an evening with bond
interview and concert review
Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center
image © Decca Music Group 2004
A string quartet you say? Yes, these four beauties rip apart the longstanding tradition of women adorned in long black dresses hidden behind a music stand playing without emotion. Bond derive their melodies from classical material but have crossed over into the world of contemporary music with their own unique arrangements, not only with upbeat percussion and rich orchestration that accompanies the virtuosos, but with pop styling and on-stage choreography as the images within this article clearly illustrate. Two of the newer pieces let the band take one step further across the line for an instrumental group--they sing. Why not flaunt all of your assets?
And so we caught up with Bond--Eos Chater, Tania Davis, Haylie Ecker and Gay-Yee Westerhoff--prior to their soundcheck in York, Pennsylvania for an intimate chat about their American tour, the origins of their music, personal feelings about the classical crossover genre and their approach to the craft in this exclusive interview. Classified (review) is the group's fourth and most ambitious album yet material for their concert was drawn from their back catalog as well. Their debut Born (2001) was followed by Shine (2002) and Remixed (2003). They have sold millions of copies of these albums worldwide and have a huge European following.
Our concert review shows they have gone beyond the electric style the group are so well known for. It provides insight into Bond's acoustic set during the concert's mid-section as well as the more dance-oriented material from their Remixed collection that concludes their performance. Visitors interested in catching a stage performance but missed them on this tour will be pleased to know they are returning to America and points around the globe next year, and that there is a DVD that you can play at home entitled Bond Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2001). Come into the world of Bond. Just Bond.
Hello everybody! So how has it been out on this tour?
Eos:It's been really great actually because we've been to places we haven't been before, some smaller places. In February we went up in Seattle, and east and down to Puerto Rico as well. It's been really good fun, a big bus road trip.
But you're ready to go home at this point?
Tania: Yeah, we've been on tour for two months actually, which is four weeks in Asia, and then two weeks in Australia before we came to the States. And this is now our fourth week here so it will be nice to get home and see family and friends--and get all that shopping in.
I'm surprised you haven't done a lot of shopping while you were in America and travelling abroad.
Eos: We have. I've had to buy another suitcase!
Who decided on the name Bond for the band and what's the meaning behind it?
Haylie: We were all in rehearsals and were trying to figure out a name and we just watched the previous night, Dr. No. And we were talking about the music of John Barry cause we were still sort of putting together tracks that we wanted. We had all sorts of ideas and John Barry was good at that stringy, filmic sound and we wanted to do a track like that. And on the back of that Bond sort of appeared, and it's a really, really good name, cause it's a play on words as well as when you make a connection with the actual bond. It's like a bond of friendship and music.
So how did you guys all hook up with one another?
Gay-Yee: The common ground is that we all came to London to study music at various music colleges. Haylie and Tania are friends from Australia and they both studied at the Guildhall School of Music. And I'd met Eos at a recording session. We were like two groups of friends and we met Haylie at a party. And everyone kind of knows each other in the string world and we all became great friends. We all stayed there and studied there and lived in London and never moved away.
How did you connect with your producers?
Eos: Well, we talked to lots of different managers and found this manager at the beginning who was really good and he funded us doing some demos and we got four demos done. They had a good sound to them and it was a big production in a way and to kind of really stand out from the crowd.
Then we did showcases for two or three days, back on back really, we were doing about five a day to different record companies. And he had lots of mates as well so he was getting good people from record companies.
And in the end it came down to Universal and EMI who were bidding against each other, and Universal had the best deal, so we went with them! It just went from there. We've changed management since then.
You spend alot of time together. Do you need to spend time alone?
Tania: We're all really good friends. We never share hotel rooms. People have some vision sometimes that we all share a house in London together and that we have hotel rooms with bunk beds or something. And it's nothing like that. Even though we travel on the bus, we get rooms for the day on our own. We actually have a fantastic group of people with us as well. We've actually got a crew of nine people on the road and when we started off the tour in Asia, there were sixteen of us, so in a way the group's gotten smaller and smaller. It's never really a problem. If we ever argue about anything we just come out and say it. We've been doing this for five years now so we wouldn't have stuck through it if we didn't actually like each other.
Gay-Yee: We all just know each other and naturally mingle. We're all in our hotel rooms, and we just stay a little longer, but we always meet up anyway.
What interests do you have outside of the music?
Haylie: We just love life, so when we do get time off, obviously when we're with Bond it's all about travelling and doing concerts but it's really important to enjoy yourself as well. You work hard and you have to play hard to counteract for working hard. So whether it's going to have a really nice dinner or going to the cinema or outdoors. Sometimes when you've been on the road a long time you feel like you're in a bubble and you've just got to break out of it and go for a really massive long walk in the rain and getting really wet and just feeling normal. It's all about that really. A lot of the time if we get one day, like today, we just sort of sleep. It is slightly exhausting. And we love to shop.
