BODEGA dig into their forthcoming third album 'Our Brand Could Be Yr Life'

Interview BODEGA: Brand Update

Reimagining their earliest work in a fresh new form, ‘Our Brand Could Be Yr Life’ sees BODEGA revisiting the past and picking up the very present threads.

If you could go back and redo a decade-old version of yourself, how would you do it? Would you still feel a kinship with the person you’d once been, or would you want to rewrite them into a new form? For NYC art-punk quintet BODEGA, who’ve spent the last two years adapting and reinterpreting their early incarnation BODEGA BAY’s under-the-radar 2015 album into this month’s forthcoming third LP proper, the answer is a little of both.

Where that original collection came in at 33 tracks of, in singer Ben Hozie’s words, “anti-music”, ‘Our Brand Could Be Yr Life’ (BODEGA’s Version) slimlines proceedings down to 15 tracks of actual proper songs. But though the presentation has been filed and polished, the concept at its centre remains the same: a wry indictment of bands positioned as brands that feels even more pertinent in our social media-obsessed age than ever. “Unfortunately the manifesto’s stood up too well…” grimaces Hozie, calling in from his New York home.

Hozie - one half of the band’s central duo alongside co-vocalist Nikki Belfiglio - speaks of BODEGA BAY with the familiar fondness generally reserved for those nascent, reckless, obstinate versions of ourselves we find in the rearview mirror. He recalls early shows where they’d “play on the same bill as all these good bands but do obnoxious things - play the same song 10 times in a row, or recite poems instead of playing”, describing them as a “performance art troupe” more than a band in any traditional sense. As such, their first and only record was equally unwilling to play the game. “It wasn’t supposed to be ‘good’, sonically,” he explains. “We all recorded every instrument into a MacBook internal mic so it has this insane digital distortion. That genre was big at the time - not even lo-fi but no-fi.”

Even back then, however, the members of BODEGA BAY had harboured a secret love of classic songwriting - of The Beatles and the Great American Songbook - beneath their early-twenties penchant for disruption. And so, when the band’s current incarnation decided to revisit their beloved early output (inspired by Car Seat Headrest’s similar exercise on ‘Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)’), there was an obvious way to approach it. “We used to fantasise in BODEGA BAY of making our ‘Pet Sounds’, our really orchestrated record, so 10 years later it’s like: ‘Why don’t we actually do the fantasy and try to make a beautiful-sounding album?’” Hozie says. “There’s an ‘I don’t give a fuck’ quality to the original that’s cool and you just can’t fake, but the new one’s way more beautiful which you can’t fake either.”

“The best punk songs do two things at once: they embody whatever earnest thing the text is saying, but at the same time they’re winking at the audience.” - Ben Hozie

The updated ‘Our Brand Could Be Yr Life’ begins with a new song, ‘Dedicated to the Dedicated’. A line repurposed from the liner notes of an early promotional prank, in which BODEGA BAY would slip fake 33 1/3 series biographies about their record into Barnes & Noble stores, its ethos of commitment to the art above all is something the band have consistently kept front and centre throughout the years. When they vent about the commodification of artists, it’s coming from a place of genuine frustration; the record, Hozie states, is “an essay of sorts on the fall from grace of New York DIY music”.

But this line of questioning - always expressed with obvious intellectual smarts - has also led to BODEGA being pigeonholed as somewhat lofty or unapproachable. “I think people thought I was this angry guy who was shaking people and trying to ram something down their throats and that wasn’t how I felt at all,” says Hozie. “Like, is that what I’m putting out in the world?” ‘Dedicated to the Dedicated’ was written in a particularly self-reflective moment following a “pretty nasty” internet comment. “I wrote this song to get out of it,” he says. “I don’t care if you don’t like me, I’m just gonna keep singing my songs.

“With this new record, we’re really trying to amplify a lot of the playful parts of the band. Our band is pretty silly; a lot of songs on [last album] ‘Broken Equipment’ are borderline novelty…” Hozie continues. “I always think the best punk songs do two things at once: they embody whatever earnest thing the text is saying, but at the same time they’re winking at the audience. All the bands I see now are painfully sincere but if you take a look at any of the classic New York bands - The Velvet Underground or Ramones or New York Dolls or Talking Heads or Blondie - they’re all extremely ironic in a great way. I miss that irony and it’s always been a strategy of BODEGA’s to play that game.”

For a start, the irony of BODEGA’s anti-brand stance essentially now becoming their brand is far from lost on the vocalist. “There’s a George Carlin comedy skit where he’s like, ‘I was at a bar and this guy worked in advertising, and I told him I hate advertising, and he goes: Oh you’re one of our biggest demographics! The ‘I hate advertising’ people! We can sell so much shit to you’,” he chortles by way of comparison.

But beneath the layers of sincerity and silliness, concept and instinct, the main thing ‘Our Brand Could Be Yr Life’ shows is a band who are still - a decade into their tenure together - taking delight in challenging themselves and the established norms; who may have changed their method of delivery over the years, but whose message has stayed impressively untarnished from their underground, outsider beginnings. By any metrics, it makes BODEGA a b(r)and worthy of continued investment.

‘Our Brand Could Be Yr Life’ is out 12th April via Chrysalis.

Tags: BODEGA, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the April 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

June 2024

With Glass Animals, Los Campesinos!, Alfie Templeman, Lava La Rue and many more.

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY