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Interview: BONNE drops dynamically charged new album to wake up sleepy minds, execute

Now performing as a power-packed duo with Jon Locker to differentiate the live band sound and telling us more about her new message-heavy album, the early music career and central Iowa life, the award-winning Midwest, USA-based pop/rock musician/composer BONNE (Bonne Finken) opens up our minds with an interview to behold with execute.

Llewelyn: Firstly, do you recall the precise moment when you just knew music was what you wanted to do for a living and what did it feel like in your veins?

Bonne: For me, it was around eight years old. I’ve always been drawn to and loved all aspects of music, but had only been exposed to either pop music on the radio or to gospel music in church. When I was around 8 yrs old, my father played me a song called “Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine, and it was like someone decoded a secret language for me. It was the first time I felt sad when listening to a song. It wasn’t upbeat or fun to listen to, like the music on the radio. I was hooked by that feeling. To be able to tell your stories and truths and feel connected to someone I’ve never met through music. I literally began (attempting) to write songs right after that.

Jon: The first time I played in front of people and they responded…that was enough for me.

Llewelyn: Secondly, please tell us about your new music name and who is now involved in BONNE. Also, how has the process been from the solo artist world to band world – pros and cons?

Bonne: I’d still technically consider myself a solo artist. This is more a ‘Duo Project’ vs. band – and was started as an effort to link an album to what our sound is, live. It’s myself and Jon Locker, as far as who is involved in BONNE, from the writing standpoint. We brought in two producers to help with drums and production, Seth Luloff and Micah Natera (and Kevin Bowe for ‘Woman’). So a very lean production team, really, in the world of rock music. Jon and I have worked together for years, this is more a project where he could step out from behind the scenes/the backing band into the forefront and be more involved from the infancy stage of the songwriting. I still do and plan to continue to make music as Bonne Finken – BONNE was a way to differentiate the SOUND more than anything – I knew this was a departure, sonically, since the songs were produced around Jon’s lead bass as the lead instrument. I’m still determining the pros and cons – but all are probably pretty consistent with any musical venture in this current industry climate. We are just excited with how the album turned out and happy we get opportunities to share it.

Llewelyn: Please may you guide us into the vision, the sound and the process behind the project.

Bonne: For me, the vision and sound goal somewhat built as a juxtaposition to my last two albums. My solo albums I never let myself be limited by what instruments were available to me, live. If I heard choirs or strings or layered drums, that’s what went on the record – even if I knew it would be difficult (or impossible) to pull together for an LIVE indie show.
This album, it was “what can be recreated as a live rock band” and I/we tried to stay living inside of that when it came to writing and production. Specifically, Jon has a new instrument (a custom built BilT bass guitar) and the songs were largely built around ‘what can Jon cover, live, sonically’ and just add drums and maybe just ONE snyth line or two. Even adding harmonies to my lead vocal was a ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ since it’s semi-breaking the rules of ‘what can we recreate live’ since I do my own back-ups….and can’t do that live.
Jon: I kept saying “exploring the limitations” as we were making the songs.

Bonne & Jon: Also, a ROCK album – was the vision and sound.

Llewelyn: Also, are there any specific tracks we should be extra thrilled about?

Bonne: “Problems” is my favorite. It’s in the Top 5 of songs I’ve ever written – from this and all albums – and I feel the unique sounds from Jon’s lead bass feels special on it and I completely adore Micah (Natera)’s production – I think it’s honestly dark and beautiful and I’m very proud of how it ended up.
Jon: “Contender”…duh. It just feels right all around.

Llewelyn: You’re an award-winning and much-respected musician. Does that come with extra pressure and what does it feel like to have your music on major tv shows such as MTV’s The Real World & E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians?

Bonne: It feels good retrospectively. It can sometimes be a hindrance. The accolades can sometimes give the illusion that you don’t still need help, or opportunities, or money, ha. But I’m proud of my work, not only the music or songs I’ve written – but the work put into getting it heard – which is sometimes harder than the creation itself. Of course, I am learning this is just the life of an indie artist – and I’m making peace with that! But it’s why it’s so important to be making music for myself, that I love to create/perform, since that is really all that is solid ground in my world. My never wavering from that is, perhaps, the only reason I’m able to keep going. I know any award or accolade given was based on my own work and decisions. Not someone telling me what I should write about or do.

