Since emerging out of Oakland in 2011, Bonnie & the BANG BANG has been crafting its own distinctive brand of music that burns with western vibes, though not necessarily in the same way prescribed to genres like Americana, blues or country. Bonnie’s sound is western is a way that summons imagery of both dusty boots and polished oxfords, endless desert highways and dimly lit bars, sometimes the swanky kind and other times the smokey kind.
When asked how he would describe his band’s sound, bassist Robby Cronholm offers “thrash folk,” which may invite notions of aggression and shredding guitar parts, but for Bonnie & the BANG BANG, its more about the threat of violence. While the band’s music is delivered with playful, groovy overtones, it drifts in and out of darker areas, resulting in a brand of music that feels inviting and dangerous, the kind of danger that smiles at you before knocking you at your ass.
Lead vocalist Patrick James explains, “The name ‘Bonnie & the BANG BANG’ reflects the types of songs we write. There are parts that are polished and smooth, and there are parts that are aggressive and heavy. So the name represents a duality in the music and alludes to the classic story of Bonnie and Clyde.”
With velvety vocal stylings that switch between sounding soothing and surly, Patrick lends the band much of its rough-refined flavor while also adding tough twang with a 12-string guitar. He remembers, “When we arrived as a band two years ago, we were typecast as another indie-folk/Americana band in the vein of Mumford and Sons or The Devil Makes Three.” Crediting much of these comparisons to Bonnie’s instrumental repertoire, he explains, “We utilize a lot of Folk/Americana instrumentation. One of our musicians, Jake Dineen, plays several classic Americana instruments including banjo, 12 string guitar and mandolin,” adding, “I feel like we’ve grown into something much more complex than indie folk.”
While there are indie folk elements woven into the fabric of the band’s sound, the sweetness of the words “indie” and “folk,” when put side by side, does nothing to highlight the grittier, witty tones that Bonnie’s music can take on, particularly on its brand new debut LP The Dark Dream.
“We didn’t take post-hardcore, bluegrass and pop and throw them in a blender just for the sake of it,” Patrick explains. “We tried to listen to what the songs needed and we went from there.”
With moody threads of 1970s jazz-rock and definitive 1960s pop also sewn throughout the album, the five-piece outfit transitions between sounding like a group of bar room rockers to dining hall entertainers and lonely campfire serenaders with a cohesive, western style.
Comparing the album to the band’s first release, the 2012 Ode to Darkness EP, guitarist Joe Warren credits the differences to Bonnie’s personnel changes, specifically the addition of Robby on bass and keyboardist Jonathan Kepke, as well as the contributions of drummer Brad Harbridge. He explains,
We used acoustic instruments and hardly any percussion on Ode which was great for giving it the catchy campfire vibe it has. On The Dark Dream we recorded with one of the best drummers in the area, Brad Harbidge. With Brad we were able to draw every ounce of power out of the songs we wrote predominantly on acoustic guitars. The Dark Dream has the basic song writing elements that we exhibit as a band with more raw power then anything we’ve put out previously.
Lyrically speaking, the band also allows itself to lean towards the tougher, heavier spectrum of its sound. Patrick assert, “The overarching themes of the album refer to the absurdity of the modern condition. The Dark Dream is actually a reference to having a bad trip on psychedelics, and through that experience, finding perspective to better yourself,” before describing, “Songs like ‘Car Crash’ and ‘Rewrite’ deal with loss and accountability. ‘I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts’ and ‘Medicine Man’ tackle addiction and withdrawal. We also have a couple songs about Zombies.”
Bonnie & the BANG BANG, French Cassettes, Down and Outlaws
Cafe du Nord
July 19, 2013
8:30 pm, $10-$12, 21+