No Wolf is Ever Truly Alone
Thriving heavily on human contact, most artists are never truly alone. Despite the appearance of many solo artists being solitary, the people they meet and places they go leave the heaviest marks upon what they do. A slight pack mentality flows in the heart of any human being, especially a musician who focuses and draws from the human condition as actively as New Jersey folk-poet Pj Bond.
“Currently one of my biggest influences is the way I’ve been living my life and the people I’ve been meeting,” says Bond after a show in Winooski, Vt. “The sound that I create comes from some music but I think it comes more from that experience. That makes more sense to me now than it ever did.” Bond ran a journal like blog called ‘Year of a Thousand Roomates’ chronicling his travels. Recently he put the project on hiatus.
“Checking out what some people have said, like Johnny Cash said at one point, ‘anyone can sing country but you have to live it,’ or something like that,” Bond says. “I’m paraphrasing. My songs come from the sweaty punk basements and the 10 hours I spent in my car alone thinking about my friends and family. Also, my younger brother Brian Bond is pretty incredible; I take a lot of what I do from him.” Brian and Pj recently released a split on the label The Black Numbers called ‘Brother Bones/Baby Bones’ together, reaffirming their strong bond not only as musicians but as family.
For someone who has a prominent past in Punk music, there is a thick country backbone in the music that bond creates. “I think [country] is a big part of my music in feeling. I don’t listen to loads of country music, although I do like country quite a bit,” Bond says. “You know, there are a lot of people right now coming from the punk scene singing with acoustic guitars because for a lot of them it is a way to continue playing music on some level. Some people play acoustic guitar and sing because they see it as the next step or some viable option. But, a lot of people do it because they grow in to that.”
“A lot of people that are my age grew up listening to punk rock and there was a sort of anger and an urgency that we found drew us to punk,” Bond says. “As we grew older maybe we mellowed out and found sort of a similar emotional depth in folk and country and old American music. I think what you hear in my songs that sounds country is my living life closer to a place where those people were living life. I’m living closer to a life that makes that sound in my head.”
Pj Bond mentioning old American music is almost ironic, as he himself is the victim of the same situation that affected many of those artists—he is received better outside the United States. His situation is the flipside of what happened to groups like the Beatles, though Bond is nowhere near as influential as those haircut rockers.
“I’m definitely received better in Europe, I think most bands are on some level,” Bond says. “Probably one of my favorite places to play is Austria because I have a few really amazing friends there and their peripheral group has really made me feel like what I’m doing matters. That’s always a good feeling, having a fully packed room singing the words of your songs back to you. I think I prefer to play over there for that reason, but when I play in the States it’s a different feeling. This is my home, this is where I come from.”
Although his music doesn’t reflect a true sense of Americana in its words, it is projected through Bond himself. “From a traditional standpoint if you can make it in the US you can make it anywhere. There are lots of bands who can’t make it here that make it overseas,” Bond says. “Although it feels incredible to travel and have people sing your songs there’s something to wanting to find success at home. It’s a more impactful experience to make it back home; it’s a much bigger high.”
Although his fans sing his songs overseas, the impact that he has on peoples’ lives isn’t any different here. “That whole country feeling is coming from interpersonal communication and interaction,” Bond says. “You know today I had dinner with my cousin and his family and when the bill came he just took it and I said ‘well here, let me give you some money’ and he said ‘no, we want to support what you do’ and it happens a lot more often that people might think; people let me stay with them for a few days, or even if it’s just for one night they buy a few extra beers at night or the buy a few extra eggs for the morning. People support what I do and it’s not just because they are good people, but because on some level they support the fact that I haven’t stopped.”
“I have a lot of friends who used to play music or have watched their friends play music and now they all work jobs and they’re happy at home but a part of them wishes they were doing something else,” Bond says. “The way they find excitement and joy and love is through me and what I do and I really enjoy that fact. I draw beauty from that.”
Pj Bond’s biggest influence, despite the glamour of travel and the solitude of the road, isn’t really the road itself but the people and places on that road. That is the true meaning of being a country musician. There’s no such thing as a lone wolf in the world of country and folk music.
“When I have two friends in a town, despite their differences, I introduce them. If you know that two people have equally pure hearts you should introduce them,” Bond says. “There’s an ideal that I read somewhere once that says that love is one of the only things that costs nothing and the more you give it the more you get it. There’s nothing else like that in the world, and there’s too much bullshit. I figure if I have an opportunity to spread that then I’ll take it.”