, but like definitely not, I did not practice for like the first set, definitely a few years playing the guitar.
Did playing in Girls Rock Camp inspire you to push your song writing and to push like performing a little bit more? Did it help you like feel like, "I got to get better like this and I kind of..." Do you know-- do you see where I'm getting at with this?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think with the writing it gave me like the confidence to start writing, just knowing that it was a possibility. Then it really like-- it's very like feel your own way so I didn't learn any song writing structure or anything like that, but like the fact that they just looked at me and they grabbed me by the shoulders and then like, "Hey! If you want to write songs, you can write songs."
I think that alone was like, "Whoa. Like, I can't-- people do this. And just the connection that all the songs that I've ever heard, somebody's written those, and I can do that too." So, I think like writing, Girls Rock Camp definitely showed me down the path of writing. But guitar performing I mean, that started earlier. Gyasi and I went to, we lived in Philly, or outside of Philly, we went to the School Rock in Philadelphia. When Paul Green still on deck. He was crazy, dude.
But we were performing all the time. Like world cafe and like all these crazy venues
We were little. We like choose a showcase like MoTown showcase, we're like Boogie[?] showcase or whatever.
And then like, for like a few weeks, we would all get song assignments, whatever. It was a bunch of kids, we're the littlest ones. Gyasi was like five.
He did not read. I remember because we had to sing some songs and I had to sing him the song so that he can remember, because he couldn't read.
Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But yeah, so we would like practice the songs over and over again like every week, a bunch of these high school whatevers, with a bunch of teenagers. We just play after certain whatever, we play a venue, sell tickets and everything. So I started performing when I was about eight.
On like stages and wearing make-up and everything. I was so little.
You got to have some like really crazy stories performing. I mean, you got to have like one that you would be willing to share, if you would be interested.
Yeah. And when I think about them, like it's so long ago. There was a time, we played a funk and reggae show, right? It was like the sign-up sheets. We played a funky reggae show and I sang Police and Thieves, I'm not sure if yo know that song. It's a really good reggae song.
And I sang it. And I was so small. Like people standing, like you couldn't see me. You could see everybody else but you couldn't see me. I was like eight or something.
Tell me there's like a video for this song somewhere.
There is-- my parents, trust me. My parents have all the videos.
I'd so like to see it!
Yeah, I know. I was so tiny. My mom would help do my make up. I probably looked like one of those little pageant girls, all that, like performing make up I had her put me in.
And everything like that. But like, I sing Police and Thieves and like people came in. Like, it was weird. Like, now being in a band, where you still live attracting a crowd but it was the first time I attracted a crowd, I think I'm always going to remember that.
And we also did a MoTown show and I really wanted to sing I Want You Back by the Jackson Five, because I knew, of course, the whole song.
But there were a lot of people wanting to sing that song, obviously and so I auditioned. I was seven, I was like I really, really, really, really, really want to sing this song and my teacher was like, "All right, sing it," and I just sing it like a cappella, like all of it.
And I was so little I could hit all the notes and everything, so it was like, "You got it." Yeah. There were a lot of cool memories. A lot of teenagers, I remember I was really little, I thought they were super old but they're probably like 13.
Oh, that always happens, no matter how old you are, somebody is like two years older than you, they were just like ancient.
Yeah, I know. We're small. Like the age, you had to be 12.
But my mom begged them to let us in. So I was 7 and Gyasi was 4. And I remember like so many of the teens was like, "What are these kids doing here? I'm like a parent to them."
But yeah, so performing, it kind of just happened where I wasn't going to perform, but I was just going to learn guitar. But you could also do performances so my mom was like, "Let's just start doing that too." We started performing.
And I went to Girls Rock Camp so I started writing and then we moved to Austin where everyone was in a band and so we started a band and like then, everything kind of just happened. It was never the goal but that's how it is now. You know?
Yeah. It's just you and Gyasi and Charlie Belle?
Yeah, we have like two bassists.
Okay. I was curious about that. I was thinking, I was like, I wonder if they ever just go like just straight guitar and drums. It's like--
We used-- we were like that for actually awhile.
And then we got a bassist, we're like, we just want to keep the bassist.
Kind of like Nirvana when they added like a second guitarist. It just fills it out.
It makes so much sense. Honestly, I want like five people on stage, like really, just the sound, you know what I'm saying?
But yeah. We got a bassist and now like, based on what shows we're playing and we'll be like main dude in Austin, Houston like, we have the dude who recorded our second EP up in New York with us. He plays some shows when we play up there. So just like depends on who's available and stuff like that.
Okay. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and talk about your experiences in the studio. Well, you just basically came back from a super, super marathon session of recording in the studio. I'm curious, if you wouldn't mind, just like talking a little bit about your experiences with it.
Yeah. I honestly-- recording, like blanket[?] like recording, I used to like say that, but every single time we've ever gone to the studio it's been different. I had different experiences, different places, different music, whatever, whatever. So this time around was definitely like something I have never done before. It was just like three weeks of like 12 hour days, non-stop recording, stop to eat, stop to drink water, over and over again. You know what I'm saying?
