We got on Zoom with Blair Howerton, frontwoman of the propulsive guitar pop group Why Bonnie. Why Bonnie formed in Austin, Texas. The band debuted with their EP In Water in 2018, and most recently released Voice Box through Fat Possum Records. In this interview, we ask Blair about how her songwriting process has evolved from Why Bonnie’s first EP to the next, passions outside of music, and the excitement she and her bandmates feel about recording their upcoming album.
What were your first impressions of your bandmates when you met?
Kendall and I met when we were in daycare, so I guess it was hopefully, “This girl wants to play dolls with me,” or something. Everyone else came in at different times, it was a slow process of getting us to where we are now. We had known each other through the music scene in Austin
Sam, our guitarist, when I first met him, I knew he was really fun, and I knew he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to music. I love all of the projects he’s been a part of, and we just really hit it off, he’s a really funny guy. Our banter was really great.
Chance, first impressions I think I was like, “This guy is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” He’s always smiling and always trying to keep things lighthearted. Again, I liked all of the projects he’s been a part of. I really respect his musicianship so off the bat it was this really easy bond.
Your Facebook describes your band as a “bedroom pop quartet that’s moved to the couch.” Do you want to elaborate on what that means?
We didn’t label ourselves bedroom pop until we saw all these publications labeling us that. We’re kind of trying to move in a different direction. That being said, I love bedroom pop. So, I was like, “Cool.” But I do like to leave us some room for growth and experimentation, so we kind of liked the idea of not being stuck in the bedroom. I don’t think it’s genre specific, just giving us that room to grow and to experiment. I didn’t want to peg us too early on as bedroom pop, but I didn’t mind it.
Since Why Bonnie started out in your bedroom, what are your thoughts on the current rise of “bedroom pop” and other similar artists gaining followings on social media?
I will always love the sincerity of bedroom recordings and the authenticity of it. Getting that lo-fi sound is almost harder and harder nowadays with all of the technology that’s coming out. I respect all musicians that make things at home, and the DIY mentality is something I’ll always respect. I think without there being a scene to be apart of, people are just going to go deeper and deeper into themselves, whether that be how they’re recording music or how they’re writing it. Bedroom pop has always been enmeshed with DIY in a way. It starts out as a very simple, earnest project and then goes from there.
What’s your go-to gas station order when you’re on tour?
I love Pizza Combos for my snack. Sam is really into trying all of the crazy different Doritos flavors. I’m always shocked at how many flavor combinations they come up with, like Jalapeno Cheeseburger.
From In Water to Nightgown to Voice Box, do you view these projects very separately or do you look back on them and see a creative thread running through all of them?
I think each one has its own spirit to it, and creative force. The majority of songs on In Water were definitely a reflection of my personal grieving process. A lot of those songs were dedicated to my brother who passed away. I was using that time and those songs to work through my grief. When I listen to that EP, I can really put myself in that place. It’s a very emotional, reflective spot for me.
Whereas, with “Nightgown,” that was a collection of old, old songs I had written that I hadn’t brought to the band and hadn’t yet brought to light. “Parking Lot” is a bedroom recording. It’s just me on there. That EP was more of an ode to where I began as far as writing in my room alone. Not so much of a concise theme or anything to those songs.
Moving on to where we got when making “Voice Box” we were trying to be a little more collaborative, we were in a studio, trying out new sounds and takes on our old sounds as well. Voice Box was the first time we really felt like we could take it in any direction we wanted to so why not just go for it. We have pop sounds, garage rock, heavier sounds we had always kind of played with but didn’t feel like really fit the songs yet.
What song are you most proud of and why?
I think as far as our released music, I’ve really always been proud of the song “Practice,” which is on “In Water.” I really like how it came out, I think it has a nice vibe to it. That key line was a first step in us being more collaborative and Kendall bringing her flare to it. It really made the song shine.
Do you ever have a moment when you’re writing where you’re like, “How am I gonna top this?”
I’m always kind of going in between. I’ve really commiserated with a lot of artists on this idea as well: you write something, you love it, you have this idea that wow, it’s the best thing you’ve ever written, you feel like you’ve hit this peak, and then the next day you’re like, “Actually, I hate it. It’s not good anymore, and now I have to start from scratch.” Trying to handle that back and forth in a healthy way has always been difficult for me, but I’m learning. Slowly but surely.
Your song “Athlete” repeatedly proclaims “Wish I was an athlete”. Were you ever involved in sports or wish that you were?
I would not consider myself an athlete at all. The closest thing I did was swim team when I was a kid. It is very obvious in talking about wanting to be an athlete when you’re not, but there’s the more underlying meaning behind it, like just wanting what other people may have, or seeing things in others that you don’t feel like you have, but ultimately just learning to laugh and roll with it.
What do you feel passionately about outside of playing music?
I love to cook, I feel very passionate about food, and just kind of getting in my zone in the kitchen is one way I release stress from myself besides playing music. I’m a huge pasta fan, I love anything with pasta. Noodles, can’t go wrong. Lasagna always makes me feel good, and I always have to give it away to like ten other people because I make so much. I feel like in a past life I was an old grandmother that had twenty children and always had to feed them.
Your most recent Instagram post says that you’re on your way to record your first album. How did the recording process go?
Recording was so fun, we’re really excited to share this record. We’re gonna be finalizing mixing next month. It’s our first full length. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m really excited to share it. I’m excited about where we’ve come as a band. A lot of the songs were written in the last year, which means they were made primarily in my room. Back to square one, which was really nice and really humbling.
We got into the studio, and we were like, “Wow, we haven’t seen each other in months, it’s been almost a year, let’s see how this goes.” And it was so easy, it was seamless, we picked up right where we left off. It was really nice to be all together, we were all together for about two weeks.
What excites you most about your upcoming record?
A lot of the songs are about just having a burning nostalgia for home. I moved away from Texas in November of 2019, I live in New York now. And on top of that, not being able to go home because of the pandemic. A lot of them are just a reflection of specific memories, of Texas, of childhood, that stuff. It’s really just an ode to Texas, Texas has a big personality, so I really wanted to give it some credit.