BONJAH has arrived. The band, made up mostly of New Zealanders, has been around for quite a few years, but now is the time to pay attention.
The five-piece based itself in Melbourne four years ago and did its time on the streets busking before releasing its debut album Until Dawn in 2009.
Back then, the band was easy to define – a roots outfit with a funky, upbeat New Zealand influence. With the recent release of its sophomore album, Go Go Chaos, you might find the band popping up in the rock, soul and pop categories of any playlist.
Talking to drummer Dan Chisholm recently he sheds some light on the fresh new sound.
“We didn’t really discuss the change of direction,” he says.
“We never sat down and said this is where we want to go. It was just something that happened naturally.”
Chisholm equates the evolution of Bonjah on its latest record to weeks spent jamming before laying down what is now a succinct follow up to its debut.
“I like bands that are like that though,” he says.
“You listen to their first couple of records and you can hear their progression as they go.”
Record producer, engineer and mixer Steven Schram, who has worked with Little Red, Little Birdy and The Cat Empire, was on board for Go Go Chaos. And the man has made his mark.
“He is a big reason for why the album sounds the way it does,” Chisholm says.
“From my personal point of view – as a drummer – when we’ve recorded every other time it has been a very bright drum sound – always really clean and crisp.”
Schram taped up the kit to dull down the sound so each tap sounded like hitting an empty box.
“But that was all part of the plan,” Chisholm says.
“To begin with I was thinking ‘ooh, I’m not too sure about this’, but it really suited where our sound was heading,” he says.
The recording method also differed for the band’s follow up album in that they played together as a band, rather than each instrument at a different time.
“We’re a better live band than studio band so it was good to get that vibe out of a recording,” he says.
Singles, The White Line and title track Go Go Chaos may be familiar to Triple J listeners already.
As the band heads across the country to support the album’s release, they’ll likely be growing momentum as listener favourites.
The White Line sits alongside the success stories from the band’s debut, Fly (which you may have heard as you’ve taken off on board a Jetstar flight) and Bring Back the Fire – upbeat tunes that get the crowd singing along.
But there’s a new depth to Bonjah’s repertoire, which includes the Bon Iver-like space to title track Go Go Chaos, or the sadness in the folk-fuelled soul of Sand. There’s a nod to The Doors on Karma, in both the lyrics and the build, but you’re left with the uplifting Fall Together.
“Each song is just a mood of its own,” Chisholm explains. “With Go Go Chaos we tried so many different versions, but in the end we went back to how we were playing it originally.”
Go Go Chaos, the album, will put Bonjah, one of the hardest working bands, on the music map.
Rolling Stone magazine put the group on the bands to watch list for this year. It wasn’t wrong.
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