Evening Hymns front man Jonas Bonnetta has enjoyed a very unique form of success over the past several years. While his music has never found its way onto Top 40 radio, it has nonetheless had a far-reaching quality that he could never have anticipated. Nor could he have expected that one day out of the blue in 2013, acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe would tweet "np: evening hymns/spectral dusk," or that this humble acknowledgement would result in the standout Evening Hymns song "You and Jake" finding a home on the soundtrack to Crowe's latest film, Aloha, released earlier this year.
Add to this the fact that Evening Hymns is slated to perform at the inaugural WAYHOME festival July 24-26 in Oro-Medonte alongside such legends as Neil Young and Modest Mouse, and it has to be pointed out that Bonnetta's 2015 is looking pretty golden so far. To top everything off, September 18, 2015 marks the release of the long-overdue follow-up to the aforementioned critically acclaimed Spectral Dusk album. Simply titled Quiet Energies, the album can either be viewed as the resolution of the grieving process for the passing of Bonnetta's father, or perhaps an extension of the emotional turmoil that characterized Spectral Dusk.
chorusVERSEchorus recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bonnetta to discuss all things Cameron Crowe, WAYHOME, and Quiet Energies:
Lots of exciting things are happening for Evening Hymns lately, namely the inclusion of your song "You and Jake" on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's latest film, Aloha. It was reasonably well publicized several years ago that he was a fan of the Spectral Dusk album, but how did he initially become familiar with your music?
Likewise, you've had the opportunity to write and record original music for the soundtracks to such independent documentary films as The Kaplinski System in recent years. Is there any other soundtrack material that you're currently working on at the moment, and how does the creative process differ when approaching soundtrack work as opposed to Evening Hymns album material?
Jonas Bonnetta: To be honest I'm not really sure how Cameron found the record. I would to love to know.
I just recently finished the score for a documentary about Fogo Island in Newfoundland. I'm super happy with how it turned out. That film just premiered in Montreal in the spring and is doing the rounds on the doc circuit. It's a gorgeous film and I couldn't really ask for nicer images to write music to. It's called Strange and Familiar and it's produced by Site Media. I'm so pleased with the music that I'm mixing it to release as a separate record at some point. It's all ambient string and piano stuff. Droney instrumentals with field recordings.
Writing for film and creating instrumentals is more therapeutic and meditative for me. It feels more organic and free. Writing for Evening Hymns is a lot more emotionally intense. It takes more focus and honing. I feel that some of my strongest ambient compositions are written when I'm less focused. More spaced out.
September 18, 2015 marks the release of Quiet Energies, the third album you've released as Evening Hymns. From the new songs that have been performed live so far, such as "If I Were a Portal," "Evil Forces," and "Connect the Lines," the tone of the songwriting seems to be coming from a much more positive place emotionally than the material that comprised Spectral Dusk. Was Spectral Dusk part of a necessary cathartic creative process to allow you to process the grief of losing your father, and to what extent has that allowed you to move forward and write the seemingly more optimistic songs that are featured on Quiet Energies?
JB: I've thought about this a lot. I guess it'll take me a few more years to understand whether or not making Spectral Dusk was a good thing for my mind. A lot of people assume that it is but I did a lot of damage to myself, physically and mentally, making that record and performing it for a few years. Each night I had to relive that whole part of my life over and over again. Certainly when I started writing Quiet Energies I was conscious of that. I did want to write some songs that were more enjoyable to play live. When it was all said and done and I listened back to the new record I realized it was just an extension of Spectral Dusk. It seems a very obvious continuation of that record. I think there is definitely more hope on this record. But I thought Spectral was hopeful as well. I'll be writing about Dad forever I'm sure.
In addition to releasing Quiet Energies later this year, I gather that there is an EP of new material arriving sometime this year as well. How do the songs on the EP differ from the material on Quiet Energies?
JB: The EP is 4 songs that didn't fit on Quiet Energies. I really wanted QE to sound big and loud and fit nicely on vinyl so I cut it at 4 songs per side. The lead song on the EP is a track called "All of Your Money" and I really wanted to find a home for it on the full-length but we just couldn't find a way to make it fit the vibe of the sequencing we had so it's the lead track on the EP. I'm super excited for people to hear that one. Also, there is a song called "Mother of Three" that my buddy Jon Hynes takes a monster guitar solo on, live off the floor, that pretty much knocked us on our asses.
I've also got another 13 songs demo'd for the next album so I'm making lots and I'm ready to keep putting out more records.
You've had the good fortune to work with an amazing cast musicians from the Canadian indie-folk scene, including members of The Wooden Sky, Timber Timbre, and Ohbijou. Who are some of the musicians who have contributed in the recording of Quiet Energies and the new EP?
JB: Andrew Kekewich and Gavin Gardiner from The Wooden Sky, Mika Posen from Timber Timbre/Agnes Obel, Jon Hynes from Newfoundland, and more. This album was engineered and co-produced by James “Boomtown” Bunton too. He's my partner in crime for the last few records!
Evening Hymns will be performing at WAYHOME festival this summer. How did this opportunity come about? Likewise, how excited are you to be playing a festival alongside Neil Young?
JB: I got asked out of the blue. I'm super honoured to be there. We play on the Sunday but the whole band is heading out on Friday night to watch Neil play. We're all kind of freaking out. I haven't seen him play in many years and I'm a huge fan. So yeah... gonna try and high-five him or something.
Spectral Dusk was released on a wide variety of indie labels worldwide, including Shuffling Feet, Kutu Folk Records, Tin Angel, and Strange Ways. For Quiet Energies you've opted to release the album on the more established Outside Music label. Why did you decide not to opt for a Shuffling Feet Records release in Canada, and are there any other new labels participating in the release of the new album?
JB: I worked with Outside on my last record. They distributed Spectral Dusk for us. They do the distro for my label and I loved working with them. Super great team of folks there. They approached us to release Quiet Energies and I was really ready to take a break from doing everything myself. The timing was perfect! It's allowing me more time in my home studio to keep writing so I couldn't be happier.
Tin Angel in the UK are releasing the record overseas and Kutu is releasing it in France. Those are my families over there. Happy to continue working with them!
So far the WAYHOME festival is the only tour date for Evening Hymns this summer. How extensively do you plan on touring Quiet Energies, and do you anticipate spending most of your time touring Europe as on previous tours? Likewise, are there any other exciting Evening Hymns developments that chorusVERSEchorus readers can look forward to in the rest of 2015?
It's a quiet summer for me for the most part. I'm super busy renovating my studio to make it larger and building a wood-fired sauna and resting up before the record comes out. We just recently announced a tour supporting Hayden out west in September. We've also got CityFolk in Ottawa coming up around then. More dates will be announced closer to the release date. Hoping to get overseas later in the fall to support Quiet Energies there. Then we're hoping to do some winter touring. But yeah... lots of music coming down the pipeline from me!