photo by Doron Gild
review by Sheryl Witlen
interview by Jim Beckmann
photos by Doron Gild
Brian Bonz accompanied by The Dot Hongs represent the best of Brooklyn’s’ experimental rock scene. With local support from Electric Frog Recordings and 230 Records, Brian has his finger on the pulse of this nurturing community. Previous band experience touring with Pablo has given Brian an overall appreciation for his fellow musicians which is apparent in his relationship with Ej De Coske (Keys), Jinda (Bass), Mike Strandberg (Guitar) and Mike Rizzo (Drums). Before teaming up with his fellow band mates he released two solo EP’s “Sunday Theory” (2002) and “Susan The Boy Scout” (2003). Highly experimental and creative Brian has much to offer.
In the studio, six other members joined Brian Bonz (guitar & vocals), including the original Dot Hongs — his brother Mike Strandberg (guitar), Jinda Phommavongsa (bass), EK DeCoske (keys and steez), and Mike Rizzo (drums) — and two other friends, Max ZT (hammered dulcimer) and Casey Jost (percussions). Afterwards, Brian talked to Jim about playing behind and in front of a band.
Jim: A lot of KEXP listeners might not recognize your name, but theyâ€™d certainly recognize another band youâ€™re in.
Brian: Right, Pablo.
Jim: And youâ€™re a drummer in that band.
Brian: Yeah, and my brother Mike (Strandberg) is the guitarist. We also both play in Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band. Mike also plays with Jennifer Oâ€™Connor.
Jim: Pablo is still an on-going band, right?
Brian: Yes. Paul (Schalda) wants each album to be different, so the next one is going to feature The Budos Band â€“ they played KEXP last year, I think. Weâ€™re not going to do this record, but we keep in touch with him, and I see him a bit.
Jim: So thatâ€™s interesting for you because in that band youâ€™re behind the drum kit, and in this band youâ€™re way out up front. Howâ€™s that a different experience for you?
Brian: Itâ€™s interesting because weâ€™ve played these shows with Pablo and before that I was in other bands playing drums. I play solo shows at cafes for smaller crowds and then I play bigger shows with our band (Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs), the five of us, but itâ€™s always weird and I have to remind myself that weâ€™re actually doing this. Itâ€™s one thing to do it in practice, and being behind the drums with Pablo all I have to do is watch Paul, but with the frontman thing, itâ€™s awesome but it can be nerve-wracking because youâ€™ve got to watch what you say, and youâ€™ve got to conduct and follow the rest of the band. Sometimes I start to think that I donâ€™t have that big of a responsibility.
Jim: But do you prefer it now?
Brian: Iâ€™ve always preferred it. Everybody like Paul from Pablo and Kevin Devine has been very supportive. I appreciate playing in their bands, and Paul and Kevin each have their own solo projects too. Iâ€™ve always been writing songs, but I put that stuff on the back burner because those other projects have gotten a lot more attention and thereâ€™s a lot more going on with touring and radio appearances. Plus I made a lot of contacts through those bands, like we just played two shows with the Canadian band Do Make Say Think, who are part of Broken Social Scene, and theyâ€™ve been in contact to do some more shows with Stars. Itâ€™s weird how it works that way, but itâ€™s great to be associated with this great collective of people and everybody just has a good time.
Jim: Itâ€™s funny that you mentioned Stars and all of those Montreal bands when you were talking about how you all trade off between solo projects and group projects because thatâ€™s what they do.
Brian: They do. I know that Kevin Drew just put out a solo record, and then thereâ€™s Apostle of Hustle and Metric. Where we live in Brooklyn and Staten Island itâ€™s been like that for a long time. You hear about this band and that band and then members start to cross until they find that niche or that pocket that works. Itâ€™s awesome that Kevin Devine can be sell out shows â€“ he asked us to play with him at the Bowery Ballroom â€“ and Pablo can have all of these listeners and people come to the shows, and itâ€™s healthy. Rather than we go play a show and only five people show up.
Jim: The album that youâ€™re doing now isnâ€™t done yet, right?
Brian: We just have a few more guitar tracks and vocals to finish.
Jim: So will this album bring that project to the front burner?
Brian: I hope so. Weâ€™re hoping to talk to labels about it and have some of those connections to go out on tour. It would be cool to be involved with a family or label that can do that.
Jim: When can fans expect the album?
Brian: It should be done by December or January. Iâ€™m excited about it. We had a good time with it, and it exceeded my expectations. Then it depends what happens, but definitely in 2008.