Meet Brave Rival, the piña colada-drinking roots rockers who can't stop head-banging

Brace Rival group shot
(Image credit: Rob Blackham/Blackham Images)

Lindsey Bonnick is still feeling last night’s gig. 

“I can’t stop myself from head-banging,” drawls one half of Brave Rival’s frontline. “I always regret it the day after, but I just can’t help it. Chloe [Josephine, the other half] is more of a strutter, so she’ll be strutting while I’m jumping up and down…” 

The two singers also have different drinks orders. 

“I’m a gin and tonic,” considers Bonnick. “Chloe is a piña colada. As for Donna [Peters, drums], Ed [Clarke, guitars] and Billy [Dedman, bass], you can get them a nice ale.” 

Synergy is fine, but sometimes an amicable tussle makes for a great band. In the case of Portsmouth’s Brave Rival, the yin-yang of Bonnick’s low, ghostly vocal and Josephine’s powerhouse belt lets the pair stomp all over the gamut of roots genres on their debut album Life’s Machine, from the blues-rocking Heart Attack to the soul-smoked Fool Of You

“We make music that you feel is familiar,” says Bonnick, “but done in a new way.” 

Comparisons to Fleetwood Mac are inevitable – and are taken as a compliment – but the roots of Brave Rival are closer to another of their big influences. 

“We’ve had the same journey as Heart,” Bonnick reflects. “They started out more acoustic then went on to heavier stuff. Myself, Chloe and Donna began as a folk act, but we wanted to do something grittier.”

Moments such as What’s Your Name Again? and Run And Hide certainly have the rafter-shaking riffs to satisfy their home town’s drunken sailors. "Actually, it’s more like drunken students,” Bonnick says dryly. 

On those songs, the lyrics are uncomplicated and pleasingly waspish, engineered to shout back. 

“A lot of my lyrics are story-based,” says Bonnick. “What’s Your Name Again? is about a one-night stand and being so drunk that you don’t know where you are in the morning. Guilty Love was by Chloe and that’s a bit of an ‘f you’ to a past relationship.” 

But there’s sensitivity, too, on the sad glisten of Long Time Coming and the wistful six-minute closing title track. 

Long Time Coming is very poignant to me, because I wrote that lyric about missing my family,” says Bonnick. “Chloe wrote the Life’s Machine lyric,” she continues. “Back when we were given an hour each day to go outside, Chloe would walk past this one particular house where an old lady lived. Then she stopped seeing her. Then the garden started overgrowing. And then the house was sold. Those times were really intense.” 

No wonder Brave Rival have hit the live circuit like a train since restrictions lifted. And if bringing rock’n’roll audiences back to life causes Bonnick a little neck ache, so be it. 

“Some of these songs make you dance,” she says. “Some make you cry, some make you sing at the top of your lungs.” 

Life’s Machine is out now via Brave Rival.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.