By Natalya Jones
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By Jesse Scheckner
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You can be forgiven if you've never heard of the avant-garde pop star named Ebony Bones!, born Ebony Thomas. But despite not yet offering an official U.S. release of her debut album, Bone of My Bones, this Brit has been slowly gaining stateside appeal. Turns out the gal has already played alongside Yo La Tengo and Beck during an Obama inauguration party last year, and her far-out sounds and high-energy stage performance made her the toast of this year's SXSW.
"The only way to stand out from the crowd is to go nowhere near them," the 20-something firecracker says about playing the Austin, Texas, industry shebang. Her instincts told her that the band's sound and energy was different from that of every other artist there. "My band is my army; our war is against conformity, optimism our cultural rebellion," she says. "Oh dear, am I starting to sound like Bono?"
Yes, one could say she marches to the beat of her own drum. And she couldn't have been a better fit for the Art Basel crowd. Besides her electro-tribal-funk-punk — think M.I.A. with more edge and better beats — she boasts a futuristic, DIY style that looks like Mad Max in a Technicolor daydream.
And Bones! feels good about capturing the attention of American forward-thinkers. "I feel the majority of Americans are far more open-minded and diverse than they are generally given credit for," she says, citing recent overwhelming response after gigs in Chicago and New York. "Music is the one thing that can galvanize all types of people into the same room — well, music and perhaps football." Uh, that's soccer, for us Americans.
Bones! actually got her start as an actress, performing Shakespeare by age 12 and becoming a daytime soap star in the U.K. by age 15. Eventually she even snagged a "Sexiest Female" nod from the British Soap Awards, but by age 19, she says, she was bored with acting and took to music as therapy.
She doesn't really fret about being taken seriously as yet another actor turned musician either. "I haven't had to worry about that, because I was never a great actress," she says. She could never take direction anyway, for instance, always looking for ways to direct the directors, rewrite the scripts, and design her own costumes. "I'm just always thinking of ways to make things bigger, brighter, and magical," she says.
And what can we expect from her set at the sandy Art Loves Music stage? "Whistles, horns, and possibly puke." Right on; it will blend right in. Be on the lookout for the stateside release of her marvelous homemade debut, due out sometime next year.