Rock power duo Rival Bones were formed in the North West of England in Late 2014 and saw James Whitehouse and Chris Thomason take influence from bands like Rage Against the Machine and Queens of the Stone Age in their quest to make music. Since their debut release in 2015 Rival Bones have come a long way storming shows in their local area and getting radio airplay from the likes of BBC Introducing, Planet Rock, and Team Rock.
Their debut EP came out this month and is ready to take the world by storm, the band said “The riffs are as contagious as the words, and the fills and breaks are the sort to make you start pounding the desk with your fists. The only issue I have is that the world has to wait to hear it”
We had a chat with drummer James Whitehouse to find out more about the lyric writing process that the duo have and how they’ve progressed their music since their first release.
Mosh: How does the lyric writing process begin for you – Does the music come first, or the lyrics? Do you collect fragments and ideas when inspiration strikes?
James: It’s always music first! With Rival Bones, we always get together and jam around a musical idea first and then I’ll go away and write the lyrics.
Mosh: Is this process always straightforward for you? Have you ever struggled with ‘writer’s block’ or similar?
J: I feel like it varies quite a lot! I’ve written songs in the past that have had music and lyrics done in 10 minutes, but others need a little more graft. As for writer’s block, absolutely. The only way to deal with that is to not worry about it and keep listening to music. It’ll sort it’s self out!
Mosh: Do you go back to lyrics you have previously written and edit or refine them, or is it a case of ‘one and done’? Do you collaborate or share lyrics with other band members and take their feedback on board?
J: I find there’s always a “bedding in” phase with a song, which is why I’m not a fan of going into the studio with no material and aiming to be inspired and write there and then. I’ve always tended to deal with the lyrics myself but that doesn’t mean that Chris can’t make suggestions. More often than not, him suggesting something gives me a creative burst.
Mosh: Are there any bands or artists that have impressed or inspired you lyrically? Do you try and emulate any other lyricists in particular?
J: I’ve recently gotten into The Arctic Monkeys. I think that Alex Turner is a fantastic writer, regardless of how I feel about him as a personality. Good work is good work! I love Jeff Buckley, and there’s a South African band called Gangs of Ballet that write really beautiful lyrics. The kind that make you think “it would be wonderful to have someone feel like that about me”.
Mosh: Do you draw lyrical inspiration from outside of music, such as authors, films or artists?
J: Of course! It’s a wide world and there’s lots going on. I’ve written a lot in my life about women I’ve been with. That’s been a great source of inspiration but also a great source of turmoil so I’ve steered clear of it for a while. I’m at a point now where I’m preparing myself to do it again because it’s great subject material and the potential of hurting myself is a risk work taking to create something powerful.
Mosh: Is there a specific space (mental or physical) where you get ‘in the zone’, or can you write anywhere at any time?
J: I’m definitely an ‘in the zone’ guy! I find that setting a space up for myself is always a good choice. To be honest, there are large chunks of the new EP that were written on the toilet!
Mosh: Do you choose to publish your lyrics or keep them personal? Is it important that fans be able to access lyrical content?
J: I think it’s hugely important! At the end of the day, if people know the lyrics it gives them the opportunity to buy into what your saying. The song is only as strong as how people feel about it and the lyrics are the key to the door.
Mosh: Can you remember when you began writing lyrics? Was it a conscious choice? Something you drifted into out of necessity?
J: Well I started writing because I needed material over which I could play guitar solos! So my 14-year-old brain figured that songs need lyrics to be songs so I wrote some. I mean, it was all shite it was a good start!
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric and why?
J: I’m not sure I have a favorite. I think that entirely depends on my mood or situation! I’ve definitely got a favorite from the stuff I’ve written.
Mosh: What is your favourite lyric that YOU have written?
J: I wrote a song with my old band called ‘Fail/Reset’ and the line in the bridge goes “How can it be that we took so long to see we’re not alone?”. It’s a little cheesy when you see it written down but it was an important thing for me to write for myself at the time. I wrote it without thinking and then realized that I very badly needed to hear it.
Mosh: Is there anything you actively try and avoid when writing lyrics? Any topics or themes you think are overdone?
J: Yeah, I like a lot of rap and a lot of “classic” rock music but I think that a lot of them fall into terrible clichés. So no writing about getting money or getting wasted or getting girls! Not that there’s anything wrong with that as a subject matter, but I feel like it’s all been said before.
Mosh: Is it important to you that lyrics always tell a story or have meaning?
J: People will always derive meaning from things themselves, often regardless of what the writer is trying to say. A good place to start usually is writing about something that people will easily identify with. The single we just released ‘Hives’ is about an ex after a breakup hoping that you’re unhappy without them. I think we can all picture ourselves on either side of that coin!
Mosh: Does your knowledge of your vocal delivery have any impact on how you write lyrics? Do you write to fit a vocal style, or fit the delivery to the lyrics?
J: I tend to rhyme a tad lazily at times! But I’m getting away with it because of how I’m delivering the line so I tend to lean into that. I’ve always written with my voice in mind.