Why Bonnie is September’s KUTX Artist of the Month. Photo by Andrea Garcia/KUTX.
Why Bonnie’s lush and intimate sound hits a high point on the Austin band’s EP, Voice Box. Their songs bob and weave, toggling between dreamy hooks and crunchy, guitar-driven fireworks. This week on My KUTX, singer and guitarist Blair Howerton takes the controls for a guest DJ set that digs into the band’s wide-ranging tastes. She focuses on new classics by Fiona Apple and Austin’s Jay Wile as well as enduring influences like the Magnetic Fields and Yo La Tengo. Hear Why Bonnie’s My KUTX on Saturday, September 19 at 6 p.m. or listen anytime in the player at the top of the page.
–Art Levy // producer, My KUTX
[intro music: Why Bonnie – “Bury Me”]
1. Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
2. The Breeders – “No Aloha”
3. The Magnetic Fields – “Papa Was A Rodeo”
4. Jay Wile – “Real Bad”
5. Chris Cohen – “Monad”
6. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – “Till It’s Done (Tutu)”
7. Mount Kimbie – “Marilyn” (feat. Micachu)
8. SZA – “Anything”
9. The dB’s – “Judy”
10. Yo La Tengo – “Little Eyes”
11. Frank Ocean – “Self Control”
12. New Order – “Age Of Consent”
Austin bedroom pop quartet Why Bonnie explores the disjointed feelings between our inner and outer selves, alternating between light buoyancy and hazy intensity. Half a decade ago, vocalist Blair Howerton moved back to Texas after graduating college and started the Why Bonnie project as a way to work through her years of unheard material. She found an easy collaborator in childhood friend Kendall Powell, who traded her classical piano training for new synth magic. Soon, guitarist Sam Houdek and bassist Chance Williams joined the line-up, and the group’s first two EPs showed off a penchant for fuzzy guitar pop with synth flourishes.
After signing to Fat Possum Records earlier this year, the band put out Voice Box, a shimmering five-song EP that bristles with new fervency while maintaining the intimacy of their earlier work. Cranked out guitars, warm distortion and Howerton’s lilting Mazzy Star-esque vocals make up the tracks — there’s more than a fair touch of ’90s alt rock throughout, calling upon The Cranberries and The Breeders. “Athlete,” a simmering gem about self-doubt, pushes and pulls between restrained calm and clashing barrages of noise. “Wish I was good on my feet / But you don’t want me on your team,” Howerton sings. But by the song’s conclusion, you want her as your starting player.
— Annie Lyons
YOUTUBE/KUTX – Meet Why Bonnie produced by Julia Reihs
Why Bonnie’s Blair Howerton chatted with KUTX intern Annie over email about Voice Box, bedroom pop and life in isolation.
Annie: Over the past couple years, Why Bonnie’s started exploring more expansive soundscapes full of intense guitars and intricate layers. What’s been driving this progression in your sound?
Blair: I think our sound is always evolving, which is exciting to me. We like to play around with new styles, and try not to pigeon hole ourselves too much. We also just have a lot of fun together and like to bounce new ideas off one another. We felt there was room in the songs on Voice Box for bigger sounds so we decided to go for it. I also think we’re becoming more fluid players in general which has allowed us to explore a little more.
Annie: Can you explain more of the inspiration behind Voice Box?
Blair: The songs each have their own inspiration; some are pretty classic break-up songs, some are about societal pressure. It’s more of a collection than a concept album. But the songs were all written during a time when I was shaking up my identity. I was learning how to speak up and was realizing that people didn’t always like that. The songs are all kind of anchored in frustration but have enough airiness to make them feel breezy.
Annie: Much of Voice Box deals with feelings of isolation and uncertainty. Have these songs taken on new meaning given our current state? How have you tried to stay creative during the pandemic?
