The Bone Chimes are an Astoria-based indie rock/pop band that have spent the last year growing into their own sound and feel. After the release of their first album, In the Muck
, in 2013, the Bone Chimes were compared to greats like Stevie Wonder and Dave Matthews Band.
The group is made up of four core members — Tobi D’Amore as leader guitarist and vocalist, Ben Dobay on woodwinds and keys, Tom Rizacassa on bass and Vinny Bang on drums — but the size of the band will fluctuate depending on the show. The band is a living, breathing entity, and will often throw in horn players and background vocalists for shows.
With an EP set to release this Spring and playing shows across the boroughs — including a show set up for this Saturday, Jan. 31 opening for Jon Hugo at Rough Trade in Brooklyn — the band has been hard at work.
I sat down with lead singer Tobi D’Amore to talk about the group’s new single, "High Line," their new EP and the way their sound has changed over the past year.
Can you tell me about the name? What’s the significance behind The Bone Chimes?
My best buddy, he actually came up with the name with another friend of his and I borrowed it for the time being, and then it just kind of stuck. It was about feeling good in your bones and your bones ringing. Basically, it was joke. He was like, ‘Man, when I die, I want you to make wind chimes out of my bones so I can always keep feeling that vibe.’ So it was a stupid joke that turned into a band name, basically.
So how did the core four of you come together as a band?
I was playing around the City with other bands. I was just figuring my way out as I was going more solo in 2008, and I was already living in Astoria, and I started playing around the City, meeting people, asking if they wanted to get together and play. Eventually through trial and error, a fair amount of musicians trying to put people together. Vinny, the drummer, and I, we played together in a Queens band called Thunder Bang for a second. I asked him if he wanted to play for a little bit, and then a friend of a friend became our bass player and it kept growing from there. And then eventually around 2012 is when really this line up solidified as the four members that have really held the whole thing together. We’re based out of Astoria. There’s a big music scene here, but no one seems to give it any credit. I think we all kind of have a chip on our shoulders.
Your first album was In the Muck in 2013. So you’ve finally solidified this group, what was it like to put an album together after that whole process? Were you guys happy with the outcome?
It was a fast and furious recording process. We were still kind of getting to know each other musically and how we interact in the studio. So In the Muck
was kind of a combination of a few things, of basically us really trying to get our footing. And it was first that we needed something to get out there, so we were playing so many shows, but we didn’t really have too much online. We rushed that recording process a little bit in order to get something out there, which kind of put us under the gun with release, but it also helped us really learn a lot about each other as far as personalities in the studio. It’s a whole different ball game when you’re in the studio for long periods of time, sitting there critiquing yourself and critiquing each other and trying to make the best that you can, but only having a certain amount of that time.
So you released your latest single "High Line." That sounds like it embodies what you’ve told me the band sounds like; it’s got synth sounds, it’s got horns in it. Where did the inspiration for that song come from and why did you pick it as your single?
We try to keep ourselves relevant and around, whether it’s posting some new pictures from our latest show, so we’ve been releasing these singles from this upcoming EP based on how we feel they represent us. So "High Line" kind of came from we all live in New York City, and I’m kind of the sappy dreamer of the band, but it seems to me that generally we’re told as kids that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want as long as we work at it and try hard. And then as we get older, for some reason it’s okay when you’re a kid, but when you’re an adult our dreams are put in this drawer because we’re supposed to grow up at some point and not really do this kind of thing. So that’s what "High Line" is about — the death of these dreams as we get older for no reason other than that we feel we need to put them aside to move forward in our lives. I don’t really want to do that, and no one in the band really wants to do that, either. So that’s why we spent so much time working on these songs and tearing them apart and putting them back together, to make something that we’re proud of that represents us as people — not only us as musicians but as people as well, and hopefully provide some kind of connection between us and people that listen to our music.
And the EP that you guys have coming out, what can people expect from this album that they haven’t seen before from you guys?
This one that we’re working on now, it’s been a much slower process. We’ve taken our time a lot more, we’ve learned how to work much more economically. I feel like it’s a better representation of what we do now. We’ve been very fortunate to get to play some really huge venues in New York this past year. All of these big venues have not only given us a great opportunity to get our name out there, but it’s given us a great experience and seasoning in order to be more confident in what we’re doing. Confidence is everything in this kind of industry. So I think what people can look forward to is that there is a lot more of us in this. It’s not a rushed process, it’s very thought out and clean. It’s much more professional sounding.
You’ve been compared to Dave Matthews Band, Tom Waits, throwing in some Buddy Holly and Stevie Wonder. Do you feel like that’s an accurate description of your sound? That’s a pretty awesome amalgamation of people that you’ve been compared to.
Hey man, if people want to compare us to any of those names, I’m totally cool with it. I worked with a manager awhile back that people were telling him that I sounded like the lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies. And whether I want to or not, or whether I care about it or not, it doesn’t matter. If people can recognize and find some kind of hook in our sound that reminds them of something else that’s that successful or that recognizable, I’m okay with it.
So would you consider yourselves a jam band? Is that how you write songs?
The writing process starts with me writing the structure of a song. And then what we do is work off of what we like and what we don’t like about what I brought in. So there is a part of us that will take a session and we’ll loop it over and over again, and we’ll jam on it and that does create a lot of ideas and does help our songwriting process. But in the end, I wouldn’t call us a jam band at all. During shows, we do have extensions that we put on songs, and a live show is its own living breathing thing and we thrive in that, but any jam that we do is something that has a planned time limit. We are really a very well rehearsed, well planned out band.
This Saturday you open for Jon Hugo at Rough Trade. How did you land that gig and will you be playing any of your new songs?
The majority of the set will be new songs, we’ll play some stuff off of In the Muck, and then also we’ll play some songs that aren’t on anything yet, that are planned for later recordings. We haven’t decided yet but there might even be a song that we’ve never played live before thrown into the set. We try to mix it up as best we can to try to keep things interesting. And actually Jon is a friend of mine, and we share a rehearsal space together. We’ve been trying to put together a show for awhile now, but last year has been so busy for him and for us. Finally toward the end of 2014 it came up and the timing worked out. We’ve been looking forward to playing with him for awhile. I really think it’s going to be a good fit.