Electronic duo Bondax – otherwise known as Adam Kaye and George Townsend – are every bit the modern day success story. Now in their early twenties, the two boys met at school in Lancaster and began collaborating as teenagers. Then they would “Skype all night and just send files back and forth”, yet fast forward several years and Bondax are at the forefront of the electronica scene, playing all over the world from LA to Korea and Romania to Australia.
Bondax’s smooth, ambient and relatively low-tempo brand of electronica is informed by a number of different musical styles. During the course of a long, laughter-filled conversation, the boys tell me how “when we were 14/15 we got into French house… then we got more into the UK stuff like Jamie xx… [and now] we’ve got into old jazz and soul records.” Their unique vibe defies categorization; Dazed magazine calling it “the aural equivalent of sipping an ice- cold Pimm’s on the balcony of your council estate flat”. If their 5.61 million followers on Soundcloud are anything to go by, the lads are doing something right. As Kaye put it, “genres are just something we created so that we can find it easier. Language doesn’t always directly represent the things [it describes]. The actual thing itself [that matters] is the feeling”.
The feeling Bondax are keen to inspire is, above all, happiness. Townsend explains how “a lot of underground dance music at the moment is very heavy and I think that disillusions certain people… We don’t want to affect house music so that making something happy is a negative thing. That has been a bit of a frustration for us”.
Given Bondax’s chirpier sound, they’ve had to learn “about how to structure a night properly if you want it to be coherent.” Playing globally has also given the duo a chance to analyse the different ways their music is received. They recall a recent occasion when “the tune of the set” at a Nottingham gig had “thousands of people going off”. Then, when they played the same track in France “no one gave a shit”. However, they also “played some tunes in France that were really funky that wouldn’t have gone down well in Nottingham, so it’s funny how it changes culturally.”
Similarly, when on the topic of Bondax’s upcoming American tour Kaye tells me, “our fanbase in England is so massively student-based it’s quite nice in America… Although it’s not dissimilar sometimes you’ll look into the crowd and see someone who’s over 30 or 40 absolutely loving it, because they’ve obviously loved the original waves of house music and have picked up on some mixes we’ve done and enjoy our stuff. That would just never happen in England”.
Bondax have played in the States on and off for the last four years. “The way we’re approaching America is if they like it, they like it,” Townsend says, but it hasn’t always been this simple. The boys had to navigate the industry from a very young age. They were signed at seventeen, “at the time we had no understanding,” they say. “It’s very foreign when you’re that age.” Faced with the realities of the business, it seems that the boys felt like fish out of water. Townsend recalls thinking, “we’re from around Manchester, we have no idea, we just want to make music. Being taken into some fancy accountant on Bond Street just like ‘what!? I don’t even understand what an accountant is!’”
Whilst on this topic, Kaye and Townsend share with me “a funny little anecdote” about their past naivety. “When we were going to sign our first ever deal the only person we thought we could refer to was our music tech teacher.” They all “went through it together,” and the teacher said it all looked perfectly fine. Then, “a year later, our new manager comes up to us and is like ‘this is the worst contract I’ve ever seen’”. Luckily for Bondax, it wasn’t deemed binding.
Beyond business, the duo has also had to adjust to the madness that comes along with success. They’ve have now established a base in Manchester, but have spent the majority of the last four years touring and DJing. “It’s been difficult, early on in our lives, not even musically, to deal with that” Townsend contemplates.
“Because we’d only made a few tracks before we got signed so it’s been very quick moving from a very ordinary life to one in which you don’t even really have any time even to think about what you’re doing… It’s very difficult to capture an emotion when everything’s been on such a high constantly for years at a time. So it’s good for us now …we’ve got a bit of time to think about what we’re making and why we’re making it”.
Bondax’s reasoning, that “in the end, we only do this because we enjoy it and we like the music,” seems very sensible. Despite all they’ve accomplished, Kaye and Townsend are very level-headed. Kaye describes how “sometimes we get a bit disillusioned… when we meet people or witness other DJs literally just doing it for the girls or the money.” For these guys, this kind of attitude “does properly ruin music”.
Kaye and Townsend are still working on the debut album, but for now they’re looking forward to a relatively quiet summer, playing festivals at home and abroad. One festival Bondax are particularly looking forward to is Boundary Brighton, not least because it falls on Townsend’s birthday. The boys hope to catch Jungle’s DJ set whilst there and plan on celebrating with their good friends Snake Hips. As we chat about the festivities, Kaye sums it up nicely when he reasons that “not to be too ignorant, but we don’t always see the line- ups… It says something that we already have a good idea of what’s going on there”.
We finish off joking about the difficulties of mastering the music industry, which the boys liken to the 2015 movie Kill Your Friends. Wary of certain elements in the industry, they label the music business as “really, a bit bullshit”. Displaying both the weariness of industry veterans and the mischievousness of youth, Bondax have grown from a pair of wide-eyed teens into wise souls.
Bondax play at Boundary Brighton, Stanmer Park on Sat 17 Sept.