Bonny Light Horseman: “Philly’s got our back!” (6/20 at Union Transfer)

This Thursday, 6/20, folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman are bringing their brand-new double album (and first for Jagjaguwar), Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free, to Union Transfer.  While...

This Thursday, 6/20, folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman are bringing their brand-new double album (and first for Jagjaguwar), Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free, to Union Transfer.  While the trio – comprised of Josh Kaufman, Eric D. Johnson, and Anais Mitchell – have played the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection a healthy handful of times on their own (Kaufman with Dawn Landes and Josh Ritter, Johnson with Fruits Bats and The Shins, and Mitchell as a solo artist), Bonny Light Horseman have also already made some noteworthy local appearances, including one of the last shows at Boot & Saddle in 2020, when they were touring their self-titled debut, and a December 2022 date at Underground Arts in support of sophomore LP Rolling Golden Holy.

About a week ago Bonny Light Horseman kicked off a summer tour which includes a mix of headlining dates and major festivals (The tour began at Virginia Arts Festival, made a stop at Bonnaroo, and features appearances at Red Wing Roots Festival and Green River Music Festival this weekend.)  The shows have had the band performing 90-minute sets of [surprisingly] equal measures of their three albums.  And I recently got a chance to chat with Josh Kaufman (who produced all of the tracks of Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free, in addition to providing vocals and instrumentation throughout) about Philadelphia, live shows, and their latest album, whose recordings began at a pub in Ireland.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as you’ve each played here a bunch of times over the years, in addition to a couple shows here as Bonny Light Horseman.  Any favorite memories?

Josh Kaufman: We love this city so much.  I have a great memory of our first Bonny gig at Boot & Saddle.  Rushing back from dinner at The Victor Cafe (never wanting to pass up a great Philly meal!) with some friends beforehand and getting back to a crowded house of sweet music folks and feeling like – wow Philly’s got our back!

Izzy: You just released your third album, Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free.  Have you had any favorite reactions to the new music so far, whether from critics or fans?

Josh: Just happy for any legit reactions at all, to be honest.

Izzy: I love the story of your recent single, “Old Dutch,” which was one of the songs you did in Levis Corner House pub in Ireland.  How was the experience of tracking in this very non-traditional setting?

Josh: We cut “Old Dutch” in a hundred-year-old pub in West Cork, Ireland in a beautiful town called Ballydehob.   The locals surrounded us singing, “Yeah I Got a Feeling,” at the end of the tune and I remember looking up at Caroline (one of the bar owners) as she was singing to the ceiling, arms outstretched, eyes closed… so rare to connect like that during a recording.

Izzy: How did you initially come up with this idea to record in a space like this?  And how did you actually come about the pub itself?

Josh: Anais had met Joe O’Leary, who owns Levis, during a podcast and thought we would get on great – she was right.  We instantly connected on family stuff, being middle aged, and music.  Incredible human and made us feel right at home during the sessions.

Izzy: How do you feel like this album (or albums, if you’re considering each LP as its own entity) compares to your first two full-lengths?  What are the biggest differences in how the three of you approach music now, compared to when you first started playing together?

Josh: Aspects of Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free remind me of our first LP, Bonny Light Horseman, in that we started the process overseas and then brought it all back to Dreamland Recording Studios in Upstate NY to finish up the LP recording.  A lot of the songs feel like they’re in conversation with each other.

Izzy: This is kind of a hokey question but, considering that this is a double LP, I’m curious if you have any favorite double LPs of music history?

Josh: Not at all – All Things Must Pass, George Harrison.

Izzy: This is your first album for Jagjaguwar.  How is it working with them and being a part of that family?

Josh: Very supportive and cool label.  We had a blast working on the art together.  Viva Jag!

Izzy: You have a ton of upcoming touring behind Keep Me On Your Mind/See You Free, with dates throughout the US and Europe and including headlining shows and a number of festivals.  Are there any shows you’re especially excited about?

Josh: Most excited for Union Transfer, obviously!

Izzy: Do you approach playing at these big, open-air summer festivals any differently than you approach your own headlining shows in nightclubs and theatres?  I know you originally formed at the Eaux Claires festival.

Josh: We try to prioritize being as present with each other as possible and keep space for the songs to breathe and feel alive.

Izzy: What can be expected of the live show in Philly this time around, when you play Union Transfer later this week?

Josh: The incredible Alpha Consumer is joining us – please show up early!

*Get your tickets here.

Band InterviewsLive EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.