BODEGA‘s new album Endless Scroll is a spot-on distillation of a slice of city life circa now, from contradictory impressions of the larger world to frustrations over rampant consumerism and technologically-driven alienation. Add some minimalist, propulsive postpunk to the mix and you have a mightily compelling record. We talked with singer/guitarist Ben Hozie about Endless Scroll, media saturation, and more.
“How Did This Happen!?” juxtaposes scenes of consumerism with those of protest. Do you find yourselves thinking of these things in terms of specifics or archetypes?
I am always searching for grand metaphors in the quotidian. “How Did This Happen?” is documentary. In the week after the 2016 United States presidential election I went for a walk through Union Square in Manhattan past a ‘Hilary-should-have-won’ protest – en route to a Barnes and Noble. That week I had read an article on Pitchfork curating the ‘best songs for the oppressed’ and had seen a Spotify ad literally claiming ‘Your playlist will know you better than a closest lover.’ Nothing is satire there – the only commentary really is the opening Hegeling chant about slaves and masters. The song embodies the BODEGA mantra: the best critique is self critique. Instead of blaming the right or the ‘boogey men’ on capital hill, the song critiques the complacency of the cultural consumer (AKA: me).
How did you settle on Endless Scroll as the album’s title? There are a number of lyrical references to the internet throughout the album – what about the idea of the endless scroll seems so pernicious to you?
Web 2.0 is a cesspool of corporate programming, advertising, and narcissism – it is likely the reason why ‘it’ happened. That said – BODEGA isn’t a doomsday group – we are optimistic. There are earnest good-thinkers out there on the scroll and I’m sure we will find a better way to communicate our social longings sooner or later. The track “Bookmarks” doesn’t take a stance on whether a life lived in front of a screen is good or bad – it simply records (as I type this I am ‘staring at a computer’). The track “Bodega Birth” details the beginning of me and Nikki [Belfiglio]’s courtship – which could not have happened if it weren’t for Facebook chat (I fell in love staring at screen / triple dots I see bouncing / two k’s seen my heart will beat / that was documentary). I find it odd when contemporary films, novels, or song lyrics don’t mention the internet or social media when it is obviously a key component of modern consciousness. “Name Escape” details how the brain functions differently when social media hangs over all social interactions.
Song titles on the album include “Jack in Titanic” and “I Am Not a Cinephile.” How would you describe the band’s relationship to film?
Many of us also work as filmmakers – me and Nikki have a DIY production company called Pretorius Pictures that specializes in personal narrative films. I have directed three feature films (two of which are streaming now for free on vimeo – ‘Annunciation’ and ‘The Lion’s Den’). I often think in the language of cinema and am sure that my world view has been shaped through my diet of directors – for better or worse. I would not write lyrics the way I do if it weren’t for Godard or Bresson. “Jack in Titanic” and “I Am Not a Cinephile” are not dissimilar from the songs about the endless scroll – they are about the way screens (and their content) ‘program’ thinking. I am a cinephile but there is much about that culture that can be improved. People try all the time, but I’m not sure you can 100 percent celebrate classic Hollywood without carrying on its values of imperialism, racism, misogyny, etc.
For me, the more tactile or physical songs, like “Boxes For the Move,” contrast well with the more digitally-focused songs. What was the process of organizing the album like?
Yes, at the beginning of ‘Boxes’ I specifically added the lyric about ‘packing up my desktop’ to emphasize that i was going ‘outside the box’ for a while. We started with more songs than the 14 that made the album and chose the best musical ones. I had several more that went more in depth thematically but weren’t as interesting as tunes. I was sort of thinking about it as a soft concept album.
Sometimes, one vocalist will complete a phrase begun by another. How would you describe the voice of the band?
Me and Nikki each have very specific world-views. The BODEGA rule is – if you write the lyric, you sing it. Everybody in BODEGA has very different attitudes towards the world and I’m not sure each member would want to stand for the same things me and Nikki do in our songs. That said – most of us are on the same page and me and NIkki can often complete each other’s sentences for each other when talking or singing.
Photo: Mert Gafuroglu