It’s been nine years since the members of Bonjah left New Zealand’s North Island and set up camp in Melbourne. On account of this, it’s now plainly inaccurate to refer to them as a Kiwi band. During their time in Oz, Bonjah have released three LPs, toured the country a zillion times and accrued a loyal fan base to boot. Over the years, Sydney is somewhere Bonjah have come to know quite well. In celebration of the brand new single ‘Burn’, the four-piece will head back here for a Good Friday gig at Newtown Social Club.
“We played there last year and it’s great. I love that venue,” says bassist David Morgan. “We’ve always felt there’s been a good support base in Sydney over the years. It’s always great to turn up somewhere and have a decent amount of people come into a room that obviously really like your band, because they’re singing along to the words and getting right into it. That’s what keeps us going back out on the road.”
Following the April 2014 release of their third LP Beautiful Wild, Bonjah spent a hefty portion of the year touring to all parts of the country. Despite such a loaded schedule, the spirit of fun that reared its head on that record wouldn’t keep quiet. This led to the somewhat unexpected birth of ‘Burn’.
“We had a couple of ideas floating around for songs, then Moz [Glenn Mossop, vocals/guitar] showed us ‘Burn’,” says Morgan. “We were like, ‘Let’s just go in the studio and record it.’ We liked the idea of jumping in the studio as much as we can.”
Much like Beautiful Wild,‘Burn’ was recorded with Melbourne producer Jan Skubiszewski, also known as Way Of The Eagle. After developing a creatively stimulating partnership with him during the Beautiful Wild sessions, Skubiszewski was the obvious man to call on for help with the new tune.
“We really like working with Jan,” Morgan says. “He’s a great producer, a great engineer and also a great musician. It really clicked when we worked on Beautiful Wild together. We thoroughly enjoyed it, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, so it was a natural decision to say, ‘Let’s jump in with Jan again.’”
Producers can be helpful in stacks of ways, whether it be getting the right sounds, extracting optimum performances or encouraging musicians to try new and unexpected things. As Bonjah’s working relationship with Skubiszewski continues to strengthen, the recorded output benefits accordingly.
“It helps being comfortable working with one another,” Morgan says. “We’ll definitely look to work with Jan whenever we can. It’s a great thing to be able to work with an outsider that brings something to the table that everyone really appreciates, and it does the push the boundaries and brings a new angle for how to approach the music.”
Of course, producers aren’t infallible wielders of advice and technical know-how. Morgan points out that Bonjah don’t meekly submit to Skubiszewski’s every wish.
“There has definitely been times where we’ve gone, ‘Maybe this isn’t the right vibe,’” he says. “It’s just part of working together and having that good working relationship where you trust each other enough to listen to any constructive feedback and not get angry about it. With some producers you might feel uncomfortable saying, ‘I don’t think that’s the right direction,’ but Jan makes you feel like that should be said, rather than not be said.”
The ‘Burn’ tour is additionally significant as these will be Bonjah’s only Australian headline shows of 2015. This seems awfully out of character for a band that has habitually jumped on the road at any given opportunity. Once the tour concludes, Bonjah will head to Canada, but it’s not the overseas commitments keeping them away from local stages for the rest of the year. Rather, the studio beckons again.
“We’re just going to knuckle down and work on a record really,” Morgan says. “We released Beautiful Wild last year, but there was a couple of years in between drinks from that album and [2011’s Go Go Chaos]. We don’t really want to leave it that long until the next one, so we want to just get creative again and see if we can put another record together.”
Around the release of Beautiful Wild, Bonjah spoke to the BRAG about how they’d finally found their sound with that record. A realisation such as this is somewhat dangerous, because it could encourage an imitation of the previously successful mode. Entering their next record, Bonjah are wary of this trap. “We don’t want to really just repeat what we’ve done,” Morgan says. “That’s another driver that’s making us think we should spend more time in the studio and spend more time being a bit more creative and seeing what comes out.”
As for ‘Burn’, it harnesses the rockier, groovier and more impactful sound introduced on Beautiful Wild. However, it’s not necessarily a presage of what’s to come.
“The vibe and the direction we headed for with Beautiful Wild was definitely something we really enjoyed and we felt more comfortable doing. But who knows what the future’s going to bring? Maybe we could look at getting out of our comfort zone and trying something completely fresh and new. It’s quite exciting to think there’s a blank canvas there and we can do whatever we want from now on.”