Llewelyn: What’s it like being an artist from the Midwest and where exactly did you grow up and learn your craft?

Bonne: I grew up in central Iowa. The difficult part of growing up as a writer of electronic pop/rock music is there aren’t alot of people to collaborate with. But on the plus side, largely thanks to the large folk/americana scene here — there’s still the embrace of my music because I’m not just a creator/artist/singer – I’m a songwriter, too. I’ve been lucky to play just about every venue you can think of in the state – despite having a sound that most wouldn’t assume places me from the Midwest. So I was able to put in my “10,000 hours”. That’s how I’ve learned my craft. By doing it. It also means when you find a cohort, like I’ve found in Jon Locker, you’re grateful that someone likes and wants to play songs that you like to play.

Jon: I was born in Mason City, IA and grew up in Nevada, IA where there were several other players slightly older than me that let me hang early. I started at age 12. First bar gig at 13. I learned from gigging.

Llewelyn: Also, who has inspired you to reach your dreams no matter the challenges of the music industry?

Bonne: Self-motivated people inspire me. People who have a passion and move towards the passion, even if it’s difficult, or the road less traveled. I’m also inspired by knowing my kids are watching and learning from me, to be one of those people. That if you love something – you should keep doing it. For me, I don’t have a choice, really. I hear things in my head. I have to get them out in order to sleep or function. Once they’re out in demo form & start to take shape – I choose which ones to focus on & finish….then….I put them out for people to listen to. And then the cycle begins again. I love it and I have to do it. Hopefully someday that will equate itself to more money – but really – just so that I can spend more time/money on it… hire that choir/string section I put in my recordings but can’t afford to bring onto a stage.

Jon: Lots of people. It feels like the music “industry” is barely a thing anymore. It’s broken right now. The challenge for an artist or band is that you used to be able to make a living playing and selling music…good friggin luck with that right now!

Llewelyn: You’ve just been told you have the keys to and an unlimited budget to put on/run a music festival. Who would you add to the lineup, where would it be and what would the message of the event be?

Bonne: I’d add my favorite group from each genre I could think of – from Eminem to Jon Batiste to Alanis Morrisette to Billie Eilish to Brandi Carlile – and just celebrate individuality by artists who created their own sound without worrying about what ‘the current trend’ was. A genre-less festival celebrating pioneers of sound.

Jon: First question…is rain insurance part of the deal? If yes then I still don’t know!!

Llewelyn: Lastly, what does the future hold for you long-term and what advice would you give to young musicians trying to find their way to the top?

Bonne: All I know for sure is I’m going to continue to create new music. The only advice I feel I’m qualified to give: be sure you do what you love to do. Fame, Fortune, Failure, whatever….that music is there forever with your name on it. Try not to take advice from someone who will tell you what to do with your art/voice/stories to make THEM money. It’s all a crapshoot – so – do you, boo.

Hear this massively incredible album on Spotify.

See more news and gig show info on IG.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

Interview: In Search Of expands our minds on Alice and the Wonderland

In Search Of is the kind of LA-based music duo which will give many flashbacks to the past. They have that extra charm and imagination that the mainstream seems to hide away. We love their vibes. Alice and the Wonderland is their 13-track release which should open up eyes, ears are souls. They tell us more about it in their own words. Ready? Okay. Let’s find out more..

Llewelyn: Firstly, hello Michael and Michelle. Thank you for joining us at A&R Factory. We love that you’re a father-daughter duo as this seems so rare these days. When did you first start performing together and was there a specific moment when you both knew…we need to get on stage?

In Search Of: Hi, thank you! I (Michelle) started singing and performing at age 10, I was lucky enough that my parents supported me every step of the way. My dad (Michael) grew up playing music and eventually managed a successful prog rock band (Royal Hunt) that toured all over. He built a studio in our house and we started writing together when I was 12!

Over the years, I (Michelle) was able to sing vocals for my dad (Michael’s) band on their tours, specifically “Loud Park Festival” in Tokyo Japan, “Sweden Rock Festival” in Sweden, among others.

