©Photography by Julia Callis
There's hype right now around Detroit based band Bonny Doon. "Hazy pop gems with sharp lyrics"..."sweet new video"..."classic feeling guitar warmth". They're getting all the reviews. But the truth is, they don't give a fuck. It's all about the good tunes from Bonny Doon, and little more...
A band who are fairly confident with what and why they are, we don't need to give Bonny Doon the usual 7/10 schmoozing. We don't even need to make comment on their upcoming self-titled debut record; which is already reported to be one of the best sounds of the year. Bonny Doon are laid-back and happy with what they are doing, no more to it. What is interesting, is how they grew the knack for the good tunes.
When listening to their new record you can hear development from the band who were at one point considered "punk". We first came across Bonny Doon when we heard their self-titled debut EP, and like a scout who watches the young prospect grow to be MVP, it's comforting to see how those few tracks, rough around the edges with little thought gone into recording, have ultimately shaped where the band are now.
The promise was all there. In one track especially, Blood In The Bathtub. There's fewer riffs which have sounded so cool in the world of music. The new direction remind us much of that first track; maintaining originality but striving to develop the sound into something bigger. There's an unmistakably David Berman/Silver Jews edge to the Bonny Doon, in so much that they are American, strum up and down, riff heavy and sing (at times) rather slowly. I See You is an example, but that's your lot for comparison, really.
That's enough from us. Bonny Doon are better describing it in their own words, they know something is about to happen here. But with the release of the self-titled record on March 10th via Salinas Records, all we'll say is that we're looking forward to hearing more good tunes from the boys in Bonny Doon. Here's the Third Outing interview with band members Josh, Bill and Bobby...
Hello Josh, Bill and Bobby AKA Bonny Doon! Which one of you came up with the band name?
Josh: That would be Bill. He saw the name on a wine bottle and really liked the sound of it. We’re all from Detroit and are really tired of imagery associated with the national identity of the city. Borrowing the sand and surf of California seemed both honest, longing and amusingly absurd. The band is a sort of sacred construction to us, so we like the idea that it resides in a perpetually sunny place.
Coming from a punk scene have the goals for Bonny Doon evolved as the fan-base has grown?
Josh: Our goals haven't changed. I'm not interested in being a band in the conventional way. There are enough bands out there that play rock music, have four white dudes in them, tour the club circuits and are trying to make it. To me, that way of approaching a band misses key elements that allow for growth and longevity. We are very intentional in all aspects of the band, down to where we play and who we play with. Being the cool new band in town isn't our goal, it's to create a sustainable art project that will continue to inspire and nurture us as we grow in our lives as a band, as friends and people.
Where was your head at whilst writing and recording this new record?
Bill: Our previous release Classical Days and Jazzy Nights was made in a more spontaneous way and had a very DIY feel because we recorded it ourselves on a four track. This album was made more intentionally with everything pretty much laid out the way we wanted it. We tracked everything in a week and Bobby mixed it. It's the culmination of our band up to the point that it was recorded.
"We guide the band by the principle that feeling wins over logic,
and mistakes often find their way onto the final product as a result,
but I wouldn't want it any other way"
We're hearing everything from Bob Dylan, to Parquet Courts and Silver Jews. Who were the major influences and how have they impacted on you? Bill: It’s hard to say directly what our major influences were when making this record. I think Bobby and I definitely influenced each other a lot when writing this album. I think we take a lot from the music we listen to day to day like Neil Young and The Velvet Underground. We definitely were in a Kraut Rock phase around the time we recorded this, there a quite a few extended jams for some of these songs that didn’t make the final cut.
But the record also allows more space for lyrics and stories. Did you try to stick with a theme?
Bobby: We don’t think about themes, we don’t really aim for any specific topical realms. Our songs tend to look inward, and are mostly all about relationship to self, relationship to others, or relationship to place. But what songs aren’t I guess. I think Bill and I think and talk a lot more about voice, and how what we write feels to us to sing and hear.
There's got to be a story which eptomises the band's spirit, right? Josh: When we recorded the Classical Days and Jazzy Nights tape we did so at a friend’s property on Lake Michigan. In Northern Michigan in the winter, it snows - a lot - and that weekend turned out to be a blizzard. Both cars got stuck in the snow about half a mile from the house and we had to carry the gear in through a foot of snow. Nevertheless we set up in the middle of this place with the intention of just writing and refining some new material.