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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Artist Spotlight: Why Bonnie – Our Culture

Hailing from Texas and now based mostly in Brooklyn, Why Bonnie is the indie rock quintet led by Blair Howerton and joined by keyboardist Kendall Powell, guitarist Sam Houdek, bassist Probability Williams, and drummer Josh Malett. Across the early 2020 launch of their Voice Field EP, the band spent two weeks at Tommy Reed’s Lazy Bones Studio within the small Texas city of Silsbee to report their debut full-length, 90 in November, which is out this Friday on Keeled Scales. Abandoning their bed room pop roots and roughening the sides of their sound, the album blends ’90s indie rock and alt-country right into a sort of trendy, shoegaze-leaning Americana very like their contemporaries in Asheville’s Wednesday; it additionally showcases the distinctive dynamic the band has rapidly grown into, anchoring in Howerton’s stark, poetic lyricism to ship its punch.

A lot of 90 in November is about trying again: on locations unmarked by time however all the time slipping out and in of your reminiscence’s grasp – the style of the ocean and the face of the dawn, aimless drives beneath the scorching solar – and relationships, too, that form you lengthy after they’ve run their course. Reasonably than stewing in nostalgia, the gathering displays the journey of self-realization that turns into doable, as Howerton places it in ‘Sharp Flip’, in “the quietest of occasions.” Such is the meditative calm of nearer ‘Superhero’, the place the singer lastly shifts perspective: “I can really feel my coronary heart setting a fireplace so large/ It’d burn the town within the blink of an eye fixed/ Once we’ve cleared away the entire rubble/ Above us there’s a transparent blue sky.”

We caught up with Why Bonnie’s Blair Howerton for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak about revisiting locations she grew up in, the evolution of Why Bonnie, recording their debut album, and extra. 

‘Galveston’ was impressed by a metropolis in Texas that you just affiliate along with your childhood and the expertise of revisiting that place. When did you return there, and what was it like?

So, Galveston was the seaside metropolis that I’d go to rising up nearly each weekend. It was solely about an hour away from Houston, which is the place I’m from, and it was all the time my household’s favorite getaway. We’d go there with household associates, spend the weekend. I’ve plenty of nice childhood reminiscences from Galveston. I actually hadn’t been again there since I used to be a minimum of in highschool, till 2019. I went again for a weekend for my mother’s birthday, and I had this actually bizarre feeling as a result of I hadn’t been again to this place in so lengthy. And I had modified a lot in these years, however Galveston itself hadn’t in any respect. I used to be seeing all these similar landmarks and eating places and seashores that had been all sort of snippets from my childhood, they usually hadn’t modified one bit. So it was sort of disorienting at first, however then as soon as I acquired into the rhythm of it, it felt actually good to be again. That tune isn’t solely about that particular expertise of going again to a spot you hadn’t been in a very long time, but additionally about reflecting on how you alter over time, and the way your relationship to folks and locations change with that. And the way it’s not essentially good or unhealthy – it simply is what it’s, and it’s a part of life.

There’s this line that you just circle round, “When I attempt to keep in mind it I can’t/ It’s slipping like quicksand,” which I really feel like actually encapsulates the sort of hazy nostalgia that permeates the album. Do you discover that capturing these reminiscences in a tune is nearly as evocative as going again to a sure place?

For me, writing music is my most pure, but additionally simply essentially the most magical means of speaking my experiences and my feelings. Issues get misplaced in translation whenever you’re simply relaying it by phrases, a minimum of for me. And so, when it’s set to music, and there’s a objective to this time that you just’re giving to this one tune, I feel it communicates these experiences a bit of bit higher. And I feel it’s nice that I will be writing about one thing so particular that has occurred to me, however when a listener listens to it, that’ll elicit a very completely different vary of feelings or photographs. Everybody has their very own relationship to a tune and what it brings up for them, and I feel that’s actually lovely.

What sort of music takes you again to your childhood?

Loads of the influences on the album are artists and bands that I listened to rising up. Issues that my mother actually preferred, issues like Sheryl Crow and the Lemonheads, which continues to be considered one of my favorite bands. Being from Houston, there’s a very good quantity of nation in there. When it got here to scripting this album, I undoubtedly needed to maintain it inside that realm of music I had grown up with, sounds that felt nostalgic to me, as a result of that’s the theme of the album. I undoubtedly had these bands in thoughts when scripting this.

