Being the week of SXSW, I realize most celebrating artists are currently caught in a cheap-beer-and-taco-fueled haze of Rock’N’Roll taking over Austin’s least conventional performance spaces (perhaps even an airport baggage claim…), so I was thrilled to get a chance to chat via phone with Why Bonnie band leader Blair Howerton yesterday between gigs, who tells me, “We’re currently in beautiful Austin, Texas. We played two shows yesterday and we’ve got two more today!” (For Monday night’s opening festivities, Why Bonnie played the Howdy Gals “Kickoff Party” at All The Sudden, which Howerton admits is basically the perfect venue, where they played alongside New Orleans trio Pope, who she characterizes as, “One of the greatest rock bands of our generation, I’m pretty positive!”)
Although Why Bonnie – whose sound could perhaps best be characterized as Americana-laced retro alt-rock — are currently based in New York City, the indie rock quintet originally hail from Austin, which also serves as the home of their label, Keeled Scales, home of PHILTHY favorites Sun June, who Why Bonnie toured alongside this January. And Howerton tells me Keeled Scales have been friends of Why Bonnie since the very beginning: “We love Keeled Scales and we’ve known Tony [Presley] and a lot of people that work with him since we started in Austin.”
Last August Keeled Scales released 90 in November, Why Bonnie’s first full-length, which has been praised by the likes of Pitchfork, Alternative Press, and Paste. Pitchfork said of the debut, “These songs were born of yearning for the open expanses and leisurely pace of rural Texas. It’s only fitting, then, that Why Bonnie turned them into a record that satiates that craving.” And when I ask Howerton about the favorite responses she’s heard from fans, she admits that they often mirror these sentiments: “It’s been a really good response. A lot of people from Texas had a really strong response to it. The album is inspired by my time growing up in Texas and the landscape and my experiences there, so they can really relate to it.” She also makes a point to mention that the entire band are big fans of The Lemonheads, who also served as a major inspiration behind the album’s tracks.
This January Why Bonnie released “Apple Tree,” a standalone single and their first new music since 90 in November, although notes that the song is really an extension of the songs found on the full-length: “We wrote and recorded ‘Apple Tree’ while we were recording 90 in November, but decided to keep it off the record and have it as a B-Side… Basically, it has a lot of the same themes and imagery from the album.” However, she does admit, “It definitely has a chiller vibe, a nice little swing to it.”
Less than a year since their debut, Why Bonnie is already well at work on a new album, apparently inspired by the band’s shared love of Sheryl Crow. “The sound is evolving and changing,” says Howerton. Between this week’s SXSW shows and the new album, Why Bonnie will have a small handful of dates that include a headlining stop next Friday, March 24th, at Kung Fu Necktie, and Howerton tells me that that really is the best way to experience the band: “We like to have a lot of fun onstage! We genuinely enjoy playing live!” And while their plans for the very immediate future focus on their sophomore album, Howerton admits that fans will likely have another chance to see Why Bonnie in the near future: “We’re gonna keep working on this record and are hoping to have it ready to go this summer. We also have another tour that we can’t talk about yet…”
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