PJ Bond has previously spent time in outfits such as Outsmarting Simon and Marigold before going solo. He recently released his second album "You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical" (a highly entertaining collection of songs), spent a year touring on his own and is now getting ready to start writing a book about his life on the road. But before doing that, Bond took some time out to talk to us.
PRT: Hey! Thanks for taking some time out to answer these questions. I'm so sorry I missed your Belgian show tomorrow!
PJ: First off, thank you so much for the support, kind words, and taking the time to get in touch. No worries about the Belgium show but it's a bummer I haven't had web access as it turns out I picked up some extra shows close by. Oh well, maybe next time. On with the questions!
PRT: And now, the questions… you’re in the middle of your European tour… how’s that working out for you?
PJ: This is my first European tour and to be honest it's been mostly amazing, but at times a little rough. I traveled the entire uk and part of Europe with a backpack and my guitar, and in having to run for trains, walk a while to venues and carry all my merch, I've injured my knees pretty bad. I guess I should have seen this coming and seeing as I don't have health insurance I'm a little worried about how bad the damage is. Maybe I'll try to see if a friendly doctor over here will take a look.
That's the bad part. Well, that and some of the trip got a little lonely, but that's all better now. Somehow I had the great fortune of hooking up with an awesome band from the uk called caves and traveled with them for a few days which was not only incredibly fun but the perfect way to fill days off. I even got to play shows, eat good food, meet super nice promoters and sell a few things. Those all helped to lighten the load on my heart and knees. After leaving them I played some really great shows in leuven, Belgium, hengelo, Netherlands and my favorite, hillentrup, Germany. I'm still constantly amazed that some silly kid from new jersey got to find himself in small German villages and places nobody I know from my home town has ever heard of, let alone visited. But I can say Ive been and have loads of friends there now. That's a pretty incredible feeling, in every sense of the word.
Overall though, while it's not exactly what I pictured, Europe had been incredibly good to me and the people here are beyond wonderful. I definitely have had a good experience.
PRT: Before going solo, you’ve played in several bands … what exactly made you decide to go at it on your own?
PJ: This is a much longer story than probably most people want to hear, but what it boils down to is that I spent a lot of time thinking i was working towards what I wanted, which was to play music I loved and believed in, only to realize I was just mucking about. I spent so long thinking I was on a path that would eventually make me happy, but decided that's crap. I believe now, more than ever, that you have to make yourself happy. You ne ed to do the things you love and believe in. Sometimes you make mistakes, but as the old idea goes, you need to learn from them. So I guess the easiest answer to your question is that I finally decided to completely trust my heart and gut and not let fear keep me at bay. It was definitely worth it.
PRT: Can you tell me how different is it not having to think about anyone else both when it comes to writing and performing onstage? Is it liberating or a bit scary?
PJ: It's funny, when I was in my first bands I knew I had, for lack of a better word, a vision, be it overall or song by song or part by part. However, because I loved and respected my friends in the band so much I had to compromise certain things, because that's what you do in a relationship. The next band I was in gave me much more control and it actually scared me at first. I was so used to democratic songwriting that it'd been years since i set out to write full songs alone. However, by asking me and by having faith in me, the guys in marigold gave me one of the best gifts I've ever gotten; they showed me how to have faith in myself, as a songwriter and a band leader. I love them dearly for this. After marigold I played as I hired musician in some bands and this taught me greatly what I liked and didn't like in a band leader. I guess in a way this also fills in some details with the last question.
Anyway, at this point I sat down with the intent to write songs about things that mattered to me, and to write songs I loved. Since it's just me, I have the ability to be brutually honest and personal without it affecting someone I'm playing with. This is the big difference. Before I was representing four guys with one or two voices. Now it's one to one. The tough part is not having those other ears to tell you when a part is crap or needs work. This requires a much more critical ear on my part though I owe a huge debt to people like my brother and Kieth from communipaw, Brian from the waltz and a variety of other friends. They've become my band members, whether they know it or not.
On stage I've found my love. Well, off stage to be mostly honest. Whenever possible, I play fully acoustic on the floor with the people. For those 25 minutes I'm alive and loving it. If the crowd likes what I'm doing, then I soar. If not, I try hard not to crash. Regardless, it's on me. I can't blame anyone else for problems, but when it goes well it's overwhelming how positive people can be and sometimes it's weird and rough getting all the attention as opposed to sharing it. Of course it feels amazing, but to be honest, I'm often partially incredulous.
