When we started Indieterria fifteen months ago, we did not expect to be setting out on such a grand journey. And yet – here we are: spending nights editing and proof reading, interviewing musicians over Skype at 3AM while lying in bed with the lights out, talking to artists who continue to have meaningful careers while battling severe illness (Nic Evenett), watching brightest talents take on the world (nth cave). In our last chapter we profiled Junior Weeb – a band that had to grow up in the spotlight despite incredible personal tragedy. Witnessing such stories makes us humble. We have realized that indie circuit – close and far – is full of incredible artists, who have strength, determination and their own unique voice.
Stepping outside comfort zones.
We will continue down this path with Iggy Cuthbert, known as Happy Bones. Iggy is a poet and songwriter based in Worcestershire, who has been leaving his mark on local scene in the last few years. Known for his dreamy lyrics and raw and emotional music, Iggy is an incredible person to interview. He is fierce, open and raw. He is also shy and vulnerable and yet candidly speaks about his stage fright, death, highs and lows of being an artist in digital era. Please enjoy this interview and let`s take a walk on the wild side.
Happy Bones made his mark on local scene, but for those not familiar with West Midlands indie circuit – tell us who is Iggy Cuthbert and why do you make such extraordinary music?
Happy Bones: Iggy Cuthbert is a pretentious persona I don’t really keep up with or know that well. I’m a writer and a singer, I suppose. I’ve grown to like the “folksinger” label. However, I always think of myself as a poet first. I can’t really write without a melody though, so I guess that’s why I do it. I make music because it’s the only thing that makes some sense to me. A lot of my songs jump around different topics and sometimes don’t make much sense, even to me. But that’s the way my brain seems to work. To me it’s a way of talking things out with myself, so it’s always a strange experience when I whisper my deepest, darkest secrets behind the mic (laughs). I enjoy it though.
You have been involved in organizing events and gigs for other artists as part of Boneyard Sessions. If you were to pick three local acts that had the biggest impact on yourself – who would you recommend?
Happy Bones: I love all the bands we have put on so far, we always try and put on bands that we are excited about. Boneyard is a very selfish endeavour in that way. As for the three that are closest to my heart my first answer, perhaps the most obvious one, is nth cave. They’re my friends, I love them very much. They’re all extremely talented instrumentalists. You can tell they mean each note. Whenever I see them live, it feels like I’m discovering each of the notes all over again. Danni Timmins has a great way of delivering vocals, she makes it easy to get lost in the lyrics. Their song-writing is incredibly strong and clean, everything sounds tight, every word has a purpose. There are no clichés with that band. Hector and Fergus Brazier both work on Boneyard with me and I played some sets with Alfie Newman. I love them a lot. Following that, F. F. Ivanovski (Alfie Newman`s alter ego and solo project) is a sleepy but awakening experience. That boy sings in poetry covered in reverb. With some beautiful guitar work. Third would have to be Tom Forbes, his sets are a trip. He radiates confidence. He makes no mistakes, and if he does he works with them. He’s a real performer, his set for Boneyard Sessions really stuck with me.
In March 2017 you debuted with self titled EP. It included four tracks and was hailed as intimate and raw combination of lo-fi, folk and alternative with very strong song writing credits. You have been compared to Evan Dando, Stephen Joseph Malkmus of Pavement, Beck or even Ariel Pink. Slap Magazine called you ”a troubadour in the making”. Not a bad answer to a demo that has been written and recorded in about two weeks.
Happy Bones: I’ve always been writing songs and poems. I had a bit of a break after some old bands dissolved, I worked a shitty job that made me sad and I almost ruined one of my oldest friendships. So, of course, the most logical answer was to write an EP. I get distracted easily so a tight deadline worked for me in terms of keeping me motivated and inspired. Again, it was mostly therapy, and the fact that people enjoyed it made it seem some-what worthwhile. The “production” of the EP is pretty crude and simple, but I hope people listen to it with an open mind. When I counted down the days till the release most people thought I was counting down to something dark but I’m still around. I played harmonica on the EP, in hindsight that was a mistake (laughs). I tried to make the EP sound as if it’s an interview with a therapist or a doctor. I originally called it “The Grand Finale” (I think if you download the EP that’s still the title it has) because, I didn’t want to carry on with music after I released it. I was pretty demotivated at the time. I started studying literature and poetry at university, so I think I’ve come a long way in terms of maturing as an artist since that EP and I don’t really relate to it anymore, but it’s still very close to my heart. “I Surrender, I Give Up“ is probably the song that defines the whole EP well, I think? Again, I don’t really like that EP defining me as an artist anymore.