Blair: Since most of these songs were written a while ago, when I listen back to them it feels like a time capsule. It’s always cool to hear an old lyric and realize that it has new meaning to you now. There are a few lines from Voice Box that do that for me. And with all of this down time, it’s definitely easy to reflect back. But being stuck inside has definitely given us more time and space to be creative. We’ve all been writing a lot on our own since we can’t play together at the moment but we’re actually getting into the studio soon. Very excited to record new material.
Annie: A lot of artists seem to have a love/hate relationship with the term “bedroom pop.” What are your feelings on the label?
Blair: “Bedroom pop” doesn’t bother me! Some of my favorite bands are considered bedroom pop. Also, our sound is bound to change a little bit so we could be bedroom pop today and deep tech tomorrow. Just kidding, we won’t be…?
Annie: Lastly, y’all have recently contributed demos to a few benefit compilations and done some livestream benefit concerts too. What makes these projects, and the music community behind them, important to you?
Blair: Donating and supporting is just a small way we can stay engaged. I think we should all be actively participating in the Black Lives Matter movement whether that’s by donating, organizing, educating, etc. Stay connected with your local community, support others, and be kind.
Photo By Michael Minasi/KUTX
MEET OUR AUGUST 2020 ARTIST OF THE MONTH: JAY WILE
PRODUCED BY: JULIA REIHS Additional footage by Michael Minasi, Jay Wile, Jonas Owens
Songs: “Real Bad” “Lifetime” from Better Times EP
As a musician and producer in the year 2020, Jay Wile uses his time to create emotive, authentic music that can help people reflect and get through tough times. An R&B+ artist originally from San Antonio, Wile’s music draws from sounds such as Marvin Gaye, Prince, Kanye, Kid Cudi and John Legend.
KUTX Artist of the Month: Jay Wile
By Aaron “Fresh” Knight
Within Austin’s fast-growing urban music scene, it can be easy to overlook an artist. Yet sometimes one jumps right out at you. For months I heard the rumblings about Jay Wile, a soothing R&B singer originally from San Antonio. At first, Wile pulls you in with a smooth voice similar to Frank Ocean, but then his heartfelt lyrics captivate you and have you longing for love. Bouncing around between San Antonio, Austin, and Los Angeles, Wile has captivated listeners and helped push his R&B further to the forefront of the Austin music scene, a scene that can struggle at times to shine a light on urban music. Wile’s newest release, Better Times, is a short, yet sweet and smooth set of songs that give everything the R&B of today and yesteryear has to offer.
KUTX Host Aaron “Fresh” Knight talked with Jay about his new release, staying motivated as the world spirals into chaos, his inspirations, and more.
Fresh: With everything going on in the world, how are you staying motivated to keep creating?
Jay: During this time, I’m challenging myself to find balance. I’m learning to lean into the moments of creativity and listen to my body when it needs rest. For the project, I made the majority of Better Times in March and April. Leading up to the release, this past month I took time off to read and reset. I’m always looking for a healthy balance so that I can create freely while also giving that energy the space to form.
Fresh: Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind Better Times?
Jay: When quarantine began, I was making 2 or 3 beat ideas a day at one point. Although everything was crazy, making music is what kept me cool. What originally started as practice on production and arranging blossomed into a folder full of ideas. I ended up collaborating with some of my friends to polish the records and added a few more.
When I began writing, I knew immediately the project would be a time capsule for me. With Covid 19 really shaking up all of my original plans for the year, this project was really a moment for me to document how I was feeling and what I was hearing during this time.
Fresh: Starting out in the San Antonio music scene, what would you say is the main difference between there and working as a musician in Austin?
Jay: The communities of San Antonio and here are very similar. I’ve met a lot of my friends and connections over the past couple of years that interact heavily in both scenes. Getting out of my hometown and into a new city of fresh faces and experiences probably helped with my growth during these last couple years. But ultimately, bridging relationships in both SA and Austin has transformed my idea of what I consider Home to be – The communities we are a part of and the people we care about are our home.
