words: Andy Buchan
pics: Angus Lamond
Car crashes, armed robbery, glastonbury, cups of tea and biscuits. It’s almost rock’n’roll as Andy Buchan catches up with BODIXA,the luckiest unluckiest band in town.
Bodixa are a band plagued by bad luck. Take their first showcase event in London. The band had just won the BBC's Bright Young Things competition, due to a large helping of talent and a side order of lady luck. They were all set to take the charts with their unique brand of softly floating melancholic rock, confidently expecting to simply stride into the music industry. Polydor were there along with a host of other record labels, eager to snap up these naive young things. The band never made it.
"When the van stopped spinning and rolling across the motorway there was this strange silence. I looked over at Bill (Phipps, the bands manager) and he had blood all over his face. Then his head rolled slowly to one side and I really did think he was dead," says Anna, eyes alive with memory.
To add insult to thankfully minor injury, the record company signed Miss Dynamite.
"The second crash happened almost four years to the day and was exactly the same. This 32-tonne HGV swerved into us. We've still got the Jeff Buckley album covered in blood. It was all pretty weird really," says Phil without a hint of anger.
Bodixa, despite being dealt a combination of aces and shit-high jokers at the poker table, have simply grown from their experiences. The armed robbery when the band was first finding their feet is a perfect example.
Smiling with pearly white intensity, Anna recounts the story. "Oh god, that was ages ago. The attackers burst in with axes and balaclavas, demanding money from the till." Carrying on an age-old tradition, Phil the drummer barely raised a drumstick, simply continuing with the sound-check as any pro would.
"The most unbelievable thing," tells Emily, "was the gig was one of the best we've ever played, we were buzzing off the adrenalin. It was a shame though, as because we were still at school, the police wouldn't let any of our friends into the gig as they were all underage. Sadly, it was our best gig and our smallest audience."
The Bodixa story begins over eight years ago. Although you could squeeze several NME bands shelf lives in that time, this has given them time to mature and come to terms with the two-headed beast that is the music industry.
Anna Elias (lead vocals and perceptive, feline eyes) joined forces with Emily Norton (co-vocals and impossibly cute, according to fans) at Allerton High School, sending each other tapes rammed full of ideas and invention. Phil Hicks (drums, think Dawson but better looking) joined the band "because at that point there were two other girls in the band and who wouldn't?" he says candidly. Dan Norton (bass, windswept, giddy hair and sharply intelligent) was press-ganged into joining the band by the seductive lure of mesmerising lyrics and simply complex harmonies. The Red Giraffes as they were nearly known were officially finished with the addition of Dave Redfern on guitar, missing today because of work commitments.
Their first brush with fame came with the aforementioned Bright Young Things, which was supposed to promulgate the band into the nation's consciousness. Instead, the band feel like it's a permanent albatross round their neck, their equivalent of "Creep" if you will.
"That gig has haunted us forever, it's followed us around like a bad smell," confides Emily, the group's mothering instinct. "That was only our second gig and we were all still at school," Anna continues. "We were all so hyper and expectant and when things crashed all around us, when we lost our record contract, everything seemed pretty hard. But, it's good in a way because you get your knocks and you learn and improve from them, you know. It just feels like so long ago, we've all moved on."
This pragmatism and hard-earned realism peppers their conversation, with the band continually seeking the silver lining in events. It seems that adversity has forced their hand. More recently, the band's luck seems to have changed.
"To play at Glastonbury was a dream come true" beams Dan. "Suddenly Michael Eavis was stood in front of us all, announcing Bodixa as the winners of the new band competition and that we were going to open the Acoustic Stage this year. It was pretty surreal to be honest."
"I remember winning and that's about it," adds Phil. "We were so surprised to have won. We did our fair share of jumping around and being giddy."
So giddy in fact that, come the big day, Bodixa arrived for their biggest show to date, opening the Acoustic Stage at the biggest festival in the world, without their acoustic geetars.
"Can you believe it?" says Emily incredulously. "There were so many people there because of the rain and the atmosphere inside the tent was just amazing. Thankfully, our networking before the gig paid off as we were lent some very nice guitars by the lovely Waking the Witch."
"Ooh," joins in Anna. "We must get them a present to say thanks otherwise they'll think we're rude. Maybe send them some wine?"
"Yeah, that would be nice," adds Dan, raising the nice-o-meter several notches.