Llewelyn: Please tell our readers where you are today in the world and what is a normal day like. A day in the life would be absolutely wonderful to understand what it takes to be successful in this fickle game.

In Search Of: We are currently based out of Los Angeles, California. A day in the life is never the same but the consistency of writing / playing music remains! I (Michelle) work as an independent songwriter and session singer while I (Michael) manage bands. We both make sure that we practice our craft on the regular!

Llewelyn: We’ve noticed Alice doing rather well. How has the reaction been and what’s it like to be featured in so many incredible shows and platforms?

In Search Of: Thank you! Alice is one of our favorite songs off of the Album so it’s really exciting to see it getting added to playlists and having such a positive reaction!

It’s been so much fun being able to perform in musical theater productions, a dream of mine is to perform on Broadway one day!

Llewelyn: Ok, let’s get to your new 13-track release Alice and the Wonderland. Goodness me it’s so exciting. It brings a massive smile for all the right reasons. What was the creative process like and are you both happy with the end result?

In Search Of: We are so happy to hear that it brings you a massive smile, that’s the goal! My dad is truly the mastermind behind this project. We wrote / arranged and produced the whole album and used very talented guest musicians to complete the entire project.

The idea was to tell the famous story via music in a unique way and we believe that we have achieved this goal. I (Michelle) was living in Barbados for 8 months and recorded the vocals while there. We had zoom sessions to perfect / do any lyrical or music changes. All the guitars were recorded by guitar maestro, Luca Sellitto (Stamina, Luca Sellitto) in Italy. Mark Boal (Yngwei Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire) sang the Mad Hatter parts on the album. Drums recorded by the talented Andreas “Habo” Johansson (Royal Hunt, Narnia) in Sweden. Additional keys were recorded by Andre Andersen (Royal Hunt) in Denmark, violins were recorded by Allie Stamler and the bass, additional keys and FX were recorded by Michael at our very own Majestic Studios in Los Angeles, California. You can most definitely say this was an international effort!

Llewelyn: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard music before? Also, who do you make music for?

In Search Of: Our sound would be considered rock opera/musical infused with elements of rock, progressive rock, hard rock and power pop. We make music for dreamers and book/music enthusiasts of all ages! As Willy Wonka so wisely put it, “we are the makers of music, and the dreamers of dreams!”

Llewelyn: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received that you don’t mind sharing?

In Search Of: In every aspect of life, including a musical career, never do anything to please anyone else but yourself.

Llewelyn: Lastly, what does the future hold and where do you see your creative energy headed? Touring all over the US and then the world?

In Search Of: A world tour sounds like a dream! We have about three other albums already written based on other famous novels, so just you wait! 🙂

Listen up to this memorable escapade on Spotify.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

Likeable funky pop duo East Eden drops those tasty mellow vibes on Cielo

With a fun beat and kind energy which will get those feet tapping, East Eden shall calm all sad hearts with a lovely single which must surely be played over and over on Cielo.

East Eden is an East Hampton, USA indie duo who love to remedy our shattered hearts with a pop/funk blend like no other as they continue to broaden our minds.

Inspired by the late great Amy Winehouse, Sly and the Family Stone, Vulfpeck, Kanye West and more, East Eden is the kind of music group that does this for all the right reasons. This is pure stuff and is surely a must-listen for anyone who likes things rather chilled. Fresh all the way, we have found a hugely affable song to hold hands with all night.

Cielo from East Hampton-based funk/pop duo East Eden shall mellow the soul and give lonely hearts something to believe in. This is easy listening at its best. It’s flashy-free and lovable, just like a waterfall at the end of a hike on a summer’s day. Good for the soul and body-healing.

Turn this up and feel free again.

Hear more on SoundCloud.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

The Cornish brother duo, Roguey Roads, served a fresh slice of Americana indie pop with Westwood Sands

Roguey Roads carved a fresh slice of Americana indie pop for their latest single, Westwood Sands, which fuses country vox with an angular melodicism that will make any indie fan nostalgic for the 90s and 00s.