Yeah, you came to the real shopping capital of Pennsylvania.
Haylie: We couldn't find a Starbucks actually, anywhere around. It's kind of the wake-up of our day. I like Starbucks' coffee.
When do you have time for relationships? Any significant others?
Gay-Yee: Yeah, I think we're all "in love" as one says. We're all in love in whatever shape or form. I think that we're really lucky that we all have partners that are very supportive of what we do and that makes it a lot easier. They understand the business we are in because they are in similar businesses and such like. A couple of musicians and in entertainment and they are very understanding. We bring them out, we fly them out to places. We have huge phone bills and e-mails and every kind of way you can communicate, we do it. If you want it to work, it will work and you make it work. So it's marvelous.
Any other marriages besides Tania's planned?
Eos: Yes, I'm married. I've been married for four years.
Who chooses your clothes for your performances?
Eos: We have a stylist called Shevaughn, he's great. We all go through magazines before every tour and say what kind of styles we like and we come up with an overall concept for the four of us. And then we all kind of do individual things around that because we all like different things keeping kind of a theme throughout. And this time Wheels and Doll Baby, which is like a company from Sydney, and that's their name and they've given us loads of clothes to wear. So we've gone through most of them. We get to keep them. We've done all the concerts in them. They probably wouldn't want them back, I don't think. It's good fun. Cause I was a bit of a tomboy when I was a kid but now I think I'm making up for it--by a long way! I want that pretty pink skirt please.
Have you considered other careers outside music?
Tania: Whenever we do photoshoots we always complain all day. We have to get there early in the morning, you know sit in make-up. People don't realize how many hours of hanging around you do before the shoot. So I think that's really turned us off modeling in a way. We have had some great opportunities.
Like Issey Miyake, the designer, designed a whole range of clothes around us. We were the whole inspiration of his line and that was great. It was the first time he designed for women wearing high heels which I'm sure lots of women were very annoyed about who enjoyed comfortable things.
We've had an affiliation with Marshall Fields, the department store, last year and we've performed at some big fashion events that they had. We've done some music for films. We have a cameo coming up in the sequel to XXX, the action film. We've done some music for it as well. So there are loads of different things we can do--more fun things than having our picture taken.
So what kind of music do you find yourselves listening to all the time?
Haylie: Everything. We've got those iPods. We load them up and stick them on shuffle. So you never know what you're going to get. We went through Texas and that area and I bought some Willie Nelson and other country which is quite cool. I think the thing about being a musician is to be really open-minded and just always be on the lookout for whatever is going on. And I think the whole concept of Bond is taking inspiration from lots of different styles of music with the whole no-barrier thing. So it's really important to be open-minded which we all are.
I don't think we've ever heard you do country.
Gay-Yee: We joked about doing a mock-country between us, when we were doing your track [talking to Tania, then hums "whoop doo doo, doo doo doo ..."]. It's very private, so far. It would be quite interesting.
What's the thing that's most influenced your music?
Gay-Yee: Obviously classical from where we are from. That's the way we've been taught and that's what we've studied throughout our lives. So that's always going to be there in us. And our instruments are classical, generally. They are classical instruments. But, as Haylie said, we just draw inspiration from everything we like. And obviously the classical thing comes because we're classical format in that we're a string quartet. But then, we do our own thing. It's hard to pinpoint it, I think you just have to enjoy it. It's a conglomerate.
How do you get that big Bond studio sound to work on stage?
Eos: Differently on this part--the American leg of the tour--'cause on the rest of the tour we had a band with us. When we were in Asia, we had a four- or five-piece that was playing, and we also kind of adapt the tunes to playing live. But with this part of the tour, because just the four of us are playing at smaller venues generally, doing club things, we have track as well.
How do you put it all together and what can we expect to hear tonight?
Eos: There's three sections to the show. The first section we play on the electric instruments but we've got track as well so there's a bit of orchestral backing or drums and brilliant beats and everything. In the middle section, we play on acoustics and it just brings it right back down to the four of us playing on our own. It's really good fun and we kind of do some gypsy things like a Beatles cover and filmic stuff. And then we go back to the electrics at the end and it kind of gets a bit more dancy and we get people up on their feet. It's quite a nice balance within the show. It would be great to come back to America with a whole band and do it like that. It gives it more energy, especially for us as well on stage.
