Bonfire catches on in Morgantown

Already an item, Chris Quattro and Jodi Hollingshead lead Bonfire into 123 Pleasant Street Friday

When we covered the MAYSP Benefit show back in September, we heard about a new Morgantown band called Bonfire. Comprised of Depresbyterians members Chris Quattro (guitar/vocals) and Liz Toler (drums), joined by singer Jodi Hollingshead on keys and bassist Amanda Burris, and with a few shows under their belt, we caught up with the “cupcakewave” band over email to learn more...

WVRS: You haven’t officially been together long, right? How/when did you coalesce into Bonfire? Was it the nucleus of Chris and Jodi sitting around jamming? Bank Holiday Riots?
Jodi Hollingshead: Chris has been writing the music and some lyrics of these songs for years. It’s what he’s been playing on his own throughout his time in his other bands. Add my lyrics, Liz’s stripped-down drum style, and Amanda’s minimalism and you’ve got Bonfire. We all just wanted to play music. We’ve been friends outside of the band for a bit, so it just made sense to make music together.
Amanda Burris: I joined mid-September, which makes about two months as a full band.

WVRS: How often do you get to rehearse and where do you practice at? Do you have a heater? Is it literally still cold in the practice space?
Chris Quattro: We rent a space with a few other bands in town. We can play any hour of the day or night we want, which you can’t do just everywhere. It’s cold, but it’s home.

WVRS: How did your first show at 123 way back in September go? How have you been received at shows thus far?
Liz Toler: They always want us to keep playing, so I think that’s a good sign.
Jodi: It was the best first show a band could ask for. Being a benefit show really created a fantastic energy.
Amanda: At our last show at 123, we brought more people up to the stage than any other bands.
Chris: We’re really the first pop band out of Morgantown since The Emergency, and I think people like us for similar reasons. We’re catchy, we’re fun.
Jodi: We’re positive. There’s a lot of darkness in the Morgantown sound right now, a lot of talent, but a lot of darkness. I think we bring a bright positivity to the scene, which might be part of the reason the people who like us like us. People need happy, whether they know it or not, and they respond to it.

WVRS: Speaking of how you’ve been received playing out, forgive me for asking but with so many females in the band have you had a problem with drunk dudes being at a bar being jerks or anything like that? Does having have been in other bands make it easier to get on stage as Bonfire?
Chris: More often than not, our audience is made up of our friends and acquaintances, so they know us. People who know us know that we’re an “us.”
Amanda: It still is a novelty in this town that girls are in a band, though.
Jodi: Yeah, it’s certainly one of the first things people notice and say.
Liz: I haven’t really had a problem.
Jodi: Maybe it’s the drumsticks.

WVRS: You’ve got some of the more obscure/hilarious genres listed on your Facebook page; did we miss the boat on cupcakewave or crabcore? I get quiet grrrl. Is that just because you like cupcakes so much?
Chris: It started as a tongue-in-cheek opposition to “chillwave,” to be honest. But the boundaries and labels of genres are ridiculous. Everything has to belong to a clique. We don’t sound like any one category, and who does?
Jodi: Everything is a combination of context and interpretation.
Liz: And we really like cupcakes.


WVRS: Would it be safe to say that Belle & Sebastian and Vivian Girls are some of the biggest influences for you as a unit?
Liz: As a G Unit?
Amanda: Not so much for ALL of us. I would say that The Aislers Set and Henry’s Dress would be better descriptors.
Chris: I listen to those bands a lot, yes, but that product that B&S produces is more sophisticated than what I write. I come from a punk rock background, so a lot of my philosophy and therefore sound comes from that. Bands like The Pastels, Beat Happening and The Shop Assistants are favorites. I listen to a lot of tweepop, shoegaze and 1960’s rock/pop/soul in general.
Jodi: Perhaps the inspiration to write music is what we get most out of bands like Belle & Sebastian. A goal.

WVRS: So Chris, you and Jodi are an item, right? To both of you, what are some pros and cons of being in the same band as your significant other?
Jodi: Really, it’s kind of wonderful. Why wouldn’t you want to create something beautiful with the person you love the most?
Chris: Well and, there’s a difference between dating and being in a relationship, and having been in one with Jodi for two years makes it easy. It takes a lot to throw us off course. The only real challenge is leaving our baggage at the door on a bad day, but everyone has to do that. On the other side of the coin, we avoid some of the stresses a couple might run into if one person in the couple is in a band. No, “where were you last nights?”
Jodi: I think our pre-existing individual connections with each member of the band helps, too. We’re all friends, like real, actual friends. We’re very lucky.

WVRS: You’ve got shirts? What might they be looking like for potential buyers? You’ll have ‘em on sale at the show this Friday?
Jodi: Liz was super excited to have some merchandise at this show so she really got us going on it.
Liz: One of a kind!
Chris: All handmade, no two alike.

WVRS: Even though you haven’t been playing out long, you have an extensive online presence, on FB, Twitter, Myspace and tumblr. With the videos you’ve got uploaded and all the social networking sites, wouldn’t you say it takes way less time to make a name for yourself in the digital age or is playing shows and the kind of word of mouth popularity type thing still more important to a new(er) band?
Liz: It’s easier for anything. Shows are still important, but it helps with notification. Getting people there. A band doesn’t exist without an online presence.
Chris: Sure, it was harder ten years ago. It was harder to get people to shows. It was harder to get tapes and CDs out there.
Amanda: It’s not about flyers anymore. People aren’t looking for flyers when they walk down the street, they check their Facebook.
Jodi: But I think it still boils down to the show. Facebook might get people there, but it doesn’t make your band sound good.

WVRS: What is up with potential Bonfire recordings? Making a CD anytime soon?
Chris: No CD. Our super duper friend Brian Spragg is recording tracks for a cassette tape to be released within the next few months on Crash Symbols, a cassette label co-managed by another friend, Dwight Pavlovic.

CDs are dead. Sell a CD to one person, you’ve given to 50 for free.

WVRS: You played your first show with DFB back in September and welcome The Cowboy Relics to town Friday; looking forward to the show?
Amanda: Well, I’ll play with a bearded fellow any chance I can get.

photo: Emily Iafrate


Anonymous said...

It's hard to put into words just how badly this band sucks.

WVRockscene! said...

Well you should have put more thought into your comment.