Abby Wale and Madison Olds didn’t know each other a year ago.
The bandmates of the Bees and the Bare Bones duo barely new each other when they recorded their first song on a whim to enter a contest they didn’t think they would win. But after surprising themselves and shooting to local stardom in a matter of months, Wale and Olds have had to get to know each other fairly quickly.
“It's kind of like learning each other but already being married,” Olds said. “We've kind of surpassed friends and gone right to family. We fight like sisters.”
It’s definitely been a whirlwind year for the emerging duo, who formed the band to enter the Chevy Tailgate Contest in September. They won, landing a $10,000 cash prize toward a professional recording session in Nashville and international exposure through CMT.
Since then, they’ve been busy writing and developing their style. The band went from a trio to a duo in January when Chloe Beauchamp-Brisson decided instead to focus on school, a decision the remaining bandmates totally support. But it did give them an opportunity to revisit the identity of Bees and the Bare Bones.
“Naturally, the sound as a trio was different as a duo and we didn't really even know each other as a trio, so it's been this long process,” Wale said. “It's kind of just always evolving and always finding what's natural as a duo because our individual sounds were so different.”
On that first trip to Nashville they met the producer that has since been working with them on demos and writing collaborations with other artists in the country music capital. They’ve returned to Nashville twice, spending a lot of time getting to the root of who they are as a band under mentorship from Brad Stella of Back40 Entertainment.
“When we went down the second time, we were kind of like, we’re a duo now let's start from scratch. Let’s start fresh. Let's ask ourselves who we are and what do we want to sound like when we close our eyes and take all the expectations off our shoulders,” Wale said.
While their original hits, Fool and Mad Love, had an alt-country vibe, the emerging style honed in their newest creations has veered in a new direction. It’s more Chainsmokers-meets-Carrie Underwood than it is Dixie Chicks, they said. The pair returned from their latest trip to Nashville about a month ago with three new demos in the works.
“Even each song, they're so different. We can't even put them in the same genre,” Olds said. “It all sounds like us and it's a unique sound. We're going to start our own category on iTunes, just no genre. Unknown. Questioning genre — there we go.”
Bees and the Bare Bones has been much more focused on experimenting than rushing to put an EP together, especially after learning first-hand how much work goes into recording a single track. They still do a mix of covers and originals during their live shows — an unpredictable acoustic blend of everything from Miranda Lambert to TLC.
Both have given up their day jobs to embark on a full summer schedule with appearances across the province, a trip to Los Angeles and a spot on the main stage at Rockin’ River Fest in Merritt in August. There, The Bees will be backed by another band — something to add a little more punch while on the big stage — comprised of local musicians Jared Wilman, Alexander Ward, Stuart McCallum and Kris Ruston.
From the moment the Chevy contest launched last year, they’ve had no shortage of community support.
“In the last year I’ve seen such a different side of Kamloops and I already thought Kamloops was so artsy, but now I get to see, wow Kamloops is really growing,” Olds said. “It's really exciting to be a part of that and also encourage it to grow.”
Despite being near strangers and the beginning of this journey — a recipe ripe for self-destruction — both have jumped in, feet first.
"We've both grown a lot and I've just realized dreams that I didn't know I had. I'm so excited," Wale said. "This has been a really incredible year."
Catch Bees and the Bare Bones live this weekend when they perform at the Downtown Art and Music Festival main stage on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 12:45 p.m.