Hello, Brooklyn, how ya doin’? We talked to intrepid artist Brian Bonz about making it in his hometown, and his killer new album, The Triborough Odyssey.
Your album, The Triborough Odyssey, focuses on Brooklyn. What are some of the things you wrote about?
I drafted a series of memories and locations that I could not vacate from. I wrote about the true love and chaos that are planted in relationships between local friends, my family, neighborhoods, architect and childhood. I felt the need to express my love for Brooklyn on this record, and the history I have been lucky enough to witness growing up around.
What part of Brooklyn were you born in? How do you feel about Brooklyn becoming a mecca of modern music? Has it always been that way, or is it a recent thing?
I grew up in Flatbush, Carnarsie and ended up in Sunset Park. It’s never been an active Borough for music until the past 7-9 years. Other than Park Slope and Dumbo’s small coffee shops, and art space/venues – Williamsburg was very much a dark, empty, industrial pocket of Northern Brooklyn. I am happy to see so much culture and art be provided there to have options for new comers, locals, and touring acts. I use to write the local paper, and nyc blogs (Deli NYC, Brooklyn Vegan) to write about what us South Brooklyn and Staten Island kids we’re building between the local bars, basements and clubs like Southpaw, Northsix, Dock Street. We wanted to expose people to other local options, but none of those folks seemed to want to feature that than. After 9/11, New York was such a focal point and gave the chance for the city bands to run like The Strokes, The Realistics, Interpol – it was fun to see grow.
What’s the best live experience you’ve ever had?
Being apart of Brand News Nassau Coliseum show with Kevin Devine and Myself. I have also had a great time opening up for acts like Joan of Arc, and Do Make Say Think in the past.
What does a songwriter have to do to stand out, and survive, in New York?
Be social at the right parties, Connect with other solid acts/bands and venues. It’s important to build those relationships with these talent buyers. The folks at the Bowery Presents, Northsix, and Southpaw have looked out for putting us on good support slots. The relationships you build with local bands are key. We need to become more of a scene in a city that helps each other out. Everyone is trying to display what they got and keep moving on.
What’s a song on your new album you really want people to hear, and why?
“Triborough”. It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s a short poem about a couple of arguments I wore on my shoulders that I never come to terms with until I wrote them down, and sang it over that running chord. The notion of temptation and expectations could really fool someone. The older you get, the less time you have to ruin.
What’s a lyric you’re particularly proud of on the album?
“Every melting brick, Every dashing body I’ve seen right out my window. If this is who I meant to be, Come knock me around” – Twin Terror
Are there any words you love, or hate?
I love “progression.” I hate “biased.”
How do you typically write songs? Words first, or melody?
I normally toy with the guitar, beats, or keys for a riff or melody to build on. During this process, I’ll think about what topics or stories I have been thinking to writing about. I usually let the sound of the music play and figure out how to fit a version of the story that can be sung over it.
Do you find yourself revising a lot, or do you like to write automatically?
I revise after the first round of recording the idea at home a little bit, and build on from there.
Who’s an underrated songwriter, in your opinion?
Duncan Sumpne. He has a solo project called Songs of Green Pheasant on FatCat Records. He has a song that just always blows me away called “Pink by White”. It took the label two years to track him down to release this demo after moving from his previous address. He is a teacher in Sheffield.
What’s a song you wish you’d written?
“The World Is Yours” by Nas.