Misophonia, meaning a "hatred of sound", is a rare neurological disorder involving varied
emotional reactions triggered by a range of sound.
It's also the title of Brian Bonz & The Major Crimes' new record.
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, and their third long player to date, Misophonia
is a kaleidoscopic pinwheel of unchained ambition and creative agency. It is both a return to the past and a pointed nod to the future. The record's depth and scope recall the expansive
arrangements and ebullient spirit of their debut, From Sumi to Japan. Yet for Misophonia, Bonz and guitarist/composer Michael Strandberg aimed to go beyond their comfort zone. Resourcefully producing the album themselves, they enlisted producer/mixer Chris Bracco (who produced From Sumi) to join rank. The process was quite different for their second record The Triborough Odyssey.
Assisted by label support from Triple Crown Records, Triborough was recorded and mixed by indie rock luminary John McEntire at Soma Studios in Chicago. "Making Misophonia was definitely an about-face from how Triborough was produced, which was more or less the traditional model of 'block out a month and get everything done in that time frame'", says Strandberg. "With Misophonia, the challenge was learning programs like Ableton and
Native Instruments ourselves, cueing up disparate pieces of music at sessions, and
writing/recording as we went along." "With the help of Kickstarter", says Bonz, "we were able to make the record we wanted to make."
The band toured with Kevin Devine, Miniature Tigers, Jesse Lacey, The Get Up Kids, Person
L, and Nightmare of You (amongst others) in support of both records, finally taking a hiatus in
2013. As new material began to coalesce, Bonz booked time at Sunset 7, hidden in a quiet,
industrial section of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with Dave Hollinghurst engineering. Only a handful of songs were tracked live; the majority of Misophonia was sketched and recorded over the course of the following year and a half. The album's overall character, however, came into its own during post-production. Bonz and Strandberg gave Bracco creative license to build its sonic world, leading to an unhinged and truly inspired collection of music. "Hollinghurst allowed us to feel really comfortable while we hashed out arrangements and shot ideas at one another, and Chris has such a keen and tasteful ear; we've trusted his instincts from Day One."
Misophonia was originally drawn from music Bonz scored for a PBS special on NYC subway
art, from which Bonz and Strandberg built actual songs. As for the record's title, "it came to mind while exporting files during the Sunset 7 sessions", says Bonz. "We'd continually be interrupted by passing forklifts on the street and would have to wait until they stopped. One day I decided to quickly open a window and I held out a mic to capture the aggravated sound of the machinery; we
wound up manipulating it and included it on the record... for this record, I wanted to do things the 'wrong' way - methods that weren't perfect and didn't follow certain rules audio professionals swearby."
Misophonia links that off-putting agitation he'd felt from the forklift to some of the album's
themes, such as the cognitive dissonant realization that your emotions can revolt against you in a fight-or-flight circumstance. On "Eisenberg's Ghost Bike", Bonz surmises a poisonous what-if scenario based on a real-life run-in with actor/writer Jesse Eisenberg, who while cycling almost knocked Bonz onto a Manhattan street. And back in 2010, Bonz and Strandberg were on tour playing keys and bass, respectively, in Kevin Devine's Goddamn Band; during the encore, an intoxicated, belligerent fan approached the stage and pushed Bonz's microphone forward, barely missing his face. He drew from the experience on "The Man From Munich."
The album also embraces confident forays into hip-hop ("Hustling From Every Edge of the
City", featuring Wu Tang Clan's Parental Advisory Unit); reptilian skronk laced with
somnambulant ghost grooves ("Midnight at Poppies"); a forlorn, lo-fi duet with Miniature Tigers' Charlie Brand ("Prom Queen Drunk"); and orchestral songs that steer clear of cluttered over-ambition or affected sentimentality ("Refractions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Moonstruck"). The music is altogether anchored by Bonz's singular lyricism and rapt ear for melody.
“I think as an artist, if you're not reaching for new sounds and testing elements outside of your immediate frame of reference, you’ll never learn how well you work in different contexts. As production for Misophonia wound to a close, the process has left me even more excited to finish ongoing collaborations with other producers and continue working on new material.”