The Great Escape has brought many fresh and exciting new bands from around the world into one thriving hub for another year, with the focus settling well and truly on Brighton this month. We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the buzz names of The Great Escape for 2018 in US indie group Boniface. From Winnipeg out to the UK and around the UK, Micah and Joey Visser have been able to take a lot of live show experiences in, some of which they shared with us below.
Welcome to Brighton. Is it your first time to the UK?
Micah: It is.
Tell me a little bit about your experiences so far. You’ve had a few shows? FOCUS Wales, now The Great Escape, you had the show in London …
Micah: Yeah, I know, it’s been amazing. Also, I should clarify, it’s our first time in Brighton, not first time in the UK. But yeah, it’s been really great so far. Just played a couple shows; don’t know, always really surprised at how welcoming people are here.
Joey: Yeah. Crowds have been super nice to us and every show has been very fun. Which is kind of the most important thing. So yeah, it’s been awesome.
Micah: Especially at this point, they’re all kind of special in their own way. It’s been really good.
You’re doing a lot of shows in a very short period of time. What does that do to you as a live band? Does it help improve your skills as a live band and tighten the show, whereas maybe the shows are a bit more spread out and you don’t have that time to perfect the craft in front of a crowd?
Micah: I heard someone say the other day that one live show is worth five rehearsals. That’s so true. It’s such a privilege for us now, beginning to play more shows in a row. It just does wonders for us as musicians and definitely as a band.
Joey: You can just like get in the zone and stay in the zone over a number of days or weeks, and it’s so nice to be there. For us, that’s the best feeling in the world, basically it’s just really feeling connected to the songs.
Connected to each other and to the songs and you start focusing less on playing the parts right and more just on actually enjoying the act of playing music for people. That’s really exciting to get to do. But still not reaching a point where you’re just going through the paces, so to speak.
Micah: Exactly. We’re definitely in that sweet spot right now, I think.
You can understand those bands who end up touring for 50 years and just, when you see them live, it’s like, yeah, they just don’t care.
Micah: Like the five hits that they played millions of times.
Tell me a little bit about how you’re putting together the sets at the moment, because you’ve got the songs you’ve released, a couple of which people will know. But there’s a lot of unreleased material. So how are you kind of going through the unreleased material and working out how that fits into the set and what you’re going to be playing at a show?
Micah: Good question. What do you think, Joey?
Joey: Well, Mike and I were kind of talking about it the other day, and right now, we feel like our live set … We have another one that we’ve been working on for a couple of months. It’s like six or seven songs. [It’s] kind of like a better representation of our band as a whole, than what we’ve released so far. I think that the way we’ve crafted it is kind of, easing people into it. But it’s a lot of push and pull. I feel like we’ve worked really hard to get the dynamics right.
Micah: In the way the set flows.
Joey: Especially where we are right now… we’ve tried to make it a good introduction. So just yeah, showing people some of the size of the project. It’s very lyrically driven, so we start off with a really quiet song. We have a couple of the popular ones, we have some of the ones that are more on the indie rock side of things. One of my favourite moments in the set is when we play this big kind of … Basically an arena rock song. I don’t know how to call it, but it’s big.
Micah: No, that is descriptive.
Joey: It’s just like a big loud song, probably the loudest …
Towards the end of the set?
Joey: It’s like right before Micah plays “Again and Again”, which is the B-side to “I Will not Return as Tourist”. By that point, the crowd is paying attention, and [it’s] just Micah and his guitar. The crowd is generally pretty quiet for that song, and it’s really nice. So that’s always my favourite moment, just to see him play that song and to see the crowd just watching. It’s nice.
How have things developed in terms of the way you write music? I imagine when it started it was just you putting pen to paper more than anything else. But how have you now progressed in terms of developing your songs musically and otherwise?
Micah: I’m very picky about the spirit of the song, I guess. I wrote these songs, I wrote the lyrics, they’re all written in a very specific time of my life, and I first and foremost want to make sure that that spirit comes across no matter what the instrumentation is. No matter how it sounds. As we start building them up as a band and as I collaborate with the band, everyone becomes involved in the project.
Ireally love that process because it’s really exciting and I think my job at dot point is just kind of to make sure that it stays focused on the spirit of the song and on developing that and executing it in the most effective way possible, I guess.
Then at what point does the rest of the band kind of come into that?
Micah: I demo everything, all the instruments on my computer, and then hand the parts off to the band. By the time we record them, it’s everybody’s interpretations of the parts. It’s things that people have decided they don’t really care for, so they’ll pull something out, put something else in there. We’ll sometimes change the structure of the band.
Maybe Joey, you are one of the people that takes the parts and adapts them. So, I’d be interesting to know what your approach is.
