BARE BONES BAD TO THE BONES
WITH FIRE IN THEIR EYES AND WHISKY IN THEIR BELLIES, BARE BONES GO ALL IN ON BADHABITS. BY MATT DORIA
B.adHabits is an album so hard, fast and deliciously obnoxious, you can almost feel the tattered leather jacket hug your shoulders tighter with every sharp and distorted wail. The debut full-length from Sydney punk’n’roll unit Bare Bones was a long time coming, brewing slowly in the shadows ever since the August ’14 release of their second EP, CutThroatLiving.
“We started writing pretty much as soon as we finished that EP,” says axeman Chris Breedon. “We wrote probably 20 to 25 songs, but the problem is that we’re all perfectionists. We’ll finish a song and we’ll go back and play it, and we’ll be like, ‘Nah, we can do that better.’”
Such compulsive ideals are uncommon in punk, but don’t count that as a reason to blow their credibility off: BadHabits is loose. It’s drunk, sweaty, coarser than sand and simply begs for the mosh pit. But it’s also veraciously keyed-in: every howl marries the dynamic between punchy drums and bubbling bass, and every guitar take is blisteringly tight.
“I think a lot of that comes down to our drummer Chris [Blancato] because he was also the engineer for this album, and he’s the biggest perfectionist in the band,” Breedon continues. “Like, James and I will record a riff and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s sweet’ and he’ll go, ‘Nup, do it again.’ And he’ll keep going to the point where you’re just like, ‘ F***, it’s good enough! No one’s going to notice,’ but he’ll be like, ‘If I notice, it’s not good enough.’”
“It got a bit heated at times,” chuckles fellow shredder James Dean. “I’d be sitting in the studio going, ‘I literally cannot hear what you’re saying is wrong with this!’ and he’d be like, ‘It just has to be better, you’re not playing it good.’ But that’s a good thing because it pushes you to be a better musician, and to work more as a whole band. This album was written by all five of us, whereas with the two EPs, Tom [Kennedy, vocals] did all the lyrics and Chris [Blancato] and I did all the music. Everybody has their own sort of style and their own voice in the way they play, so when you play somebody else’s writing, you really pick up on that – y’know, the different aspects of an instrument or the little notes they enjoy using.”
That emphasis on teamwork led to an album that feels as broad in scope as its cover art is cluttered. Though a unified sonic theme crusts the album at large, no two of its 12 tracks sound alike, which – hot
takealert – is refreshing when you consider how stilted most hardcore albums sound once you reach the midway point. As for the guitars, longtime frothers of the Bones will notice more riffs and bigger melodies, which was the result of an ambitious Dean having his limits unlocked by an extra six strings.
“This was the first time Chris and I actually got together and wrote the guitar parts as a two-piece,” he offers. “CutThroat was written just as he was joining the band, so we didn’t have a chance to really flesh that out. But this time, we were able to take the rhythm section and hammer in a lot of gnarly leads, harmonise with each other and play a few extra solos here and there. A lot of that was peppered in towards the end of the recording process, too, listening back to what we had and going, ‘This would sound sick if we played over it like this,’ and stuff like that.”
With a few years behind their previous efforts, plus the hundreds of shows they racked up in support of them, Dean and Breedon had a chance to calculate what the next step would be for their combined artistry. “We just wanted to make the riffs better and catchier and, to a degree, more technical,” Breedon insists. “When you listen back to the first two EPs, they’re sick, but the guitar work isn’t that complex.”
Rest assured, the live shows – of which Bare Bones have a goddamn truckload lined up for 2017 – won’t suffer at the hands of a convoluted mix. The riffs on
BadHabits aren’t anywhere close to simple, but the blokes insist they’re no challenge to replicate.
“It’s something that we never really think about until a song is done,” Dean says of their approach to writing for the stage. “But with Bare Bones, it’s in the name: I wouldn’t call it ‘basic’, but it’s not like we need to run any backing tracks or like we’ve got 10,000 things happening at once. We just plug into some Marshalls and jam it out.”
“We make sure that if we can record it, we can play it live,” agrees Breedon. “It’s as simple as that.”