Brian Bonz - Sound In The Signals Interview

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First, your new album “The Triborough Odyssey” reached #33 on the top 100 singer/songwriter chart on iTunes. How does that feel?

Honestly, I was surprised by the whole thing. Throughout 3 days we went from #73 to #16. For all our friends, family, and fans who made the first week filled with love and support is priceless. I'm very grateful to have connect with new listeners on past tours, and have a strong network of friends who keep wanting to see this move forward.

Your music is often described as experimental. Your show with Atlantic/Pacific at Brooklyn’s The Bell House featured vocals, guitar, synth, a conga player, two saxophonists, and a trumpeter. What does using these instruments add to your music?

I have always written songs in the sense of building onto it or thinking about the end product as in terms of production. Writing this way always backfires on me when I have to tour or perform solo, and not be able to accomplish the keyboard bridge or horn outro - but it gives you a chance to cover your own material. Those instruments live represent some of what we offer on the record, or helps provide a full sound of various character for each story.

You started recording music with your older brother’s four-track machine and digital recording programs. What do you think about the DIY aspect of music now?

I think the DIY aspect of home recording, booking, or press has never failed anyone. A lot of acts are reverting back to the DIY way to connect with listeners on a more personal level. I encourage everyone to do research on house shows, home recording tips, or local papepr/blogs for press. I still record at home when we demo all the records, write, or do remixes with simple stuff like midi keys, drum machines or a snowball microphone. I even used tracks I've cut at home like "Intervale 1" or "Gigantic Fiction" on our records that Bracco or McEntire have slightly tweaked but suggested to use my original file. I plan to do more of it for future eps, web projects, and albums.

On “The Triborough Odyssey” you recorded with John McEntire at the legendary Soma Electronic Music Studios. What was this experience like since you were used to fine-tuning your sound before? What advice did McEntire give you that made a lasting impression?

My experience at Soma was complete bliss. The studio offers great gear, history, and most importantly a comfortable vibe. I remember flying into Chicago not knowing what to expect, and have to work on these new songs that had a month of practice, It was all fresh to me. I think the atmosphere of Soma, and Johnny's direction on parts and idea's helped take shape on the overall tone of the record. It was fun to explain a noise or sound for parts with my mouth, and he would pull out keyboard oscillators and work with building sounds from scratch. I never felt pressured or rushed at any time, and I also enjoyed cooking meals for everyone during recording.

“The Triborough Odyssey” has been described as the musical scrapbook of your life with all of the songs being inspired by events and places that binds New Yorkers together. What is it about New York that binds people together and makes others want to come there?

These stories are all based on true events. Some of the songs are about brewing issues or stories that I haven't been talked about for awhile such as the events on September 11th to neighbors committing sucide to family/friends fleeing the scene of a incident. I think when New Yorkers witness such intense exposure we become tougher, and turn us out to be different folks in such a vast over populated city. It forces to keep a better eye out for everything or anything that could happen.

I read that the Notorious B.I.G. and Nas influenced you on this album because of their support and reference to certain areas. What other inspirations were there? How did you hope to represent New York?

The subway, the families, the projects, and graffti. A friend of mine named Casey from Les Vinyl once said to me "I don't know if I would of been the same person if I grew up here". Visually it's a place that you have to adapt too. It's not the big fish in a small pond kinda vibe. My plan was to help illustrate the raw yet sweet vibe of the city, and it's story. New York never changes as in terms of it's feel. After every tour, I feel like the "play" button gets pushed. America and the World offer a ton of great cities, and they're incredible in there own way - but New York is New York.

I know you are a fan of The Wire and that inspired part of the band name. The writer of the show, David Simon, described it as a show "about the American city, and how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals." Could “The Triborough Odyssey” also represent this idea?

David Simon is a brilliant man. Everything involving what they did with Baltimore between the corners to the public system was incredible. Television series don't focus on the truth often, and do there best to provide a false dreamland. Between some of the stories about friendships, family, the runners, and love of our lives - I could agree and completely see how everything around us can effect how our relationships start or end.

There are a lot of New York related news stories posted on your blog such as the story about key fixtures being asked to relocate after the boardwalk is remade. Would you be interested in getting involved in the politics of the city or in trying to make change with relation to real estate or other problems you feel the city is facing?

That's a tough question. I like being involved with stuff that can help out around here. I may revisit this idea later on in life. Sometimes these issues or tasks seem bigger than all of us.

Your blog described "From Sumi to Japan" as "outgrowing certain things, friendships and relationships. About traveling and adventure and being apart from what you grew up in and seeing things from a different perspective.” The blog described "The Triborough Odyssey" as being inspired by specific events and places that bind New Yorkers. You have gone from traveling and adventure to being connected to home. What is next?

I'm not sure. I know sonically/musically what direction I will be focusing on. I plan to revert back to a lot of the sound/writing techniques I use to work with on my early EPs as a teenager. It's time to bring back that Bjork/Matmos influence out, and run with it. As in terms of what the record will be about, I'm not sure yet. Time and sound normally create what direction story Ill sing about.

Seeing your connection to New York, I was wondering if there are any shows or movies that really drive home the feeling of New York to you? Seinfeld, perhaps?

Do The Right Thing, Mean Streets, A Guide To Recongizing Your Saints

What are two things you would tell someone who is just discovering the city?

Keep your head up, and don't eat Manhattan Pizza.

Lastly, I read somewhere that you sold a wig on EBay for $200. Please elaborate.

I never did actually that. This hair is real. All the girls know that.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

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