New Zealand-bred, Melbourne-based four-piece Bonjah returned to the fold early this year with the groove-heavy tune ‘Evolution’, and they’ve now dropped a follow-up single, ‘Blue Tone Black Heart’.The new songs step away from the band’s rootsy origins, incorporating a raw rock’n’roll feel, and lead vocalist Glenn Mossop explains that the band chose to pursue this sound after simply reflecting on what songs in their catalogue they enjoy playing most.
“We’ve always enjoyed playing the more up-tempo numbers live, so we thought, ‘Let’s just make a louder, faster record,’” he says. “I put down the acoustic and upon picking up the electric, that’s just the way I began writing. Everything started coming out gritty, which I really liked, so we’ve continued to build on that energy.”
This year’s two single releases are the first new music Bonjah have let slip since 2011’s Go Go Chaos LP, but their third full length album is yet to arrive. Mossop says that despite the delay, songwriting for the forthcoming record has felt more natural and honest than ever before. “We are really refining a more collective sound for an album than what we have in the past, and using a different songwriting process. We’re also a bit older now and choices become more direct and certain. So it is feeling more natural and true to where we’re at musically at the moment.”
Bonjah relocated to Melbourne from NZ’s Bay of Plenty in 2006, and after a couple of years inserting their brand of roots-tinged pop-rock into the live music network, their debut LP Until Dawn shoved them into public view in 2009. A number of years of songwriting and witnessing audience reactions has allowed Bonjah to recognise that, rather than trying to please everyone, following their own impulses and crafting music according to what they like optimally strengthens the quality of the songs.
“Finding what’s best for the band and band members so the music can reach its potential; I think that’s giving more to the people who listen to our music than trying to please anyone purposely,” says Mossop. “You can see right through any artist – whatever their craft is – that’s not doing it firstly for their own development as a creative individual or group. That’s where magic happens.”
Similarly, over the years the band’s perspective on what they want to achieve has shifted somewhat. Initially the focus was on gaining masses of fans but Mossop says they’re now driven chiefly by writing the best music they can. “The focus now for us is just writing and recording a record we can be proud of, and it’s a bonus if people want to put it on.”
Despite this stated quest for artistic sovereignty, Bonjah’s ambitions to cultivate a wider-reaching fan base haven’t completely subsided and Mossop reveals their plans for a more rigorous approach to cracking the overseas market. “It’s been over seven years in Oz; we’ve done a fuckload of touring and gathered some amazing fans and friends along the way, which we’re pretty honoured about, but we’re definitely going to head over to Europe sometime in the next year and broaden the horizon.”
With two singles now out in the open fans are no doubt getting antsy for the new Bonjah record. Mossop says the album is still a work in progress but assures it will come out in the early part of next year. “We’re still continually coming up with new tunes and having a great time writing. We’ve got some pre-production dates set with Jan [Skubiszewski, producer] to hone in on the songs and even write more with him, so we’re all pretty pumped at the way it’s travelling at the moment.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
Bonjah play Beach Road Hotel, Bondi on Thursday November 7. Bonjah also proudly support The Be Project, a national competition inviting young Aussies to submit an inspirational song to form a collective voice challenging Australia’s binge drinking culture.