Photo credit: @martinthompsonphotography

“Music has the power to heal”

In May 2022, IDLES headlined an extraordinary bill of uniquely Bristolian artists for a one-off benefit gig in support of War Child.

We went backstage with lead guitarist Mark Bowen to talk to him about how music brings people together and the difficult times it’s helped him through.   


So what made you want to put on this show?  

We were asked by [artist manager] Tom Friend who said he wanted to do something for War Child, a benefit show, so we jumped at the opportunity.   

In times like this you can feel very helpless and not sure of how to help out so luckily someone has given us an opportunity to do something so we jumped at it.   


What is it about War Child’s work that maybe resonated with you in particular?   

I mean it’s fairly unequivocal, isn’t it? It’s looking after children who are victims of war and War Child’s always had a strong link with the music community and the music industry so we jumped at the opportunity.   

War is horrible, and you subject children to that...that’s just the worst thing.  

I mean that sounds so crass but it’s true. No one should be a victim of war and especially not children so we want to do whatever we can.   


Your music could said to bring out positive messages and be a lot about unity and unifying people. How do you think the world could be a bit more united at the moment?  

I think it’s just about listening to each other and giving other people an opportunity to speak. Giving people who don’t normally get an opportunity to speak, to speak and to be listened to, be heard. And I think once people listen to each other’s voices they’ll find common ground and find something to unify them. That’s certainly my experience.   


So obviously this show is a lot about representing homegrown talent. Is there anything different about doing a home gig and what is the meaning of home for you?  

From the band’s perspective they’re the best and the worst thing in the world because you put a lot of stuff on yourself, you know? You kind of want to go and show ‘look, look what we are now!’ and you always want it to be as good as the amazing show you had in Buenos Aires or the amazing show you had in Cleveland or something like that. So there's a lot of fluff and stupid stuff around that and it’s kind of daunting in that capacity.  

But you’re also among friends which is nice, so you relax. In some ways you get heightened up and in some ways you relax a bit so it doesn’t feel like any normal gig.   


You touched on this earlier when you were saying about War Child’s connection with the music industry. We feel that music can have a transformative power, particularly for children and young people. How has music helped you in any kind of difficult circumstance?  

For me, it’s everything. That’s why I’m in a band. Music is my catharsis. It’s my release. And it also helps me understand the world and helps me explain and express feelings that as an Irishman I’m not that great at doing with this bit [points at mouth].   

It’s a really important, expressive thing and I think it is unifying. It is a shared experience. When you’re in an audience and you’re watching a band perform that is a moment where everyone can be momentary in and that does create this kind of unifying force even if it happens to be momentary and nothing happens thereafter.   

I think it [music] has the power to heal. It has the power to enliven and instigate and get people to think and to move forwards.  

I mean I don’t know whether necessarily my band do that, but they do that for me and that’s first and foremost.   

And if I can share any tiny little centimetre of that with anyone else, then that’s wonderful.