maandag 13 juli 2015

Interview with Bongley Dead for WoNo Magazine

by Wout de Natris
© 2015 WoNo Magazine

At the beginning of this year we published a review of the Vancouver, Canada band Death Goldbloom, which was a tip from singer-songwriter Natalie Ramsay. As a reaction to the review we received a link to a website with the strange name Bongley Dead in it. Being cyber cautious, we did not click on the link, but emailed instead. From this email a relationship started with an indie, punk, grunge band from Italy. First with a review of its 'Demo 3' and more recently 'Demo 4'. As this is an unsigned band, deserving a lot more in our opinion, we decided to do an interview as well and find out more about the people behind that mysterious name, Bongley Dead. So it's time to hand over the pen: meet Bongley Dead.

As not all readers may be familiar with the band, how would you like to introduce yourself?
We are Marcello, Simone and Federico. Together we play in Bongley Dead since 2011. We live in Tuscany.

I have to start with the name. What does it mean and where does it come from?
The name comes from a misunderstanding. One night Marcello and Simone were in a pub talking and drinking beer and Marcello said something about Blonde Redhead. Simone (too much beer?) answered something like: "Whaaat? Bongley Dead?". Marcello laughed and said: "Ok, we have the band name!"

You sing in English. This must be a conscious choice as the only Italian acts I know personally all sing in Italian. You chose different. Why?
It's not entirely true. There are many bands in Italy that sing in English. In our case it was not a conscious choice. We just started singing in English, perhaps because most of the bands that we grew up with sing in that language and perhaps because it is easier to adapt the English language to the metric of the songs.

Your music is somewhere in between the punk-rock-grunge-indie segment of rock music. Who are your main influences and in what way do you let or allow this influence to shine through in your own work?
All of us listen to many, many kinds of music and we can't tell you the name of bands that are a main influence for the band as a whole. Maybe the initial aim was to write songs focused on melodies and distortions and this was what came out. However, surely our songs enter in the indie-rock-grunge- punk-rock category. If you want us to name a few, the ones that come out more often in the rehearsal room after playing are Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Pavement, Sonic Youth and other bands from the nineties.

If one band popped into my mind while listening to Demo 4, it was The Strokes. Is this band special to you?
We know The Strokes but they aren't so special for us.

How does a typical Bongley Dead song come about and who is responsible for what?
The songs come about in various ways. Sometimes Marcello comes into the practice room with a song basically ready and we work together changing something here and there until it seems good. Other times we improvise and a song just comes out spontaneously. Sometimes we take some parts from different improvisations and put them together.

Playing in a trio leaves a lot of space in the mix and is a tricky balance between sounding too empty or too muddy. How do you make your choices where presenting your songs comes about?
We make the choices simply by listening to our sessions. We are lucky cause we play in the little studio of Simone and we can record every session we do. When a new song is done each of us can listen to it in his car and think about it. So we can say: here I've done too much, here my part sucks...and change something in the next session. Or you can say: when we'll record this song remember to do this and's just a step by step process. Clearly we try not to put too much effort in a single song and be as spontaneous as possible.

So far you’ve released four demo’s. What are Bongley Dead’s ambitions?
Write more songs and have fun :).

My impression is that the band is more hobby than a livelihood. Next there are all these beautiful pictures around the band and friends that join in by “donating” a video. Tell us more about yourselves and is there an art scene around where you live?
The band surely isn't a livelihood and we all have our jobs. We all came from other bands, we have done tours, records and this time from the beginning we decided not to make us too many problems. We just try to write good songs and have fun together. We put our songs out on the web, we give them to our friends and see what happens:). So far the response exceeded our expectations. Many people write to us, many good blogs post our songs, some radio stations play our music and the most important thing is that our practice sessions are still full of laughter.

The video was made by Ilaria and Alessandro. They are good photographers and videomakers and that was a really appreciated gift for us. The girl in the video is Diletta and she a good singer and bass player. Alessandro made two remixes of that song too (you can find them on our Soundcloud site). Maybe they're working on some other things but they are mysterious about it.

Talking about an art scene here is perhaps too much but there are a lot of good bands and thinking about it...we are friends with a large number of professional and art photographers...who knows why?

‘Books and Lemonade’ sounds like a title that is all about enjoying past time. The lyrics are about dying, black holes, too fast flowing water. What happened to enjoying a good book while drinking lemonade on your day off? was just that we had the lyrics but not the title and we made a self-quotation from the song "the way you love me" when we said: "grab some lemonade and all the books" effect the lyrics are a bit too sad for a title like that, but consider that we always like to play with nonsense :).

What inspires you in general when writing lyrics?
Some lyrics are written by our friend Martina (who for a period played second guitar and sang background vocals on some songs). For most of the other lyrics the inspiration depends by the moment and by the metric of the songs. Sometimes the lyrics are related to something that happened to us, but are never as clear and as I said we like to play with nonsense :). Often we mash up phrases from books that Martina left in our practice room for three years (Ferlinghetti, Milton, Burroughs, Beckett and others) trying to make sense (perhaps it makes sense only for us, but that's ok.)

If you had to choose between the “black holes” of ‘Books and Lemomade’ or “the flowers and blue birds” of ‘Blueworms’, what would it be?
The black flowers of lemonworms!

What comes first, the music or the (idea for the) lyrics?
Always the music.

At the end of the demos there’s always a surprise song. Compared to the rest of the Demo it is a musical surprise. What is the story behind the surprise songs?
We often improvise, doing something different from our usual 'pop songs'. Some of this improvisation, after some fast mixing, become the 'surprise songs'. Two of them are at the end of the demos, others are on our Soundcloud page ... but we have hours of recorded music and we're thinking about selecting this noisy and psychedelic material and publish a work under the name of Dongley Bead. We'll see.

What are your plans for the near future?
Write more songs and have fun :).

You can listen to all four demos, the remixes by Alessandro, under the name PNX, and more here:

The pictures were provided to us by Bongley Dead for promotion purposes. Hence the question about an art scene around where the band lives in Ponte Buggianese in Italy. 

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