Charlie Belle is an up-and-coming trio with cool vibes and an even cooler sound based in Austin, TX. They are way ahead of the game , working on their first EP and not one of them are even 17 yet! I had the privilege to meet up with the lead singer and guitarist, Jendayi Bonds, for vegan cuisine and vintage clothing shopping in South Austin. We talked about cool moms, Alex Turner, high school, current issues, and so much more.
~Tessa Ehrman, Fashion Editor
Okay, so I’m so curious, because you and your band are so young! What exactly got you into music?
Um… when we lived in Philly, my parents signed me up for guitar. We signed Gyasi up for drums at the School of Rock before it got sold and franchised. It used to be really cool at the original place, because it started in Philly. It was just kind of like… they wanted us to have instruments to play, and it was like how your friend next door plays the violin and your other friend plays the flute… It just started out, because as long as you live in our house you played an instrument to make you a worldly person. And it happened to be just by chance where we were learning where to play music happened to be the place that also did performances. So we had lessons- I started guitar when I was 11. Then, when I was 8 we started signing up for shows, because they had them. We played Motown shows and funk and reggae shows and class rock shows and I was performing, too. I got to sing some songs, play guitar in some songs. So Gyasi and I have been performing for…eight years, a little more than 8 years. It’s crazy! When I say that it sounds crazy. I went to Girls Rock Camp in Philly! They were like, “Hey did you know you can write music? Did you know to?” and I was like, “Um… no.” So I started to learn how to write songs.
Then we moved to Austin, and you know, Austin is the live music capital of the world. Everyone plays music live. So my brother and I were like, “Hey! We play guitar and drums- which are the components of a band. Let’s just start one.” So we played talent shows. We already knew a bunch of songs from School of Rock, so we were like, let’s just play covers.
I can totally dig it! What is it like playing at a SXSW event or any well known venue or festival?
It is super, super cool. It’s just… super cool! Having that cred under your belt and to say that you have played there and to play at venues that are highly respected: the sound is great, the equipment is great, everything is top notch. Not only for the audience, but the performers. So we got to play the Moody Theater, and there weren’t too many there… and we were like hanging out backstage and we got to meet Shakey Graves and he was so so cool. And his sound was sooo crazy! It’s just such a great experience. You never forget those.
So I was reading y’alls Twitter, and I read something about a possible European tour. Is this true?
Um… no! We have zero dollars… A blog in Madrid wrote about us, and we were like, “Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!” And they said, “Now time for a European Tour.” We just said, LOL we have no money!
Do you feel like a European tour is possible for 2015?
2015?! Well I have such a skewed sense of where we are in terms of success for the band. I remember when we got a publicist a few months back, my mom was like, “Okay. Things are going to start hitting hard. Stuff is going to start happening” Of course, I said, “What? No!” Then all of this crazy stuff has been popping off… So I don’t know. I’m not even sure.
But a lot of stuff has been happening in the UK, like word is going around about us. MTVIggy just wrote about us. It’s crazy! And some radio shows in the UK, so I don’t know what that means! Maybe it means we’ll have to go.
Have you ever been to Europe?
Would you want to go? And where?
This is going to be ridiculous, but I would want to go Wales. Isn’t Oliver Tate from Wales? That’s why I want to go there! I want to live that!
Who/what are your biggest inspirations when you are writing music?
I write all the songs, so all of them have to do with me, for the most part. My biggest writing inspiration or muse is Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. Not only is he beautiful, but he’s also a genius! I remember my dad gave me Favourite Worst Nightmare when I was 11, and I listened to it and like, “Oh my god. I need this!”
When I think of him, I think of his solo stuff from the movie, Submarine!
That’s my movie! It came out on my birthday, and you do not know how hard I cried!
How would you define yourself in one piece of clothing?
Shoes! I got these shoes in Portland.
*She shoes me her amazing, vintage camouflage boots*
I love camo. I just love it!
Submarine, of course. But there are so many movies… it’s not even fair! Hmmm, La Femme Nikita, and 17 Again- it’s probably the best movie I’ve ever seen in my life.
There are so many different levels… I think it’s… oh, man! 505 by the Arctic Monkeys.
What kind of green?
*She points to her army green satchel*
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life: Sandwiches or tacos?
Soft or hard?
Okay, no. I take it back! Sandwiches.
Favorite thing to do?
Discuss things. Like ideas or books or important things. I just like taking it out with people
11/22/63 by Stephen King.
Seventies… no, eighties! It would be so cool to be friends with my mom in high school. Being a teenager in the eighties… because when you look back it’s all the good stuff! Breakfast Club! It would’ve been great to say, “Yeah, I saw the Breakfast Club when it came out in theaters. Like, what!? That’s cool.”
So overall, how do you feel about 2014 and everything that’s happened?