We absolutely love “Death Obsessed (Sketch #2)” from the EP, not only because of the fantastic lyrics. The entire composition is something like out of a secret diary of Syd Barrett. Can you tell us more about this song?
Happy Bones: Thank you! I’m a huge fan of Syd Barret so that means a lot. “Death Obsessed” is more-or-less a true story. My mother tells me I was a different age when the swing incident mentioned in the song happened, but I chose to gloss over that. There’s still a pretty large scar on the back of my head for those that don’t believe the authenticity of it (laughs). “Death Obsessed” is about mortality and I suppose, existentialism. It’s about being stuck. It’s about the dark part of the human psyche that’s always nagging and telling you that time is running out, reminds you you’re ageing. That voice in the back of your head telling you that you don’t deserve to be happy. The song was inspired by one of my trips to the doctors trying to figure out what it is that’s making me feel blue and they said I was just a teenager. I’ve done some growing up since then and death is still on my mind. The last verse is the most important to me, I think it summarises the song perfectly. it’s about the empty effort of time endlessly pushing you forward but really, you’re going no-where. I don’t play that song as much anymore because of how close it has become to me. I don’t really like showing that side of me anymore. Being sad isn’t that original or cool anymore (laughs).
Last year you played Worcester Music Festival while also curating a scene for the festival. You seem to keep yourself occupied at all times.
Happy Bones: Playing the same shows I’m curating always makes me worried about what people might think my intentions might be. I suppose there’s stress from both sides: performance and promotion, but playing Boneyard Session shows just feels natural. Playing such gigs gives me a similar feeling I get when I’m just playing songs in my bedroom in front of my girlfriend or best friend. I always get anxious about working with other promoters and sound engineers. On the other hand, I like stepping outside of the comfort zone of Boneyard Sessions. I want to be heard, and the only way that will happen is by forcing my music down everybody’s ears.
You shared stage and collaborated with incredible amount of local artists: Alfie Newman (F.F. Idorovski), nth cave, Jesse River Dylan Murray, Ben Dallow, Luke Steele, Joe Norris, Tom Forbes, Sam Clines to name a few. Aren`t you sometimes tempted to form a band on your own?
Happy Bones: I always think about starting a band, I tend to write my songs as drafts that can easily be expanded. Myself and Hector Brazier (nth cave) are in talks but who knows what will happen? I’m used to playing on my own, but I get bored easily. I tend to write a lot and start hating my old songs. During most of my shows you’re very likely to hear a song that’s just been written the day before. Doing that would be harder with a band. I like the freedom I have as a solo performer, but I do miss my band days, I get lonely sometimes (laughs). I have a vision of creating a Woo-town supergroup made up of all the singer-songwriters I love. Big things might happen. Don’t forget about me, I still have a lot of songs in me.
You undergo a mesmerizing transition into a truly iconic performer. Where last year was a shy boy with guitar, now we see a confident Beatnik-esque young man unafraid to treat his skin as a canvas. You showcase some incredible inks on your socials and we have to admit, following your metamorphosis is very exciting and intimate experience. Was it a conscious decision to share this growing up process with the audience?
