Words by Tommy Johnson
Throughout the nearly twenty years since the band’s inception, the music that AJJ have created has always found its way to the irreverent, optimistic pessimists of the world. This is mostly due to their natural demonstration of showing apocalyptic despair and providing the necessary levity that we all often need.
AJJ’s eighth album – and debut under the Hopeless Record family tree – Disposable Everything was in many ways a refresher for the band. For starters AJJ went into the recording process as a full five-piece. Under the helm of David Jerkovich’s production skills, the band had the goal to have fun, freely exchange ideas, and simply just be together. The result is a collection of songs that fully encompass AJJ’s range while also defying expectations.
Off Shelf: A lot of the songs offer up themes centering on apocalyptic matters. Is this done as a mostly tongue in cheek to help convey your message?
Sean Bonnette: Yeah, you could say it’s drama, exaggeration, histrionic. More and more, however, it feels literal.
OS: Good Luck Everyone dropped right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. How difficult was it for the band to not be able to go out and fully endorse it as you would have in the past?
SB: The pandemic of 2020 was a completely life changing event for most of us. How difficult was it not playing shows? I honestly have no idea how to answer that question, it was such a big thing for our existence.
OS: During the duration of the pandemic, there were artists and bands doing special events online that allow old and new fans to connect to you. What did that period of time allow you to explore within yourselves and the band itself?
SB: I learned a lot of covers and played live a lot on Instagram and Youtube. I played mostly alone during that time which got old, but I still enjoyed it. I became conscious of just how much I get off on performing. There are archives of all of the livestreams on our Youtube channel, if you’re interested. As a band during that time we started a Patreon and put up covers, demos, live shows, streams of all of our recorded output. Thanks patrons!
OS: Disposable Everything was inspired by personal grief and about what happens when you reach the other side. When did it feel like the outline of the lyrics began to manifest?
SB: Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out what the album is entirely about. I think, in a way, it’s always a postmortem because mystery is what drives art. To loosely paraphrase my homegirl Sister Wendy, art shouldn’t give you the answers, it should ask you the questions.
OS: Losing a parent is without a doubt one of the most painful experiences. Are there any memories you can share that you will cherish going forward?
SB: I think that level of vulnerability is reserved for the music, thank you very much.
OS: Disposable Everything was recorded in several studios for most of the beginning of last year. What was the driving force to bounce from spot to spot?
SB: What’s that classic producer’s saying? Oh yeah, the best studio is the closest studio.
OS: The new album also features the whole ensemble being together during the recording process. Where would say this experience was like rather than previous efforts?
SB: It was a welcome change from Good Luck Everybody and the early part of the pandemic since all that stuff was recorded more remotely. It made for a really exciting session, getting to play together in the same room again. It was a beautiful and cathartic experience.
OS: It’s been a little twenty years since AJJ was formed. Since that time there’s been a rabid loyalty to emerge. Do you often allow yourselves to stop and think about how far you’ve come?
SB: I would say not often, but sometimes.
OS: Thinking of that fandom, what were some of the artists/bands that spoke to you growing up?
SB: When I was 16 Lou Barlow spoke to me after I cornered him in a bathroom and asked him to sign a dollar bill. When I was 18, Henry Barnes from Amps for Christ wrote back to my fan email.