Tag Archive | A.A. Bondy

Pazz & Jop 2011 – 39th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

Pazz & Jop 2011
39th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

“Pazz & Jop is an annual poll of musical releases compiled by American newspaper The Village Voice. The poll is tabulated from the submitted year-end top ten lists of hundreds of music critics. Pazz & Jop was introduced by The Village Voice in 1974 as an album-only poll, but was expanded to include votes for singles in 1979.”

 

Pazz & Jop 2009 – 37th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

Pazz & Jop 2009
37th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

“Pazz & Jop is an annual poll of musical releases compiled by American newspaper The Village Voice. The poll is tabulated from the submitted year-end top ten lists of hundreds of music critics. Pazz & Jop was introduced by The Village Voice in 1974 as an album-only poll, but was expanded to include votes for singles in 1979.”

Interview with A.A. Bondy, Playing Tonight at the Gargoyle

A.A. Bondy

Interview : A.A. Bondy, Playing Tonight at the Gargoyle
By Jaime Lees
Fri., Nov. 20 2009

From television to the radio to the internet, indie-folk newcomer A.A. Bondy has been popping up everywhere lately. In addition to touring with Bon Iver, the Felice Brothers and Conor Oberst, he’s appeared at Bonnaroo, recorded a session for Daytrotter.com and performed for Conan O’Brien (to name a few). Furthermore, his music has been roundly praised by influential tastemakers such as Brooklynvegan, Pitchfork, Stereogum and– ahem– the Riverfront Times.

Yep, Bondy seems to be steadily climbing the ladder of success, but it’s not for nothin’. His debut album, 2007’s American Hearts, was so warm, so hauntingly beautiful, that audiences immediately took notice. His glowing arrangements carry just the right amount of magic to induce fuzzy, slow-motion Winnie-Cooper-standing-in-the-sunshine Wonder Years-type moments.

Critics frequently describe him as “the next Bob Dylan,” but this weighty comparison doesn’t seem to have gone to his head. For all of his musical intensity, Bondy comes off like a normal dude. We caught up with him on the road last week while he was en route to an Atlanta gig and he was both humble and humorous. (Bondy is currently on the road with Elvis Perkins in support of his sophomore release, When the Devil’s Loose.)

When did I last interview you? At the beginning of 2008?
Yeah, I remember. But I last saw you there when I played with the [Felice] Brothers in the fall at that weird cafeteria.

Well, what has been happening with your career since then because your shit has been blowing up!
Is it?

Don’t play. I have a list here in front of me. Uh… NPR. Conan. Good Morning America… I could go on.
Oh. I mean, I guess so? I just keep my head down and try to do my job. And if there’s money to be collected, I certainly get it. But, um, I don’t know. I’m all right with what’s going on. I mean, it’s not, like, to the point where it’s like drastically life-changing. [It] feels good, you know, when you go to a town and people show up or people buy records. I like all that stuff.

Do you feel like you’re doing pretty well? Are you getting stuff done that you wanna get done?
It depends on what you mean by that. I mean, I’m able to make records and live off of it. That’s pretty, uh, a big thing, I think. If anybody gets to do what they really feel like doing and make a living off of it — one should sleep well at night, I guess.

How are you doing on your tour? You’ve been touring pretty much non-stop for two years and you’ve got tons more dates scheduled still, right?
Yeah, we’re hitting it pretty hard right now. We’ve crossed the month line and we have five weeks to go. [We have] one month off for Christmas, then we get to go back out. Yeah, I mean, right now I’m alright. It feels pretty good. Some times are better than others, but that’s to be expected in anything.

What’s up after the tour stuff?
Uh, probably looking at what another record is going to be like.

Do you know where you’re going to record it?

Probably in Mississippi, but I don’t know yet. I don’t know. I’ll start there, and then, I don’t know. I don’t know. I can rarely think about it. I just listen to this little box that tells me where to go.

The “little box” being the dude that tells you where to drive? [OnStar]
Yeah. I wish he would tell me everything else to do like, “Pull over in 2.1 miles because you’re having fried chicken.” That would be great. [laughs]

[laughs] Do you know what I think is weird? You’re funny, but because your music is so serious nobody would suspect it. I mean, all of the press I read about you has this ultra-romanticized old-timey stuff in it like, “Oh, he’s a lone troubadour,” and “He probably rides from gig to gig on a horse,” and stuff like that.
Fuck that. Fuck. That. [groans, laughs quietly] You know what I mean? Whatever. I have no answer for why anybody says what they say, you know? Like, you go to a movie and you get sad at the things other people think are funny and vice versa. [adopts a hyper-Southern country accent] Yeah, let me cut this interview short because a train is about to come by and I’ve gotta jump onto it.

Exactly! That’s what I’m saying!
Yeah, [they say] I’m basically a fucking hobo, you know. Whatever.

So, I imagine that when you’re on the road you’re talking to people all day, you’re doing interviews, you’re shakin’ hands and kissin’ babies and whatever. How do you get writing done on the road? Do you have to find quiet time?
Uh, sort of. I mean, when you do get time it seems like better things come out. You don’t have to work as hard to get to them. You just have less time to work things out. And my brain works more slowly at home, so it takes a lot to get to a place where I can get anything done [at home]. I do a lot of laying around in the grass and smoke cigarettes. Ride my motorcycle. I’d like to have more time out here to get stuff done cause I feel like I could get better things done but, you know, really you just do what you can.

Now that there’s more people paying attention to your work, do you feel like more under pressure to be good or– more to the point– are you ever intimidated by all the stuff that’s happening now?
Not at all. Nuh-uh. I mean, I’m too old for that. Like, I just wanna do my job, you know. That’s all I care about. It’s like a series of absurd situations. But I don’t know, I feel more capable now than before. And hopefully that’s how it goes with anything. So of course you get into situations where… I usually just beat myself up. I don’t need anybody else to do it for me.

