Pez and Bonjah are ambassadors for The Be Project, a national competition inviting young Aussies to submit an inspirational song or 30 seconds of amateur sports film that has a positive feel, to form a collective voice challenging Australia’s binge drinking culture. The competition is now open and closes at midnight on Friday, December 20. The winning songwriter will win a Macbook Pro, have their song professionally recorded and they will receive mentorship from music industry experts. The 10 winning amateur action sports footage entrants will each receive a handheld action camera and their footage will be edited together and set to the winning song. Visit tacklingbingedrinking.gov.au/thebeproject or facebook.com/nationalbingedrinkingcampaign for full details.
Being body slammed to the turf by a serious illness can have some strange positives and while it’s often hard to see it at the time, Perry Chapman aka Pez, has acknowledged what his tango with Graves’ Disease (a serious thyroid condition that also put a hold on Sia’s touring life) has taught him.
That lesson is now being passed on to others through his involvement in The Be Project – a government initiative aimed at tackling the problem of binge drinking.
Apart from supporting up-and-coming songwriters and film makers and keeping young people alive, it will hopefully reduce the amount of vomiting douche bags we all need to deal with.
“A lot of artists, kids look up to them and they think they wanna be like them but they don’t see them behind the scenes and what they’re really like,” Chapman says. “They don’t see that they’re alcoholics and that they’re really not happy at all. In their photos and shit and it’s so glorified, kids think they’re livin’ the dream and I’m there with ‘em thinking ‘this is all bullshit’. Music is really promoting binge drinking, especially a lot of international music. It’s all like, ‘Yeah, you only live once, we get fucked up yeah! Work hard, play hard, we don’t give a shit!’ and somehow it’s cool to be like that.
“The people in the industry have always had that agenda to try and plug straight into kids’ thoughts. Before I got sick, everything got crazy for a while. I went from being in a bedroom wanting to do music to playing festivals and I was in front of thousands of people and everyone’s really hysterical and shit and I definitely didn’t handle it very well being a really shy person. You can just start abusing yourself with substance abuse and drinking. I got lucky, when my thyroid went crazy I couldn’t do that anymore and it gave me a slap in the face. Since then I’ve stepped back and I’ve realised that if you’ve got issues you’ve gotta deal with them.”
Chapman’s dealing with his, and that’s why folks like he and 360 are actually living the dream. The next few months are set to be massive with his album looking to be wrapped up by the end of December.
“Everything’s being put out on the label with both mine and 360’s solo albums out early to mid-next year and then with the album we’ve done together, we’ll have that ready and we’ll have to gauge how it’s going, whether it’s crazy or not, and see whether it comes out late in the year or early in the next year. Both the solo albums will definitely be finished up by late December, though.”
They says the surest way to lose money is to start a record label, and with the two-way street of Obese and Elefant Traks now divided into a multi-lane highway of countless hip hop specific labels, what motivated Chapman to start the label?
“I always wanted to have one just on my own called Easy Records and I was gonna do that and put out my stuff on that,” he says. “Plus I had a few other people just within my circle that I wanted to believe in and put out their music; I’m really passionate about that. But then cause me and 360 have the manager and we’re always talking, he wanted to do the same thing so we were like, ‘stuff it, let’s do it together. That’ll be even more fun’. We might lose a shit load of money, we’ll find that out real soon, and it’s all pretty innocent, but we just love it and we’ve always wanted to do it. A lot of the people we idolised in the hip hop genre came from nothing and were pretty entrepreneurial and started labels, so I guess the whole idea was glorified for us.”
Hopefully there’s enough room in this large land of few people to share the hip hop spoils. So far everyone seems to be playing nicely. “The people that I come across seem to be really excited that things are growing to this kind of level but I’m sure there was, well I mean Obese was the huge label for so long,” he says. “Elefant Traks seems to be such a tight-knit little family and seems to be going strong.
Pez is touring with the Big Day Out in January.
New Zealand-bred/Melbourne-based Bonjah returned to the fold early this year with the groove-heavy tune, Evolution, and they’ve now dropped a follow-up single, Blue Tone Black Heart.
The new songs step away from the band’s rootsy origins, incorporating a raw rock’n’roll feel, and lead vocalist Glenn Mossop explains that the band chose to pursue this sound after simply reflecting on what songs in their catalogue they enjoy playing most.
“We’ve always enjoyed playing the more up-tempo numbers live, so we thought, ‘Let’s just make a louder, faster record’,” he says. “I put down the acoustic and upon picking up the electric – that’s just the way I began writing. Everything started coming out gritty, which I really liked, so we’ve continued to build on that energy.”
This year’s two single releases are the first new music Bonjah have let slip since 2011’s Go Go Chaos LP but their third full-length album is yet to arrive. Mossop indicates that, despite the delay, songwriting for the forthcoming record has felt more natural and honest than ever before.
“We are really refining a more collective sound for an album than what we have in the past and using a different songwriting process. We’re also a bit older now and choices become more direct and certain. So it is feeling more natural and true to where we’re at musically at the moment.”
Over the years the band’s perspective on what they want to achieve has shifted somewhat. Initially the focus was on gaining masses of fans, but Mossop says they’re now chiefly driven by writing the best music they can.
“The focus now for us is just writing and recording a record we can be proud of and it’s a bonus if people want to put it on.” Despite this stated quest for artistic sovereignty, Bonjah’s ambitions to cultivate a wider-reaching fanbase haven’t completely subsided and Mossop reveals their plans for a more rigorous approach to cracking the overseas market.
“It’s been over seven years in Oz, we’ve done a fuck load of touring and gathered some amazing fans and friends along the way, which we’re pretty honoured about, but we’re definitely going to head over to Europe sometime in the next year and broaden the horizon,” he says.
Speaking of broadening their horizons, Bonjah recently gathered a lot of attention for covering the hit single Royals by fellow-kiwi Lorde for triple j’s Like A Version. The cover has introduced many people to their music for the first time, which Mossop admits has generated mixed feedback.
“She’s an amazing young artist and we liked the song and yeah I think we’ve gathered a few more fans from it, but not without some haters.” A further case of the band stretching their boundaries is enlisting the help of hyper-busy production-wiz Jan Skubiszewski to record Blue Tone Black Heart. Skubiszewski is known for his recent work under the Way Of The Eagle moniker, as well as production credits on albums by Cat Empire and Phrase.
With two singles now out in the open fans are no doubt getting antsy for the new Bonjah record. Mossop serenely states that the album is still a work in progress but assures that it will come out in the early part of next year.
“We’re still continually coming up with new tunes and having a great time writing. We’ve got some pre-production dates set with Jan to hone in on the songs and even write more with him, so we’re all pretty pumped at the way it’s travelling at the moment.”
As for whether the garagey old-school rock sound confidently expressed on Blue Tone Black Heart will be explored further on the album, Mossop covertly suggests the record will canvass a variety of influences.
“We’ve never been set to one certain sound when it comes to writing songs, and we’ve always had a pretty broad range of music we listen to, so we’re influenced by a lot of various artists and bands from all eras.”
Bonjah will hit WA next month, playing at Thursday, January 9, at the Prince Of Wales, Bunbury; Friday, January 10, at Redcliffe At The Murray; Saturday, January 11, at Mojo’s and Sunday, January 12, at the Indi Bar.