We whipped out like 10 songs in like a couple of weeks.
Yeah. It was a lot. Like back-up vocals and everything like that. And that's in upstate New York. Our labels like, based on New York so we go up to the studio who produce and lives in New York.
Which studio was it?
It's called Art Farm.
Okay. I don't know, I'm not familiar with it.
It's super, super tiny. It's like close to New York. So yeah, that's where we're working for our first LP. The second EP that we came out with was also recorded up there and that was maybe like a week of five songs. So that was also pretty intense too.
And the first time we recorded like officially for our first EP was actually a home studio in Austin, so that was really cool and like, first time we're in a studio, so it was kind just everything-- we're just taking everything in. But I like recording. I like to love doing my own backup vocals.
I love doing my backup vocals. I do that like on my house for fun, by myself. I just like harmonizing myself.
So did you? I figured like you'd be. I can tell you're that type of person.
I love it.
I mean, you've always been the person who's able to like just really zero in on melody and just go with it.
Yeah, it takes me a little. I like coming up with like cool melodies, like weird ones. So harmonizing with them is kind of hard, but I think I just like that challenge.
So I love going in and doing like the backup vocals after you've done the lead. [Inaudible]
Like that polishing part of it?
Yeah, it's so fun.
Do you like doing that with the guitar?
Like less, but yes, if that makes sense. I've never been like a guitar soloist. I play a lot of funky chords or like jazzy chords and stuff like that. I like playing chords I don't know the name of.
People like ask me and it just sounds like, I don't know. So I like playing a little like guitar melodies over my stuff and overlapping. In the studio, I love going in and playing in an electric track and then playing the same track but acoustic.
Like the same exact guitar parts? Same exact guitar thing?
Same exact guitar part, same.
Do you guys like pan them little left and right or is it just like... I'm just curious.
No, it's just means a little thick. I just really like that sound. I think all of my songs, because I write all my songs on an acoustic guitar, like originally, so I just really like that, even if it's really small, I really like a little bit of acoustic.
Guitar on there. Because it feels like take it back, if you take all of it away, it's an acoustic guitar song, so.
I think that's kind of a [Inaudible] song, if you can get rid of a lot of the excess stuff and just have a just straight--
It' still a song.
Yeah, it's still a song you can play, busking on the side of the road if you damn well please.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And it's altogether, you don't need this huge ensemble to play it, if you didn't want to.
Yeah. And that is also like a challenge in recording. My producer these days, he loves big sounds. His favorite word is 'bombastic'. I'm not lying. Let's figure out a way to make this more a bit bombastic, right?
So he wants to add all of these stuff.
And it sounds great, you know what I'm saying? But I really like to keep it kind of close to home, we're just like a better-- we're a live band, naturally. We grew up in Austin.
So we are used to playing live shows. And I like my music to sound like it, not completely studio-crazy or whatever, we could add like anything we wanted but I try my best to-- I go a little crazy at the back of all this stuff.
You never know. You might go crazy with the Symphony Orchestra that's touring...
He truly suggested that. No, no, no, no. He literally suggested that.
Get out, really?
Literally. I wish I was making that up. He actually did that.
"We need to get an orchestra in here... Stat!"
He said, "I have a couple of friends, whatever, they could bring the whole gang." And then like, I [inaudible].
That's amazing. That's so amazing. And was he one of those guys who could play a bunch of instruments and, "I'm okay, right on?"
Cool. Very, very, very cool. Well, if you're down with it, perhaps we could play that song we were working on earlier.
And, well actually, I was working on it earlier.
Oh please no. I forgot like all the lyrics, so.
It's [inaudible]. All right, we're going to play a tune. We're going to play well--
It's too[?] [inaudible].
Actually, she's going to play it and I'm just going to fake my way along here.
Dig it. The pleasure is all mine. The pleasure is all mine. Jendayi, thank you so much for coming in and being so gracious to share your songs and what you have to say about music[?].
You keep on thanking me but I just need to thank you. Thank you so much for teaching me.
Ah, of course.
You made me practice.
Yeah. Like I didn't practice for any guitar teacher until I started playing with you.
Oh, you poor thing. You poor thing.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Well, yeah. Thank you, seriously the pleasure's all mine. And thank you also YouTube audience for coming in and sticking it out to the end here, I think it was well worth the wait, listening to music here by Jendayi. And be sure to check out Charlie Belle, they're going to be playing ACL this fall and they're going to be-- they're obviously going to be playing a lot of really great venues and festivals in the future.
Make sure to check them out, I'm leaving a link in the description. But in any event, make sure to subscribe as well to the channel and we'll be doing a bunch of interviews like this in the near and far future. And it would be great to have you around.
But, I think that's all I got for today. Thanks again Jendayi.
And have a wonderful rest of your day, bye for now.