I don't know what "Blood in the Bathtub" is about, exactly. And I'm not sure I want to know. But the poppy, twang-y little rouser has been stuck in my head all week, thanks to local label Salinas finally releasing Bonny Doon's debut, a four-song 7-inch EP. It's really a super start. If you've ever gotten lost while driving just because Neil Young's Zuma was in the tape deck, or spent more than two minutes trying to figure out what David Berman really meant in that one song, then Bonny Doon is probably already your favorite new Detroit act. Of the four songs, three of them give a new spin on laconic, smartypants, midtempo slacker pop. And, geeze, I don't want to call it country rock. But it's pretty much country rock.
"Lost My Way" is more upbeat, and starts out a bit like Elvis Costello's recording of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," before dissolving into the kind of swell, navel-gazing indie pop that all slackers aspire to, but few actually achieve. I caught up with them via email last Thursday night, right after the group practiced. They all answered the questions together, in one voice, which is kind of gross. But that's my fault for talking to a local band via email like a totally lazy person. They perform with Rebel Kind and Tops at on March 7 at UFO Factory.
"Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo both play guitar and sing; Josh Brooks plays bass; and Jake Kmiecik plays drums. We all work in service. Bill and Bobby met a few years ago playing in a band called Craycrays. Jake and Josh went to high school together at U of D. Bill and Bobby were writing and recording together for a couple years, then Bill ended up living with Jake and Josh. So it just made sense to invite them to play with us, and it ended up working out. Our other bands are Growwing Pains, the Potatoes, Tyvek, Brothels, Fake Surfers, PRC, and Stellar Clouds. And Bobby plays by himself sometimes.
"We pretty much see ourselves as a punk band, though our music is more subdued than what people probably think when they think of punk or garage rock. All our other bands are punk bands, and that's pretty much what informs our approach to being a band, so we feel like there are a lot of kindred spirit bands in Detroit, even if we don't have as aggressive of a sound. We try to play with a controlled looseness. When we practice, we devolve into horrific experimentation that probably sounds like a jam band that can't play. But we just like to play things differently every time and kind of keep the songs a work in progress all the time. We don't like to be too precise, because we never want to sound like a sterile indie-rock band.
"We tracked everything in one day in Fred Thomas' living room, and then did the vocals and mixing in Bobby's bedroom. It was just supposed to be a demo because we had only been playing for two or three months when we recorded it. But our friend Marco who does Salinas Records offered to press it. James Noellert, a local artist who's a friend of ours, did the cover art. He's actually carved a niche for himself doing, among other things, minimalist ice cream art. We saw some other ice cream art he did and liked it so we asked him to do something like that for us.
"There are a lot of great musicians here, obviously, but maybe more important than any specific musicians, are folks doing work to promote and vitalize the wider artistic community. Seraphine Collective is a feminist collective working to build infrastructure and community around increased inclusion in the music scene, particularly focused on female-identified musicians. They do a lot of stuff — put on shows, make mixtapes, and zines. But most importantly, they bring a much needed intentionality to the rock scene here.
"We are aware there are other Bonny Doons, with various spellings, some different, some the same. We don't really care. Our name has already been spelled wrong so many different times, including in the Metro Times, that we are used to it being fluid and confusing. Band names are mostly practical. Bonny Doon, the name, is not a grand artistic statement. It's just what we settled on because we had to put something on a flier. The other Bonny Doon is actually really good, so we wish them the best. We don't have a Facebook or much of an Internet presence. So they can have all the domain names; we don't mind. The name itself is from a town in California. We were looking to present a sunny aesthetic — basically the opposite of Detroit, where we have each spent our entire lives. We're drawn to things like beaches and ice cream, though half of us have never even been to California."