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Genre: Indie, Alternative, Rock
Official Site: www.myspace.com/vonbondies
Band Bio: For THE VON BONDIES, the most important reason to make music isn’t a complicated one. “We’re here to entertain people so they forget that they have a 9 to 5 job to go to in the morning,” says Jason Stollsteimer, the Michigan-based band’s singer-songwriter-guitarist. “We love what we do or else we wouldn’t do it; it’s for us and the fans.”
With the February 2009 release of Love, Hate and Then There’s You, the Von Bondies’ third studio album and their debut for Majordomo Records (a division of Shout! Factory), those fans will experience a band that’s come a long way since 2004’s smash album Pawn Shoppe Heart. Now in their ninth year together, Stollsteimer and drummer Don Blum, the Von Bondies’ other founding member, have taken their music to new places while holding on to the core values they’ve always exhibited.
“Maybe it’s a cliché but I think the songwriting is more advanced,” says Blum, who co-wrote two songs on the album—his first-ever efforts at penning material for the Von Bondies. “Before it was more of a single riff going the whole time and we had a stripped-down, bluesy, almost punk rock kind of approach. But we’d done that for so long, and we wanted to do something new.”
Love, Hate and Then There’s You picks up from the tighter, more nuanced sound of the Von Bondies’ huge 2004 hit single “C’mon C’mon,” which subsequently took on a second life as the theme to Denis Leary’s highly acclaimed FX TV series Rescue Me. On riff-happy tracks like the first single “Pale Bride” and the anthemic leadoff track “This Is Our Perfect Crime,” pounders like “I Don’t Wanna” and “Chancer,” and on the album-closing “Modern Saints” (recorded by Peter Katis of Interpol and Mercury Rev fame)--with its nearly ethereal intro--this is a Von Bondies with a renewed sense of purpose. In a sense, says Stollsteimer, “it’s a new band. You don’t want to avoid your history but it is a new direction. It wasn’t on purpose. It’s just where we were going.”
Stollsteimer’s newest batch of songs, as well as Blum’s pair—“Earthquake” and “Blame Game”—were penned over the past few years and recorded sporadically during that period. Butch Walker (Hot Hot Heat, The Donnas, All-American Rejects) served as primary producer, and a number of engineers (including Rick Parker, known for his work with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) fine-tuned the recordings. Stollsteimer has great praise for all of them, but reserves special kudos for Walker.
“Butch was amazing,” he says. “He listened to what was there and understood where to take it. Butch helped me with songs I wasn’t that confident in. He would tell me, ‘This bridge is kinda weak, you should work on that.’ Or he would say, ‘Your song is in the key of A. These are the three options to make the chorus seem lifted.’ I never learned so much from one person.”
The roots of the Von Bondies can be traced back to the late ’90s—at one point Jason had a band called the Baby Killers—but things really began in earnest when Blum teamed up with Stollsteimer in 1999. The name Von Bondies was born in 2000, and the first album, Lack of Communication, came the following year. Raw and Rare, a collection of live BBC recordings, followed in 2003, then Pawn Shoppe Heart. Recorded for a major label, it gave the band the higher profile they needed in order to be heard outside of the usual alt-rock confines.
But as the material for the followup began taking shape, it became apparent to both band and label that it was time for a parting of the ways. “They didn’t really know what they wanted,” says Blum about the band’s prior label, “but they knew that the stuff we were recording wasn’t emo.”
Adds Stollsteimer, “I was like, ‘Thank God, because we’re not an emo band!’” “We kept on going back into the studio and doing more songs, and we were happy with all the songs we came up with,” says Blum. “We were doing stuff that we thought was good but the label wasn’t hearing it.”
As the Von Bondies began incorporating the new tunes—many of them based on life-changing personal experiences Jason had undergone since the last album—into their dynamic live show, audiences readily agreed that they were keepers. “We played ‘Accidents Will Happen,’ which is on the new album, once in New York,” he says. “The curtain was down and it was supposed to go up as we started playing the intro, but it didn’t. When it did go up, it went up at the perfect time, when the big chorus came in. Everyone started dancing even though no one had ever heard the song.”
Signed to Majordomo after a successful showcase at Austin’s legendary South by Southwest music convention, the Von Bondies began piecing together the new album. Love, Hate and Then There’s You marks a natural progression, and Jason is stoked about the new songs, which he says are the best they’ve ever recorded. “The songs are kind of sinister-sounding but there’s this overall lift feeling to them,” he says. “There’s always going to be bad days but hopefully you’re not going to have a cynical person that only remembers the bad. And you need bad days to realize what’s good in life. I try to put that in lyrics.”
Shortly before the album’s release, the Von Bondies will head out on an extensive tour, for which Stollsteimer and Blum will be joined by bassist Leann Banks, also a Michiganite. All are looking forward to bringing the new songs to the stage. “We’re gonna bombard the U.S. and anywhere else the tour takes us,” says Blum.
“We thrive on touring,” adds Stollsteimer. “It’s been a roller coaster ride,” says Don, summing up the Von Bondies’ career thus far, and their own relationship, admit both, has been, at times, “a rocky marriage.”
But in some ways, perhaps, it’s a ride that is only just beginning to reach full velocity. “Most bands don’t last past five years,” says Stollsteimer. “We’ve been a band for nine. I feel like we’ve progressed as fast as we can. You can’t get anywhere by standing still and we’re always about moving. It’s all about having a good time.”
By: The Von Bondies
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