Joey: For me, it’s all about what the song needs. For me, it’s about serving the song that Micah wrote, that Micah put his energy into. It’s trying to kind of push what Micah wants to say closer, further forward, I guess. I think for me it’s kind of like, I don’t want to step on the song at all. It’s a very kind of cautious approach. There’s a natural development with playing them live and then working on them in the studio.
It’s all about serving the song that Micah wrote and making sure that it sounds the way that it should, and the energy we bring to it is right.
Micah: Sometimes what that needs is just you to shred over it.
Joey: I do that twice a set.
So far, for most of the release material, as far as I know, you’ve recorded at home. But there’s been mastering done at Abbey Road Studios, and a lot of input from outside of home. Looking ahead, is home a place where you want to record? Or are you going to be always open to going to other places and experience the opportunities that touring has for you?
Micah: Well, it’s been really exciting for us, working on these songs and the other songs that we’ve recorded but haven’t released yet. It’s been really exciting for us to go to all these different places and be trying out new things in the recording process. Sorry, I lost my train of thought there.
Joey: Micah demos pretty heavily at home. It’s like a really small, humble little home studio, but Micah’s been to audio engineering school, he knows his stuff and he’s kind of relentless with learning more stuff. So the demos that he’s able to make at home … A lot of those songs end up making it on final recording.
Micah: That’s been really exciting. Then I think with all of this stuff, more tools. We really like utilising that, but as long as it preserves the intimacy of the song. You know, the more people that become involved in the … I guess the bigger the studios get and stuff, that’s all fine and good, but it’s really important to me and to us that it just doesn’t compromise the intimacy of the music that we’re making.
The latest song you released or at least was put out on Spotify was a demo.
Micah: Yeah, it was called “For Love” and that’s the song I wrote, actually, the first time we were in London. It just kind of happened and we needed a B-side for the song. I had this voice memo that I’d recorded on my iPhone and I sent it to our manager, Feedy. She just really loved it and then we just kind of ran with it.
I think it was fun for that one too, because “Phantom Limbs” is such a pop song in a lot of ways. Boniface is definitely a pop band, but I think it’s more than that. So, it was nice to balance out the poppiest we get with the most raw that we get.
One thing I’ve liked about the band is how…the name of the band is associated with home. Then the first song you release is about pretty much trying to escape. Then the latest song that you’ve released was written in London… I was going to ask kind of about how home plays into the song writing as well. But it seems like it doesn’t so much anymore, maybe?
Micah: I think we knew that we were going to be touring more and we were going to be doing more things outside of Winnipeg when we started Boniface. When we chose the name Boniface, I think that was our way of kind of keeping that piece of home with us. Definitely, just because of the ways have been lately, there’s more elements that we’re taking from outside of Winnipeg. I feel like it shaped us largely. So we’re still taking a lot of the feelings and a lot of the spirit of Winnipeg with us, even when we’re writing songs outside of the city. It’s still the spirit that shaped me, I guess.
You’re going to be taking that spirit around Europe over the next couple of weeks. You’ve got some more shows after The Great Escape. I noticed that one of the shows, too, you’re supporting Lo Moon, who I know were big on their record last year.
Micah: Oh yeah, amazing.
And you played with Cub Sport, Australia’s own, in Los Angeles.
Micah: They were so great.
I guess, talk me through a little bit of some of the acts that you’ve been playing with and are about to play with and what the rest of the year’s looking like.
Joey: Well, yeah, we first saw Lo Moon play at the Sebright Arms in London like a year and a half ago. They just had their one single out. Micah and I were really impressed with a lot about the set, but just their overall stage sound was just something to shoot for and it really made us try to refine our setup a little bit. Then they released their record which is this really atmospheric, sometimes really intense, sometimes super delicate. Anyway, it’s just a record that we both really liked and we listen to on tour honestly, quite a lot.
Being able to play with them was great. Just to learn from them; it’s just an exciting thing to play with a band you genuinely like and have looked up to.
Micah: Yeah, this thing with Cub Sport… I hadn’t heard of them before, but I was listening to their music at Spotify and just completely fell in love with it. The sound check was amazing and after we played we got to actually watch the show after hanging out with them; it’s just so nice to be so blown away by someone’s art and then also be blown away by them as people. That’s been really fun.
Joey: Again, it’s just the energy that they brought. That’s something that we try to bring every single show, is just like really good, positive, kind of just open. They’re just really, really kind of raw and open with their audience. You could see there was so much trust between their fans and them, and that’s something that was so special to me, to see. They’re awesome musicians too and they’re awesome songs.
Keep up to date with Boniface, here!