Fresh: I know you’ve worked with some big names in the music industry as far as songwriting. Do you have plans to, or are you currently collaborating with other artists, either locally or beyond?
Jay: I’ve had some really amazing experiences in some of my pre-covid travel. Some of my journeys to Toronto or NY are really interesting stories that I wouldn’t even believe were true. But I really enjoy the network of creatives I’ve joined here locally. Some of my favorite producers are my friends. I can be everywhere with my sound sometimes and I’m picky about what I like, but I know the people I work with are patient and they know how to fit the right pieces into the art. Stefon Osae and JaRon Marshall (aka Almond Milk – producers of “Real Bad”) have been a duo I immediately connected with since I’ve moved here. We’ve made so many tracks together at this point. Billy Blunt (who produced “Anyway”) is a newer connection I made this year, we only have one track, “Anyway”, off of the EP, but he’s one of my favorite instrumentalists in the city. And I’ve got a lot more collaborations with a few local artists coming very soon!
Jay Wile is the KUTX Artist of the Month for August. Photo by Michael Minasi/KUTX.
Like a lot of musicians, Jay Wile’s plans got derailed in a big way this year. As the pandemic unfolded all around, the Austin singer and producer turned to making beats everyday. Soon, this practice turned into Better Times, an E.P. that Jay says “was really a moment for me to document how I was feeling and what I was hearing during this time.” The record shows off Jay’s expressive voice and musical community, featuring beautiful contributions from singer Akshara, productions from Almond Milk and Billy Blunt, and more.
This week on My KUTX, Jay Wile is our guest DJ. His hour of jams include a few cuts from Better Times, shoutouts to his Austin scene, inspiration from Stevie Wonder and Miguel, and so much more. Hear Jay Wile’s My KUTX on Saturday, August 22 at 6 p.m. or anytime in the player above.
–Art Levy // producer, My KUTX
1. Jay Wile – “Don’t Be Late”
2. Lianne La Havas – “Can’t Fight”
3. Miguel – “Hollywood Dreams”
4. Kings Of Leon – “Supersoaker”
5. Dominic Fike – “Chicken Tenders”
6. Jay Wile – “Anyway” (feat. Akshara)
7. Stevie Wonder – “All I Do”
8. Burna Boy – “JA ARA E”
9. Malik – “Indigo”
10. JaRon Marshall – “Another Day”
11. Kehlani – “Can You Blame Me” (feat. Lucky Daye)
12. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, & 9th Wonder – “Freeze Tag” (feat. Kamasi Washington and Phoelix)
13. Nick Hakim – “WHOO”
14. Jay Wile – “Real Bad”
Photo by Michael Minasi/KUTX
KUTX ARTIST OF THE MONTH: JAY WILE
Shot in East Austin, August 2020
Credits: Cameras: Michael Minasi; Edit: Michael Minasi; Audio Mix: Jake Perlman; Producer: Deidre Gott; Stylist: Thrifted Feels
“Lifetime” – Jay Wile
Back in March, Charles sent over a drum loop he had put together. It caught my ear immediately, so I sat down and made a demo over a synth that I added on top of the drums. I liked the idea but I knew it needed some beefing up and arranging so I sent it over to Larce to help finish it and he killed it.
Larce and Charles are two collaborators I’ve worked with on many songs so our process is rather streamlined. They understand the vision and where I want to take the music and I’ve learned to trust them to challenge me and get me out of my safe zone. All of the songs from this EP mean so much to me, Better Times is a project that I really put my full focus and effort into these last few months in quarantine. Between writing, producing and mixing the record, I learned so much about the craft, but more about myself.
“Lifetime” in particular really resonated with me when I was writing the song. I wanted to encourage and uplift listeners and be mindful that this struggle is temporary. Even in the midst of a bad storm, if you keep fighting, there’s a better day ahead. – Jay Wile
Better Times EP By Jay Wile is out now