Jonas Bonnetta used to live in Peterborough. I remember him most for his beard,his energy, and my surprise at his apparent skateboarding prowess. Jonas’ solo-keyboard-guitar-looping-folk musical project “Evening Hymns” began here and has developed into a full ensemble including many notable national artists, touring credits from here to Luxembourg, and a critically acclaimed album on Toronto’s Out Of This Spark Records. He will be playing Friday February 10 at the Gordon Best Theatre (above the Only) with Bry Webb (Constantines), Gavin Gardiner (The Wooden Sky), and Joe Fortin.
Jonas spared a few moments to chat with Arthur about some points of interest.
Metaphor seems to be an especially strong aspect of your work; lines such as “lay my lips down to sleep” from your latest single.
Can you craft and explain a metaphor for your time in Peterborough?
“Treading water” is maybe a good one but that’s certainly not original. My time in Peterborough was a special one. I was working four days a week at Artspace and then had three days off to record and wander around. It was actually pretty amazing. I miss it. Wish I could’ve made more of my time there, creatively speaking. Always thought that Peterborough was a great place to leave and a great place to come home to. I had a pretty cozy thing going for me there. I needed to get out before I got in too deep. It was quicksand hidden under a quilt. Moved there for a girl and then left for a girl. That’s how it always goes.
The marketing aspect of your career as an artist focuses pretty strongly on rendering you as some sort of modern woodsman. In some cases this would be pure hyperbole, but in yours the shoe fits. Explain to us how a balance of urban and rural environments has influenced your work.
Well I grew up on property in the country. That will always stick with me. I love the city and the people but I can’t get much work done there. Too many distractions. The country offers me more solitude, isolation, quiet, and that helps calm my mind. It’s tough for me to do. To write I need to have isolation and no distractions. I feel like when we’re touring we’re in these incredible cities all over the world and it’s nice to come home from tour and escape to the woods where it’s quiet and there are less people. On the other hand, all our friends are in the city and it’s important to stay connected to Toronto in order to stay in the rat race that is the music biz. I’ll need to reverse my whole marketing scheme soon. I’ll tweet from the woods about how I’m stuck in traffic on the DVP. That way people will think I’m still in Toronto and caring about things.
Community has been important to your development as an artist throughout your releases. Your upcoming effort “Spectral Dusk” references collaboration with members of The Wooden Sky, Timber Timbre, City in Colour, and more. What is your process for refining so many perspectives into one direction?
The people I choose to have play on my records are important. Their opinions are important to me and can help me see things from different perspectives, musically speaking. On the new record I wrote the songs and lyrics but some of the music was still undefined and with these collaborators we were able to refine songs and sew the music together. Sum of the parts I guess… Everyone checks their ego at the door and works for the song. I always explain the idea of the song and where I’m hoping it ends up, or how it fits into the overall theme of the record. Then we move from there and find our way through it.
Why should we come to your Gordon Best show on the 10th?
Well I’m living up in Perth right now writing new music. I have a new record complete and hoping to make another one in the next six months. I’m going to play a bunch of new stuff on the 10th. Oh, and I’m playing solo, which I never do. Come watch me fall apart and mess things up. More importantly, come early and watch Joe Fortin. I think he is the best songwriter to come out of Peterborough in a really long time. His new record, that I’m helping release on my label Shuffling Feet Records, is a stunner and I can’t wait for people to hear it. Gavin and Bry are two of my favourite writers in the world too. It’s a pretty awesome night. I might just not play and sit at the bar and watch those dudes instead. If you need me I’ll be drinking a growler of Square Nail Pale Ale up in the balcony.
More info/music at eveninghymns.com
Watch the official video for “Family Tree” off Jonas’ latest record “Spectral Dust”