After a few attempts to arrange a call with Glenn Mossop, frontman of Melbourne-based, New Zealand band Bonjah, my croaky voice finally becomes understandable and we manage a long chat early one morning about some of those organic slices of life: creating creativity, perfecting the live show experience and realising home is where the heart is.
Telling Mossop of a few harsh reviews on their last album Go Go Chaos (2011) based on the judgment that New Zealand wasn’t good enough for the band so they “skipped across the pond” to try their luck in Australia, he’s clearly affronted despite his characteristically calm drawl.
“Look, I love New Zealand. We’re a very multicultural band, you know, I’m originally South African. I was born there and grew up there, moved to NZ, met the guys and we moved to Australia. We literally began our career in Australia so everything that is musical started here for us. In that way we have more of a musical connection to Australia and it’s our home now.”
“Obviously New Zealand is where our family is and the heartfelt aspects of life but our music was definitely born over here. I do understand, I get where they’re (the reviewers) are coming from. But New Zealand can be… I’ve gotta watch what I say here, don’t I. In that regard… No, actually I’m not going to say anything,” Mossop finishes with an apologetic laugh.
Go Go Chaos was accompanied by a sell-out tour of Australia which was followed by strings of shows here and there as Bonjah gained the title of “hardest working band in the country” with hundreds upon hundreds of live gigs being clocked up.
“That’s what we’ve got to be really aware of. You’ve got to make it exciting and interesting. Because we’re playing so many gigs and the same songs over and over, you have to find something in the live show that brings out that feeling of playing material for the first time. Then you get down to the finer details of it: I think it’s so important, the first 10 minutes of the set, because it really determines how the rest of the night is going to go.”
“Every show is different. Every crowd is different. You can have a show ready to go. Speaking really generally, big bands playing at the Rod Laver these days have been performing that same show for the past 7 months or however long they’ve been touring. You know, the lights happen here and you say something there and they’ve just got it sorted. We’ve tried to do that.”
He says it’s best to improvise by reading the audience. “We always make little differences from gig to gig but the crowds create certain energy, so we perform in a certain way. You need something to feed off, and that’s what the crowd gives. That makes it really organic; you’re not just getting the same every night because we’re not giving the same every night.”
Mossop’s replies are often complemented with a, “Does that make sense?” or “Do you understand?” Assuring him of his clarity is no mean feat at this hour of the morning as we agree on the challenging notion of doing, well… anything.
“I gotta get my shit together. Motivate myself, fuck! I think I’ll do it tomorrow then it’s always the next day. I need to get that idea out of my head. I’m a bad, bad procrastinator.”
He makes the comforting thought (excuse?), “I think all art forms – writing, music, art – we have a tendency to do it (procrastinate). We’re those kinds of people. But you gotta feel creative and sometimes you don’t feel creative every day and you think, “Fuck”, but it’s pointless banging your head against the wall ‘cause you get nothing out of that. I’d rather wait and feel it and hopefully something good can come out of the wait. I look at it that way.”
It’s been a long wait, but the band is ready to take the next big step: they’ve received the London call. “We’re so excited, we can’t wait. It’s time for us to spread our wings a little bit. We’re going for a bit more than two weeks. We’re doing shows in London and also a festival in Germany called JuWi.”
“This trip will definitely influence our music. I couldn’t tell you now in what way it’s going to do it but you never know what will happen. It’ll be interesting to see the crowds, as well, see how they react… if they’re anything like the Aussies!”
Catch Bonjah on tour this May and June:
‘Fall Together’ is available on Go Go Chaos out now on iTunes (Worldwide) and in stores (Australia & New Zealand) through Shock Entertainment.
FALL TOGETHER TOUR
Friday 4th May – Beach Hotel Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 5th May – Planting Festival, Woodford, QLD
Sunday 6th May – Hotel Brunswick, Brunswick Heads
Friday 11th May – Sol Bar Maroochydore, QLD
Saturday 12th May – Sol Bar Maroochydore, QLD
Saturday 19th May -The Lair (Metro Theatre) Sydney, NSW
Friday 8th June – Corner Hotel Melbourne, VIC