It was one of the most challenging years of my life. I went through a lot of changes and growing in 2014. I just don’t know what’s next! For the most part I’ve been able to predict how my year is going to be and what’s going to happen and man… I started the year as a 10th grader and with all of these goals in mind with what kind of person I was going to be and stuff happened and it’s so different. Then all this music stuff happened, and we have a publicist now. A bunch of stuff has been coming in… I don’t even know.
What do you want for 2015?
No matter what… something big has to happen with my music. I don’t know, we get signed or we get to meet someone. We’ve been getting a lot of attention, but no one has reached out. And I want someone to reach out! I’m homeschooling now and I want tangible proof that is was a good idea to be homeschooled. I want to know it was worth it.
Freshman year was freaking awesome, but then my sophomore year sucked. The way things are dealt with and emotionally it was just bad. Because all that stuff happened I had to grow up a little. I was like, “Okay. You can’t be so insecure anymore, bro. You can’t be so consumed by this anymore. Grow up!”
Things just happen! I don’t know what 2015 is going to be… I’m excited, because I feel like I’m a cooler person now. Like I started saying, “I love you” to my parents and my brother. Before this year I felt like I was way too cool to say that, but what was I thinking?! Mom, I love you! My mom is like my best friend. My mom is so cool. Like when I’m with my friends and my mom calls me to check in on me and I’m like, “Bye, Mom. I love you!” my friends ask if that’s how I get away with everything. One: I don’t have anything to try get away with! and two: I love my mother! Do you!?
Alright, if you could meet anybody dead or alive who would it be?
Alex Turner… and I think, maybe, Michael Jackson. I want to meet that bro! I want to hear what he would say about my music. I mean, I would want to know, because he was such a musical genius. Even if it was negative, I would want to know! Like, what is going on in his head? Ya know?
Who would you want to tour with?
I would want to tour with… maybe… The Black Keys. I saw them up close in Philly and oh man, they were just so great.
If you could live anywhere ever, where would it be?
Oh man… I think I would want to go some place where health care and education is free. And there’s also no racism! There are a lot of issues that aren’t being dealt with it, and a lot of people don’t even know about them.
That’s so true, because some people are so into themselves that they don’t look at the bigger picture. That’s why I have an issue with Austin, because everyone seems so artificial.
Yeah, you can feel the tension here!
*We paid for our food, then headed towards an adorable vintage clothing shop right down the street*
Since you’re home-schooled do you have a full time job?
Well, yeah. I work at a sushi place, but you know I’m doing music full time right now. I also row, and do a lot of sports actually.
When you perform do you have any weird or interesting people in the audience?
I have guys who are like, “I love you.” And I’m just like, “…Thank you.” Other than that not really.
*We begin browsing through some ridiculously, cute vintage threads*
Do you ever plan your outfits for when you perform?
I always do! And I try to coordinate with my bassist, Zoe. So we can look good together.
What’s your favorite place to shop?
Buffalo Exchange in Austin. It’s the best place ever! I also really like H&M. I like their basics, but the one here sucks.
Have your parents always been supportive of your music?
Yeah. You need your parents support. I’ve just never understood people who are like, “Yeah, I just never talk to my parents.”
*There’s a long pause as we drool over more vintage clothing and shoes*
Sometimes I dream one day I will dance like Beyonce.
Who is your biggest fashion inspiration?
I don’t think I have one… I wish I was as into fashion as other people are, but I’m not. I don’t consider myself a super, super fashionable person. I think it’s beautiful… I’m just not good at putting stuff together. My bassist, who’s a freshman, is was more stylish than I am.
So tell me about your band members!
Gyasi is really great and also really annoying, but that’s his job. He’s been playing the drums since he was 4, so he doesn’t remember not playing the drums. He’s hilarious… super good at the drums. We’ve been playing music together for more than half our lives. I met Zoe through Girls Rock Camp while I was an intern. I saw her super cool bass and then I told her we were looking for a bassist and yeah!
Where did the name Charlie Belle come from?
It’s my great-grandmother’s name on my dad’s side. Her maiden name is Flowers, so her full name is Charlie Belle Flowers! We asked her if we could use her name and she just, maybe like 6 months ago, signed the papers to legally give us her name. She’s 96 years old and hears our music all the time.
How does she feel about the band?
Well, you know, it’s all family… so it’s good. We’re superstars in our family!
Music is obviously your main priority, but do you have plans after high school yet?
I don’t know yet! I really want… I don’t know. I want to go to college, but I feel like if there’s a bigger opportunity I’ll take and do college later. Yeah, I wanna do college, but I don’t have to do it the same time as everyone else.
My dream job is to be a song writer. I feel indifferent about performing… it’s harder for me. Writing songs comes waaaay easier. If I could write a song, and be like “Hey, this would be great for this famous person!” that would be so great. It’s just my biggest passion.
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Make sure to check out Charlie Belle on social media!