Happy Bones: Documenting my life was certainly not intentional. I feel like I have been doing some growing up as a person and as an artist. I still have a lot of bad days and I still shake on stage but it’s what I do and it’s all I think about. I can’t imagine working in an office, so I suppose I might as well give it all I’ve got and see what happens. There’s still a lot I have to learn, and I am learning with every set I play. As for social media, I like pretending that people care about what I do, and social media is an excellent illusion. I like sharing things and being as open and honest as I can. I want to show snippets of songs I’m working on and not worry about my voice slipping out of tune. I try to not worry about what people think of me based on my Instagram or Twitter feed. I don’t want to cultivate an image (the way so many people do) of being someone I’m not. I do really like the fact people are noticing a change. I like creating that intimate feel on stage or outside of it. I like to form connections with people and social media seems to be the way it happens today. A costume or a mask would definitely be more comfortable but what’s the point of pretending? It’s the same way as it is on stage.
Tattoos have become another outlet, I suppose. I like the idea of art being permanently on my body. I like treating my body as a canvas, a record of my mistakes and so on. It’s more permanent than sketching but I like tattooing myself. Without meaning to sound cliché or pretentious, I do think it’s possibly the most primitive form of self-expression. I’ve given myself a couple of bad stick n’ pokes. I have a little sad face on my ankle. And some other little pieces on my legs and fingers. I like tattoos that don’t look like tattoos. I like them when they look like sketches out of a notebook. The ones you do at Uni when you’re bored. That’s kind of the way I see my songs. Just sketches that I churn out then forget about. They all have a little part of me though.
On March 30th 2018, you will support The Americas during an anticipated home coming show. Will we be able to hear some new material?
Happy Bones: Yes, it’s always a yes. I write songs all the time. Some of them no one will ever hear but some of them I’ll be brave enough to share. The Americas show might be the latter. I’m really excited. I’ve known the Americas for a while and they’re incredible artists. I’m honoured to be asked to play their home-coming show I think it’s gonna be really special for everyone involved. I’ve seen Junior Weeb a couple of times, and I know they’re going to make a lot of noise that night too. It’s gonna be a party.
And while we are asking about the new stuff – when do you think we will see the follow up to Happy Bones EP?
Happy Bones: Yes! I don’t know when, but I’m in talks with Alex Knight, he recorded some wonderful artists: Chip Langley, Tyler Massey among others. I get bored easily though and I can never decide what to record. I always change my mind about what I want to sound like. One day soon there will be a new EP, maybe an album, maybe a collection of poems? Or maybe all three. I don’t know. I’m certainly not done yet. I have a lot of ideas and not too much time.
Over the last twelve months, you have been a recording and performing artist, you organized shows, promoted and booked other musicians. What`s the state of the indie scene in your opinion? Is it all cut throat – dog eat dog world out there or have you seen reasons to be optimistic?
Happy Bones: The music scene in Worcester is wonderful and it’s scary and it’s intimidating and inspiring. It’s all the things you say and none of them at all. I wrote a song that I often dedicate to the indie scene titled “I hate being one of your kind” because Worcester and “the scene” are both easy places to get stuck in, I worry about that sometimes. I don’t want to get stuck. But I made some wonderful friends and we all have to help each-other out, that’s the whole motivation behind Boneyard Sessions for example. We all want to do this. I try and stay optimistic, it feels good to be a part of something. Something that’s definitely breathing. It’s a real honour to be able to have some (however small) impact on it. Worcester birthed The Americas, Junior Weeb, Tom Forbes, Ben Dallow, nth cave, Alfie Newman, Luke Steele, Joe Norris, Jesse River Dylan Murray, amongst many, many, many others. They are some of the most interest artists I’ve had the pleasure to watch and share the stage with. Worcester definitely has something to say. I don’t know what it is yet, but I hope we’re loud enough to say it.
Iggy Cuthbert will play Marrs Bar in Worcester with Junior Weeb and The Americas on March 30th. Its gonna be carnage and a sold out home show – we are warning you. So grab your tickets before they are gone.
In the meantime, you can visit Happy Bones online and listen to some quality music:
That`s all for this episode of Indieterria. We will see you soon -ish,
What can we say? The gig at Marrs Bar went by in a flash. We have been running around taking pictures, videos, making sure we had some images from the green room. We also had enormous pleasure to see Iggy Cuthbert on a proper stage. When Happy Bones started, the room was still filling in – but he had a perfect combination of almost religious silence and a cheering crowd. Each song was performed to a focused audience and ended with an applause and calls for encores. In return Iggy spoke about his tunes, the stories behind them and debuted a new song “Bruised Knees” (we are hoping this is the right title) about a funeral of a young, anonymous girl. It must have been first time that we actually seen a person in Marrs Bar tear up when listening to a song. Iggy promised us tunes to cry to and he delivered.
