Interview: Bingo Fury | LOUD Bristol Issue FourPosted on: 19 Apr 2022
This article was first published in the fourth issue of LOUD Bristol, 365Bristol's dedicated music magazine. Read LOUD Bristol Issue Four and browse our first three editions here.
Interview: Bingo Fury
Bingo Fury’s atmospheric and occasionally erratic sound transports the listener into a world of seedy jazz bars and dark cobbled streets. Founding member Jack Ogborne delves into the band’s broad influences and distinctly avant-garde motifs.
I had no idea that the King William Alehouse on King Street had an upstairs until Jack Ogborne of Bingo Fury suggested that we meet there for our interview. The large room is completely empty when we meet, full of pool tables illuminated with dusty rays of sunlight. Jack is only one fifth of the band, but takes on the central role in the seedy cabaret that is Bingo Fury. Jack and co – in their previous incarnation as Norman - were in the midst of a UK tour with fellow Bristol band, LICE, and rapidly gaining momentum when the pandemic hit.
It was, however, when the world halted that Bingo Fury was conceived. “It gave us time to plan and write because the old band stopped, and we were blessed to have a gap where we could get a whole new idea back together,” Jack tells me. “By the time we could start playing shows again we were ready to go with something new.”
Despite struggling as much as anyone during lockdown, it gave the band an opportunity to fashion something innovative and original. “I really wanted it to be something larger than life... I wanted to do something that was cinematic,” he says. Indeed, the concept of Bingo Fury as a multifarious creation incorporating visual art, video and music is already coherent despite the project’s relative infancy. Singles ‘Big Rain’ and ‘Happy Snake’ demonstrate this with their frantic and surreal accompanying videos, perfectly intertwining with the “anxiety-driven” tracks.
The band have created an idiosyncratic narrative through their output, with Bingo as the central protagonist. “At this point everyone who likes Bingo Fury probably knows me personally, but the idea is that, if it gets any bigger, people who don’t know me personally are able to tailor this character into something larger than life - something that’s more than just me being Jack Ogborne up on stage because that’s not quite as exciting,” Jack explains.
"I really wanted it to be something larger than life... I wanted to do something that was cinematic"
- Jack Ogborne
This progressive concept is one that has been explored elsewhere in the artistic sphere, but Bingo have taken the idea and built upon it. “So much of songwriting and bands is about fiction that you build up,” Jack acknowledges. “So many of the bands that we love were probably just normal blokes like when you think of Bauhaus or something with the makeup - they’re meant to be onstage and detached.”
This character construction through a project echoes the work of icons like David Bowie as well as contemporary artists such as Alex Cameron. Jack looks elsewhere for inspiration, too, explaining there are “certain people - not necessarily musicians – that I base Bingo Fury off. Films and stuff as well.”
Indeed, the frontman’s music taste is broad, but not necessarily intrinsically linked to the band’s output. “I like Robert Wyatt but then I also like a lot of the 1975s songs and so you take in lots of things that you like and then I always feel like it’s not much of a conscious decision when you’re writing a song. I don’t feel like I have that much control over the Bingo Fury songs, it’s just quite natural. I can’t force them.”
Lyrically, Bingo Fury have often been compared to the work of the Beat Poets of the 1950s, which certainly attests to Jack’s diverse range of influences. Jack Kerouac, who described his poetry as “wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better,” springs to mind, with Jack Ogborne’s unpredictable and often surreal lyricism carving out a similar path.
Having played the local circuit in various bands from a young age, Jack has a deeply intimate relationship with Bristol's cobweb of independent venues. Photos: Ashley Bourne
Collaboration is essential to multiform projects such as Bingo Fury. The band have been working closely with “absolutely devastating director” Max McLachlan, with the creator most recently lending his hand on videos for singles ‘Big Rain’ and ‘Happy Snake’. Both are striking and manic in equal measure, complete with other-worldly characters; not least the Ashes to Ashes-esque figure in ‘Happy Snake’, wearing an extravagant pink dress borrowed from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Both singles released by Bingo were produced by John Parish, known for his extensive work with PJ Harvey and production credits with acts such as Dry Cleaning, Aldous Harding and This Is The Kit. “It was a real privilege,” Jack says. “He’s really good at recognising people’s idiosyncrasies and catering towards that, he only works on stuff when he thinks there’s something interesting in there.”
Ogborne has made a habit of working with his musical heroes, having played live with Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (of Iceage) and Aldous Harding in the past. “Hearing a voice like that coming out of a monitor rather than on a record feels like something’s gone wrong in the universe,” the frontman declares.
Jack was only eighteen when he played with Aldous Harding. He sees this experience as not just shaping his own musical development, but also an important part of the construction of Bingo Fury. “She does a particularly good job of that thing I was trying to describe earlier of being this out of reach, ethereal person and then watching her be unsure about what she’s singing. You never see that side of a musician like that,” he explains.
"There's a community energy [at The Louisiana], it's a family run business with a great space and a great sound"
- Jack Ogborne
Having played the local circuit in various bands from a young age, Jack has a deeply intimate relationship with Bristol's cobweb of independent venues. He speaks lovingly about his love of Crofters Rights and The Old England, as well as the “promise” of newcomer, Strange Brew.
The Louisiana is perhaps the space closest to his heart, however, and the historic venue has become an important part of his life. “There’s a community energy, it’s a family run business with a great space and a great sound”, he says. “I started spending a lot more time in the studio in the basement of The Louisiana with Will Carkeet [of Robbie & Mona] working on their stuff and there’d be gigs upstairs and I’d go most days and just work on recordings.
“Mig [Venue Manager at The Louisiana] is super facilitating for that kind of thing and keen to nurture local Bristol talent. They’ll be putting on really big shows but also put on any local kid from Bedminster who wants a show, they’ll still do it even if they’re only going to sell like 20 tickets or whatever because it’s about giving people the experience,” he says.
When discussing the future of Bingo Fury, evolution appears to be the focus, with Jack (half) joking that his intention is to avoid being categorised as ‘post-punk’. “So far I’d say that people haven’t really given us that label, but our next track is the last one that you could probably call post-punk - after that there’s no way you could,” he remarks.
With fresh music in tow, the band are preparing for a year of new releases. “We’re recording an EP in March and releasing that in Autumn with a couple of singles before it and that’s going to be the project for this year,” Jack explains.
“I can imagine it being more commercially well received; there are a lot more melodic elements to it, there’s definitely still discordant moments but it’s more well placed and considered. It’s more like there are the jarring bits but they’re there to highlight the prettier parts of the songs.”
It will be intriguing to see where this radical project - and the character of Bingo Fury - goes next, but whatever happens, you can be sure the sound will remain unpredictable and innovative. In the words of its frontman, we have seen “the intro period of Bingo,” and now we must prepare ourselves for “bigger things.”
Head to Issuu to read LOUD Bristol Issue Four in full, featuring a selection of interviews with some of the city's best-loved artists, venues, labels and more.
Main Image: Ashley Bourne
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Stan is a born and bred Bristolian, recently graduated from studying English Literature in Sheffield. His passions are music and literature and spends the majority of his time in venues all over the city immersing himself in Bristol’s alternative music scene. A lifelong Bristol City fan, Stan’s Saturday’s are spent watching his team both home and away.