Gay-Yee: We're paying our dues in America. We did a club tour previously in August and we've stepped up to theatres. And I think we're just working and working the gig scene. But it is a good thing to do, it's been this tour, all areas.
How has the response been from the Americans?
Tania: It's been great. We've done signings after most concerts which isn't something we normally do. And it's been fantastic to meet people who've said "I drove five hours to come to your concert." Or, "I flew in from Mexico to come to your concert." Even last time in New York, a guy flew from Russia to New York. He planned his trip around our concert. That's really cool. It's so nice to meet the fans and see who actually buys your music. We get a lot of families with young kids who have taken up instruments cause they like what we do and that's really sweet meeting the kids.
Haylie: There was a whole ice skating troupe at our last concert cause they do routines to Bond music. And they were like, "Can you sign our ice skates."
Do you miss the rigid classical regime?
Haylie: No, not at all really. I think we've done the whole rigorous training thing and we were in practice rooms until we were about twenty-two or twenty-three.
So is it that you all decided to rebel?
Haylie: I think what's really, really important about music is that music is just there to be enjoyed and you have to keep fresh and whether that's you're creatively challenging yourself or you have to just enjoy it and I think if you're enjoying it, then music is conveyed to your audience. And that's the reason we got together in the first place.
We just wanted to have fun and do something while we were young and something different. But, having the training is a skill that you'll always have. We've been playing since we were about four and if ever anyone wanted to go back and do that kind of thing then maybe down the future.
But I think one of the best things about Bond is, if I can talk for myself, being in the classical regime, it's very narrow-visioned and tunnel-visioned. And you're not really aware of a lot of stuff that's going on outside of, because once you're setting up a Paganini Caprice or whatever.
But when you are doing Bond, you are completely open to this whole new world whether it's hip-hop, world music, anything, there's so much out there. It just makes you so feel so alive and invigorated you think, "where am I going to go next?" It's very very exciting. Well I don't think any of us miss it as such, cause there's always something there that's fresh and new.
Who would you compare yourselves to?
Gay-Yee: I don't know because I can't think of any other string quartets that are doing what we're doing.
How about Vanessa-Mae?
Gay-Yee: I used to play with her at some point. And having played with her and having been in Bond, I feel people would probably draw comparisons in a crossover way but I really feel we are completely different. She'd play straight classical pieces with a beat but she'll be playing the whole piece right the way through. I think that is where we differ as well. We may take a classical theme, like seven notes, and then we develop it and develop it into an original piece which then becomes ours and it has the essence of Bond. It's hard to compare because I don't want to compare us to other people that are classically influenced that play a straight classical piece and put beat underneath it. Because that's definitely what we don't do so I wouldn't compare ourselves to any of those people. That's cause there are people like Skye and all those sort of things--ain't nothing to do with us!
Eos: "Hooked on Classics."
What is the holy grail of classical music that you would like to perform--or to tear apart and do something with?
Eos: Oh wow, that's really hard because I think there are some things you kind of don't want to touch. I really love Mozart's "Requiem" -- it's actually gorgeous. I think there are some things that work and it's a very difficult thing for us to find the things that we think will work. It's a tricky path to tread really. And it's only in this third album that we've started doing that thing with the classical themes a bit more. We choose very carefully which ones we think will work and which we think won't. And I think if there's something like that you couldn't really break it up into pieces.
Gay-Yee: The holy grail is that some things are sacred.
Tania: A lot of the stuff we have taken melodies from is often romantic music, sort of Tchaikovsky or Borodin or it's more melodic. But it's true--it's more the rich melodies rather than people say things about, "what about Mozart or Beethoven?"
Eos: They're suggesting Mozart working with a beat? And you just think ...
Gay-Yee: Yeah, the "Ring Cycle." No!
So is the next album in the works?
Haylie: Yeah, well I think we should get one out pretty quick. It's really nice doing the touring thing and we get to spend lots of quality time so there's lot of time to talk about it.
Gay-Yee: And we'd like to do an acoustic album at some point.
Eos: Yeah, unplugged.
Gay-Yee: And we're going to a DVD as our next thing. As in another DVD. We're looking for locations.
We haven't seen the other one you did yet.
Haylie: Yeah, you have to watch it, really. We had these hideous outfits. They were like leather and had them fitted before we walked on stage, like a half hour before. They actually stretched during the performance because everyone got hot and sweaty and we had our battery packs, like belt packs on the back of them. I just remember us slowly revealing. It was like a Brazilian number.
Thank you so much for the interview.
All: Thank you, bye, thank you, see you later!