Following their debut album, Something to Prove, in 2021, Westwood Sands is a testament to how honed the Cornish indie pop duo’s sound has become. The songwriting, in particular, has been elevated to the nth degree.

After the winding bluesy guitars in the intro, momentum progressively builds in the immersive vignette of a wanderlust-driven protagonist who embarks on a journey of the soul and finds it filled by another. Hollywood directors would be hard-pressed to achieve the same panoramic picture in their feature films as Roguey Roads did in Westwood Sands.

It’s a heart-rendering indie pop anthem which goes a long way in proving why the brother duo can’t seem to create much distance between the ‘loveable’ adjective that is always affixed to them.

Westwood Sands is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

UK EDM duo Issi Noho rattle the windows of the drowsy with the hauntingly memorable pick-me-up, Back to The Abyss

Following the dynamics of a film that is still to be made, the massively experienced and much-loved Issi Noho drops track 8 from We erA (A Tale for Dreamers and Scientists) and this is called, Back to The Abyss.

Issi Noho is a UK-based EDM Psychedelic Beats lover who enjoys drenching all tired hearts into a bath of mass contentment and shall cause bodies to be reinvigorated again.

Formed by Nick Smith & Neil Riley who are known best for their electric track on the legendary and original FIFA game, Issi Noho scores a hattrick on their latest release which would trouble even the best keepers. This is riveting to the core of empty abdomens and shall fill up the hungriest, who are voracious for something proper. Eat up then. It’s snack time.

Back to The Abyss from UK-based EDM act Issi Noho is a fast-paced and pulsating track to turn the lights off with. With glowsticks in abundance and masses ripping off their shirts, we have found an anthem to stomp all toes off with.

Sizzling through the lights and never letting go, we hope you’re ready to pump up the volume.

Check out the video on YouTube.

Soak into the socials on Twitter.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Hold My Hand: Standing Phase wonders when the memories shall fade on Journey’s End

Currently in the studio recording their debut album all while working with the imaginative producer/drummer Josh Gale, Standing Phase shows us what kind music sounds like and guides us through the Journey’s End.

Standing Phase is a Brighton, UK/New Zealand-fused indie alternative duo who love to spread gospel, soul and funky undertones to heal all scared hearts.

Featuring singer/songwriter Charly Jay-Wood and guitarist/co-writer Luis Wood, Standing Phase sends our heated souls into a rather special place with a gem to uncover like tomorrow’s Christmas present under the tree. It’s that good. Love in abundance is the feeling here, as we are blessed by a meaningfully brilliant release.

Charly started her musical career playing saxophone and flute in a number of different jazz/funk bands. She didn’t originally set out to be a singer, but as the lyrics started to flow, she put voice to the melodies and quickly found herself emerging as lead vocalist and songwriter.” ~ Charly Jay-Wood

Journey’s End from Brighton, UK-based indie alternative duo Standing Phase is one of the more catchy singles made with love and shall rocket better thoughts into our tired mindsets. Sung with precision and care, this is an enchanting track to calm all choppy waters with and is one of the most uplifting songs released so far in 2023.

Turn this up on Spotify.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

POVEDA reminds us of that warm 1985 glow on Otra Noche Más

Bringing us the first composition of Roberto’s career from 1985 which has extra flair added for modern times, POVEDA performs with an electric skill and wholehearted desire on Otra Noche Más.

POVEDA is a 2-piece project born from the creative minds of Cuban composer Roberto Poveda and the American drummer Layton Weedeman.

It is no coincidence the song of freedom was picked up and recorded by the national record label of Cuba, EGREM, but met its interesting fate and was mysteriously lost without a trace. Nearly 35 years later, during the 2020 pandemic, Roberto brought the song back to life.” ~ POVEDA

Decompressing the stresses of the world with something so peacefully chilled and pleasant to sip on at the beach, POVEDA has dropped a rather influential soundtrack to summer. This is a superbly constructed song with innovative juices dripping from each corner and shall evoke a warm feeling of hope into each listener’s veins.

Otra Noche Más from the Cuban/American duo project POVEDA is a rather peaceful soundtrack to roaming around and seeing the world with a positive mindset. Sung with a soulful passion and brimming with a carefully calm aura of adventure, we are treated to something rather unique.

