Brooklyn boy Brian Bonz finds his own voice
Brooklyn born, Brian Bonz still hasn’t wrapped his mind around playing at Nassau Coliseum.
“Growing up as a kid in New York, I heard Nassau Coliseum everywhere, on the radio and now it’s just surreal,” he said.
Three weeks ago Bonz was contacted by Brand New’s booking agency and asked to join the show along with his band The Dot Hongs.
Also a member of Kevin Devine’s backing band, Bonz was already booked to play the Coliseum with the fellow Brooklynite on Nov. 28. The Dot Hongs just finished up their first tour without Divine and embarked last week on their current tour with John Nolan of Straylight Run and Person L.
“Now is the first time ever after two years that we’re really touring without Kevin,” Bonz said.
The tour will swing by North Jersey this Saturday with a show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Before the Dot Hongs, when Bonz and his brother Mike Strandberg played in a band named Pablo, Bonz said he fondly remembers falling off of the stage at Maxwell’s. Since then, the venue has been one of his favorites.
“A lot of bigger venues don’t have the same feel,” he said. “The capacity of that place is just perfect for any band to perform and have a very kind of special show.”
The Dot Hongs have been performing across the country to promote their first album “From Sumi to Japan” which was released this past August. The album was written in Bonz and Strandberg’s transitional time between leaving Pablo, joining up with Devine, and assembling The Dot Hongs.
Pleasantly melodic, initially innocent and then showing surprising depth, “From Sumi to Japan” isn’t just a kid throwing an album together for fun.
“I want to do music in a way that makes sense without being a broke 25 year-old,” Bonz said.
“Time Out New York” calls the band’s work “wistful” and “intensely precious.” Prominent indie music station KEXP in Seattle hails the group as “the best of Brooklyn’s experimental rock scene.” People are listening.
“At 15, I started picking up guitar and writing my own material and producing, recording with friends in the neighborhood,” he said. “I was booking my own stuff, my own tour and it was going well. It’s definitely been eye-opening to kind of have that DIY experience and do that kind of grassroots work,” Bonz said.
Unsurprisingly, Bonz sacrifices much of his personal life for the good of the band: most of the songs are unabashedly drawn from his personal life. For example “Goodnight, Captain Revelstoke” is inspired by a less than thrilling trip to World Youth Day with an ex-girlfriend.
However, the song that has received the most attention is “Dee the Dinosaur” due to a controversial music video that shows domestic abuse, substance abuse and other very adult problems reenacted by children. Bonz explains that the money was fronted by 99 dollar music video and the concept came from the director of the video.
“We got a ton of negative feedback,” Bonz said. “The people at the label thought it was a well shot album, but they didn’t like the concept.” However, he also said that the band didn’t spend any money on the film and the negative feedback may have even encouraged circulation of the video.
Other songs on the album include the poppy “Judy and the Alpha Queen” sung with Devine. The lyrics are inspired by Bonz’s experience dating an older woman who just got out of the military and wanted to start a family. “The Tug at the Criminal Declaration” stems from another jumbled relationship.
“That song is about this kid I grew up with who got tangled up in stuff with my ex-girlfriend and it ended up with 12 guys in the middle of the night looking for me at my house,” Bonz said.
Bonz said potential song content has diminished even though his free time has. After wrapping up the tour on Dec. 17 at the Rockwood Music Hall, where the band will play a solo show, Bonz is heading back to the studio to start working on the group’s next album.
“I sometimes think that as I get older the stories aren’t going to be as fun to write about, but within the last year I’ve already collected like 100 different other things I want to get down in a notebook,” he said.