Friday, 29 December 2006

“Every band I love, they have something in their hands and create something unique,” explains singer/guitarist Leif Koren of Norway’s Bonk. “Shitloads of bands just make a copy and don’t throw themselves inside it.” There’s really no way to properly explain what Bonk is in Koren’s eyes, as explaining art is often more difficult that it may seem. But just know that the band’s sophomore album Bonk Against Nothing (Ace Fu) has all the elements of a classic punk/rock album, with deep basslines, hellish and blaring guitar riffs and vocals that sound like a mix between Bon Scott and Jello Biafra. It’s Oslo’s answer to forty years of rock ‘n’ roll and it all comes from the heart.

Bonk Against Nothing is the follow up to 2005’s Western Soul, which captured the hearts of critics and won over fans worldwide, earning them the rights to open for Franz Ferdinand and Gluecifer, ruling the stage each and every time. The theme of organic comes up time and time again with Koren, who says of playing live, “It’s just a matter of sewing oneself in. When you can get what’s inside of each and everyone in the band, that’s where you get the chemistry.” Perhaps when things happen naturally and aren’t forced, that’s when you attain true art.

The band now consists of four core members, Koren, Andreas “Dez” Grotterud (guitar/vocals), Gisle Amundsen (drums) and Bård Høvik (bass), although the original lineup began with Koren and Grotterud in the late 90s. From there it’s been about developing the sound that makes Bonk exactly what they are. Not just one single sound, but an amalgamation of influences creating hard rock ‘n’ roll that interconnects the edginess of late 70s U.K. and U.S. punk, the pure fuzz tones of 60s garage rock and any modern influence that made its way to the Oslo airwaves and into the ears of the band’s core songwriters: Koren and Grotterud.

The duo seem to collaborate quite well, allowing each song to have an organic process in which to develop. “The song forces the style upon how we sing and how we’re dealing with it basically,” says Koren. “Like the first song on the album [“The House’], I have never heard Dez sing that way, and he has never been singing that way either. So it’s just what the music requires.” Throughout the record you really can’t tell who is singing what as they go back and forth quite often, but what they do share is aggressive and extremely fluid vocal styles, complimenting the band’s sound, such as the part metal, part rock “Images.” The song is delivered as stream of consciousness with staccato vocal rhythms weaving in and out, keeping the listener wide-eyed because they have no idea what’s coming next—a trait that continues throughout the record.

The recording process for such a powerful and commanding band might be tough, but according to Koren, he has a love affair with both live performance and the studio. “I’m a bit tedious. I am quite interested in the craft,” he admits. “It’s just two different sensations. In the studio it’s more in the head and live it’s more physical and being in touch with the people.” This mentality reinforces how intelligent this band is and why Ace Fu felt so strongly about signing them after a single live performance. It was a trust-your-gut reaction and those tend to be the best decisions someone can make—especially a label-owner who’s been there and done that for years on end.

Each song on the record depicts a strategic move to enter your subconscious, get stuck in your head and basically force you to pray you’ll get to see Bonk live. Koren is keeping a level head about what’s happening at the moment. “No matter where you are in the world,” he says, “if you’re from Bangladesh or from the States or from Norway, it’s just so funny when you can connect with people when you get into things. It’s just such an ever-so-good feeling.” Coming from a small village of 500 people, it’s pretty cool to think you’re affecting people thousands of miles away. And you will have no choice but be affected while listening to the record.

Bonk Against Nothing is out now.

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