BODEGA on debut album Endless Scroll
Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio of Brooklyn post-punk five-piece BODEGA tell us about their debut album, Endless Scroll
‘This is new BODEGA song,’ begins Brooklyn five-piece BODEGA’s debut album Endless Scroll. The statement is made by a robotic female voice, which reappears throughout the album in soundbite-style interludes. A robotic male voice also features at one point, reinterpreting lyrics from a Smiths song: ‘I use my computer for everything / Heaven knows I’m miserable now.’
Endless Scroll explores the effects of technology on the modern world through the lens of someone witnessing and living through it, and through a series of sharp, clever and witty observations. The same robotic female voice makes another appearance at the beginning of the music video for single Can’t Knock the Hustle, stating ‘I scroll down the endless scroll / Endlessly scrolling / Endlessly scrolling / Like / Scroll / Like / Click,’ perfectly summing up our relationship with social media. “I think the dichotomy between human and inhuman is important with this band,” says guitarist and vocalist Ben Hozie. “That dichotomy is a big theme of this record and of this band, playing sort of machine music but by people.”
Born from the ashes of Hozie and vocalist Nikki Belfiglio’s former band Bodega Bay, this new incarnation features a completely new line-up, bar its co-founders, completed by drummer Montana Simone, guitarist Madison Velding-Vandam and bassist Heather Elle. “Ben and I got together one day and talked about all the things that weren't going right within our personal lives, and within the band that we were in, and sat down and made a Venn diagram of everything that we wanted for the future, for ourselves and for the music, and just transitioned over from that to BODEGA,” says Belfiglio.
Incorporating traditional punk sounds with more modern electronica alongside biting lyricism, Endless Scroll provides social commentary on the world today and covers everything from the impact of technology to female masturbation. In a post on the band’s Tumblr page (yes, those still exist), Belfiglio explains the track Gyrate: “When I was a little girl I used to masturbate in public (once at a JC Penny perfume counter), not knowing that was wrong. My parents, not wishing to shame me told me I shouldn’t ‘gyrate’ in front of other people. My song uses the language of Top 40 pop to celebrate self-sustainability and female pleasure.”
Bookmarks, on the other hand, is an explicit culmination of the album’s main themes, highlighting the mundanity and repetitiveness of daily life. 'All day at work / Stare at computer / Come back from work / Stare at computer,' sing Hozie and Belfiglio in a call and response style. “I think the way technology is changing the world is both the biggest moral and ethical issue of our time,” says Hozie. “I think my songwriting has always been kind of about how people are programmed in the bigger philosophical sense, so the metaphor stands quite nicely with technology… you can see it changing the way people think, changing the way people interact with the world, and it's just ubiquitous.
“One of our goals I think is just to deprogramme things,” continues Hozie. “Hopefully, certain things we say or certain gestures we make screw up the algorithm a little bit.” Jack In Titanic is, unsurprisingly, the band’s taking apart of the character of Jack Dawson from the 1997 film Titanic, featuring some Venus In Furs-esque slide guitar. 'And no one is as open but still firm in beliefs quite like me / Except Jack in Titanic / And I’ll tell you that no one shows devotion when they’re down on their knees quite like me / Except maybe Jack in Titanic,' sings Hozie, breaking down what he describes as “learned male behavior from the movies and LPs.”
Recorded and produced by Austin Brown of Parquet Courts on the same Tascam 388 8-track tape his band recorded their second album Light Up Gold on – “one of my favourite recent rock records,” says Hozie – it was also mixed and mastered by the same person as that album, frequent Parquet Courts collaborator Jonathan Schenke. “It wasn't us trying to sound like that record, it was just kind of having a spiritual, physical connection with that record, having the tapes go through literally the same gears,” says Hozie.
Outside of the band, Hozie and Belfiglio also have their own film production company, Pretorius Pictures, where they’ve each released their own short films – some of which feature other members of BODEGA – and Belfiglio has directed several of the band’s music videos. “It's just something that I feel is a moral imperative that I do... to be shown, I think it has to be through your own voice and your own vision,” says Belfiglio. “We have tried to use other directors and things before but no one quite understands the exact way of what we're trying to do, so having a hands-on approach is very much a BODEGA aesthetic.”
The band’s interest in technology naturally extends to their music videos too. The video for lead single How Did This Happen? was filmed using VR technology, simulating a show at Brooklyn venue ALPHAVILLE. When viewing the video, you're able to watch the performance from the band’s perspective as well as the crowd’s, dragging the screen round to whichever angle you wish to witness it from. “Documentary's a big theme on our record, about us wanting to just show the concrete details of our life, and we were spending probably three or four nights a week at ALPHAVILLE... so we thought we should just literally document it,” says Hozie.
“We wanted to kind of show in a jokey matter how non-exciting rock shows are… We're just pointing out the difference between the mythology and what a rock show actually looks like,” he continues. Belfiglio adds: “Most people don't even realise it's an actual conceptualised music video. They really think it's just a show we played in Brooklyn that we taped.” The video allows you to see the audience how a band sees them from the stage, showing all the different kinds of people that go to gigs: those on their phones, those standing with their arms crossed, those chatting to their friends and so on.
“That's the role music is taking more and more… That's what streaming services do – it's music to put on while you study, music to put on while you have sex, music to put on while you're trying to sleep; music is more and more just becoming utilitarian,” says Hozie. “It's actually something that we actively try to cut against,” adds Belfiglio. “We have these light boxes that we put in front of the stage and project out to the audience, so we put them on the same stage as we are [and] they feel just as exposed in some senses.”
Looking outward as well as inward, on Endless Scroll BODEGA details modern life in an acute and very funny fashion, ultimately fulfilling their mantra: 'the best critique is self-critique.' They openly welcome questions and comments from their fanbase, so much in fact that they even have suggestion boxes at their shows, where you can ask them questions or give the band feedback, and they encourage fans to get in touch with them on their online platforms.
“One thing that me and Nikki talked about when we were first starting this band was we wanted to make songs that were critical of ourselves,” says Hozie. “We want to take that same critical lens and apply it to ourselves but I would like to extend that to our hypothetical audience as well... we're not making music just to please ourselves; that's half of it, but the other half is we do want to have a communication with people.”