Grateful Web’s Angela Gattuso recently had an opportunity to speak to Dan Smyers, from the Nashville-based rock duo, Bonaventure. They spoke about the band’s influences, their debut album, Come Hell or High Water, and what would Dave Grohl do.
GW: In the short film made to introduce Bonaventure you both talk about having similar ideas of where you wanted to go and what you wanted to as the band was coming together. Musically, what were these ideas, what were or are you trying to do?
DS: Andy and I wanted to be part of a project in which the song is the most important piece of the equation. In this day and age, honest and sincere songwriting sometimes takes a backseat to more superficial things. We have seen bands, and even ourselves experienced the difficulties of hitting the ground running with songs that were not fully developed. Several years ago, it was so easy to write 5 songs and hit the road in a cheap van. While the glamour of being on tour was certainly awesome, we soon realized that this wasn’t a sustainable way to operate a band.
With that being said, Bonaventure really chooses to focus on the song more than anything else. We have invested almost all of our time and money (life savings) into writing and recording material to the best of our abilities. We have done minimal touring to this point, but that will come in time. Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE touring and playing live, but we want to make sure our music is the best it can possibly be before we hit the road full time. The way I see it, if you’re going to spend your life traveling in support of a product, do your homework beforehand to make it something you are wholeheartedly proud of.
GW: What was it you wanted to get across as writers and artists when you first started performing together and played in more acoustic environments?
DS: As I mentioned earlier, we want to write songs that our listeners can connect with at a personal level. Not only do we want to have strong and memorable hooks that give the tunes replay value, but we want people to be moved by our words. At home in Nashville, we spend a lot of time refining lyrics to make sure the songs deliver a sound message. By performing in an acoustic stripped environment, we are able to showcase the true meaning of the songs to our fans in a very digestible way. We generally write the songs on acoustic guitars, so by playing them acoustically, the fan is able to experience the actual emotion of the song. Playing full band is awesome, and we can’t wait to start doing it later this year, but we also dig playing in an acoustic setting where our fans can latch onto lyrics and the true meaning of the songs upon first listen.
GW: What was it about going into the studio and working with Dan Hannon that brought that rock edge on the EP into realization and being?
DS: Before we began recording the EP, Andy and I were big fans of Dan’s previous work. He has worked on a lot of incredible projects, such as Manchester Orchestra, that led us to seek him out as a producer for our record. When we were able to hang out with Dan and sit down in the studio to discuss the direction of Come Hell or High Water, we connected immediately. I think the fact that we both have similar tastes in music allowed Dan to bring the rock on the EP that we were looking for. For example, my favorite band of all time is Foo Fighters, and Dan has a sticker across his computer monitor that reads, “WWDGD”. More specifically, “What Would Dave Grohl Do?”. With our influences and musical preferences aligned, we were able to craft the songs with the perfect amount of rock edge.
GW: Songs not on the EP often seem to carry that nostalgic, acoustic sound such as that of “These Shoes,” as is mentioned in the short film. Are these other songs something you guys would like to adapt in the studio to have more of a rock edge or are you writing new material that takes that old, more acoustic sound in a new direction?
DS: We love songs like These Shoes, but we decided to feature it as a bonus track on the EP because it is a slightly different sound than the other 4 songs. In the grand scheme of a full-length album, we will be able to take more stylistic liberties, and include a song like These Shoes in the track-listing. As we’ve been writing the full-length album, our goal is to deliver a dynamic sound that takes the listener through a broad range of emotions. With that being said, we will certainly have the big rock songs, reminiscent of the EP, but will also have more stripped folk-inspired ballads. All of the songs will be “us”, but will give the listener a little something more to latch onto.
GW: As you begin to fine tune your sound following this EP, in live performances and on tour do you want to play with a bit more heavy, in-your-face sound or do you think you’ll stick to the acoustic environments you tested the waters in during the bands beginning stages?
DS: Playing acoustic has been great and we will continue to do so throughout our career, but we DEFINITELY look forward to plugging in the electric guitars and doing the full-band thing later this year. As soon as we hit the road full-time, we will be playing with a band in a rock and roll arrangement. It will be great to deliver the songs in the high-energy format in which they were recorded. Like I said, playing acoustic has been awesome, and we love showcasing our songs in a stripped format, but we are itching to turn things up to 11 as soon as possible.
GW: Now that you have released your first EP, what’s the plan? Are you going to take that music on the road, keep writing new material to further develop your sound, record more and carry the EP into a full-length album?
DS: As of now, we plan to keep writing until the day the full-length is released. And from there, we will keep writing until the 2nd full-length is released, hah. In all seriousness, we could not be more stoked with the way the full-length writing is coming together. We have been playing some of the new songs live, so if you’ve seen our show lately, you may have heard some full-length contenders. We are super proud of the EP and want to tour extensively to support it throughout the rest of the year, but we are still very hard at work getting the writing done for the next release. The first full-length will be what really defines Bonaventure in a public sense, so we want to hit the nail on the head. The plan, as of now, is to tour on the EP the rest of the year, and get back into the studio to track the full length this winter. If all goes according to plan, we hope to release a full-length early 2013! This is all super exciting to Andy and I, so we are taking it one day at a time, enjoying each step of the process!
GW: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, I greatly appreciate it! I look forward to listening to your music some more and we’ll be sure to send a copy of the album review/interview as soon as it’s done. Thanks again and congratulations on the release of your first EP!
DS: Thank you so much for considering us, Angela! It has been awesome to do this interview with you and hopefully we can do it again sometime soon. Your support means the world to us! Have an awesome day. :)