Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Mar 12th 2010 8:10AM by Amber Giavanni King
How would you describe your sound?
Pho: Dancehall soul songs.
Alanna: Our new material is definitely more hybrid. There's dancehall syncopation, but more singing and not always chatting.
How did your band form?
Alanna: Well, we met at a party called Disorganised that Pho started with the guys who became Jokers Of the Scene. I broke the cardinal rule of deejaying when I interrupted Pho while he was mixing. But the song he was playing caught my ear. At the time, I was moving away from straight R&B and he was moving more into producing. We shared musical influences and were both eager to learn so we were very open to each other's feedback. Disorganized was a great test lab for ideas because people were both open-minded and forgiving. It gave us time to develop our versions into something truly original. About 2 years after we met is when I would say we became proper duo, making our own music.
What are your musical influences?
Pho: It's a long list! I grew up listening to all kinds of stuff, but there's a few specific styles that influence Bonjay in a big way. First and foremost dancehall stuff, especially those futuristic turn of the century rhythms from people like 2hard, Tony Kelly, Snowcone and South Rakkas. Every wave of UK dance music since I was a kid, from drum'n'bass to broken beat to funky. And then there's the weirder end of soul music -- the kind of stuff that shows up on Ultimate Beats & Breaks compilations like ESG, Labi Siffre and Shuggie Otis. The sort of old music that was turned into deep '90s rap tunes.
Alanna: My list is long too. Dancehall will forever be my favorite genre of music because it's always changing, despite the fact that it's so distinct. I've been listening to Lady Saw's Greatest Hits album and the other day I realized her song 'Give Me a Reason' is a full-on country song and she pulls it off. But I also love '90s teen R&B music. The Brandy's, Monica's and Aaliyah's of the world. That style of music, vocally, is pretty closely related to the gospel music that I group up singing. And even now it influences my choice of harmonies and vocal production. But, I would say that indie, for lack of a better word, has influenced how we craft our songs. We put as much thought into the lyrics as is we do into building the bass and hi-hat sounds.
And the common influence between the two of us is our college radio experience. When you're exposed to so many different sounds, and to hosts who are good at putting those influences into context for you, they don't seem so different. They make sense together.
How did you come up with your band name?
Alanna: Bonjay is Grenadian slang for "Bon dieu!" which is French for "good god!" When my aunts and uncles get excited about something they say "Bonjay!"
What's your biggest vice?
Pho: I have to read the newspaper every single day. I've literally spent an hour wandering around a strange city at 11pm trying to find a copy of the day's paper.
Alanna: I'm a neat freak. Perhaps being borderline OCD is hidden somewhere in the West Indian genetic code. Who knows?
What's in your festival survival kit?
Pho: Earplugs. Music book. Newspaper.
Alanna: Snacks, walking shoes, demos. Since high school I've carried my music around to share with people. It used to be my Sony Sports Walkman, but now it's a USB stick.
Who was your first celeb crush?
Pho: Rosario Dawson in 'Kids.'
Alanna: Rick Astley.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Pho: Billy Joel's 'The Longest Time.' So nicely done.
Alanna: The 'Howard the Duck' theme song.
Are there any epic, well-known movie scenes that you wished one of your songs had played during? If so, which scene, which song and why?
Alanna: I think the 'gypsy' freestyle at the end of 'Gimmee Gimmee' would be fitting for a scene in 'The Exorcist.'
Do you have any expectations for performing at SXSW?
Pho: That audiences understand our blend of influences and where we're coming from. People in Toronto and Canada get it, and I hope it makes sense to the rest of the world too.
Amber Giavanni King is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.