It’s Bodega’s first time in the UK, and they’re finding it “really hospitable,” apparently.
“Everywhere we go I’m like, ‘Okay I wanna live here!’ Then everyone who comes to our shows says, ‘You don’t wanna live here, it sucks’, which is so Brooklyn,” grins vocalist Nikki Belfiglio.
“Nowhere has that civic pride anymore, which is good,” adds guitarist Ben Hozie. “Pride is our worst enemy.”
Bodega are full of conviction. Their live show is a deliberate, angled mix of rock star poise and best friend grievances. Their debut album ‘Endless Scroll’ cuts Black Mirror terror with double-click admiration.
“It’s a very personal album, but it’s also like a documentary,” starts Nikki. “There are some things you just let sit and marinade for a while and see what comes of it but we already like had a fully-fledged plan when we got together. We had a mission from the start. It’s good to have so much intention. You feel that energy.”
And that fizzing, chaotic, direct energy tumbles and marches across the record.
“To do a documentary in the year 2018, you have to talk about The Internet, smartphones and stuff like that. That’s why it’s called ‘Endless Scroll’. Every song, in some way, is about living with this web 2.0.,” offers Ben, as Nikki adds: “Falling in love on the internet, working through the internet, building friendships online.”
“Some of the songs talk about how the internet is making people dumber and causing problems, but some of them point out good things. Like, Nikki and I did get together as a couple through Facebook Chat. We met in real life, but we both had real dreary office jobs where we would both be available to chat for like six hours a day, so okay, the screen is bringing us together in a weird way. And obviously Social Media is very helpful for bands, and we connect with people all over the world because of it.
“Also, you can’t be blind to what’s happening in the world. If you buy things from a company, and it’s very well documented what they do with their money, and they’re things you don’t support, it’s very easy not to do that.”
‘Endless Scroll’ bounds between the good, the bad, the ugly and confusion. It doesn’t draw a line. It tries to keep a balance. It never makes excuses. “The best critique is self-critique,” offers Nikki. Radical Honesty stomps throughout
“A lot of the songs on the record, particularly the opening track ‘How Did This Happen?!’, are about how there’s a huge tendency to blame everyone and anyone else when things go wrong,” Ben continues. “It’s like the week our president was elected, I don’t even want to say his name because I don’t want to give any media space to him, but everyone was out asking ‘How did this happen?!’ and my answer was, well, humans happened. I made this happen. Have you read Living High and Letting Die? It’s this amazing book,” he asks, changing gears. It’s something he does a lot.
“It sounds like a stoner book, but it’s not,” Nikki promises.
In it, American philosopher Peter Unger makes the moral argument that if you don’t give at least 10% of your wages to charity, then you might as well be a murderer.
“It’s a big claim,” agrees Ben. “Say you’re walking down the street and you see a guy in an alleyway holding a gun to a kid’s head, and the guy says give me ten dollars, or I’ll kill this kid. Everyone will say give the guy the money, and you’re a moral monster if you don’t do that. So what about Unicef and organisations like that who can provide salt pills and water to kids who are starving, dehydrated and dying for $10. 99% of people will refuse, ‘Oh, it’s not my responsibility’. But it’s the same thing. I think that’s going to be the moral question of our time.”
“You can’t live in the first world without being a bit of a murderer,” reasons Nikki. Their mantra of radical honesty is “being open to criticising yourself and your position and having accountability.” It’s a belief years in the making, and something that’s still growing.
The pair used to be in a band called Bodega Bay.
“Things were going well, but we broke up,” says Ben. “There were a lot of things we liked about what that band was doing so this band, in some ways, is a sequel. It’s a new and improved version of that band. But we worked hard to get the right line-up this time around.
“We’ve been a band for two years but as soon as we started playing live, we found our sound, and we knew what we were doing. We had this idea of what we wanted to do, and we tried to actualise things.”
“We had something to prove,” continues Nikki. “We broke up in that last band, but we were always still in that same scene.” Underground heroes, “everyone loved us, told us ‘You’re not gonna do any better than that’, and I’m like, ‘What do you mean? I don’t even believe what you’re saying, but you do, and it’s weird’.”
Needless to say Bodega aren’t weighed down by their past.
“Ben wrote the music for Bodega Bay as well. He’s always had really good intentions within the art, the lyrics and his concept or whatever but we weren’t being open and honest about personal feelings. The intention for this was to take that critique, bring it on ourselves and push forward on that.”
“The actual writing comes fast, but you do years and years of thinking, living in a certain mode of thought for that to happen. You can never improvise based on improvisation; you can only improvise if there’s already a script. You’ve got to have the script then you can improvise.
“Being around that kind of thought that inspires me. I’m still building my script,” continues Nikki. “I’m a little lighter and airier and bouncier, but I’m still learning. It’s crazy that the first two songs I’ve ever written alone and brought to the band are on this album. When you see good art, you feel mentally refreshed. When you see people expressing themselves, it’s inspiring.
“I always say the biggest compliment you can ever give to a piece of art is that it makes you want to make your own art. If I read a good book, I immediately want to write a song. If you just sit there, get in that meditated state of mind, shut the fuck up and let someone else communicate to you, it helps. I want to make the kind of songs that inspire beautiful paintings or beautiful films.
Bodega might be a band with one eye on the endless, scrolling screen but their music is about face to face connect. It’s about the bite of reality, and it’s about coming together and connecting.
“We want people to leave our shows with positive vibes and energy. Live, I feel it in my body. I used to feel like exhausted after a show, but now I don’t. I feel energised. I just feel like I’m getting so much from people in the crowd, or I’ve just learned how to contain it,” grins Nikki, as Ben adds: “When the sweat’s coming, the euphoria comes.”
Taken from the August issue of Dork, out now. Bodega’s debut album ‘Endless Scroll’ is out now.
Words: Ali Shutler