Prolific indie folk artist Haley Bonar has just released her latest album Impossible Dream, a bittersweet collection of reflective tunes, sometimes ascetic tunes. We asked the Canadian singer-songwriter a few questions about its creation.
Q1/ Nagging thoughts seems to permeate this record – do you think those kinds of aches lose their nagging power when you sing about them, or do they just take a form that’s handleable?
I’m not sure if they were ever ‘nagging’ per se, but more like ruminating, spinning around my atmosphere until I find a way to write it out. They take on a new form of power, probably moreso, by becoming something poetic in a song.
Q2/ There’s a really tiny ticking, fluttering sound towards the end of Your Mom Is Right that kind of reminds me of a butterfly hitting the sides of a jar. I can’t decide if it’s inside the jar or outside of it though. Is this song about escaping something or trying to get into something (or are they the same)?
Good ear – nobody has yet mentioned that. Jeremy Ylvisaker put that track on at the end on one of our last sessions… it totally reminds me of a bug inside of a jar as well. I think the song is about wanting to, but not being able to, escape. It takes on the same message as Hometown (“Hometown goes wherever you go”), but from a different perspective. It echoes of family dysfunction and one’s inability to escape that in youth.
Q3/ Can you tell us a little bit about the Called You Queen video? It’s quite simple but I have watched it several times because it’s adorable.
My sister Torey wrote and directed that. She is an amazing visual artist, and has done many of my costumes for my other band Gramma’s Boyfriend. She and I have been collaborating our entire lives, and so it was really fun to see her take on a new medium using my music. My other sister Sydney stars as the lead in this and the Kismet Kill video – she’s so good on screen, so uniquely captivating and beautiful. I had recently re-watched The Wizard of Oz and was deeply inspired to create something that was a modern-ish version of it… Torey’s ideas and mine swirled around and the end product was this video. I love the light-heartedness of it, the child’s perspective; he need for salvation and adoration, gluttony and self-love.
Q4/ Are you singing “piss in your ice-cream” at the end of Jealous Girls?
Yes. The line is “You wonder when you’ll wake up from this long-distance daydream of playing while girls scream/ Alone in a hotel, like piss in your ice cream.”
All of my lyrics are available in a “library” on my website. 🙂
Q5/ Do you map all of your harmonies out before you go into the studio, or is that something which comes in the moment?
I usually record harmonies right away whenever I demo anything. It’s fun for me… So I mostly have them mapped out ahead of studio recording, yes.
Q6/ Better Than Me is my favourite. There’s a kind of chubby cosmic harpsichord sound doing slowly falling arpeggios much of the way through. What kind of synth was this, and how much time do you spend experimenting with those electronic sounds to get them right?
Thanks! This synth was added totally last minute, because we were unhappy with the way the mix was sitting within the other songs on the album. This one needed extra TLC. That keyboard is a Yamaha PSS-470, which I have used on the last three albums of mine. It was originally released as a toy in the US in the 1980s. It sounds great, and we have been taking it out on the road with us! It’s funny, some people in London actually posed with it onstage after our show and took pics… I wonder if they know that it is just a weird toy piano, or if perhaps that is exactly why they posed with it. 🙂