Photo credit: Holly de Looze

Sam Stone
Sam Stone

Sam Stone is a journalist and audio documentary maker based in South East London. Lover of sweaty gigs, Dolly Parton trivia and fancy beer.

Bingo Fury is a character that feels like he exists solely in film. Most commonly found hunched over a piano, crooning into a microphone, viewed either half illuminated or in flattering hazy grey scale.

Following his first two releases Big Rain and Happy Snake, Bingo’s returned with his latest single Birchall & Kings, with a fittingly cinematic video to boot. Merging old-school aesthetics with DIY sensibilities, it’s hard to pin down Bingo’s next move. Sweet and endlessly modest, he tells me that the pulsating, frantic minute-and-a-half-long ‘Birchall & Kings’ sounds like a crossword puzzle being read out over the sound of a tumble dryer. We sat down to discuss summer festival plans, his upcoming EP and finding inspiration in the Bristol music scene.

Sam: Can you tell me about the band’s origin story? How was Bingo Fury born?

Bingo: Henry, who plays drums, Meg, who plays bass, and I have been playing in bands together since we were really young. I think this is the fourth, or the fifth different project. It feels like it’s always been going in the same direction from when we were 14 to now, just a constant progression, but via four different groups. Meg and Henry have a really strong connection because they’ve learned how to play together. They are really in tune with each other’s ideas, which is super valuable.

In terms of Bingo Fury, I became more interested in all the things around an artist that aren’t the music, how the visual effects and the songs can intertwine. You can do this world building thing with music videos and press shots. It got to a point where I felt very good about the song writing, and I wanted to make something that was a larger than just the songs. Doing a character seemed slightly more interesting to us than doing another band again. The words ‘Bingo Fury’ were lyrics in a song I had in my notes, I decided they sounded better as a name than anything else.

Sam: Does Bingo Fury feel like a distinct character to yourself?

Bingo: Most performers kind of detach themselves from what they’re doing. Lots of people that like to write songs aren’t very comfortable with being exposed and onstage. Even if you’re not performing songs under a different name, you still have to do this thing in your head, where you distance it from yourself in order to have that confidence. I definitely had that in all the other bands. Having a character is doing the same thing, but you’re labelling it as that, and you have a bit of a buffer to perform under. With a character you can present an ideal version of yourself. I don’t think I’m particularly interesting or confident, but you can create a character who is.

A lot of the songs are quite emotionally heavy or come from quite an emotionally heavy place. On any given day, I might not be feeling it, or I might be feeling depressed or anxious or whatever. But the character is always in the headspace of where you were when you made it, and always in the feeling that you’re intending in the song. It’s an excuse to slip back into that and switch something in your head.

Sam: Could you place Bingo Fury in a musical family tree for me? Who would be Bingo Fury’s musical parents or siblings?

Bingo: Two really close friends of mine, Ellie and Will, have a project called Robbie & Mona. We always joke about how Bingo Fury is related to them somehow. I absolutely adore their music and they’ve been a really fundamental part of Bingo Fury since the beginning. Ellie shot our artwork and Will recorded all the first demos. I guess we also have quite similar aesthetics, maybe not musically, but definitely visually.

If you’re talking about influences, I really like stuff where you can tell that someone’s really authentic, but they don’t quite have the technical means to pull off whatever it is they’re trying to do. Some of those artists would be like Beat Happening, DNA, Arto Lindsay, that kind of thing. On that other side, of more crooner cabaret piano stuff I really like stuff like Tom Waits. I really like Robert Wyatt; I like his song writing and his use of piano. He’s paralysed from the waist down so he can’t use a sustain pedal which is a huge part of playing piano. I like how he’s worked around that and incorporated that into his style of playing.

In terms of aesthetic influences, I’m really into certain photographers like Robert Frank and Jim Jarmusch’s early films like Stranger Than Paradise and Mystery Train. It’s very classic looking, but there’s always something in it that’s slightly uneasy.

Sam: You mentioned fellow Bristol-based duo Robbie & Mona, has the music scene in Bristol shaped your sound?

Bingo: Yeah, absolutely massively. Only about 50% of where I’m coming from with music comes from listening to records and older stuff, and then the other 50% has been nurtured by Bristol’s music scene. The Bristol music scene is just a very powerful force, there’s always such an interesting variety and an inspiring selflessness, and community orientated attitudes. There was a good six months where I pretty much exclusively listened to Bristol music. I got really obsessed with trying to find every band that had ever been in Bristol. I was influenced by loads of older stuff like Maximum Joy and The Pop Group. Those Bristol bands in the punk era took whatever was happening in London, totally ripping it up, deconstructing it and rebuilding it in fucked up ways.

I guess it comes from the lack of industry in Bristol, no one’s expecting to get a record deal or to have a fancy agent or a fancy manager. In London there is always going to be this thing subconsciously in your head where you never know if an A&R for 4AD could be at this Windmill show today. I feel like that does impact the music, even if it’s subconscious. Whereas there’s just not an inch of that in Bristol. Everyone’s just really focused on the tight knit circle around them. Everyone’s trying to bounce off each other and it’s really inspiring. There’s still loads of good music here, I’m never short for things to go and see.

Sam: Can you tell me more about your new single Birchall & Kings?

Bingo: It’s quite an old song now, I probably wrote it about three years ago. It’s kind of monotonous. It’s only a minute and a half long and it’s one note the whole way through and then me reeling off a shopping list effectively. It’s pretty concise, slightly jarring, maybe slightly catchy. We’ve been playing it live for a long time and people always seem to respond quite well to that. About 50% of the song is Henry’s drum, he just does one drum beat the whole way through and then it’s just one note on top of that basically. It’s a good introduction to Henry’s drumming style, which is a very important part of the sound and is due to become more prominent within the recordings from this point.

Sam: Is Birchall & Kings going to be on an upcoming EP?

Bingo: We just recorded an EP last weekend. Birchall & Kings isn’t going to be on it, that’s just a standalone single. We’ll have another song out in the summer and then the EP out autumn. I’m really, really happy with how it’s sounding. We recorded three songs live at The Cube with the grand piano and it just sounds so sweet. The Cube is one of one of my all-time favourite places in Bristol. It was such a privilege to include that in our recording, to capture the sound of that room and have it immortalised in Bingo Fury music. I can’t wait for people to hear that. Our friend Ben Woods, who does The Golden Dregs, produced it with me.

Sam: What else are you looking forward to this year?

Bingo: We’re playing Green Man and End of the Road this year. I’m extremely excited about both, we were due to play End of the Road last year, but I got COVID, so it’s been a long time coming for that. End of The Road is one of my favourite festivals. I haven’t been to Green Man since I was 16 so that’s going to be really fun. We’re organising a headline tour with Robbie & Mona for the autumn and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to having more music out too and continuing to write. We’re writing for an album now so hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have an album finished.

Sam: Do you have a dream goal for where Bingo Fury could go? Are there any venues you’d like to play or bands you’d love to be on a line up with?

Bingo: I want to make an album that I’m really proud of. I’m not sure about who to play with, I’m just enjoying playing with bands that I’m excited about at the moment. Naima Bock supported out last headline show and she’s amazing. We’ve played before with Nukuluk and I’m a big fan of theirs. Hopefully the bigger shows come but I’m just enjoying these smaller gigs at the moment. Doing festivals like Green Man and End of the Road are all that I’ve ever wanted in terms of gigs so I’m totally currently happy with that. I just want to keep making music that we all enjoy playing.

Watch the video for Birchall & Kings here