Aw. That’s sad.
Well, no, it’s not like that. Anybody who makes anything has to go through that.

I’ve got one more question for you and I’ll let you get back to driving. It’s a question that I ask everyone I know. And it’s very serious.
Uh… ok.

Who do you think is a bigger alien? Prince or David Bowie?
[laughs] Prince or David Bowie? [laughs] Hmmm… I think there’s equal amounts of alien in both of those guys. Maybe from different planets. I mean, if I had to pick… I don’t know… they’re both just… I’m going to call it a draw. Hmmm… But David Bowie had that eye thing going for him and when he was taking all of the coke he definitely appeared much more Close Encounters than Prince but… Prince is weird as fuck, too, so…

And he’s so tiny!
I know! But I say Tyra Banks is more alien than both of them.

Interview with A.A. Bondy


AA Bondy reinvents himself as an indie-folk artist

By Jaime Lees
Published: February 6, 2008

Though few outside of the indie circuit recognized Verbena, critics and fans hailed the group as the second coming of Nirvana. The comparison was easy to see — and not just because former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl produced the band’s 1999 major-label debut, Into the Pink. When Verbena emerged from Bir­­m­ing­ham, Alabama, in the late ’90s, its sound was dark, powerful and based on a foundation of big pop hooks. Lead singer Scott Bondy in particular came across as very Kurt Cobain-esque, with his lazy, marble-mouthed singing style, snarky attitude and bleached-blond hair. These days, Bondy is all grown up and no longer playing the role of snotty rock kid. Performing solo under his birth name of AA Bondy (the initials stand for August Arthur), he composes enchanting, elegantly sparse indie-folk music. The songs often feature just his voice and an expertly strummed guitar, with the occasional hint of mournful harmonica and handclaps used as percussion.

When he tries to explain the difference between the louder Verbena and his current stripped-back project, Bondy confesses via phone, “I don’t really know what I was doing before.”

He’s certainly figured out what to do on his solo debut, American Hearts (which will be re-released on Fat Possum Records in April). Hearts is a bewitchingly beautiful album that’s been embraced as an impressive contribution to the world of nü-folk — largely because the songs don’t sound like the “unplugged” indulgences of a former rock guy. They’re not stripped down; they’re just not decorated with unnecessary wrapping. The songs overflow with unflinching sincerity, and the tiniest details — like the delicate noise of fingers sliding across guitar strings — stand out and seem purposeful.

The way Bondy constructed Hearts reflects this simplistic style: He recorded it in a rickety old barn next to his house in New York. (“It’s a really good-sounding barn,” he says with a chuckle.) Perhaps as a result, Hearts‘ lyrics are also unadorned and straightforward, relying heavily on the polarities of good vs. evil, apathy vs. love and God vs. the devil. Still, Bondy finds plenty of room for shrewd statements (“Love, it don’t die/It just goes from girl to girl”) and optimistic observations (“The barroom is filled with the joy/Of making old friends.”)

Many of Hearts‘ songs also carry a twinge of the ’60s protest vibe — meaning that the Bob Dylan comparisons are inevitable. It’s no surprise that Bondy has absorbed a penchant for clever lyrics; he cites Tom Waits, Nina Simone and Tom Petty as classic favorites. But of these influences, he fondly explains, “You can’t really speak to the nature of what makes things special. But whatever does make things special doesn’t really matter. I guess for a listener you just know it is special to you — and that’s all that matters.”During live shows, Bondy is frequently accompanied by his wife, Clare Felice, who plays the organ. She’s from the same family that produced the up-and-coming Americana band the Felice Brothers — a group Bondy lovingly refers to as his brothers and source of inspiration.

Jaime Lees: The stuff you’re recording seems very… like, if someone walked into your house, you could be sitting there playing it.
AA Bondy
: Yeah, I could.

It seems very intimate — like you’re not putting on a kind of show.
Yeah, those songs could exist without any other accompaniment. And they were written that way. Which is one of the main differences between this stuff and anything that happened before it. Those other songs weren’t brought to the light of day in that fashion. They were always pieced together. They were… like, a guitar part always came first. They never started with, like, basically a finished song. Which all of these songs did. They were finished songs that things got added to — or didn’t.

Is it scary for you to stand up there alone?
When I first started playing by myself, I’d played tons and tons of shows with a band. I didn’t even understand how freaked out I was. If you’re getting up on stage with a band, it’s like you’re part of a team. But once you get up there by yourself, it’s totally different. ‘Cause you’re responsible for it all. I like it better. It’s more thrilling, at least. I don’t get too freaked out anymore, but I used to. When you’re by yourself, it’s so much easier.

How is your writing different as you’ve gotten older?
I actually write songs now. [Laughs] You know, I don’t just, like, play a guitar part and put some stuff over it. I just know that it feels completely different than it used to. It feels like there’s something contained inside of it, as opposed to being like a shell.

The topics seem pretty grown-up — relationships, war. Do you feel like you’re getting something out? Does it make you feel better?
Maybe it makes me feel better only in the way something gets completed that I’m somehow satisfied with. Not in the way that I’m saying something, you know. Like, it could be a song about a pile of leaves that I lit on fire and I could feel just as good about that as if it was, like, a so-called song that had something to say.

8 p.m. Wednesday, February 13. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 314-773-3363.

>> EXTENDED INTERVIEW HERE <<

  • 02-06-08 Riverfront Times (St. Louis) – article link
  • 02-07-08 reprint in the Pitch (Kansas City) – article link
  • 03-27-08 reprint in the Dallas Observer (Dallas) – article link
  • interview outtakes here
  • AA Bondy – MySpace