“Oh, you mean our last album? The album we put out last year? The album named The Bible 2? … Yeah, we came up with the name first.”
Sean Bonnette – lead vocalist, chief songwriter, guitarist and one of two founding members of AJJ – has just been asked a stupid question, prompting a stupid answer. The query pertained to The Bible 2, the 2016 album from the band and their first to feature their shortened new name, chosen after they abandoned the somewhat controversial Andrew Jackson Jihad.
In a chicken and egg-like situation, it was put to Bonnette whether the name was picked due to the lyrical themes of the new record – religion, church, desperation, parables, etc. – or if the name was already on top of some pile of potential monikers before any of that had even come up. Normally, this wouldn’t seem like all that outrageous of a question, but come on: the album’s called The Bible 2, for fuck’s sake.
I was raised Catholic enough to see how kind of weird it all is. I’m still sort of down with it
“We were actually considering naming our previous album The Bible 2,” says Bonnette. “Eventually though, we went with Christmas Island. We’re kind of glad we waited, because we really got to throw a whopper down when we announced this album. I can see how people connected the title to the lyrics, though – I guess that Catholic belief system is intrinsically linked to everything I do with this band. Religious imagery – angels and shit – is my favourite stuff to work with aesthetically for this band.” As for his own religious background, Bonnette sees it as a trajectory of sorts. “I was raised Catholic, but not in a deeply spiritual sense,” he says.
“I was raised Catholic enough to see how kind of weird it all is. I’m still sort of down with it – I like Catholic charities a lot. They do a lot of good work. I’m pretty into the new Pope, too. I like The Young Pope too, but I haven’t finished it yet.” This, naturally, sparks Bonnette to jokingly make up a spin-off of the series for himself: “It ends in Australia, actually. They’re gonna film the whole next season there. There’s an episode called G’day Melbourne.”
Before Bonnette and company return to Australia for their first-ever headlining tour, AJJ is doing an extensive American tour in duo mode to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their second album, People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World. A cult classic of the folk-punk movement, the album boasts songs that still feature in the band’s setlist to this day, and is widely regarded as one of their defining moments. “I think that was our first good record,” Bonnette laughs. “Our first decent one, at least.
“I think that record was where I found my voice. I wasn’t just trying to make people laugh – I was trying to get some stuff out of writing music for myself. There are some songs on that record we’ve always played – songs like ‘Brave As A Noun’, ‘People II’ and ‘Bad Bad Things’ get a pretty decent run. Some of the weirder, faster songs haven’t been played for a while. We’ve been practising, though, and it’s sounding really good.” Disappointingly, however, the band will not be able to play any anniversary shows on their Australian tour. “Just because Ben [Gallaty, bass] won’t have a double bass over here,” Bonnette explains.
“That’s kind of the way that we’re able to make this whole thing work. By having Ben just play electric bass when we travel and tour internationally, it helps us to not lose too much money. Renting an upright bass can be really expensive – especially if you need it for an entire tour. If you’re flying with one, you basically have to buy another plane seat just to get it checked in as baggage. At least travelling with a normal bass is a little easier for us.”
I don’t know too much of The Wiggles, but I respect them a whole lot.
AJJ are well known to Australian punk audiences thanks to their 2015 tour with The Smith Street Band and fellow American act The Sidekicks. Amusingly enough, that tour coincided with the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, and thus the band would routinely take to “chroming” each other using a spray normally designed for decorating cakes. “I forgot about the chroming!” cackles Bonnette when reminded of the nightly tour tradition, which culminated with Steve from The Sidekicks having it performed on him onstage. “That was incredible.”
More recently, however, the band have become known to an audience very different from their own. The act’s most successful music video to date, an OK GO parody recorded for the song ‘Goodbye Oh Goodbye’, saw the four members of the band in yellow, red, blue and purple t-shirts respectively. A picture of them from the video was reposted on Instagram by noted fans of said colour scheme, The Wiggles, who added: “We like your style!” Having fielded endless comparisons to the group ever since the video came out, AJJ were completely surprised by this wiggly correspondence.
“I was delighted,” says Bonnette. “I don’t know too much of The Wiggles, but I respect them a whole lot. I can see what they’re doing is really great, and I can see why people love them. Of the two bands to feature four people and use that exact colour scheme, theirs is the best. I hope we get to meet them while we’re in the country.”
AJJ are playing the Metro Theatre on Friday September 29.