You began writing songs whilst you had been in class in North Carolina, however you shaped Why Bonnie after shifting again to Texas. How did being there solidify your resolution to pursue songwriting in a critical means?

I left faculty with a plan. I used to be going to maneuver to Austin, I used to be going to begin a band. I used to be going to pursue this dream that I had actually let go to the wayside for a very long time. For no matter cause – lack of competence or lack of expertise, feeling prefer it was too late for me. I actually felt like now could be the one time I’m going to have the ability to really make this dream a actuality. And so, I did it. I went to Austin with the intention of forming a band. I had these songs already written, about an album’s value of songs written. I used to be initially going beneath the title Ponyboy, shaped the band, and we obtained a stop and desist from one other artist referred to as Ponyboy. So we modified it to Ponyboy and the Horse Women, after which we ended up simply altering the band title to Why Bonnie, I suppose a few yr into enjoying music beneath Ponyboy and the Horse Women. And by the point we modify it to Why Bonnie, the sound and normal of the music I used to be writing on the time modified rather a lot. It was much more surfy, a bit of extra twee. I liked artists like Pricey Nora and the Softies, plenty of Okay Data bands from Olympia, that sound. I simply needed to do one thing completely different, and that’s sort of the place Why Bonnie and our sound was born.

Does it really feel unusual trying again now, the way in which you got here collectively and arrived at that sound?

Yeah, I feel for some time, particularly with this album – it sounds completely different than our different music. Our different music is much more shoegaze or simply full-on rock, so I used to be a bit of nervous that I can’t write this music as a result of it has a rustic twang to it or it’s not what are different stuff feels like. And ultimately, I deserted that hesitation as a result of I simply needed to write down what was coming to me. And that was to sound a bit of extra uncooked, a bit of extra Americana. We lately had the evaluation of “shoegazeicana,” which I actually like.

I noticed it in your Bandcamp bio, too.

Yeah, I prefer it. I don’t wish to keep in a single style, truthfully. I feel music has so many alternative avenues you may go down and that’s all the time actually thrilling to me as an artist, that I don’t should field myself into one style.

I do know you thought-about a number of completely different places to report the album. Why did Texas finally really feel like the best place, regardless of a lot of the songs having been written in Brooklyn? Was it that emotional connection?

There’s undoubtedly the emotional connection of plenty of the songs being influenced by Texas. And having this chance to go report at this actually lovely studio in a really small city in East Texas, the place it was no distractions, quintessential Texas panorama, there have been cow fields and bushes – that actually spoke to us. Not solely that, however we liked the concept of working with Tommy Reed, who’s our producer and runs Lazybones Audio the place had been recorded. He has labored with plenty of musicians that we love, like Lomelda and alexalone and Jodi. We had a very good time, and I feel it was meant to be.

Do you’ve gotten any fond reminiscences from the recording course of which you can share?

Yeah, we we did plenty of cooking collectively each evening, which was actually candy. Since we’re in such a small city, and it was January 2021 so we’re in heavy lockdown mode, we did plenty of cooking. We’re all a bunch of foodies, so we bond over that. We additionally for enjoyable would – have you learnt what a BB gun is?

I feel so.

It’s a gun that shoots little plastic pellets. There was a BB gun on the market, and we might shoot beer cans rather a lot in between takes. [laughs] It was high-quality, everybody was secure about it. What else… Simply plenty of actually quiet nights beneath the celebs. We didn’t have any TV, we had been simply listening to music and spending time with one another. It was very nice.

To lean on that final half, I really feel like the concept of discovering consolation in stillness and solitude is mirrored within the album, too. Was that one thing that you just discovered to embrace extra through the pandemic, or was it one thing you already felt attuned to?

As a lot of the songs had been written within the top of the pandemic in lockdown, I wasn’t in a position to go anyplace, I had no outward influences. I used to be actually simply left to my songs and myself, and it had been the primary time in so lengthy that I had an opportunity to take a seat and be nonetheless and be quiet with my ideas. And I spotted I hadn’t actually emotionally gone by the entire experiences I had had within the years main as much as that second. I used to be all the time on the go, searching for the subsequent factor, trying ahead to shifting to New York. I used to be simply shifting at a really quick tempo. And whenever you’re doing that, and also you don’t take the time to be nonetheless, you don’t have time to course of. So I feel plenty of these songs had been me processing the previous on this very uncommon second of stillness. I feel it’s actually cool that we had been capable of finding that stillness in Silsbee once we had been recording as nicely, as a result of I feel that it comes out within the music, that concept of coming to phrases along with your previous within the current second – not operating away from it, simply sitting with it and accepting it for what it’s.

