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BODEGA’s Ben Hozie Discusses the Band’s Debut Album & What’s to Come [Exclusive Interview]

Written by staff contributor CHRISTIAN WILLBERN

We depend on technology like a junkie needing a fix in 2018. We inject social media into our veins, chasing a temporary feeling of accomplishment and self assurance. However, if you’re feeling a particularly bad comedown, BODEGA is here to help. Their debut album, Endless Scroll, is the sonic methadone we all need.

We chatted with BODEGA’s Ben Hozie to discuss the new album and upcoming shows. The group is set to hit New Orleans on Wednesday, August 1st, at Gasa Gasa.

C: Could you talk to me about the birth of BODEGA?

Ben Hozie: Nikki and I were in a band called Bodega Bay, which broke up in 2016. The two bands were kind of similar philosophically, but Nikki and I wanted to do something different. So we stared this band, BODEGA. Part of why I wanted to keep the name was because I was very proud of Bodega Bay and what we accomplished there, so I wanted to establish a sort of connection between the two bands.

What unconventional/experimental elements are you bringing to the rock genre?

“It’s more of a lyrical approach that’s experimental. We like to highlight tropes to make the listener very aware they are listening to the song right here and right now. So something like referencing being on Facebook in a song is kind of shocking because I don’t think people are used to that.”

From a musical standpoint, we embody this sort of idea of rock minimalism. If we’ve been innovative at all musically, it’s the things we don’t do. For example, we don’t have a kick drum, or symbols. We don’t really allow big distorted guitars to hit in the chorus. We try to do what groups don’t do but also to stay as exciting as possible. In all the negative space it allows all the ideas to shine forward.

Where did the idea of using computer simulated voices come from?

I think those computer voices and Nikki’s samples are kind of like skits on rap albums. I always like to end with a hype person, someone like James Brown, or certain rap crews, or Bob Nastanovich from Pavement. Someone who yells out something like “ARE YOU READY?!”

Those voices do that but also they function like experimental theatre to me. It disrupts the whole spectacle of it and you’re left wondering, “wait who’s saying that voice? Is it the singer? Is it the band? Is it someone commenting on it?” It kind of confuses everything in a fun way.

So what kind of peaked my interest was your mention of rap groups. Does Hip-hop influence your sound? What other kind of genres influences the band?

Definitely Hip-Hop a lot. What hip-hop is really good at is that its really repetitive and machine-like music.  But most importantly its an extremely personable storytelling. That’s kind of what we do but in a white rock context.

Other genres like psychedelic and kraut rock are less apparent in Endless Scroll, but are in our live shows. […] Our goal would be to do a kind of post-punk, Madonna thing that is kind of genre-less. It’s kind of a millennial dream but you know, genre barriers are being broken down day by day so well see.

You worked in the Edit lab at the New York Film Academy, right?

Yeah hahaha, how did you know that?!

Research Man, Research! But it seems like theres a cinematic theme prevalent not only in the music videos but also in the songs themselves. What about film inspired your sound?

A bunch of us in the band work in film, Madison used to work at the film academy, and Nikki and I make our own films. There are two features online streaming for free if you want to check them out.

With over half a million plays on Spotify, how do you feel about the massive success of the debut album?

It feels incredible. Its extremely exciting and it just fires us up to want to do more. We’re going to record some more songs as soon as we’re done touring in the fall. We’re all fired up, thinking about what we can do better next time. Anytime someone buys your record, comes to your show and likes it, it makes it real in the sense like “Wow I can’t let this person down! So next time I really have to bring it!”

In an interview with the Village voice, you said “so many brooklyn bands don’t sound like Brooklyn bands,” and that you wanted to place the listener in Bushwick specifically. Why was important for you and the band to place the listener in Bushwick?

Art in general is stronger the more specific it is. That’s one of the best qualities in hip-hop because its so specific in terms of the language and the street names. It really puts you in a place. That’s why teenagers all around the world think they’ve been to New York because they’ve heard the vivid pictures of it whether its in rock songs or rap.

The idea also goes back to film. It’s really powerful when you set a scene with specific detail. You could say “oh I ordered a cup of coffee,” but if you say “oh, I ordered a double espresso and I put two splendas in it” and so on, it all the sudden has so much character and psychological detail. When I’m describing the concrete details of that little scene it becomes more rich.

“In “Name Escape,” we are telling a funny story about how alienating hanging at a rock club could be. But because we decided to set it inside Palisades, a specific place we used to go to all the time, it just made it so much easier to write the song. You could smell it, and hopefully someone who has been to Palisades or has read about it online can listen to the song and be transported there.”

This album comments on how technology plays such a big role in our lives. What inspired this idea for endless scroll?

Well, a big artistic strategy I usually have when making something is that I like to think about how I’m personally programed, whether that’s by media or technology or whatever. I like to figure out why things are happening or why I’m thinking the way that I do. I think a big thing about the films and music I like is that they throw a wrench in that program, and if you see the gears behind it, it allows you to think a little differently.

So when I was thinking about my day to day life I realized that I couldn’t think critically about the world without thinking about the internet and social media. Technology is changing the way we think, for better and worse. It’s just everywhere, it’s ubiquitous.

In “Bookmarks,” I say “no matter what I do, I’ll be staring at a computer.” I’m sure that the wiring of my brain, whether its good or bad, is different now and the way I process data is different now. Kind of like in “Name Escape,” maybe the reason why I can’t remember all these people’s names now is because I see too many faces on the internet today and there’s no way I can store all the data for all this information.

“Jack In Titanic” is the second single released from the album, and one of my personal favorites. Can you take me through the creative process behind the song and video?

Well, its funny because Nikki showed me this movie one night and for whatever reason I realized I held the traits that character has, thought, “This is how I should act.” You know? I want to be a bad boy. I want to be a rebel. But, I also want to be sensitive and an artist. I want to be a lover and I want to be a fighter. He’s just like the most boyish, enthusiastic caricature, which I think I internalized as a kid.

People think that films don’t influence behaviors and that is completely ridiculous. I feel like who I am as a person has been completely shaped by the films I’ve seen. The song is kind of meant to be satire, but also it’s just very real and fun song. As I was beginning to date Nikki in the band, I realized I was kind of acting like Jack and she was Rose. Although it is kind of a joke, it was serious too.

We wanted to make it feel like you were stepping into the album art for Endless Scroll for the music video. Nikki and our friend Cory built these sculptures, and our cinematographer Ben Davis lit everything in such a way that it would feel like you’re in Bodega land.

I definitely noticed the sexual undertones in the video, was that something you guys were going for?

Definitely yeah! That’s Nikki’s big thing, she always wanted to have a sexual, feminine, playful side to it. One thing she wisely told me when I was talking about the Endless Scroll was “have you ever noticed that the scroll on a mouse is just like a clitoris? Was it deliberately designed like that so it could link your brain to a pleasurable sensation?”

If there is one piece of advice you would give to your fans, what would it be?

“Things can change for the better. We’re going through a weird epoch right now. It’s important to criticize things as much as possible, but to also keep an open mind and keep our heads up.”

What can fans expect from upcoming shows?

Well we’re gonna play everything from Endless Scroll. We’re also working on new stuff, so you’ll get to see us road test some new songs. We may even flip in some old Bodega Bay songs. Every show going to be a little different.

anything coming up next?

We’re going to record an EP in the fall, and it’ll hopefully come out early next year. It’s going to be a little different but it’s still going to be us, so I’m really excited about that!

 listen to Endless Scroll below.

For tickets or more info on the New Orleans show please head here! 

Featured image via artist Facebook page. 

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