Noise Annoys: Talking Dirty Photographs with The Bonnevilles

Noise Annoys favourites The Bonnevilles release their new album Dirty Photographs today. To celebrate, guitar man/hollerer Andy McGibbon Jr gets quizzed about the conception and execution of the garage punk bluesers' fabulous fourth record, the Lurgan/Banbridge duo's second for top US label Alive Naturalsound

The Bonnevilles – Chris McMullan (drums) and Andy McGibbon Jr (guitar) – in action

CONGRATULATIONS on the new album Andy, can you tell me a bit about the recording process and what approach you and Chris [McMullan, drums] took this time around?

Thanks David, very appreciated. We record live and fast in Michael Mormecha's [Mojo Fury, Malojian] studio out in Ballinderry. Basically it's an old farm house and the two ground floor rooms are the control and live room, amps go into the kitchen and Mike does his thing.

This is our second album with him and we love it. It's local, Mike knows what we’re after and having someone like him with his knowledge and talent on hand is worth a million. He’s a genuinely lovely fella too and we’ve become mates. So the loose set-up suits us a lot.

Writing was different for us. We haven’t written an album so quickly. I think until this one we were doing an album every three years or so but after Arrow Pierce My Heart [2017] Patrick from Alive phoned me to say they'd like another album as soon as possible, which kinda threw me a little.

I’d put my feet up and wasn’t really in a writing place, but I got back into it. I wanted a lighter feel to this album although keeping it firmly garage – my rule for songs like Dirty Photographs was 'if The Dirtbombs would play this then it's going on'.

The title track is a belter and was inspired by your wife, Janie. How many brownie points have you accrued and is Chris now under pressure to come up with a similar ode to his nearest/dearest?

Ha-ha, it was indeed and thanks, we love that one. It's different for us, for sure, but I'm a songwriter first and the thought of not exploring different styles is anathema to me. I get bored easy.

And yes, I got a lot of brownie points for that one – thankfully, Janie loves the song and has very much claimed it as her own, as she should of course.

Chris is just so awesome every day. His 'cruise control' is everyone else working their butts off, so Shelly couldn’t handle any more. She's a lucky girl.

The slow-burning Don’t Curse The Darkness features some choice electric organ playing and there’s some nice fiddle and strings on The Rebels Shrug too. As a duo, are you wary about using extra instrumentation on songs?

Michael Mormecha played the keys on that one. We recorded it to go on Arrow Pierce My Heart but we didn’t do it justice so just decided to park it until we nailed it. The song means so much to me so I’m glad we did. This version hits the spot.

All the songs are built around one drum kit, one guitar and one vocal so as long as the song's backbone is true you can add extras on there without fear of ruining anything, so long as you’re sympathetic to the roots of the song.

For Rebels Shrug, if we play it live it’ll be a stripped-back version, which will be cool too.

Would you ever consider expanding the line-up in order to broaden the band’s sound, even for a one-off show?

For a one off maybe, we would bring Mike in to cover the extra stuff. Talking about Rebels Shrug, I’d love to play that live with a string quartet but we’ve no plans. We have always talked about playing a gig of the album tracks that we never play live, so maybe that would be a way of doing it.

You recently released your second album Folk Art & The Death of Electric Jesus on vinyl for the first time along with the Listen For Tone compilation of earlier material. Does it feel good to know that basically your entire catalogue is now immortalised on ‘wax’?

Yeah it feels great. We’re both vinyl junkies. Folk Art was always intended to be on vinyl; it was mixed and mastered for it but the label it went out on didn’t do it.

Last year we played a gig in Bukta Fest in Norway and the guys from Blues For The Red Sun Records asked to reissue our second album. We worked it out and it got done and I’m so glad. It sounds much better on vinyl – you really can hear it. They’re going to be reissuing the first album [2010's Good Suits And Fightin' Boots] at some point too.

Have you an album launch planned and what other live stuff have you lined up to coincide with the new record so far?

We’re doing an album launch in the Mandela Hall on June 15 and June 16 at Whelan's in Dublin. The Belfast show is going to be a special one. We think we may be the last Irish band to play it before they pull it down and we’ve got support from the upcoming super talent Amy Montgomery – she's just signed to a London Management deal and is destined for greatness. We’re fans.

Also, Colin Geddis and Conor Keys, the comedians, are on the bill too. We wanted to do something different and we’ve been trying to get a show for us all to play for a few years now, so this is going to be the one, it’ll be wild – literally cannot wait for that one.

We also start a Euro tour in April: we go to Netherlands, Belgium, eastern Europe, Italy and France, then a UK tour in June and another Euro tour in the autumn with a lot of festivals thrown in. We're pretty busy for the next six months.

Ten years into the band’s career, what are some of the moments that you look back on now as being major landmarks and/or turning points?

Good lord, 10 years, is that all? It feels far longer! The big thing that happened was signing with Alive for sure and that all came about because an amazing guy called Christian Steidl from Germany booked us to play a festival in Munich and on the bill were Left Lane Cruiser.

They dug what we did and we stayed in touch. The next year we all played the same fest – this time Johnny Walker from The Soledad Brothers and James Leg were there and they all put a word in for us with the label. Later on in the same year we got the call from Alive.

Also, playing in Mississippi was the absolute highlight of my musical life so far, we signed the contract with Alive at the famous Crossroads where Robert Johnson signed his contract with the Devil. It felt apt.

We played in Junior Kimborough's Juke Joint – that was surreal. I still daydream about that.

If you could go back in time to attend a show by one artist who’s no longer with us, who would it be and why?

I would love to be in the room when RL Burnside and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recorded the Ass Pocket Of Whiskey album. It was a live session so that counts! That album changed my life.

Failing that, Robert Johnson or Otis Redding.

Dirty Photographs is out now. See for details on where to buy records and tickets.

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