On the title monitor, you sing, “Lonely occasions are louder within the Lone Star State.” What does that imply to you? How can loneliness be loud in your thoughts?

I feel that line particularly is referring to not solely the bodily actuality of it being, I grew up proper subsequent to a freeway in Houston. It wasn’t a really quiet place, and that’s sounds that I consider after I consider my childhood residence and rising up. But in addition, being younger and simply having plenty of chatter in my very own head, not having the instruments or the expertise to calm down my interior ideas, my interior world. It’s simply one thing I keep in mind very particularly about being a teen or a youthful particular person. It’s sort of referring to youthful years and coping with that interior monologue.

That loudness perhaps doesn’t go away as you develop up, however you’re attempting to make it much less lonely.

Yeah. Making an attempt to ease the chatter all the way down to a pleasant dialog. [laughs]

I feel it’s fascinating that the report ends with ‘Lot’s Spouse’ and ‘Superhero’, which from I perceive had been the primary and final songs to be written for the album. In addition they praise one another thematically, one reflecting on the risks of continually trying again, and the opposite being anchored within the current second. Was there a selected intention behind closing out the album with these tracks, as an alternative of, like, opening with one and ending with the opposite?

I really like that you just caught that. I feel ‘Lot’s Spouse’ is certainly probably the most nostalgically charged songs as a result of it is vitally outrightly about trying again. There’s a line in it referring to Lot’s spouse, who’s a personality within the Bible, who appears again at their hometown that they’re fleeing and she or he turns to a pillar of salt. And I all the time thought that that imagery was so poetic and exquisite, so I needed to include it into the tune and sort of constructed the tune round that imagery. Additionally, sonically, I like the concept of getting the second to final tune being this large eruption of emotion, after which having the final one be like a quiet touchdown to ease your self out of the album.

‘Superhero’ might be the one tune that’s extra concerning the current second, and even trying ahead to the longer term. It’s a love tune, and I wrote it actually the day earlier than we jumped into the studio. I didn’t even know if it was going to be on the album. We had completed recording for the day, we’re simply hanging out within the studio. And I used to be like, “I’ve a tune, I actually simply wish to fiddle, see what occurs.” So I acquired in there, simply enjoying it dwell, and Sam jumped in on the guitar, which he’s enjoying with a violin bow, which is absolutely cool. All of it simply sort of got here collectively very naturally. And really a lot within the second, which I feel goes together with the theme of the tune, which is being grateful for current love that you just’re experiencing and in addition being longing for what comes subsequent. I needed to depart the album on a hopeful notice.

Was it in any means thrilling or new so that you can step into that mode of songwriting, the place you’re not essentially a lot reflecting again on the previous however attempting to go searching you within the current? Is that one thing you’re discovering your self an increasing number of impressed by, now that you’ve a long way from these songs?

Nice query. I feel that this album was not an ending to my private, like, diving into my previous or being nostalgic, however I undoubtedly really feel lighter after having written it. And I feel it popping out and other people having the ability to take heed to it’ll be a very cool expertise. I’m actually excited for the subsequent factor. I don’t know precisely what all of my songwriting might be about sooner or later, however your previous, your current, and your future are all very a lot sort of one ultimately; it’s all what makes you, you. So, most likely gained’t cease writing about all these issues.

What do you like most about being in Why Bonnie?

I couldn’t have requested for a greater group of individuals to be enjoying music with, truthfully. We simply vibe very well, and we make one another chuckle. Which I feel is absolutely vital to all of us, as a result of being in a band isn’t simple. There are plenty of shifting elements on a regular basis and also you need everybody to really feel revered and need everybody to really feel taken care of and like they’re having enjoyable. It’s simply been it’s been one hell of a journey, and I’m excited to do it with these folks as a result of every of them are particular and fantastic artists in their very own proper and produce their very own sound and aptitude to the music. I feel that’s actually particular.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.

Why Bonnie’s 90 in November is out August 19 by way of Keeled Scales.

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