Detroit's Bonny Doon Knows No One Knows Shit in Their 20s
Listen to the Detroit band’s "A Lotta Things," a confident song about feeling adrift, and read co-frontman Bill Lennox talk on the new LP 'Longwave.'
Photo by Chloe Sells
Bonny Doon’s self-titled debut album often felt like an intimate conversation between friends. Anchored by the songwriting duo of Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo, Bonny Doon was one of 2017’s most inviting and relatable albums. The Detroit indie rock band imbued humor and despondency into its 11 laid back songs that never allowed their cleverness cloud their heart. Lennox’s “I See You” was a boozy meditation on getting a year older that mentions, receiving an emoji-laced text from your mom: (“And the other one was a smiley face, a sideways heart, xoxo
/ ‘We miss you won't you come on home?’”) while Colombo’s “What Time Is It In Portland?” read like a heartbreaking text to an ex who moved away.
Though that album was full of standouts, Bonny Doon’s forthcoming follow-up Longwave, out March 23 via Woodsist, improves on the homespun charm that made their debut so inviting. The leap is partially due to the fact that the band is more confident now as their debut’s songs were just the first songs Lennox ever wrote, but as Lennox explains over the phone, it also comes from a more cohesive vision. He says, “The whole goal of this new album was to try and capture the band's sound at its essence with everything stripped down and vulnerable. We were trying to just capture the sound of the band in a room. We were happy to just kind of bear more of ourselves and be more open.”
Written of over the course of a trip to a lake house in Northern Michigan, and recorded at Key Club Studios downstate, the mesmerizing songs on Longwave are patient enough to ruminate on a musical idea without meandering. It’s this lack of urgency that has given the band the lyrical space to perfectly capture twenty-something malaise. Though the previously shared single “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” found Lennox frustrated, “Is there something missing I can’t tell / Is there more I can’t see,” Bonny Doon’s latest, “A Lotta Things,” which Noisey is premiering below, encapsulates that sentiment more intensely.
On the track, Lennox finds time to joke amidst his overwhelming uncertainty, singing, “I’m faking my own death so I can get rest / I know, I thought of everything.” Over bright acoustic guitars and an ambling electric lead, he summarizes his feelings, “and I should be happy / but I’m not, but I’m not.” Lennox explains, “What I like about it is it's just a simple statement, like a feeling of this sort of cosmic uncertainty that a lot of people I know are now experiencing in their mid-to-late twenties. We're always looking for more fulfillment and to feel more free.”
Where Lennox’s laconic delivery echoes the best moments from frontmen like David Berman and Bill Callahan, comparisons the band welcomes, and Bobby Colombo’s casual drawl evokes Jeff Tweedy’s early ouvre, the resonance comes through their seamless lyrical collaboration. Lennox says, “On this record, we wrote so much together just passing lyrics back and forth. Sometimes at shows or in practice, we'll switch it up. I'll sing his songs and he'll sing mine. It makes it fun and also changes the song's perspective in a fresh way.”
This fluidity is what keeps Bonny Doon going and what makes their songs some of the most refreshing additions to the 2018 indie rock landscape. Forever curious, Lennox muses, “The album is definitely a journey inward for both my songs and Bobby's songs. It's really cohesive in that way. There's a whole aspect of acknowledging parts of the self: what they are, what they could be, and what can be better.”
Preorder Longwave, which is out March 23 via Woodist, here.
Josh Terry is a writer in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.