Sound & Vision with Why Bonnie

Many bands of late have donned the plaid shirt hand-me-downs of Seattle’s finest to infect their music with the grunge and alt rock stylings of those who have come before. But few have chosen to marry it to bleary-eyed Americana quite as successfully as Keeled Scales’ latest signing, Why Bonnie. Originating from Austin, now based in Brooklyn, the group’s soothing overtures are brushed with the lightest of Pacific North-West grit, but it is more than enough to lend their songs the edge required to match Blair Howerton’s lyrics of alienation and reckoning.

As they release their incredible debut record 90 In November, we spoke to the group about the art that inspires them:

Three favourite albums:

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Blair Howerton: When I think of my senior year of high school, I see myself blasting Strange Mercy by St. Vincent in my car flying down the 16 lane highways of Houston, Texas fueled up on teenage angst. I’d never seen a female musician shred the way St. Vincent did, and in such a unique way. It was like her guitar was an extension of herself – like a second voice to use once her own got tired. The instrumentation throughout the album was so exciting to me and took a modern twist on the art pop works of David Bowie and Kate Bush. It’s still gripping to this day even though every note is so familiar by now. The stories she tells on songs like Chloe In The Afternoon and Strange Mercy are so twisted and shrouded in themes of sex and rage – things I wasn’t allowed to feel at that time and place. It made me feel more ready to explore parts of myself that I had yet to access 

At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command

Chance Williams: First time I discovered At the Drive-In, my Dad showed me a video of a particularly off the rails performance on David Letterman from 2001. At 12, I was hooked, and began obsessing over their short but intense catalog, with Relationship of Command sticking out. The whole album is chaotic but tight, dissonant but extremely catchy, and overall a perfect example of how much energy can be packed into a single song. As time goes on, this album’s importance in my musical life becomes more and more clear.

Yo La Tengo – Painful

Sam Houdek: There are those few records that instantly teleport you to an exact time and place, and this is one of them. It sounds cheesy, but since hearing Big Day Coming in a Christmas-lit college dorm room, I feel like my musical trajectory was forever altered. YLT has a relatively dense discography, but I feel like Painful encapsulates everything that makes the band so special. It’s a record that you get absolutely lost in, but it’s never so dense that it’s disorienting. The band constantly introduces and removes incredibly simple elements, but each entrance and exit is always felt.  This is the record that really cemented for me that ‘noise’ can be beautiful and that sometimes the quietest songs can hit the hardest. (If YLT had an unofficial tagline, that would be it haha)  No one in YLT is a virtuosic player, but the conviction, playfulness and tenderness that permeates their entire discography (& particularly Painful) makes up for any lack of of technical ability that might exist. 

Additionally, they are the best live band in the game. No show is ever the same & they can shift from blisteringly loud to pin drop quiet in a split second. Are they a jam band? Folk band? Shoegaze band? The fact that there are two versions of Big Day Coming on the same record  is such a cool move. I’m gushing here, but this is a 10/10  and has probably influenced me more than any other record out there.

Favourite film:


Kendall Powell: I love many movies, so it is hard to pick a favourite, but at the moment, Tampopo stands out when thinking of something to recommend. While released in 1985, its message about the perils of perfectionism (an abstraction) and the connection between food and love persist (and resonate!). I watched this movie as I was venturing back into the world post-early pandemic lockdowns, and the surrealist sexy noodle western structure, chaotic collage of food-driven vignettes and in-your-face puns on American tropes were the perfect recipe for a delightful treat. One can never overstate the importance of a film’s ability to transport you to a different world – taking you out of yourself even if just for 2 hours. Bon Appetit – I mean… Itadakimasu!

Favourite book:

Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities 

Josh Mallett: It’s a series of short vignettes which describe all of these fantastical cities with their own ways of operating. A traveller describes the cities from his travels to Kublai Khan. Hearing about the travels and the descriptions of the cities feels like touring sort of. We all get to experience and learn about places so different from what we’ve known. Reading this book reminds me how lucky I am to be able to travel to so many places and share the music that we make with people all over.

A song that means a lot to you:

Blaze Foley – Rainbows and Ridges 

Blair Howerton: Nothing strips me down to my core more than the twangy baritone vocals of Blaze Foley. His most popular song Clay Pigeons was revitalized by Michael Cera in 2014 and while Michael Cera did a fine job, Foley’s soulful playing is hard to match. His song Rainbows and Ridges is short, sweet, and full of the simple yet painful sentiment that nothing lasts forever. His lyrics remind the listener that you can’t have the good without the bad while his famed finger picking makes you feel like that is perfectly okay. I love this song so much that we took a page out of Michael Cera’s book and covered it.

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