Based out of the sheriff-friendly town of Nottingham, England, the duo of Simon Mills and Neil “Nail” Tolliday met as housemates and formed the flippantly picturesque Bent — a group earmarking a page somewhere between an early morning Air and a less cacophonic Bentley Rhythm Ace. Sonically, the band’s primary influence boils down to becoming disillusioned with house music and hoarding mounds of bad records. Lo-culture samples accessorize jazz, rock, and hip-hop pulses with a heady sense of ironic p**s-taking while adolescent titles like the perverted “Welly Top Mary” give the indication of a band trying to resurrect majesty in even the most risible of sources. By 2000, Bent released their sleeper — and warmly received — debut album, Programmed to Love, which helped pave the way for the band earning a nomination for Best Newcomer at the same year’s Muzik Awards.
It all started as a happy accident – sort of. When new neighbours Neil ‘Nail’ Tolliday and Simon Mills picked up a box full of crackly charity shop records and set to work on creating something out of not much at all, they jokingly took chintzy castaways and turned them into enchanting slithers of wonky pop. It might have seemed like a joke but they knew what they were doing.
The swoonsome ‘I love my man’ soon snuck out on Rob Da Bank’s Sunday Best label before the results of those early sample driven forges manifested themselves as the backbone to ‘Programmed to love’; a début album that pitted Mantovani strings against wisps of Nana Mouskouri’s lost vocals, whilst still managing to showcase the sirenesque qualities of Zoe Johnston and their own penchant for mischevious japes (later live shows would see them joined by a rather questionably gifted breakdancer called Kid Dragon).
Resisting the urge to stay in their comfort zone, their next full opus ‘The Everlasting Blink’ (aside from the wondrous’Magic Love’) witnessed them taking a step away from their sample driven past and into a more organic world, as vocalist Katty Heath complemented the pair’s fuller, wholesome sound and took them one step closer to the folk-tinged ambience of third album ‘Ariels’.
In 2006 they returned with their boldest statement yet, ‘Intercept’. Bolstered by the presence of Simian’s Simon Lord on main vocal responsibilities, it was a sonic declaration of their desire to kick in a few doors rather than always be politely invited round for tea and showed a world that their well of fresh ideas was never in danger of running dry.
The latest album, ‘From The Vaults’ is a 34 track compilation drawn from their unreleased material, between 1998 and 2006.
From humble beginnings in a Nottingham flat to hosting their own tent at The Big Chill, being name-checked by Michael Caine and wowing crowds from Knebworth to the Acropolis, Bent have found themselves to be a best kept secret that’s just too special to keep.