The band Basinger is primarily comprised of Jules Bonner (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Adam Johnson (guitar), and Ray Hernando (drums, bass), though they worked a few other musicians to bring the Basinger EP to life. According to Jules, the band formed when he met Ray and Adam about six months after moving to Brooklyn from Baltimore. “I was doing a solo project called Royal Native. One day I was putting a guitar on Craigslist for sale and I saw their ad for a singer,” Jules said via email. “We weren’t very serious at first. Mostly jamming. Finding a sound. We had a bunch of different names. It all kind of came together when I wrote a bunch of new material and started recording the EP.” At that point he said, “the ‘artistic vision’ (or whatever) at least finally became solid.”
Basinger is their first non-single release and a lot of it was born in the apartment on Eckford where Jules lived last summer and fall. There is a certain wistful mood and nocturnal energy that permeates its four songs. It’s polished and accomplished work, but the underlying feelings are what keep me listening to it. The first track “Smoke,” uses imagery and of songs, rain, sun, and obviously smoke to craft some great lyrics (“You’re like the smoke, I’d like to know you before you drift away”) that paint a portrait of a relationship, one that seems unrequited, or possibly unhealthily one-sided. When the picked out notes and shimmery chords of guitar and rolling drums give way to the spikes of the impassioned bridge, the words “And why does it never cross your mind that you are better than all the guys who know you’ll answer when they call you?” hit hard, and with a few layers of meaning.
The longer second track “New York” stretches on, the more you feel like the narrator is threatening to leave just to be noticed, rather than actually planning to go away. The dynamics of the music, which starts calmly but crests into elegant outbursts suggest an underlying desire for connection. It reminds me of Holden Caulfield and his warning not to ever tell anybody anything – if you do, you start missing everybody. “Friday Night” has an excellent groove, I just love the drums here and how they complement the piano. “Tuvalu” is meditation on change and impermanence and leaves a listener with quite a bit to consider as the EP ends. You can get the EP here. It’s a good one. Even better, it’s the first of three. Jules said the band is currently recording the second one, with an eye on a possible spring release.
The guys will be playing at Matchless on Friday the 31st, a record release party. They go on at 10:00 PM. Also on the bill is Brother Burnet, Heidemann, and Man From Glove. It’s $7. More info here. The band will continue playing a lot of shows in February, before promoting the EP elsewhere on the East Coast.
I had asked the band a few other questions, here’s what else Jules had to say.
GP: How does your creative process look typically?
Jules: We’ve tried a lot of different things. We used to do jams, record them, and then parse some material out of them. It never really worked; we would inevitably lapse into horrendous covers of rap songs, or one night we wound up jamming right into “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden (it was awesome…). Now I just write everything, record tests, and bring it to the band. Ray then tweaks the drum parts and comes up with all the bass. Obviously the way we end up playing each song will differ from the initial test I came up with and that, I think, is what makes the sound work.
GP: It’s interesting to me that “New York” never mentions New York, but only California, which seems to reinforce the “getting away” theme of the song. What is your relationship with New York like?
Jules: That song went untitled for a long time. But when we were mixing it up at Alligator Studios in Greenpoint, Cedar – who is, by the way, the shit – just mentioned, sort of off-the-cuff, that it was much more about New York than California. And it is. In that song, there is a sense that the narrator never gets there. That this is just one more “I hate it here in New York” tantrum, which everyone I know here has gone through.
GP: I really like the way the drums sound on “Friday Night,” but I can’t tell if it’s a person or a machine. What is happening here? How did you get this sound? In general, did you have any sonic goals in the recording process?
Jules: We have no sonic goals whatsoever. In recording, it tends to be a harsh and bitter mixture of perfectionism (why can’t we have an orchestra? where are all my fucking didgeridoos?) and not wanting to spend another six months getting those 16th notes perfectly in time.
As for “Friday Night,” the basic beat is a Yamaha drum machine. But then we recorded real drums sounds over that during the mixing process. And the other elements being rather loose and not electronic helps achieve that mixed sound.
GP: After a quick Google search, I discovered that “Tuvalu” is an island in the Pacific. It fits the song, but I was wondering if there was anything that drew you towards this specific island.
Jules: The island of Tuvalu is sinking into the ocean. It’s sad. But also beautiful if you’re into the poetry of the tragic. An entire culture maybe thousands of years old will just disappear beneath the waves. And it’s inevitable. There’s no need to host a rally or petition your senator. It’s just going to happen. Everything this way goes. It occurred to me that the words and melodies made me think of that island sinking into the sea.
GP: Finally, since it’s the Greenpointers website, what are some things you like about the neighborhood?
Jules: After living in Williamsburg for the first year I was here, Greenpoint was such a breath of fresh air. Just the fact that I no longer had to deal with the Bedford L stop on the weekends instantly made my New York experience much better.
Greenpoint still has its own culture. You don’t get the sense that the Polish are going anywhere. Which is awesome. You go into a meat shop there without speaking Polish and good luck to ya. It has character, from the headbangers who run the Thing to the excessive Christmas lights to the drunks hanging out around McDonald’s. It’s not just another urban plight fantasy camp for young adults.
Also quick shout out to Troost. That place is the jam.
Here are a few quick hits if you are looking for some more new releases and shows:
- Junior Prom has an EP out next week on February 4th. Sample it here. They will be finishing a residency at Piano’s tonight if you feel like venturing to the LES [$8 @ 7:00 PM]
- Gunfight headlines a show tonight at Silent Barn that also includes Crazy Pills, Milk Dick, and Paper Fleet. It’s $7, starts at 8:00PM and is all ages.
- Village Psychic released a new EP yesterday and plays a release show tonight at The Flat.
- How To Be Topp released a new EP yesterday and play a release show tomorrow at Shea Stadium [$8 @ 8:00PM]. Check out the video for “Offshore Accounts.”
- Rukkus.com is running a giveaway for 2 tickets to see Screaming Females at Music Hall of Williamsburg on February 8th.