BOND: LE FEMME ORIGINAL STRING QUARTET
I first discovered the musical group Bond (billed as the ‘Original Electric String Quartet) http://
www.bondquartet.com/ when I was moonlighting as a store-setter for Barnes and Noble (just like it sounds, setting up and arranging new stores) – I worked on closing/ moving one store and opening two more, then stayed at the second store for about eight months (before I crossed swords one too many times with an inept new Music/DVD department manager!)
I worked some in Science Fiction books, but primarily in Music/ DVDs, as those were my main interests and knowledge bases. B&N’s music department bins were organized by very BASIC music categories: Classical, Blues, Rock, Country, Movie Soundtracks, etc. - with LOTS of blank bin dividers - AND a label-maker!
So, I re-arranged the bins and sub-categorized these music varieties by many magnitudes. I mean, if they did NOT want me to do that, they should NOT have given me blank bin dividers and a labelmaker, right? If you have an artist who plays music that fits into two different genres – then it makes sense to put his CDs in BOTH locations to ensure maximum customer notice, right?
Bond had just released their second album ‘Shine’ in October 2002, and it came in categorized as “Classical”. The cover caught my attention, so I put it on the store sound system and listened to it (we were given an official playlist – the music system was located in the Music Department, obviously - but we often sneaked other discs into it). I LIKED Bond’s music on this album, so, I then sneaked their first album ‘Born’ – also categorized as “Classical” - into the store playlist too, and, doggone, I liked it as well! (Copies of both CDs are, of course, in my library.) Admit it, when someone says “Classical music”, you think of some sleep-inducing boredom-fest by, oh, the East Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra (I first said Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – but it turns out, one of the ladies actually DID play with THEM!) or something like that, right? With a bunch of blue-noses and blue-hairs in tuxedos and cocktail dresses, puffing on cigarillos and sipping martinis in the lobby during intermission, while sneering at the hoi-polloi in the streets outside? [NOTE: That reminds me of a humorous – or possibly not - experience of my own at a concert at Houston’s Jones Hall some years ago. Maybe fodder for a future article. Or just ask me about it.]
So, as for the Classical music categorization - OK, I admit the instruments the girls play could be considered Classical in that sense – violin, viola and cello – and some of their music is by Classical composers – Vivaldi, Mozart, Strauss. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. But they certainly are not MY idea of Classical music! You will not sleep through anything Bond plays! Now that I explained how I came to find Bond, here’s their background: Bond was a ‘created’ music group – much like the ‘60’s TV group The Monkees. In the late ‘90’s a partnership of two music producers and a promoter decided to assemble a string quartet specifically of international, talented AND gorgeous female musicians. (Don’t accuse ME of sexism – I’m just reporting this story!) The stated idea of the promoters was that this music group would NOT be just about record profits, but would offer stylish – even glamorous - role models that young musicians interested in playing Classical music and instruments could identify with, while down-playing the “high-brow snobbery” too often associated with Classical music.
A world-wide talent search ensued, and eventually Haylie Ecker (first violin, Australia), Tania Davis (viola, Australia), Eos Counsell (second violin, Wales) and GayYee Westerhoff (Cello, England) were carefully chosen.
The four special ladies were indeed beautiful, as specified, but each was also a superlative and successful musician in her own right! All were alumnae of top music schools such as London’s Royal College of Music, London’s Trinity College, London’s Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall and Trinity College of Music, the Sydney Conservatorium, et al. They have all played individually with various international Cham-
ber Groups, Symphonies and Orchestras, as well as numerous other musicians on all varieties. They each were also music composers, arrangers and producers in their own right, both before and during their tenure in Bond.
Once Hailie, Tania, Eos and GayYee were assembled together in the studio, four preliminary music recordings were made, which immediately led to a multi-album contract with Decca Studios.
Three of these recordings were the backbone of their first album ‘Born’ in October 2000: “Duel” https://youtu. be/eVUi7VWFO84 ; “1812” https://youtu.be/HfgtyFHXplc ;
and “Dalalai” https://youtu.be /9Hb9rALEG70?list=RD9Hb9 rALEG70. The fourth recording “Victory” https://youtu. be/6zE558K3Xo8 was released as
their first single.
Bond was presented to the world in a lavish musical showcase – a live concert (with backing rock band, chamber orchestra and dancers) at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September 2000 - featuring, of course, the music from their
soon-to-be-released first album ‘Born’. (Filmed, and released on DVD a year later. Yes, of course it’s in my library!) https://youtu.be/ PfEWKwsagkI
Unfortunately, Bond’s first concert was NOT well received by London’s ‘ Ton’ (High Society) or Music Critics – the shortest cut was: “Victoria’s Secret models with violins” and the most scathing: “Say what you will about the liberties the bond string quartet takes with a piece of classical music, you can’t fault its sexually charged performances for being off key. Off color, yes. A bond concert is a melodic lap dance: the four sylphs do energetic things with their orchestral instruments, not to mention their hips, that would compel Stradivari to order an exorcism. One does not learn to straddle a cello that way at a conservatory.” [NOTE: Because of 007 franchise trademark issues, when they first appeared the girls had to be billed as either “bond” or “BOND”, not “Bond”. This restriction has since become moot – just like coke and xerox, apparently 007 was NOT successful in trademarking his name!] After their maiden performance was panned, Bond’s first album was in turn firmly snubbed (banned, in fact) from the UK Classical charts because it wasn’t “Classical” enough!
