An Unintentional Solo Endeavour

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Corey Bonnevie talks about his latest project: Doctor Mother Father.

Photo: Michael Millburn
Matt Carter

Doctor Mother Father, the new project from Little You, Little Me co-founder Corey Bonnevie, didn’t start out as a solo project. At least not in the traditional sense. But that’s where it ended up. His original idea was to take some songs he’d written, including some that didn’t make the cut with his band, and use them as a tool for collaborating with other Saint John musicians. And for a while, things were going well. Pierre Cormier (Papal Visit) and Dan Chamberlain (Shrimp Ring) were the first two musicians to join Bonnevie in the studio to track songs for the album. Things were really starting to take shape when a hard drive failure resulted in the project’s total loss. In an instant, everything was gone. 

“I lost everything. All the tracks we recorded were on that hard drive. And the funny thing is, just before it happened I was thinking how I needed to invest in a better backup system,” said Bonnevie.

With an unusable hard drive, all that remained were a series of rough mixes stored away in a Dropbox folder. But the project got a second chance when self-isolation became a necessity and Bonnevie, like a lot of other musicians, found himself with an unexpected amount of creative time on his hands. The existing rough mixes were saved only as MP3s but proved to be enough to start rebuilding the songs once again from the ground up. 

“For a while I was basically giving myself excuses not to come back to this at all. I kept thinking that if I was going to redo these songs I wanted to get a band together to do that with. But no one can get a band together right now, so in the end I ended up playing all the parts of this album myself.”

“When COVID first happened I felt stressed about it,” said Bonnevie. “But as someone who has his hands in a lot of different things, it really helped take away a lot of the stress I thought I would feel. I try not to get bogged down by things I can’t control. I am a perfectionist and really like to have a hand in every process but COVID really took it all out of my hands. I realized, ‘OK. The band can’t do anything and since I’ve had this project on the go forever, I’m going to use this time to get caught up, sequence it and put the finishing touches on it.’

“For a while I was basically giving myself excuses not to come back to this at all. I kept thinking that if I was going to redo these songs I wanted to get a band together to do that with. But no one can get a band together right now, so in the end I ended up playing all the parts of this album myself. The only help I got was getting someone to press record when I was playing drums. So I guess in that sense it is a solo album, but that was never my intention.”

Doctor Mother Father takes its name from a song a friend of his wrote long before Bonnevie made music a major career focus. He says it reminds him of a simpler time when music was just a way to spend time with friends. 

“The name comes from the name of a song my friend Matt Stackhouse wrote. There was a summer or two when we just hung out and recorded music in my parent’s basement. It’s a bit of an homage to a time when I didn’t think about the industry. It was just about creating. Back when I didn’t worry about anything.”

He also admits to not wanting his name directly associated with these songs from the very beginning. He was always adamant about not letting these songs become known as a solo endeavour of any sort. 

Though largely unrelated, the hard drive issue and the pandemic both have a relationship to Catholic and its overarching theme.  Across the album’s ten songs, Bonnevie explores a lot of hard truths about the music business and at times, he sounds as if he’s ready to pack it all in. 

The album begins with the song, It’s A Delusion (Part 1), setting a dark tone that carries through the entire record as Bonnevie explores the existence of his own self-doubt and the impact it can have on the creative process. 

“When I was younger I never questioned doing things; playing shows and touring. We would make decisions we knew were stupid but we made them anyway because why not? As I’m getting older I can see the wear that way of operating has had on myself and on the people in my band. These ideas were present five years ago when we were touring across Canada and going to Germany.  That’s when I started writing many of these songs. I think it’s all about learning your place in the music industry. For a long time, I think I was living vicariously through my friends who were seeing successes,” he said.

“When you’ve been doing something for so long you can start to wonder why you’re doing it. Is it because it’s just what you’ve always done or do you actually get something from it you need? I think the whole process of playing music can, for some, be the equivalent of an addiction. But is it wrong? I don’t think so. I’m not doing anything unhealthy aside from late night drives and piling energy drinks into my body. This is what I want to be doing, but still, you can’t help but reflect on it all sometimes.” 

As the album progresses two things are made clear. First, Bonnevie is an incredibly competent musician capable of performing and capturing some pretty ambitious arrangements in the studio. On this album he plays bass, drums, keyboards, he sings and he plays guitar. A lot of guitar. 

“It’s like, you can’t stop thinking about something so you keep talking about it. And because you keep talking about it you keep thinking about it. It doesn’t go away.”

The second, and equally obvious aspect of this album, is Bonnevie’s inability to lift himself out of the melancholic inspiration that fueled many of these songs from the beginning. It’s almost as if he’s stuck in a rut, yet somehow happy to be there going over a million and one scenarios related to how every decision he has made up until this point has had an effect on where he is today. There’s definitely some upper tier introspection behind many of the songs on Catholic

Bonnevie says the whole process is best described as a feedback loop. 

“A feedback loop is an audio term but it also relates directly to the way I think about things,” he said. “It’s like, you can’t stop thinking about something so you keep talking about it. And because you keep talking about it you keep thinking about it. It doesn’t go away.  Feedback is basically caused by a microphone being pointed towards a speaker so until you take the microphone away or turn the speaker off it’s going to keep happening. In the darker sense, the only way to make it go away is to stop it entirely. But I guess there are also other ways to get around it. If you can avoid having things set so loud, they become manageable.”

He seems to have found a way around it.  While Catholic is a major act of catharsis in a lyrical sense, it’s also a wonderfully ambitious album full of colour and context. And like all good albums, it offers the listener a lot to dig into if they so choose. 

And in case you were wondering, yes, he has since invested in a better backup system. 

Catholic was released July 31, 2020 on Monopolized Records

 

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