PRT: Da new album was dubbed “You Didn’t Know I Was Alphabetical”, partially because nobody noticed that the songs on your first solo album were listed in alphabetical order. Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who missed that?
PJ: The title was meant partially tongue in cheek, but also has a much bigger idea of basically saying nobody really knows I exist. The thing is, it's not an insult or negative, it's fine people don't know me, and it's not surprising. But I've been actively making music I'm proud of with people I love for going on 10 years, it's sometimes funny to think how anonymous I am. This also is about the things I've hidden in albums and songs that even my friends and people who love the music haven't picked up on. I think that's interesting and definitely fun to think about.
As for saying something to the people who don't know me, hi, I'm pj bond. I write songs and sing them. You should come to a show and we'll hang out.
PRT: Exactly what’s with all the picture frames in the artwork? It made me kind of philosophical… do you buy into the theory that all we remember from life is a series of snapshots?
PJ: I'm not exactly sure when or how the art concept came together but usually my ideas cloud around and then suddenly become clear. I had this image of me holding a big ornate picture frame and then realized there needed to be more so the hanging frames on the front came in. The ones on the back are a foil for the cover and we meant to take a picture of me in the woods from behind and hang it on the back wall. The art ended up getting rushed which is a shame but I love it and think jiddy moore and Brian Carley did an amazing job on it.
I'm not sure I agree with that theory. For me, life is more stories, gut feelings, smells, etc. Snapshots don't really contain enough information for me. But in a way, I guess the frames contain both of these things, maybe emotional snapshots.
PRT: Family, friends, a permanent residence… you’ve left it all behind to go on a year-long tour that has been chronicled on yearofathousandroommates.com. If I’m not mistaken that year is coming to an end now… how do you look back on it now?
PJ: It is coming to a close and that's mind blowing to me. When I started this the whole thing seemed near impossible and I was not fully sure I would be able to finish it. Now I'm having trouble seeing myself do much else. Maybe a super future version of me, but immediate future me is already planning the next step.
I do know that I look back on the year with awe and wonder. I encountered some really tough times this year, but as a whole it has definitely been the best year of my life. In one short year I've met more amazing friends, seen more crazy beautiful and cool places and had more fun than any other time in my life. Sure, I miss a lot of people and hope to someday tour with a band of my own, but man, this has been an incredible trip. So many great memories and I can't wait to start piecing them all together when I start writing the book about the year. That'll be a trip on it's own.
PRT: Gotta ask you this… what are you going to do next?
PJ: First off, I need to write the boon about the year. That was part of the plan from the beginning, and in a lot of ways, the hard work has yet to begin. It's a bit daunting to tell the truth.
Otherwise, I have a new scheme brewing that will take me back to all the great places and people from this year, but in a new, semi permanent way. If all goes well I'll be making returns to the uk and Europe as well as setting up temporary homes all over the us. I'll keep you updated.
PRT: How hard do you imagine it will be to go back home and pick things up again?
PJ: This is actually scaring me quite a bit. I'm not really sure if I'll be able to handle being in one place for a long time, but I think certain comforts will be really nice. The idea of getting a job frightens and appals me (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but a year of living how I want to has been great) but then again as soon as I tie up some financial issues I plan on quitting and heading back out in the newer, less frantic version.
Emotionally, I have a lot of processing to do and already know I owe a huge debt to loads of people. I've been fairly selfish this year, more so than usual, and if it's possible to repay some of these things or fix some offenses I will do my absolute best to do so. I know there are some relationships I've burned in the process, and this makes me sad and feel guilty, but I can't change what I've done or who I've been, just what I do and who I become. Hopefully those are all good things.
PRT: In your honor, I listed all these questions alphabetically. I just had some problems with the D!
PJ: The D threw me at first but when I realized I was thoroughly impressed. Thank you and well done! Don't worry about J, to be honest I pretty much only care about A to G, that's all the musical alphabet cares about. Well, H, if you want to harken back to medieval music (Bb, if memory serves, for anyone whose as nerdy enough as me to care).