Citing comparisons to nature feels appropriate when trying to describe the music of Bonnie Churcher-Owen. As we find ourselves firmly within the regenerative period of spring, we’re witnessing firsthand the natural world around us slowly begin to unfurl as it rouses itself from hibernation. From this state of torpor we see growth and the development of beauty that’s been tucked away unassumingly underneath a heavy slumber. With the release of new song ‘Mouth of Shame’, Bonsi is moving in tandem with the season.
Her first release of the year, ‘Mouth of Shame’ builds upon the momentum generated by 2020’s Sustain EP, a record that gave a full introduction to the lo-fi incantations the 22-year-old producer had been quietly crafting within the private space of her bedroom since moving to Bristol. Reacting to her environment is an integral part of Bonsi’s practice, drawing equal inspiration from the clean man-made lines of the city and the knotty organic curvature found within her rural roots. The resulting sounds produced by such eclectic sources of influence sit somewhere between delicate analogue augmentation and a strong digital synthesis. But despite any technology that goes into creating Bonsi’s sonic vistas, a human touch remains indelibly fingerprinted upon the arrangements.
‘Mouth of Shame’ tackles the very human experience of dealing with fear and embarrassment, doing so with poise and grace befitting of the consideration Churcher-Owen puts into constructing her instrumentals. The track also sees the producer step outside of her comfort zone, embracing collaboration for the first time and inviting fellow producer and university friend Harvey Casuon to contribute to the music and trade melancholy verses throughout the song. What results from this coalescing of musical ideas is a sound that is both familiar yet fresh, with the lo-fi inertia usually present within Bonsi’s compositions removed and instead replaced with Casuon’s acute sense of clarity and hi-fi definition.
The new single is an exciting development for Bonsi. Not only does it show the producer fully at ease and in control of the idiosyncratic sound she’s carved out for herself, but that when this sound is amalgamated with external ideas, it can be just as malleable and exciting as it would be when left to its own devices. Ultimately, it’s a fine thing hearing Bonsi blossom as she reaches for wherever the light takes her on her ever-shifting path of growth, and just as spring is the beginning of nature working towards its full potential, so too is ‘Mouth of Shame’ a sign of the beauty that’s just ready to bloom.
You come across as an artist who is always very considered and deliberate about what they do, so tell me about how the writing process for ‘Mouth of Shame’ began, and what were some of the ideas that informed and inspired the song?
So I wrote this as a lockdown song whilst I was living in the countryside. It’s interesting that you say I’m deliberate and considered with my process, because really I just go with the moment and what sounds I have. I always start with the instrumentals and then go from there. For Mouth of Shame, I had some poetry that I’d written which I put on top of the music and that just formed the body of the lyrics.
I’ve been thinking about where the words came from recently, and I guess it just kind of came from improv. The theme of the lyrics centre upon some things I was feeling in myself at the time, like fear and the idea of working through shame. It’s not something that I would want to talk about generally, so I thought that would be interesting to have in a song and to see what that would bring up in me and other people.
It’s easy to tell within the first few seconds of listening to ‘Mouth of Shame’ that there’s been a leap forward in confidence in both your songwriting and production techniques. Do you feel that this single has given you some ‘breakthrough’ moments for you musically when compared to your previous releases?
I love producing in a lo-fi way – like the way that I did with my first EP. But as I’ve been working with Harvey [Casuon], whose production style is much cleaner, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from merging these two worlds together. I’ve taken inspiration from some things that I did in this song and carried it over into other projects that I’m working on. Mouth of Shame is a very different vibe for me, but I like having the freedom to just do that.
‘Mouth of Shame’ is the first time you’ve composed a song alongside another producer. What was it like inviting another person into your process, and how did the collaboration affect the song’s final form?
Well as I’ve said, me and Harvey have quite different styles of production, so it was nice to see his take on things. The whole process was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone, and that was down to the collaborative aspect of the music. I’m so used to doing everything by myself, so working with someone else and letting them be their creative self is amazing, but it’s also a process of learning how to let go of control. And honestly, it’s actually really nice, and I learned a lot from it. Especially collaborating with someone like Harvey whose creativity is amazing. The work he produces is so beautiful and to have that be mixed in with some of my work was actually wonderful.
Something that’s instantly noticeable when listening to ‘Mouth Of Shame’ is how much texture and atmosphere play a role in your compositions. These elements will always affect the listener in some way, and I feel a sense of melancholy runs throughout the new single. When finishing a song, how conscious are you of the final listening experience and the reaction someone may have to the overall mood of your music?
Very aware! I think maybe I listen too much. When I send someone a song, I try to listen to it again and imagine how they may be hearing it for the first time. With ‘Mouth of Shame’ I think subconsciously the themes in the song are naturally melancholy, and my musical style seems to be melancholy without trying, which i’m totally fine with [laughs]. But I don’t really think about that too much. When we really started working on the song we had the words first, so naturally the instrumentation may of referenced those themes in some way.
You’ve given credit to how both the countryside and the city environment influence you creatively, but the way ‘Mouth of Shame’ is composed and its firm commitment to electronica seems to be at odds with what you’d expect to come from ideas inspired by a rural setting. How much and in what way did your appreciation for your rural roots bleed into the process this time round?
So with this song I think the inspiration is flipped on its head, because I wrote this song when I was stuck in the countryside and missing the city in the context of normal life and the social aspect and being able to see lots of people. I think generally I’ve really been influenced by nature and urban environments and how that somehow seeps in to my brain and feeds into my music. So this song is maybe a bit of an ode to the concrete.
Words: Danny Brown // Photography: Bonsi
‘Mouth of Shame’ is out now via Gold Day Records and can be streamed via Bonsi’s Bandcamp or in the link below.