Song writing and Southern U.S. Tour Talk with Sean Bonnette (Andrew Jackson Jihad)

By Janelle Abad
Music Director

Andrew Jackson Jihad-1
Photo courtesy of Janelle Abad

Fun Fun Fun fest’s 10th year anniversary brought out the most eclectic and widest range of acts Austin has ever seen in one festival. One among many was folk-punk project, Andrew Jackson Jihad of whom marked their performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest X as the start of their Southern U.S. Fall 2016 Tour. Sean Bonnette, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the group spoke with us on behalf of the band and mentioned his excitement for the upcoming tour with Jeffrey Lews and Los Bolts and Roswell Kid:

“We’re about to meet up with them in New Orleans. I’m really really excited! I’ve been a listener of both of those bands for a while. I’ve had Roswell Kid stay at my house before and they’re really amazing. They’re one of my favorite bands that have come out in the past two years or so. My favorite track off ‘Too Shabby’ is “Kangaroo Pocket””

Austin also holds a special place in Bonnette’s heart, mentioning that he’s spent his 21st and 29th birthday in Austin.

“This is about our 7th or 8th time here in Austin.We’re in our 11th year, but it’s usually a very special place because if we’re heading east is usually our first show we play on the tour. Austin generally gets the most unique shows (and also the sloppiest) before we really dial it in, which I think can be the best shows.”

This year’s festival marked the band’s first Fun Fun Fun Fest. Bonnette comments on the wide range of acts during the festival and his favorite acts:

“So far my favorite part of it, which I think is an extension of Austin culture is the fact that there are so many pop up things going on around the festival. I’ve never played SXSW, but I think it’s the same way where you can take an abandoned storefront or a bookstore or a craft market and re-appropriate it for different things. I like the fact that it’s a flexible city.”

Aside from being the front-man of Andrew Jackson Jihad, Bonnette performs as a solo act doing pop-up shows around the U.S., including a KUTX performance that took place shortly after the interview and most recently at Beat Kitchen in Chicago.

“[The solo Beat Kitchen show] was fun as hell. I felt very independent at that show. I live in Michigan so I drove all the way out by myself like a big boy. I had some shirts that didn’t have the band’s name or my name on them (just of a drawing I did) and I made some zines for the occasion. I really felt like my own dude there. I’ve played solo many times before, but for some reason at that show I felt really nervous. I think it was the fact that I had just watched Brian Posehn and Dan Telfer do a comedy set at the same club.”

In part of traveling as a solo act, Bonnette also recently collaborated with Ian Graham of Cheap Girls covering Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” released via SideOneDummy Records.

“We’re both big Sheryl Crow fans; we’ve been that way since we were children. Ian and I live in the same town in Lansing, Michigan so we hang out an awful lot together. I met him in St. Augustine, Florida. When my fiance was looking for schools to go to, one of the deciding factors to go to Lansing instead of Pennsylvania or Detroit was the fact that I knew Cheap Girls and that I knew that moving to that town I would have some friends. That hasn’t let me down at all.”

With storytelling, earnest, and straightforward lyrics, I was curious to know Bonette’s songwriting process and where he draws his inspiration from.

“They never come about the way you would expect them to, or at least in a way I would expect them to. It seems like everything I try is always betrayed by something a lot simpler and at the same time a lot more difficult to try to pull off. I’ve thought about what makes songs happen for so long that I always end up kind of getting stuck figuring out where they come from.

I wish that songs came about through jamming and playing with other people. That’s how they get finished and that’s how they find their polish. I try to do a lot of free-association writing. Recently I try to fill three pages every morning of ‘blah blah blah’ to clear my mind (it’s from a self-help book I read). At the end of page 2 I wrote “I would really like to write a song right now on this next page and just fill this page and have it be a really easy song to write. I asked the universe for that and it granted me a song really quickly that I did very little editing to. But at the same time there are also songs that I slave over for months and they’re just Frankenstein’s of cool ideas I’ve had over the years that I’ve been slicing up and recycling and just assembling into this pastiche of things that sound cool to me.”

Keep up with Sean Bonnette and Andrew Jackson Jihad: Twitter | Facebook | Official Website

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