In a world replenished with sneaky copycats, this is a warm ray of sunshine in all the right places.

Turn this up in full via Spotify.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

The RnB duo onemind ‘meditate’ on romanticism in their slick indie hit.

After finding success as a touring musician, Dario Mihic set out to swathe the airwaves with his devilishly slick soul as one-half of the brother duo onemind. With the indie RnB single meditation, he and his brother Martin discernibly succeeded.

As the celestial vocal timbre wraps itself around the romanticism in the lyrics, the gentle mellifluous guitar notes that ethereally reminisce on the instrumental hooks in Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River amplify the accordance even further. The downtempo hit spills alchemic chemistry as it works through the poised progressions, setting ample anticipation over what fresh soulful innovation will pour from onemind in the future. Save a place on your radar.

Meditation was officially released on January 31st. Hear it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Path That I Chose: Solemn Pledge aches for the return home on Wretched Warfare

Wishing for the war to end so they can get back into a happier place away from so much brutality, Solemn Pledge sings with fearless frankness and honourable desire with the catchy new mood changer called Wretched Warfare.

Solemn Pledge is a rock music duo that combines the rather emphatic project of Maria Genevieve Elia and Michael Justin Lee.

Maria, a heavy metal vocalist with a very distinctive timbre and a vocal range of three and a half octaves, has performed on rock and symphonic rock projects with artists around the world. Michael, a member of the Songwriters Guild of America and the Society of Composers and Lyricists, has written and produced three previous albums that are streaming on all the major platforms worldwide.” ~ Solemn Pledge

Lathered in so much to get lost in, Solemn Pledge has reminded us that those true battles are worth it if you get to come home. With vivid details and so much to intertwine inside, we are introduced to a quality anthem to get behind.

I myself (Michael) am of Chinese descent and I wanted to create a portrayal that clings closer to the classical story than most productions do. With Rock music, I present a portrayal of Mulan’s ten years as a soldier (that’s right, it was ten years). No love interest. No mysticism. It’s a story of courage through the horror and wretchedness of war, and of her intense longing for home.” ~ Michael Justin Lee

Wretched Warfare from the rather impressive rock music duo Solemn Pledge is a rather searing effort made with a hugely enjoyable tone and flow, with vocal highlights mixed in with groovy melodies to get rather thrilled about no matter the day of the week. Soaked in a delectable blend of ingeniously crafted layers of transcendence, this is a timeless track to enjoy in 2023.

Open up your ears on YouTube. See more on their website.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Answer My Prayers: Solemn Pledge shall love until the end of days on Precious Juliet

Navigating us through the feeling of true love which so many humans strive for each day, Solemn Pledge drops an ear-piercing single which will please many alternative music heads on Precious Juliet.

Solemn Pledge is a rock music duo who have been fantastically merged together by Maria Elia and Michael Justin Lee who met through mutual musician friends.

Solemn Pledge’s first album, “Romeo and Juliet: The Rock Opera (Concept Recording),” is a modernization of the Shakespearean classic told via rock opera, à la “The Who’s Tommy.” Singing all the roles is Maria Elia, a heavy metal vocalist with a very distinctive timbre and a vocal range of three and a half octaves who has performed on rock and symphonic rock projects with artists around the world. Michael Just Lee, a member of the Songwriters Guild of America and the Society of Composers and Lyricists, wrote and produced all songs and will be the director of the hopeful movie. Just released, this album is already on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer and on over 150 other streaming sites around the world.” ~ Solemn Pledge

Skyrocketing high with so much listenable vehemence to pack into a backpack, Solemn Pledge zip up our moods and shall entertain even the most trained ears. There is so much to be impressed by in this humming anthem which will help us all get over the stormy days which have changed the global landscape forever.

Precious Juliet from the remarkable rock duo Solemn Pledge is a hugely entertaining single which is different to most releases the galaxy will hear this year. Whizzing with so much intensity and thriving beyond previous levels of cognition, we find a rather thunderous track to turn up loud and proud.

Hear this fine single on YouTube. View more on their website.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen