Crash Doubt chat with PJ Bond
He comes from New Brunswick, New Jersey but his heart-felt songs and new-age traveler lifestyle has earned him recognition and adulation around the world. PJ’s blend of country and emo is a favourite among the Crash Doubt team and we were really stoked when he agreed to take some time to chat too Matt about his career, to date.
First things first, how did your career as a solo artist begin?
My solo career is kind of a funny thing, seeing as I never meant to be a solo artist. In the mid ’00s I was working as a hired musician and was without a band of my own. That, mixed with the fact that my younger brother was writing these beautiful solo records, got me thinking about making some of my own music to pass the time. I wrote some songs on an old acoustic guitar I had, and eventually my brother suggested we record them. So, we did, and the next step was to play a show, then release the record, and next thing I knew, I was playing and recording alone. It was never really the intention, but there have been some beautiful things that have come out of it.
Last year you released a split E.P on Black Number Records with your brother Brian bond. What made you and your brother decide get together and record Brother Bones, Baby Bones?
Brian and I had been talking about doing a split for a long time, just because we love each other’s’ music, love each other as people, and often play together. Due to time constraints and being on tour I was unable to record on his side, but I’ve sang something on almost all of his band’s albums, even if just for one song, and been on some of his solo tracks as well. He’s recorded on most of my albums, so it just made sense to make a record together. Also, I think his music is incredible, but he’s not so well known, and he’d never had his music on vinyl, so it seemed perfect to make it happen. Luckily the guys at Black Numbers are wonderful people and huge supporters of what I do, as well as big fans of Brian’s music, so it really was a no-brainer.
I’m a proud owner of 22 April: Vienna, Austria. What is it about Austria that made you want to record there?
The Austria record was a lot of fun, and really just came out of the fact that I had all these songs that were recorded with a full band, but played them acoustic live. My friend Cis (of the band The Liberation Service) and I were talking about how I should record some of the acoustic versions, and he offered to help me out with it while we were in Vienna. The time was perfect, the people involved were incredibly helpful, and the whole thing came together easily. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not my best work, but I’ve had some friends tell me it’s their favourite, which makes me feel like it was the right idea. A funny side note – it’s not a live album, but a lot of people think it is. I recorded it live in the studio, meaning I played and sang at the same time, there’s no editing or overdubs, but it’s not live in the sense of it being a show in front of an audience. I named it “22 April: Vienna, Austria,” because it was really more of a snapshot of an experience than an album. There are some tracks from my Alphabetical record, some new songs, a song from when I was in a band with my brother and a cover, so it didn’t seem to make sense to give it a title as if it were a proper album. I hope that clears up some confusion.
You have recently returned from another European tour which included a date at Groezrock festival in Belgium. Was this somewhat of a milestone for you?
I think the idea of playing Groezrock being a milestone is a great way of looking at it. To think that all of the touring and work that I’ve done made the amazing folks that do that festival take notice of me makes me feel like I’ve done my job. I didn’t get on because some manager tried to force them, or because there’s crazy hype behind me. I like to believe I worked hard, built up my name to some extent, and some people started to notice. That’s a pretty amazing feeling. A lot of what I do started out as me doing things by myself. Along the way some amazing people have joined on to help, Black Numbers, Coffee breath and Heartache, Zock from Astpai, Glenn at Mighty Vision, and a bunch more, and it’s really helped me build what I do. I appreciate all of these kind folks and every single person who ever came to see me play, bought a record, said hello. That’s what’s made it work.
What are main differences between touring in the US and over here in Europe?
There are a ton of differences that almost all just boil down to it being better in Europe. On a whole, more people come to shows, and seem to care more. More people buy merch. You get paid better. Food and drinks and places to stay are often provided. In the US, you’d be lucky if you had any one of those things guaranteed every night. I’ve done tours over here that have been amazing, and we’ve been very well taken care of, but from my experience, that’s not the norm. From my perspective, the US is really hard, Canada is a little easier, the UK is much easier than Canada, and mainland Europe is a pleasure. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but most people I speak with seem to agree. Luckily for me, that’s also the order in which I toured them, so each new area got easier.
You’ve been touring as a solo artist restlessly over the past few years, what keeps you going when it’s just you, your guitar, car and the road?
I’m not sure where exactly my drive comes from, because I don’t feel particularly driven, but when I look back I see I’ve covered some ground. As a whole, I have amazing friends all over the world, and I love going to see them. I love playing songs for old and new folks, and I’m lucky enough that for right now some people are willing to support me with it. I don’t make enough money to make this a real career, and will probably have to face that reality soon, but for now, by living with barely nothing, I’m able to run around the world, hang out with my friends, and sing songs, and that feels pretty great to me.
Could you name any bands you’ve came across on your travels that really stand out and why?
A few years ago I had the pleasure of touring with a band called Shovels and Rope. I was selling merch for a guy who took them out, and I fell in love with their music. They’re now starting to get some love, and they’re one of my favourite things going. In the UK I had the pleasure of meeting the amazing dudes in Apologies, I have none, and they’re one of my favorite bands right now. Marko Casso, who recently helped support me in Europe, writes beautiful songs, and I cannot wait to hear his new record.
Do you have plans to come visit us in the United Kingdom any time soon?
Yes, I will be back in the UK in September! We are still ironing out some dates, but please keep your ears to the ground and your eyes to http://www.pjbondmusic.com to find out where I’ll be.
Tell us about some favourite shows over the past few years?
Over the last few years I had the pleasure of touring with Mark McCabe from Scotland, Bad Ideas from Leeds, and Greg Laraigne from Geneva, and those tours were all particularly fun and exciting. Going to Australia with Austin Lucas was something I never dreamed I’d get to do, and I still think about it often. As far as singular shows, I’ve played a handful of times around Brooklyn and New Jersey with my brother and some other friends as a full band, and those shows have all been a blast. Pouzza Fest, and The Fest are always great times, and of course Groezrock was ridiculous. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my good friends in Austria, specifically the last couple of times I’ve played Sub in Graz. Those shows were nuts.
You draw influence from both Punk and Country music. Are there country artists that have had impact on your song writing?
I love old rock and roll and country, and there’s definitely a lot I’ve taken from that. I don’t really see myself as playing punk music, though I’m sure my teenage years and early twenties being spent in basements might say otherwise. I think there are a lot of great things to take from punk, and some potentially dangerous things to hang on to, so over the years I’ve just tried to be positive and do what I feel is right. As far as country artists, you always have to go back and visit Hank Williams. But of course there’s Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zant, all people worth paying attention to and seeing how they did it and still do it. I learn a lot from those folks, as well as the people they influenced, including Neil Young, Springsteen, to a lesser extent, Dylan. There’s still a ton more to be learned and I’m trying to figure it out every day.
Thanks so much for the interest in what I do, I really appreciate you guys and everyone who has given me a chance. I hope to see y’all out there.
You can listen to and purchase PJ’s music via: pjbondmusic.bandcamp.com/