Hot Gig Alert (6/3): AJJ come back to Cambridge at the Sinclair tomorrow night (Interview in post!)
Typically, we think of the summer-time as a period where live music slows down for the year, but it’s 2023 after-all. A true re-emergence into the world for many a music lover, an artist, new venues, arena tours, festivals. And while all of those are nice and all, the shows I find myself drawn to most are those intimate club shows. And the latest in that series? Phoenix’s AJJ doing their first headline gig back in MA with their sold-out performance at The Sinclair in Cambridge tomorrow night. Fresh off their latest release, “Disposable Everything,” and with support from Oceanator and Gladie, it is a gig one simply can’t miss.
The latest release for the band reads as a definite departure for the band and it’s one we jumped on the opportunity to talk to frontman Sean Bonnette about, prior to the release and their time prefacing their headline run with The Front Bottoms. Bonnette spoke about how the newest album came together, their return to live performance and how the band stayed connected during the early days of the pandemic. While the show is sold out tomorrow, there are still a few tickets floating around on the interwebs! But if you won’t be there tomorrow, the band in the words of Bonnette wants to keep touring and the new album is one that deserves to have some serious light shown on it!
So obviously, a lot is about to go on for AJJ. You’re about to go out for some shows with The Front Bottoms; your first album is coming out since the pandemic times hit. I believe your last release was right before the world shot down. So maybe hopes or goals; how are you feeling hitting the road on your headliner right after that tour?
Sean Bonnette: Yeah, we definitely have a bunch of shows coming up. We’re really excited, really hopeful. Expectations are somewhat objective from pre-pandemic times for all sorts of things. It’s kind of a whole new world out there. But we love playing music live for people. So yeah, those are my hopes. I hope we get to play in front of people, and I hope that we don’t get sick. I mean, I don’t want to get sick ever, but that’s just not going to happen. We’re all going to get sick.
And are these the first shows you’ve played since the pandemic?
SB: We’ve done some touring. We’re just trying to make up all the shows we had to cancel. Not make them up but play the places we haven’t been back yet. We will by the end of this year, though, if everything goes well.
Then the record comes out, “Disposable Everything,” in May. But you’ve released six of the songs, so fans have been getting a taste of that. The last album came out in January 2020, right before everything kind of shut down. I’m sure that was really fun for you as a lifelong touring artist. But did you kind of take your time in starting to write the songs on this record, or is it something where some of these are older? One of the songs is about you and your son during what seems to be the pandemic, for example. When did you start working on these songs?
SB: Well, some of the songs and some of the ideas, whether its lyrics, the melodies, chords, come from long, long ago. I kind of have this discographic of musical ideas that I draw from and kind of piece together songs from that. So I would say, obviously, the oldest idea of mine on this album is maybe six to eight years old. But things really started to take shape about six months before it was recorded. It kind of came to fruition playing with each other and the world opening up just a crack. When we were able to start doing that. It lent an interesting writing process for the songs. The songs were a little bit less doted on by myself before I presented them to the band. That culminated in a pretty hectic week-long studio trip. ..But I’m really happy with it.
Glad to hear that. Especially since you’ve been doing this band for so long. I know you have a newer member now. He’s been playing with you, but he recently became official.
SB: Yeah! He’s part of our crew.
Then with the songs you have put out, you also have that album from 2020 that maybe people haven’t been able to see live yet. You have this album. How are you even trying to balance that? Because you also have fans that have been your fans since day one, pretty much. How are you even being able to balance your set? Like what’s your plan? Obviously, for Front Bottoms, it may be a little different, but for your headline run?
SB: We try to include a bit from every part of our career. We try to play a couple of songs from each record and pay special attention to whatever album is new for this tour. Maybe play a little more of those, but no yeah, we aim to please.
Then speaking to that, touring in 2023 is even so different from this time in 2022. Things are more open. Music is here; knock on wood. Everything is going well again. You’ve been a band for so long, since 2004. So many newer bands that had just gotten together just did their first run, then broke up because of the pandemic. You’ve been in a band for so long. During the pandemic, you know you’ve been around. The pandemic wouldn’t break you. How did you guys stay in touch during the really bad days considering you’ve been a unit for so long? Staying creative, checking in on each other.
SB: Yeah, check in on each sometimes, a couple of phone calls. For a lot of the band, we’ve lived in different places. It’s only kind of recently that most of us live in Arizona again. In that way… we would kind of check in on each other. We did a couple of little recording projects remotely before working on the album. I should mention that for the album, once there was a big enough batch of songs, we did kind of check up on each other on Zoom and talked about the music once a week. Before we went in to record. Same way as we’re doing this now.
Same way as it’s all become. The new normal.
SB: We’ve all got a lot of awkward moments ahead of us.
In the return, yes! Then we know what’s coming up for you. The album is just over two weeks away. We know your next month or so. You said you wanted to try to get everywhere by the end of the year. Is that just kind of the hope, if everyone stays good, to keep touring it? To stay active again.
SB: Yeah, we definitely want to keep touring for this record. And I think we will.