Bond performed live at the newly renovated Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, Pennsylvania on 03 December 2004. This performance was the third to last with Atlantic City and New York dates the only remaining on this tour. The theatre management was warm and receptive in welcoming us to the 1,268 seat venue. The Strand Theatre originally opened in 1925 as a vaudeville and silent film house. The theatre was a glittering example of Italian Renaissance architecture with its marble terrazzo floor, graceful archways and ornate decorative details including 1800 pounds of gold leaf, 100 pounds of bronze and 4000 pounds of ribbon gold in plaster moldings. Murals adorned the walls and a spectacular crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. It was an amazing setting for this much anticipated performance.
The show began at 8pm before a diverse audience that seemed knowledgable of Bond's music. The venue was nicely filled however Clear Channel could have done a better job with posters in and around York. The composition of the audience was mixed, ranging from children to senior citizens, with the majority of attendees being middle aged.
The stage was simply set with spotlights, a riser, and the acoustic instruments that would be used during the show. Haylie, Eos, Tania and Gay-Yee entered with their electric instruments to backing tracks to their intro number. They were all dressed in snazzy tank tops and layered tulle skirts (Haylie and Gay-Yee were in black tops and red skirts; Eos and Tania were in all black). Three of the four women were wearing sneakers (Eos was in a pink ballet slipper)--after four weeks of being in six-inch heels, they have resorted to a more comfortable shoe according to Gay-Yee.
The opening consisted of an exciting renditions of "Allegretto" and "Duel" where Bond was very animated and dynamic. They used backing tracks since they no longer had their live band after leaving Asia. They had some choreographed sequences, using their bows in port de bras movements gracefully and then swinging their bows above their heads boosting the audience's enthusiasm. The four women kept moving around the stage, interacting with each other, interacting with their instruments, and enticing the audience's involvement. Haylie had a broad and infectious smile on her face the entire time, appearing quite pumped for the performance.
After some welcoming comments by Haylie asking the audience to feel free to treat their performance as a pop concert, the women immersed themselves into the melodic "Fly Away" from Classified. They all were at one with their instruments, letting the music take them away. "Shine" was wonderfully presented, with Bond swaying and dancing as they became one with their instruments and the music. Each of the women expressed their individual personalities throughout the varied musical works, highlighting their virtuoso talents.
Eos introduced the next set including the beautiful and soaring "Dreamstar" and the more explosive "Highly Strung." The four women continued to exude unbridled energy during their performance, reeling the audience in even further to their exciting music. They constantly moved from one end of the stage to the other, making contact with the audience and having interplay between one another.
The electric instruments were traded for their acoustics, and Tania introduced the next set of songs. They played a lively gypsy rendition of "Czardas" which was exquisitely performed. The audience responded with clapping and cheering during the songs, and the occasional whoops of delight from both audience and musician! These beautiful and talented women were displaying their dazzling talents and the audience was enjoying every moment. "Besame Mucho" and then the more bizarre "Psycho" followed. Bond then did their non-vocal spectacular rendition of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and finally ended the acoustic set with "Korobushko." Prior to the last acoustic song, Haylie recounted the story of a fan from Russia who told them the meaning of the Russian word korobushko. It apparently means "little box," but a little box containing special treasures.
Gay-Yee spoke and said that the quartet was about to do something very unusual-- that is, sing, which was normally unheard of for a string quartet. Both she and Eos did the vocals in Bond's "Fly Robin Fly." Both women have beautiful voices, complementing their exciting music. They changed pace with the magnificent "Senorita," swaying and lunging with the music. Continuing with more tracks from Classified, they expertly performed "Midnight Garden," with Eos contributing the wonderful breathy vocals.
All four women were on the riser and had a playful rendition of "Sugar Plum" doing their individual pirouettes in their pseudo-tutus. They all appeared to immensely enjoy being on stage, making their wonderful, unique music. They burst into "Explosive," which was extremely well received and certainly a highlight of the night's performance. With this song, they thoroughly held the audience spellbound and won every heart in the house.
They finished with an amazing medley and returned for an encore of the thoroughly inspired "Hungarian" and into "Samba" to finish off the night. The audience was on their feet, clapping and dancing to the amazing music. The audience involvement spurred Bond on, with the women enticing the crowd, leaning over the stage apron into a cheering audience.
The energy level was at an all-time high and Bond performed a spectacular show. Having a live band and orchestra would certainly have heavily added to the ambience, but the show was still outstanding with backing tracks. Bond was able to showcase their extraordinary talents and show off their individual personalities on stage to the highest degree. Not only did the audience have incredible music and musicians, they had an abundance of fun! Go see Bond live. They are truly amazing!
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