Happy Bones is powerful on stage armed with just a guitar, his voice and his lyrics. He is coming out of the shadow of his collaborators and friends – nth cave at incredible rate and is firmly standing on his own as a writer and performer.
His new material is as dark as previously but the melodies come up front and you find yourself humming the chorus lines long after the song is finished. We won`t lie – “Bruised Knees” caught us off guard with its intense and existential theme contrasting with a sophisticated pop melody. That is a formula that made The Smith legendary. Iggy is obviously learning from the best.
The coming months will be very interesting to observe as nth cave also enter studio and we may have a “battle of friends” on the Worcester scene.
If you missed the gig, here`s a video since we have now a YouTube channel!
And some extra photos from the green room.
Worcestershire favourite indie poet has dropped a new single, so we did a review!
Happy Bones – “Just The Same”
There is something captivating about Happy Bones (alter ego of Worcestershire based poet and resident decadent – Iggy Cuthbert): messy hair, strange glasses, beanies and shirts, mysterious tattoos, ethereal vocals and grim lyrics.
He changes like a chameleon. One day, he is a Harry Potter of indie circuit – a kind of rebellious prodigy, then you see him live and he creates this semi acoustic and mesmerizing show only to shake you back to your senses using all sorts of sonic effects that would make Ash Bowie of Polvo jealous.
There is also an aura of defiance in whatever Iggy Cuthbert is doing. He could have easily cast himself as a traditional folk singer and fill coffee houses and clubs in a large city with a buzzing university campus. Instead, he lives in a market town in West Midlands and sings to small but dedicated audiences. He could provide his listeners with produced to perfection poetic songs, yet he releases homemade demos and subscribes to the ethics of lo-fi movement: scratches, background noise, disregard to quality et all.
Even his name is contradictory – Happy and Bones. Iggy Cuthbert obviously found a formula to keep all those opposites together and merge them into one coherent artistic and musical persona, but don’t expect him to reveal the ingredients.
And why should he? He seems to find enjoyment in confusing his audience and keep them on their toes.
Expecting a single release in a regular way with sponsored ads, competitions, likes and shares? Not here, not this artist.
In a fashion that reminds of antics of Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, Iggy posted series of Instagram stories showing him smoking heavily, looking like he was about to suffer a nervous breakdown and counting days to something. Could have been new material, could have been a walk to the bridge. Fans could guess.
On 16th April a new song appeared on Happy Bones` Soundcloud and Bandcamp entitled “Just The Same”. Illustrated by a simple graphics with flowers in a vase, it featured Iggy Cuthbert on guitar and vocals, Alfie Newman on guitar and Hector Brasier on drums. Alfie and Hector belong to incredibly popular in Worcester dream pop/shoegaze outfit nth cave and this is the closest collaboration yet between nth cave and Happy Bones.
Bringing together nostalgic lyric with mid tempo lo-fi dark folk composition, hypnotic drums and loops echoing in the background, Iggy Cuthbert once again delivered a single that escapes all forms of description. Full of strange effects yet easily memorable, evocative and haunting, radio friendly and yet meeting all the requirements of a niche circuit that prides itself in being alternative.
Even trying to review the song, makes you feel like a dork.
Happy Bones is definitely placing himself in the same league as Pinning for Sunshine, Lowpines or Joshua Burnside. Yet I keep on hearing small nodes to Grant Lee Buffalo or Evan Dando and it catches me off guard time and time again. For 3 minutes folky song, “Just The Same” has so many layers, it makes your jaw drop.
There is one regret here though. It really begs for a better mix. If only to fully appreciate all the small sound bits that happen in the background. I know it goes against the indie ethos but damn it.
It has so much potential.
“Just The Same” can be purchased from Iggy Cuthbert`s official shops at:
Do yourself a present and get your copy of the single.