So Bond left England, and introduced (primarily) Asia and the world to their “Crossover Classical Instrumental” music – Classical music with heavy influences from pop, electronica, folk, jazz, Indian, Latin, Middle-Eastern – where they immediately hit #1 on Classical charts everywhere EXCEPT England! To date, Bond has achieved 15 Gold and 59 Platinum records, with well over 4 million discs sold!
In their earlier videos, the girls play traditional wood instruments - and still do, on occasion – but later, in Japan, Yamaha Musical Instruments technicians designed, specifically for each girl in the quartet, her own space-age electronic computerized marvel of a musical instrument – violins for Haylie and Eos, a viola for Tania and a cello for Gay-Yee. (And later, another viola for Elspeth when she joined Bond, and another violin for Tania when she changed instruments). Not the first electrified “Classical” instruments, by far, but at that time the most advanced! Futuristic-appearing electric string instruments are not that rare (a Tucker Barrett green acrylic electric violin even appeared in the ’97 Sci-Fi War movie “Starship Troopers”) but Bond’s prototype Yamahas are still one-ofa-kind instruments!
In the years since that first unsuccessful concert, Bond has NEVER stopped: touring for live concerts and shows, filming commercials and TV shows and award ceremonies, shooting music videos, making movie appearances, and releasing six more albums, although their main efforts have continued mostly outside of England itself.
They composed, played and appeared in early 2000’s advertising campaigns for the Marshal Field’s Department Store chain and for Daiichi Kosho (apparently the largest Japanese karaoke manufacturer – they also build airplanes!). Bond played at the 2003 Miss Universe Pageant in Panama City,
For the movie 2003 “Johnny English” soundtrack, Bond played a variation of “Kismet” composed by Gay-Yee, and also made their virgin movie appearance – playing themselves in a cameo! https:// youtu.be/tNR_fAQCxUk
In the 2005 movie “XXX: State of the Union” Bond also again played themselves in another – uncredited - cameo - and their music is not on the soundtrack. https://youtu.be/ vcxYNkFYOSs
In August 2008 Bond appeared on the Australian version of “Dancing With the Stars” https://
youtu.be/tmuW-XpO2kM playing the opening number, then for two of the contestants.
This was the last appearance of Haylie with Bond (she moved to Hong Kong to start a family), to be replaced by Elspeth Hanson (English). Elspeth plays the viola and is just as musically talented and experienced as the original members. When Elspeth joined, Tania changed from viola to first violin. All four band members composed, arranged, played and
appeared in an entire publicity campaign for the 2009 release for the Peugeot 308CC automobile, variations on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. All four tracks can still be downloaded free from Peugeot’s website, and ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ https://youtu.be/8rFth5EsPuQ were included on their 2011 ‘Play’ album. On the 2011 ‘Play’ album https:// youtu.be/NsUl9TtvGJQ, ‘Diablo’ https://youtu.be/NirRMrpbCFQ
became their first piece with vocals, featuring Eos vocalizing as well as playing. ‘ Play’ also features their arrangement of the song ‘Jai Ho’ from the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire – and presented the film’s producer and composer A. R. Rahman on vocals (I’m sorry, I can’t help thinking of the Pussycat Dolls version – ALSO featuring A.R. Rahman on vocals). Gay-Yee also composed the Russian-influenced song ‘Beatroot’ https://you
tu.be/gjK5911cWXI , which added a clarinet to their string quartet.
In 2011, Bond recorded – for Japanese release only – a medly of Lady Gaga hits. https://youtu. be/KpmTHkFWekQ (OK, I guess
everyone has done something they regret!) Bond performed in the London Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony https://youtu.be/D54Nv2wzqTY
. (Unfortunately playing second fiddle – as it were – to the controversial – and VERY bad singer - Russel Brand – if only they could have booted him and featured Bond alone!)
Well, I could go for several more pages with Bond’s appearances and accomplishments – but it all comes back to their music! Bond developed and exemplifies “Classical Crossover” music and style. Just the number of (mostly all-girl) groups following their lead – Amadeus from Romania (I really like them, too!); Escela from the UK (who use the same Yamaha instruments Bond does); Garcia from Hungary; the Electric Ladies from Lithuania; Kroma Quartet from LA (they bill themselves the first all-girl all-black string quartet); Fantasticoh! and Asturia Girls from Ukraine; Wonder Strings from Serbia; BaRock String Quartet from Venice; Phat Strad from Las Vegas; The Lady Godivas from London (no, they don’t play naked!) – the list goes on. Oh, let’s not forget a group I did an earlier article about, 2 Cellos from Serbia – even though they’re both guys - and Apocalyptica from Finland – honest, I don’t know if a couple of them are guys or girls! – but, anyway, they’re also Classical crossover groups.
Want to listen to something different than the odds and ends and rubbish available on Houston radio stations? So, try some Crossover Classical music – and maybe Bond in particular - and give them a listen.
[NOTE: And, again, please give a response to my Editor/Publisher and me – we are attention junkies, we want and need to know that you’re out there!]