It’s a Wednesday. I just got my accounting test back, I have a Major Change form in hand, I’m tired from not sleeping the night before, and am just a general mess. I’m walking back to campus, and I put on Haley Bonar’s new album, Impossible Dream. The first song is the single, “Hometown.” This seems fitting, as the first time I saw Minnesota local Haley Bonar was back home in the midwest at the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival. I settle into the song, walking along feeling a little lost in Seattle for the first time in a while.
Still holding my accounting test (RIP) and my Major Change form, I’m listening to “Hometown” and its sweet, melancholy beat, and Bonar closes the song and opens into the next, “Your Mom is Right,” in an almost melodramatically accurate representation of my life. “Your Mom is Right” and “Hometown,” among the other songs on the album, bring a folk/pop tone to feeling like you’ve hit a dead end, along with other commentary entwined in the story. Haley Bonar and her introspective style of storytelling shine on Impossible Dream. Combined with her unique variety of folk/pop, Impossible Dream brings a new dimension to storytelling, and it was a pleasure for me to be able to talk with her for a little bit.
JO: Tell me about some of the inspiration behind Impossible Dream. Many of the themes on it seem like personal testimonials. What inspired the creation of the album as a whole, and what was the writing process like?
HB: Well, they’re not personal testimonials. I’ve been pretty clear about that during this release because I am a little weary of assumptions that I’m writing my diary entry and putting some chords to it. That being said, everyone draws from their lives in the creative process, but all in all, I took inspiration from reading books- fiction and nonfiction.
JO: I’ve always been enamored with the videos for your songs, and loved the videos for Impossible Dream. They all have this unique quality and capture the essence of the album so nicely. How involved are you in the production of the videos?
HB: Thank you. I am involved to a point, and the video concept and final edit have to be run past me. But I have, for the most part, let the directors drum up their ideas by their own interpretation of the songs. It’s more enjoyable to see what someone else feels about your music and create a visual to it.
JO: Tell me about your choice to close the entire album with the phrase, “You can be whatever you like.”
HB: Girls are conditioned to be ‘girls’. You’re given an idea of the things you can be when you’re little, but then as you grow older you realize the limits in society, and often we look back and wonder where the root of these limits came from. Body dysmorphia, fear of assault, selling your body, fighting for your own voice and power are all things women deal with in everyday life in some capacity. We are constantly defined by our gender roles. But the underlying message of “Blue Diamonds Fall” is more about going back in time and empowering young girls, using your older voice to speak to your younger voice and say “You don’t have to tolerate that, break through it with your power, and do whatever the f**k you want”.
JO: I listened to the demo posted on your Tumblr regarding the election, and loved the lyric, “What is a system if it’s breaking us down.” I know a lot of us here in Seattle have been feeling the effects of the election hard, and have been coming together in unique ways. What was the original motivation to write this demo, and how has that motivation changed over the course of the election?
HB: I honestly don’t remember what exactly incited me to write that song…I imagine it was at the start of the election cycle. I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, and I feel like his message, regardless of the results of the election, made a priceless impact on millions of people in this country. Don’t let the system break you down; change the system. I still believe this, though we definitely have our work cut out for us.
JO: Have you worked with fellow Minnesota group Night Moves in the past, and are you all ready for your upcoming tour with them?
HB: My other band Grandma’s Boyfriend has played with them before. They’re super cool guys, and I’m looking forward to it!
JO: Best/worst tour story?
HB: One night in Flagstaff, AZ, we went to a bar desperately hungry. We walked in and the record practically stopped as a bunch of roughneck people stopped and looked at the door. We were skinny and young and pale. They served us, but our food was disgusting and they were incredibly rude, so we decided to dine and ditch. We got up calmly, left the bar and started booking it as soon as we were out of sight. Two of us were ahead, running our asses off, and when I looked behind our drummer was nowhere to be seen. We called out, worried that he had been snagged by one of the bar’s clientele. In the darkness we heard a sad moan…he was okay, but had fallen into a shit-filled drainage ditch. Karma’s a beast.
You can watch Haley Bonar perform some songs off Impossible Dream on her NPR Tiny Desk, and catch her show with another MN group Night Moves at Barboza on December 8th. More information and tickets can be found here.
JULIA OLSON | Trying to learn guitar | KXSU Head Reporter