Rising indie-folk band Josiah & The Bonnevilles possesses a special gift. With their classic sound and honest lyrics, the band effortlessly induces nostalgia while simultaneously inventing a “new-Americana” sound that’s all their own.
Case in point is their performance of the title track from their Cold Blood EP above–combining Josiah’s admiration for folk legendaries with the band’s innovative songwriting and instrumentation, it’s hard not to become immediately captivated by Josiah and the Bonnevilles. Read more about the band’s beginnings, the making of their Cold Blood EP & upcoming LP, plus the real meaning behind some of Josiah’s most poignant lyrics in our interview below.
Once you’re fully hooked, join us for the band’s live performance at The Resident in downtown Los Angeles on July 21–details and tickets available here.
OTW: How’d you guys meet and start the band?
Josiah: Man, it’s kind of a crazy story. I came down here for a show at this place called Lexington Social House–don’t even think it’s open anymore— and met a guy there who wanted to produce me. I said “yeah” because I didn’t have anything going on. Started working with him, turned out to be a total nightmare, but I met Stephen through him.
Stephen: He was like “Oh, I’ve got this great artist Josiah–you should come play guitar for him.” So out of that double-ended toxic relationship, we ended up hanging out!
OTW: So for once, two wrongs did make a right?
Josiah: [chuckles] Yeah. And then with Josh–I toured with Josh back in 2010, through my old deal. Wanted to see what he was into. So we brought him over and he brought his little floor tom, and I think we all just had this moment like “Holy shit, this sounds really good.” So we booked a few shows, started playing at the Surly Goat, and then we started seeing the feedback from people. We knew we were kind of onto something.
OTW: How about before that? How did the interest in music start initially?
Josiah: It was a lot of things. Grew up in church, so that was obviously a huge thing when I was young. I loved DC Talk. But recently, it’s been a lot of Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Leonard Cohen, obviously Dylan, Neil Young, Springsteen, Bob Seger–in the folk realm but rock as well. And then you mix that with some of Steve’s influences…
Stephen: For songwriting, singing, or guitar playing, it’s all Elliott Smith. I like a lot of newer stuff too, like Mac Demarco and Dive. Kind of more full band, electric stuff. I like stuff that suits a song, you know, it’s not just like jacking off on a guitar.
OTW: Where’d you come up with the name, “The Bonnevilles”?
Josiah: I would show you a photo if I had one. I had this Pontiac Bonneville that I had right before I left Tennessee in like 2008. I beat the shit out of this car–we drove it back and forth all the time, until it died. So Steve came up with the name–it ‘s a way for the car to live forever.
OTW: If you had to describe what your music sounds like to someone who’s never heard it, what would you say?
Josiah: I would have them go listen to it. It’s just so hard to describe it–I hope it doesn’t sound like anything, you know. I think my biggest fear is getting a song on the radio, the dream that you have as a musician, and then nobody can tell if it’s you or if it’s somebody else. That’s terrible.
OTW: How about explaining it in terms of feelings?
Josiah: I think it’s personal, obviously. The music is nostalgic.
Stephen: I read somewhere, someone said “new Americana,” and I thought that was cool. Hopefully that’s not enough of a genre to be pigeon-holed in yet, so we can make new Americana sound like however we want it to sound like. J’s got a super unique voice, so you really can’t say his voice fits into any genre.
OTW: The “Cold Blood” EP comes together to follow what seems to be a very personal story line—tell us about the making of that album and what it means to you.
Josiah: The album means a lot to me, and I wrote it when I was going through a period when I didn’t know if I was going to do music anymore. There’s no getting around the darkness in the lyrical content of the album. I don’t think of an audience when I write–I write with what comes from deep inside. Music was all I understood. Every album won’t be like that, but this album was written as I was thinking of getting myself through tough times.
OTW: And do you feel like it’s done that for you?
Josiah: Yeah, absolutely.
Stephen: He’s had a lot of these songs already, some of them going back seven or eight years even. I was brought in to play on some earlier cuts of these songs, and they sound nothing like that anymore. I was all about trying to make the aesthetic of the music fit the lyrical content and the emotion of the songs–bringing that into the 21st century.
Josiah: Yeah, it started as something that came from a very personal place and has been transformed as something that can be presented as an art.
OTW: We’ve been told that the EP is a preview of what’s to come on your full-length album—can you give us a bit of insight into what we can expect on that?
Josiah: I see it as a painting. A lot of artists only put out EPs now, but this is a painting, and you wouldn’t ask an artist to only paint half a painting. The EP was a sample, but the album is just a broader picture of that. The songs lean and rely on each other, sonically and lyrically, and they paint a whole story.
OTW: And when is that painting coming out?
Josiah: August…or let’s say late summer. Definitely this year though, or I’m going to break some skulls.
OTW: You’re well-known for your honest lyrical style so I wanted to play a game where I’ll quote one of your song lyrics, and you tell us the story behind that particular line…
From “Cold Blood”–
Got some cash / I borrowed from a man / That didn’t know he was a'lendin / Held him dear / Man, i held that money near it disappeared / Just blew off in the wind
Josiah: …It’s a true story.
From “Lie With Me”–
I’m sorry I make you drink too much / I’m sorry you can’t sleep well at night / I’m sorry I can’t tame your wild night / But if you lie with me, I can make you stay / I can wake you from this bad dream / Our love can die another day
Josiah: That song is just a conversation between me and a girl. I know it’s a lot of conflicting things, but you can picture one person saying one line and the other saying the next–it’s just a series of apologies broken down.
From “Long Gone”–
To your house / I go running / A man comes out and says “You’re long gone” / I was hoping to find you / And forget about this losing streak I’m on
Josiah: You ever feel like you date somebody and it’s hell, and you break up, so then you look back and wonder “why?” You can’t remember all the bad things, which were obviously a lot of bad things, so you go back looking for them.
OTW: Who are three artists on your current Ones To Watch list?
Stephen: Another Canadian dude—his name is Andy Shauf. Actually his last album, The Bearer of Bad News, was a huge inspiration for us.
OTW: What’s coming up for the band after the album’s released?
Josiah: Right now we just got shows, so many shows. We want to be on the road—this is what we like to do. We’re going to tour the record until people don’t want to hear it anymore, and then we’ll make another one.
OTW: Anything else you’d like to share with fans?
Come see us live!