The Bony King of Nowhere is the musical alter ego of Bram Vanparys, who won an MIA for best composer in 2019. A highlight for the resident of Ghent, who with album Silent Days had released a modern Belpop classic after a ten-year career. The title track of that record is still played regularly five years later, but we did not hear any new material. What was going on? A musical burnout?
Vanparys said he did not stop writing, but was unable to find new directions musically and also had little new to say lyrically. It resulted in a lot of songs that were used as b-sides Silent Days felt and a musical search process that would take years. Vanparys is a fan of perfectionists like PJ Harvey who keep reinventing themselves, and it shows Everybody Knowsin which other horizons are resolutely explored.
Of Silent Days Vanparys distanced himself from his singer-songwriter influences and shifted focus. After four albums that can be played solo on an acoustic guitar, the emphasis shifted to subtle and richly arranged songs, with influences from, among others, The War On Drugs. The new album relies even more on that approach, although this time we find the musical influences much more in the Radiohead corner at the time of In Rainbows or A Moon Shaped Pool.
Everybody Knows was recorded in multiple sessions over a period of one and a half years, partly in La Patrie, the studio of trusted producer Koen Gisen (An Pierlé) and partly at home. In the studio they collaborated with top performers such as guitarist Vitja Pauwels (Naima Joris), pianist Hendrik Lasure (Tamino, Bombataz), drummer Simon Segers (Sylvie Kreusch, Stadt) and bassist Jasper Hautekiet. At home, Vanparys continued to tinker with the recordings between sessions – in his own words, the most fun part of songwriting.
This collaboration is paying off. Everybody Knows is full of songs that appear menacing, urgent and melancholic, thanks to the group arrangements. For example, “Slow Down” relies on excellent guitar work by Pauwels that could easily have come from Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. “All It Takes” has beautiful strings that were applied by Lasure over Vanparys’ fingerpicking. (By the way, do we hear a harp passing by in the outro?) A song like “Falling Into Place” provides a cheerful light in the beautiful darkness.
Vanparys first thinks up his melodies and then pastes his lyrics onto the finished compositions; that leads to a coherent textual whole. The common thread: the constant rat race and social pressure, which only seems to be getting worse due to the influence of social media (the band itself only created an Instagram account in 2019). Like in “Slow Down”: ‘You can’t slow down / You’re so uptight’. Or excessive consumerism: ‘Whatever it is that you don’t really need / They’ll sell it to you anyway / Buy one and get one free’. From “Get One Free”. In short, we all know that things are going in the wrong direction.
Vanparys cannot help that Radiohead already addressed these themes in 1997 with OK Computer, but here it sometimes moves very close musically and lyrically to the universe of that band. Is that bad? Gee, not really, when you reach this level. ‘Picture yourself the best way you can / Put it online and live up to it’, Vanparys sings in “Are You Still Alive?” The Bony King of Nowhere is certainly alive, as it turns out here. He may hate the pressures of modern life, but he answers with Everybody Knows to expectations.
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Discover “All It Takes”, our favorite song from Everybody Knowsin our Plaatje van de Plaat playlist on Spotify.