IN BED WITH ESCAPISM
Blue Bendy are a six piece band from South London. Their most recent releases with the Slow Dance label have incorporated a mix of shoegaze, post punk and melodic synth pop. Here, frontman Arthur Nolan recounts his experience on the night coach between London and Aberdeen, a journey which has inspired much of his songwriting.
"If travel is flux, my life was Bendy"
I can't have been out of Hell for more than four hours when a distorted voice from above jolts me awake: "all passengers for..." -- we're coming to a stop. I'm greeted by the clatter of luggage from racks, a barrage of ‘sorry’s, and the reflection of reading lights scattered around the vehicle. Only when my eyes adjust am I aware of the beauty of our next scheduled call. Rolling in at 1am it's a greystone ghost town metropolis - 'Welcome to Harrogate'. The damaged furnishings, weeping friends, empty electricity meters in care of now unpowered full fridges, and adoring fans will have to wait. I shall return in 3 days - but for now I have escaped.
There is little else as welcoming as a dimly lit coach speeding through the night, away from wherever you've just been. Especially when you've just come from a strange room you rent, in a strange house in Nunhead with expensive heating. Solitary places like this marry themselves all too easily to narcissistic fantasies and delusions of impending fame. I am in bed with escapism and escaping, and it's here I conceive the latest two singles by Blue Bendy.
Not since 'National Express' by The Divine Comedy has the leisure of UK coach travel been so lovingly immortalised in indie pop music. Even then, when Neil Hannon was making his mock-pop observations the coach was far from it's former grace -- but for me in late-2019, the fallen king of transport provided solace unlike any other. For three months I was ‘International’, twenty six hours a week on the M12-to-Aberdeen-and-back. This is a habit born out of necessity. The bleeding heart called me to Scotland, the ego back down to London. In hindsight I should’ve been on Universal Credit, but I was caught up in the idea that if I was earning enough working 12 hours a week on a pan-asian-vegan-street-food stall to pay for my own travel and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference IPA’s (for the journey) then it was my duty to do so.
This logistic love affair is life long. For those 13 hours, you can sit and stare. It's a luxury that it's held in contempt but for these hours you are airlocked, stateless and therefore absolved of any responsibility. All you have to do is observe, gliding through a handful of cities in the early hours of the morning twice a week. A postman, delivering students and waylayed holidaymakers back to their empty bus stations. Watch Succession, listen to Fetch The Bolt Cutters or read Infinite Jest (can’t remember how many times I’ve started it) but for fuck’s sake don't think of the mess you've left behind or the duties awaiting you on arrival, you’re in no mans land - technically dead - enjoy it.
Alas! This flippant lifestyle didn’t last that long.
Responsibilities in the capital started piling up, and the romance of Scotland wasn’t seducing any of my other band members, nor was it paying the debts I was perpetually running away from. So soon enough, there I was, paying rent, putting 20p coins in a stiff slot in exchange for 7 minutes of hot water and occupying a desk in the Isle of Dogs thrice a week for the pleasure of doing so. I spent my evenings cold and alone, and in the company of a large tower of budget French lager. With each empty bottle that I added to the structure eclipsing my view on the windowsill, one thing became clearer. Everything is sinisterly still. Gone were the seedy backseat phone-speaker-gurners, the small-town-since-high-school-all-night-audible-kissers, the two-blanket-eye-mask-home-counties-recliners and the brooding artist silently relishing every second. This time there is no next stop. I’m sure anyone who’s ever spent any time in their own company will tell you, it isn’t long til you’re writing gentle progressive epics of your father’s traditional tree-surgeon lineage.
I’m staring into the abyss -- it’s fame or it’s fatal.