The band are so genuinely, disarmingly nice that it really takes you aback. They show interest in Sandman and why they're being interviewed, not accepting it like a divine god-given right or a vital part of the press process. We drink tea and eat posh biscuits thanks to Emily's mum. It genuinely feels like a family affair and we are their welcome guest. There are no tales of rock'n'roll debauchery, there are no tales of excess and there isn't even the tiniest trace of arrogance. Every bitter and twisted bone in your body is suddenly given a huge care bear hug, caressing all the worlds' wrongs away, leaving only conversation, friendship and, vitally, music.
Bodixa's most successful release to date has been the gorgeously ethereal "Fairytale," which hits harmonious highs and lilts and strums like Belly on Valium.
"That record actually outsold U2 in Yorkshire for a whole week, which was just crazy for us. It was the best selling single in the county," admits Dan, literally smiling from here to here. "We've done a radio session with 6 Music before and we have had some national airplay. It's so weird when people come up to you and say they've just heard our single on the radio. And normally we're just as shocked as they are."
The band have though been receiving much more favourable attention since their showcase at Glastonbury, reviving their hopes and, fingers, toes and eyes crossed, leading to more national interest. "At one time, we were all a bit acquiescent towards the industry," says Dan without a trace of being a disappointed rock and roll star. "But now we're more sure of what we want as a band, we know who we are and we know what sort of music we want to make now," says Phil with undiminished enthusiasm.
"Before, everyone was like, oh Bodixa, but now after Glastonbury, its more like, Oooh, BODIXA, I love them they're brilliant," coos Emily, as animated and cute and cuddly as Thumper. "I just want people to respond to our songs the way that I responded to the songs that made me play music. And people do, which is just brilliant."
Perhaps showing their commitment to the cause and highlighting the reason why they've stayed in the band through thick and thin, through the good, the bad and the armed robbery, Phil argues: "There's no point if your not aiming for that gut response from people. There's something wrong if that's not the case, why bother doing it otherwise."
They have come perilously close to quitting a couple of times however. The accidents, incidents and fickle industry did get them down. Horror stories about friend's bands being dropped just days before release and their own taste of corporate pig were enough to stop them dead in their tracks.
"We just weren't enjoying it any more, we kept hoping it would improve the next day, the next week, the next month but it never did," says Phil sadly. With just a little regret in her eyes, Emily agrees. "We got tired of the music industry because it was so bloody hard to get people to listen to you. We've played with so many fantastic bands that haven't made it and there seems to be little choice but to go through a record company. It's just so frustrating."
Nodding vociferously, and with eyes turned towards the Gods, Anna agrees. "It just eroded our faith really. We won the Bright Young Things competition and then we released an album with our record company. But it was only an experimental label; we were like the guinea pigs. You can never prepare for what's ahead. Now we just take the band day-by-day, week-by-week."
It's this attitude that Bodixa are hoping will drive them forward, luck or no luck. Having seen the trials and tribulations of the music industry at first hand, they aren't looking for the easy option or to become sell outs. They have been to the edge and didn't really enjoy the view, thank you very much. The then Stereophonics manager called them the 'Corrs with balls,' a backhanded compliment Tim Henman would be proud of.
"He wanted us to do a Fleetwood Mac cover and took me and Anna round some song writers," says Emily. "We could have sold our soul but what's the point. We had the chance to be on the new BT advert as well, and that could have been great. But we didn't want to become like Babylon Zoo and just be a one hit wonder and then fade back into obscurity."
Displaying a been there, done that, lost the record contract exterior, the father of the family speaks. "Every day there's things that you have to weigh up, whether you're gonna sell your soul and where it's going to get you," says Phil. "There are a lot of things we wouldn't do."
Bodixa's history is a long and protracted one, involving untypical lows and exquisite highs. However, even their name conjures up powerful images and is steeped in heritage. Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, revolted against the conquering Romans in AD 60. Having been annexed from the rest of the country, she raised a massive force and proceeded to set fire to huge swathes of London. Here endeth the History lesson, but what would the latest incarnation revolt against?
"Just to be different from every other band, I would say the music industry," says Phil, eyes lighting up at the prospect. "You've gotta say George Bush haven't you, the guy's just a monster" adds Dan with real vitriol. "I'm gonna sound like a hippy now, but it would be an uprising of gardeners. Bring people back down to where they came from. Not reclaim the streets but I would like to try and get things a bit more green, more recycling and grow your own food," states Emily over the top of gentle sniggering from Dan. "I would, don't laugh at me" she adds as the pair begin to squabble like brother and sister.
It's hardly on a par with taking on the strongest army in the world, but in its own little way it's just as important and revolutionary.
"We just want to enjoy life and anything we could do to help that is great. You get what you put in with life. But like anything, there's a huge amount of luck associated with it all," states Emily with rueful hope.
Let the revolt begin.