For whom the Bone and Bell tolls

By Trevor Ballanger

Local band Bone & Bell’s music creeps up on listeners with a soft, sweet tone and erupts into a symphony of powerful vocals from lead singer Heather Smith.

Smith released her first EP, “Loom,” in 2010 and was later joined by drummer Ryan Farnham; bassist Rick Roberts; and bassist and guitar player Jason Tuller to create Bone & Bell, with its distinctive psychedelic flurry of haunting sounds. Their latest EP, “Organ Fantasies,” explores the complex parallels between the human body and spirit through the combination of classical instruments and

soft rock.

The Chronicle talked with Smith about the organic nature of music, finding joy in both light and dark situations and being vulnerable in front of an audience.

The Chronicle: Does the title of your last EP, “Organ Fantasies,” hint at your music’s visceral tone?

Heather Smith: It has a lot of layers to it, actually. I’m also a visual artist, and I did a limited edition 7-inch vinyl printing that had drawings I had done of imaginary organs of the body, [which] actually represent each of the songs. That was one way of taking it. Another way of taking it was that these were all songs inspired by various [musical] organs I have in my house that I’ve found in alleyways and flea markets. It was basically the inspiration that comes from these organs.

How do you represent a song through an object?

[The song] “Weave the Marrow” is about codependency, and the illustration for it is actually of two bodies conjoined at the bones that are breaking apart. “Colony is Good For Me” was actually a blend of the female anatomy and an ant colony. This actually started as more of a take on societal structure. It sounds heady, but actually it’s where my inspiration came from.

Do you focus on the theme of romance in your songs?

I do sometimes. I think I have four songs, or so, about it. It actually isn’t the most common theme in my work. Really, death plays a big part, but so does life. I have a few songs that are about the creation of the universe as well as exploring what the human spirit is capable of. I try to keep a balance between the dark and the light, although I probably sway a little dark.

How does your voice play into the scheme of your music?

My voice is, in many ways, a very serious key player in the music. Not only does it allow me to [form] a gateway into a song, but I’ve been a singer for a really long time. So it feels really good and really natural for me to sing, and I trust it. What’s been cool in the last year or so, working with these guys, is that now that I have instrumentation, we can be more dynamic together. That allows me to showcase the dynamic range of my voice. I love to be small and quiet and intimate and then get really huge. It’s really fun to be able to encompass such

a range.

Are you trying to convey how the human spirit goes on after death?

That is definitely part of it. It’s also about the urgency of living in the now, being able to recognize the power we have in each instance in ourselves. That’s a big thing that humanity has in common: there’s a stopping point. I used to think that death is the ultimate prioritizer. It tells you exactly what needs to be done, exactly what you care about. I don’t want to seem infatuated with the concept. In fact, I don’t actually think I’m scared of death. I seem to find it as a recurring theme.

Do you ever feel vulnerable being on the stage and telling a story?

I’m human. The key to a good performer is the ability to really show yourself despite feeling vulnerable. It gives people a glimpse of humanity and a glimpse of connection, which I think is what we’re looking for in a lot of ways.

For more information, check out