words, photos & video by josh yong
- Name – Bonnie Stewart
- Based – Sydney, Australia
- Genre – Alternative/Experimental
- Web – fb.com/bonniesongsmusic
A Kiwi and an Irishwoman walk into a sports club…
It’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and with Bonnie originally from Dublin the day naturally starts rather leisurely, but it definitely didn’t feel like we needed to rush.
Nevertheless, when Bonnie pulls up to pick me up she’s already apologising profusely, for the traffic, for the weather, for everything that is absolutely out of her control. I laugh it off and we head towards the suburb of Tempe, home of the incredibly overwhelming and intriguing IKEA store (which doesn’t yet exist in NZ).
I met Bonnie through another Sydney artist, Emma Davis. Bonnie plays drums in Emma’s band, so we were introduced while filming another project, to be released later in the year. Trying to make the most of my trip over I agreed to collaborating with Bonnie as her artist name Bonniesongs, so she organised a location for her video and we were away.
We arrive at a rather old and weathered building. An overgrown lawn bowls court could be seen through a rusted chainlink fence, and the faded sign reading “Tempe Jets Sports Club” could be seen above the entranceway.
Needless to say I was already in love with this location.
The sports club itself actually closed it’s doors back in 2013, and since then has been converted into a multi-use cultural and arts space. Artists have sectioned off zones and established semi-permanent studio spaces, there are a variety of incredible works-in-progress dotted around the room.
There are also dedicated spaces for bands to come in and practice, the industrial zoning meaning that they are at no risk of pesky noise complaints from their inner-city neighbours.
It was one of these spaces that I immediately knew had to be the backdrop to Bonnies video, with one of the most delightful colour arrangements and organic set-ups I’ve encountered. I stopped Bonnie as she begins to tidy the space up, saying that I really wanted to keep it exactly how it existed when we found it.
A primary feature of Bonnie’s music is the use of a loop pedal, and so throughout the performance she would be building layers of sound, which over the course of the track would evolve into a presence much bigger than her and I standing alone in this room.
Of course this was all unfolding in her headphones, so for me I was just hearing the individual layers with no looping whatsoever. It’s a pretty strange experience hearing the performance completely out of context, and an added extra challenge to film well, as I was withheld from hearing what was actually going on.
To help with this, I got Bonnie to do a run through of the performance and I plugged in to the loop station, and then memorised how it went and replayed this through my mind with each take that we did, hoping to capture the essence of the track.
I want to avoid using the terms like ethereal or quirky to describe the Bonniesongs sound, but it truly is something that reaches beyond into some unchartered musical zones.
I can say with true honesty that it’s the kind of music that I haven’t encountered personally before, and it was an absolute privilege and treat to hear.
Perhaps the most captivating thing of all is how quiet and reserved Bonnie is about this music that she is literally unfolding before us. It is the type of quietness that conveys complete confidence in her art, without trying to sell herself too much. I tell you what, I was completely sold.
“Don’t forget about me //
I could be anybody, I don’t mind…”
– Bonniesongs “Coo Coo”
We were aiming to do two performances this afternoon, and Bonnie had another song in mind that she wanted to perform. We wandered around the beautifully decrepit space looking for our next backdrop, and in an event of pure chance that seems to happen all to often, the setting sun pierced through the clouds, casting a thin beam of light through the windows and onto a collection of old armchairs and couches in the main hall area of the club.
I was aware that we had this moment for only a few minutes at the most, so we set up as quickly as we could and rolled on a take.
Bonnie began a performance of her track “Dreamy Dreams” – this was the first time I had heard it, and so just acted on pure instinct in terms of how I was filming it.
It’s an incredibly delicate track, with levels of intricacy, especially rhythmically, that Bonnie continually constructs throughout the performance.
It is a demonstration of a different side to that shown in ‘Coo Coo’ but at the same time enforces a cohesiveness in the sound of the Bonniesongs process.
This performance will be appearing through the Bonniesongs social media channels soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
And with that our collaboration came to an end. Bonnie dropped me back to where I was staying in Glebe made her promise to come over to NZ and do a gig sometime soon, along with all the other incredible musicians I have been meeting over this side of the Tasman.
Bonniesongs is a project constantly on the move and quickly garnering a captivated and dedicated following, and I am excited to see and hear more of what she has to offer.
The performance of ‘Coo Coo’ can be found at the top of the article, we hope you enjoy x
Enjoy – more projects on the way so keep in touch.
Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the project so far.
– JY x