Bora York, At Their Craftiest

Like recently profiled (and brilliant) Dear Rouge (who Philly unfortunately didn’t really turn up for when they played an amazing show at MilkBoy a week and a half ago), Bora...

Like recently profiled (and brilliant) Dear Rouge (who Philly unfortunately didn’t really turn up for when they played an amazing show at MilkBoy a week and a half ago), Bora York are a husband/wife duo that deal in all things funky, dancey, and synthy… However, unlike Dear Rouge, who recently released their debut LP, Minneapolis’ Bora York are set to release their sophomore LP, Secret Youth, which is due out on July 21st.  The album shows an evolution in the band from their debut full-length, Dreaming Free, which dropped in March of 2013.  This evolution was inspired by a conscious decision to record something that reflects the band’s sound in a live setting.  The album is a collection of sultry and soulful dance rock songs that could serve as the perfect summer soundtrack for those not terribly excited by SoCal sunshine pop.  At the heart of Bora York is Chris and Rebekah Bartels, who are rounded out by Brian Seidel (vocals, guitar, keys), Bjorn Nilsen (drums), and Jamie Kauppi (bass).  I recently got a chance to catch up with Chris Bartels, who told me all about this next phase of Bora York.

Izzy Cihak: First of all, thanks so much for actually sending me a CD copy of your new album (I still can’t do digital.) and also for “following” me on Twitter.

Chris Bartels: My pleasure – thanks so much for your interest!

Izzy: I realize it’s a bit of a cheesy question but, since you’re a husband/wife act, I can’t help but ask:  Do you have any particular favorite husband/wife bands from musical history?

Chris: We opened for Mates of State here in St. Paul when they were on tour last year.  I’ve always enjoyed their music.  I really dig Tennis.  I guess Arcade Fire is technically a husband-wife band?  Not sure if I’d say I have a clear cut favorite.  Although Funeral is one of my favorite albums.

Izzy: And to ask a general question, what have been the highlights of Bora York for you so far?  The band is still relatively new.

Chris: Our first release show a couple years ago for Dreaming Free was really special for us.  More people than we expected at that time ended up coming to show support.  So we’re especially looking forward to our Secret Youth release show in August.  Releasing “Let Loose” last summer as the first single since the debut was a highlight, as it was a pretty clear step in a new direction, and the positive reaction online and in-person has been exciting.

We had the privilege of playing the mainroom at First Avenue and more recently the Varsity Theater, two venues where I grew up attending concerts, and dreamed of playing my own music at one day.

Izzy: You’re about to release Secret Youth, which is quite a bit different from your debut, which I understand was inspired by your live show.  But was the process of writing and recording Secret Youth notably different from the process of creating Dreaming Free?

Chris: Great question.  When I first think about it, I want to say it was a lot different, but that may be more so because we’re at a different stage of life.  The actual writing and production process wasn’t too different I suppose.  We did bring in a few more musicians to collaborate on this album, and I also sent off songs to engineers Josiah Kosier and Taylor Lewin to mix.  That brought a different feel to some of the songs that I would’ve missed had I just stuck to mixing everything myself.  I was impressed with their work and glad we did that aspect differently this time around.

You’ll never stop learning and improving your craft, but with Secret Youth, I feel like I went into the process more sure and confident with the production side of things.  I felt we could jump in right away and record in a playground of possibilities for these songs.  Whether that will translate into songs that people like and connect with, who knows.  I hope!

Izzy: I love asking this question but a lot of bands hate it, so I apologize, if you fall into that category: At the moment, do you have a particular favorite track off of the new album?  “Midnight Glow” is definitely one of my favorite “jams” of 2015 [laughs].  It reminds me of the New Wave revivalists who came about like 10-15 years ago [who sort of soundtracked my transition into adulthood], but it’s even more playfully sexy.

Chris: Oh man, I’m kind of excited you like that song – I actually never thought that it would necessarily stand out with the full album.  I love hearing different perspectives though, and hearing what songs people connect with that are unique from others.

I feel like I tend to put my favorites at the beginning of the album, just because.  So that’d be “Arrest Me” and “Let Loose” if I had to choose. These are the two that are the pioneering songs, if you will, for this new dance-funk-pop sound we evolved into for Secret Youth.  Although near the end of the recording process “Forever Ocean” definitely became one of my favorites.  It’s sort of in its own world stylistically on the album… but I love how big it ended up sounding, I’d say thanks in large part to Rebekah’s vocals.

Izzy: What are your thoughts on the Minneapolis music scene?  Any favorite local peers?  I interview a lot of really cool acts from the city, but I can’t really get a feel about the music scene as a whole (Although maybe that’s because it’s so diverse that it can’t be pinned down in a simple fashion.)

Chris: Right, it definitely is diverse.  Not only is there lots of live music every night of the week, but often bills are shared by a variety of bands and artists with different styles.  It’s something I love about Minneapolis music.  It’s also big enough of a scene and city that there’s plenty of great music coming out, but small enough where it seems everyone sort of knows everyone else – a community.

I could list plenty, but some of my personal favorites that I’d recommend checking out:  c.Kostra, Verskotzi, Van Stee, Step Rockets, Graveyard Club, Weaver At The Loom, Har-di-Har, Hippo Campus, and on the hip-hop side of things, I like what Allan Kingdom is doing. Cory Wong, who played guitar on a couple Secret Youth tracks, has a fantastic jazz fusion band called Foreign Motion.  They’re brand new and haven’t released much yet, but there’s another Minneapolis husband-and-wife fronted band, The Prams.  I like what I’ve heard so far from them.  Oops, I guess I did list plenty…

Izzy: What do you have planned for the rest of 2015?  Any chance we might get to see the live show out here in Philadelphia? (I realize that you just had a son, which can make things like extensive touring a bit impractical.)

Chris: I’d love it if we could make it out to Philadelphia and the east coast. Well, and the west coast for that matter.  And in between… yeah, it’d be tricky to pull off, but I know people do it, and some even tour with their kids.  We’re focused on releasing this album and getting it out there for now, but we’ll make something happen eventually with touring.

We have the album release July 21, and then the release show here in Minneapolis is going to be August 21.  We’re in the pre-production process for an “Arrest Me” music video, and hope to create another one or two after that. This is a little ways down the road as Bora York is the focus now, but I have a side project called Hi-Fi Cali, and Bora York’s drummer Bjorn Nilsen plays with me on that as well.  It’s a fun, carefree project. There’s one song up on Soundcloud now.

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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.