When national attention came to the sibling duo Charlie Belle in 2014, Jendayi and Gyasi Bonds were literally just kids.
Sixteen and fourteen-years-old at the time, they were both already veterans of the Austin music scene when their debut EP “Get To Know” blew up. Press came from NPR, Nylon, MTV, Vice, Wired and others, and Jendayi and Gyasi appeared together on the cover of their local paper, the Austin Chronicle.
“It was weird and exciting and interesting and fun and flattering to say the least, that randomly by chance, our debut EP really hit it out of the park, right?,” Jendayi says of that crazy time. “Man was it cool!”
She continues, “Nothing in my life until that moment showed me that perhaps I could truly pursue this. Maybe I had a perspective that other people might want to hear. Maybe I could make an impact on people with my music in the same way that bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, and Local Natives made an impact on me.”
“I’ve been the drummer in Charlie Belle for 12 years,” Gyasi says, now a 19-year-old college student.
Jendayi has graduated college, she’s 22 now, and while the pair took time away from schooling us with pop tunes too damn accomplished for teenagers, it was the right thing to do. They were always plotting a return, and now they are educated, wiser, and ready to present new music to a world that is much different from the one they played for just six years ago.
To start, Charlie Belle has two singles lined up for release: First up is “Looking For Magic” on Sept. 18th, to be followed by “What About Me?” on Oct. 16th. The new tunes are clearly by two independent, self-actualized artists, who know exactly what they’re doing.
“He went off and became his own human,” Jendayi says of her brother, “I went off and did that too, and I jumped into my songwriting. We were supposed to move and grow like this, so we could tell our story with intention.”
Part of that story is of being Black artists who don’t necessarily make the kind of music that society thinks they would be, or should be, making.
“Now more than ever there’s a spotlight on Black artists, and what Black artists have to bring to the table in all genres of music,” Jendayi says. “We’ve been a band for 12 years and Black our whole lives. There’s a sort of reckoning right now for what Black artists can bring to the table.”
Gyasi is blunt: “People always assume I’m a rapper, I tell them I make music or that I’m an artist and the first question I receive is, ‘Are you a rapper?’ We are put in a box by our skin that people have deemed ‘Black music,’ but all music is Black music.”
Look, Jendayi and Gyasi just want people to know that they are creative, multifaceted artists, who happen to be a brother and sister who grew up gigging around town in Austin. But they also want people to know that as Black artists, their lives and experiences are just as rich and nuanced as everyone else’s.
“I want more of our stories to be told,” Jendayi says.
It’s important to the band that their sociopolitical stance and their personal cultural awareness co-exist in harmony alongside their pop sensibilities. Those blown away by the catchiness and thoughtfulness of Charlie Belle’s debut can look forward to new songs by young adults who have now been doing this for half their lives.
What was already great is even better: Fun, upbeat, buoyant, while also keenly aware of the moment in a way that only Jendayi and Gyasi can speak to.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the duo’s music video for their new single “Looking For Magic.” With a feisty and funky guitar line, song captures the duo’s penchant for writing radio-friendly songs that still feel rooted in indie rock. There is a smoothness to the song that is conveyed both in the laid back groove and in Jendayi’s effortlessly cool vocals that linger in your mind long after listening. Jendayi and Gyasi also harmonize in the way that only siblings can do, and as the song builds, it veers from indie rock into R&B territory. The video captures the close chemistry between brother and sister, and the fun that they can have together making music.
Jendayi Bonds describes the story behind the song’s fruition:
“I wrote this song during my senior year of high school. Around then, Charlie Belle had already released a couple of EPs and we thought it was time to release an album. I’d never written a whole album before and was still in shock from all of the attention the first EPs got, so that whole senior year I was kinda worried, like ‘am I gonna be able to write a good song?’ So, that’s what the lyrics are about. It’s like I was given a black top hat, and I’ve got no choice; I’m really bad at magic shows, but I’ll put one on, and maybe we can hear a song.”
Gyasi Bonds describes the process behind the video:
“This music video is the first and purest piece of art that isn’t our music that we created as us, as ourselves, as Charlie Belle. Even down to the collaboration, to have had our friend Ben Root edit our music video, being that we’ve known him since we were kids, it feels like it’s meant to be. We’ve had so much help from friends and that feels good.”
Photo by Kees2Life