Friday, September 6, 2013

brian bonz, the interview:

Getting to know Brian Bonz under his own name as a solo musician felt like a long time coming after having had the opportunities to see him perform, whether it be vocally (possibly beat boxing or making hilarious commentary and jokes) or with tambourine in hand, alongside multiple artists, such as Kevin Devine or John Nolan to name a few. It was easy to tell what a talented musician Bonz is, but after seeing him for the first time performing his own music, it’s hard to deny that it felt like he had been hiding a talent from us - his personal songwriting. It’s easy for anyone to be swayed by truthful and hard hitting storytelling, and Bonz not only does that but he has found a fresh way to capture those tellings within songs. That’s a true Bonz talent, and it’s something that you will discover when listen to any of his music, most notably “From Sumi To Japan” - a first look at his road to where he is now, currently in the studio working on his third LP.

i'm tired of this now
and you're still barking loud
and you're pushing three decades with that bottle now
and i didn't sign up for this kid shit now

The lyrics you've just read are from "Kid Shit," and when this song is performed live, it's one that showcases Brian's vocal skills beautifully, with the emotional rises and falls to go along with the powerful storyline. It's a song to hope to hear, as it shows that for a first album "From Sumi To Japan" came out of the gates swinging. Though often performing acoustically Brian and his team have not yet gone into the studio with the intention to release an acoustic album purely to placate this expectations of his fans. The pretty melodies can be a bit deceptive with some edgy lyrics to go along with them, but that's what makes Bonz so approachable. We all know and understand where he is coming from, we get it. Brian and his team have made definitive choices about what to share with fans, and he seems to be mindful with the vision he has for his music. He mentioned, “After getting the masters [of the second album], I always do this thing where I listen to [all my] records back to back to sort of get a better idea of where the timeline is going and to compare and contrast.”

As to how Bonz has gone about writing these songs, "A lot of the times I'll think of subject matter first and come up with ideas of what lines I want to sing, and melodies are second to that. One of the only songs that I had a melody idea right away that was produced by mouth first was 'Men, Voice, War,' off of our most recent record, and that all just started as a demo idea into an acapella concept then into a full fleshed band version. When I start the recording process, even just as a demo, that's when the ideas of what the song could really sound like with production all comes together. Normally I work primarily with guitar, drum machine and/or keyboards when I begin to really lay things down." 

Though freely performing and testing out new material in front of audiences, Brian Bonz and The Major Crimes is still always keeping their older material, which is more than deserving of stage time, fresh with occasional new takes or reformatting. Bonz stated, "I feel like some of those songs [off of "From Sumi To Japan"], like the last track 'Goodnight, Captain Revelstoke,' would be fun to play live and possibly rework them a little bit differently, but that's the best part about if you possibly  do get sick of them you can reformat them because it's yours. You can make it sound however you want, but to be honest, I don't mind or feel bored with the structure or representation of [my older material.]"

Having seen Bonz perform live in many settings and with a variety of band members, known as The Major Crimes, you come to know that he’s a man with true focus and a musical plan proven by the brilliance of his second full length album “The Triborough Odyssey.” With the full band approach on “From Sumi To Japan,” this follow-up album is additional proof to many that Bonz and team are focused on creating intricately layered melodies and not afraid to experiment with new ideas and sounds. With the release of this album he’s solidified himself as a songsmith as he’s not only created a beautiful album but he’s created a beautiful representation of the sections of the city he calls home - New York City. Each song is referring to experiences that he or people he knows have gone through, for instance there are tracks focused on major events in the city's history such as "Flashlights & Baseball Hats" about the 2003 blackout in the city and "Twin Terror" a touching retrospect on 9/11. Brian has found ways to channel these major moments into touching tributes, and it's hard to listen to "Twin Terror" without getting chills. He writes what he knows, and plain and simply, he writes it well.

There's a lot of work being done right now for the third album "Misophonia" far beyond just having written songs, meaning that Bonz and company are currently recording and tweaking to make sure the songs are up to snuff like his previous work. From the way Bonz talks about the new songs with excitement, it sounds as though there's a lot for his fans (and soon-to-be fans) to look forward to. Bonz shared that, "It's sonically different from music released in the past, and it will feel like a blend of both but a little different with a bit more upbeat-ness and some more electronic elements. It's a little more straight ahead. It's a little bit more of an organic orchestral record. I am more influenced by "Pink Robots" from the Flaming Lips, those sonically open ideas."

To close out my conversation with Bonz, after getting the chance to see him perform at TT's opening up for Laura Stevenson, I was able to ask him my "Inside The Actors Studio" style question I so nicely swiped from Metric: “Who would you rather be - The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” He easily stated, "I would rather be The Beatles. I really like The Rolling Stones, their whole band is great, and I grew up listening to their songs. Overall though I think production wise, stylistically, and how wide of a range of what The Beatles did and covered in their career proves and how prolific they were. I mean, obviously, "A Hard Day's Night" does not sound like "The White Album" at all, you know? The Stones have so many great ballads and great rock songs, but it feels like that's where it stands for them. With The Beatles there are tape loops being reversed and strings and crazy guitar solos, crazy vocals like "I Am The Walrus." There's just something about them that makes you truly believe in them. Definitely The Beatles."

If you've ever found yourself hearing the name Brian Bonz in conversations about other musicians you love, but haven't found yourself listening to his music yet, you're truly missing out. Do yourself a favor and give his music a listen, and there's no way you won't be finding yourself going back to the eclecticism of these songs and find something new in each to revel in with every listen.

If you’d like to listen to or find out more about Brian Bonz, please follow the links below:

To donate to Brian's Kickstarter to help fund the third full length "Misophonia," click here!

Photo credit: Sean O'Kane.

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