My first contact with WOOF., Kelan Bonislawski, was to let him know I'd selected his song 'My Device' as the Song of the Day and needed a bit of information about him to complete the story. Standard stuff, press kit or whatever you want to call it, just needed it to build up the post. The reply I got was "I'm just a dude making music out of my living room, don't really know what I'm doing." And that was a fair response, but I found it hard to believe because the music was just a bit too good for a clueless amateur living in a vacuum. The more I talked to Kelan, the more I believed him. He was really good at making music and writing about the things he knew about, but wasn't really ready for the extra work and attention that sometimes comes along with such artistic endeavors.
A few months later, that intense focus on the music resulted in a record deal with Indiana based record label, Tree Machine Records, and he now has a press kit. He's planning to release an EP of previously released songs very soon, and is already in work on a full length album with an anticipated late 2015 release date. I spoke to Kelan a few days ago, and found him to be entirely engaging, quick witted and honest. Here's what we talked about.
Q: How/when did WOOF start?
A: The idea of WOOF started I think a little over a year ago. I was recording a lot, uploading some songs to Soundcloud, and needed a username, which was just Kelan Bonislawski at the time, and that isn't very catchy and hard to spell.
Q: How long have you been recording?
A: I had a little Yamaha digital recording workstation as a gift from my dad midway through High School, so around 2005 I think. Just playing around with it trying to figure out how a song works.
Q: Are any of the current songs you've uploaded, songs from those early days?
A: A couple were. But I've found that I can't tolerate most of the stuff I've made longer 6 months ago.
Q: You've been prolific in 6 months, and it all seems polished and done well, not sounding like it was done in your living room. How long does it take to get a song ready to upload, idea to finished product?
A: I have a daughter, and get home from work in the evening, so I don't spend much time recording, my daughter is obviously my main focus. So on the weekends, I try to get a few hours in and I'm always wanting to get a lot done fast since there's such a big gap in between sessions. So usually about 2 weekends to start and finish an idea.
Q: Obviously all those years tinkering has perfected the process. Before Soundcloud, did you share any of your work?
A: I used to have a bunch of Myspaces when Myspace was new and "cool". But I've really tried to find them all and delete them forever because they are hilariously bad. I think there's still one floating around out there...
Q: 'My Device' was the song I heard first, and a perfect social commentary about our love/hate affair with our devices. What can we do to break from our devices?
A: Oh boy, I'm not the one to ask. I'm the most addicted of all. But whenever I become aware of that, I realize that most of the time spent on my devices, is not time doing anything real or productive at all. It's just kind of like filler for the few moments you have to wait in a line or wait in an elevator with someone. I guess real life is not stimulating us as strongly as a screen.
Q: It also seems like an extension of 'I'm a Recluse'. Are we becoming reclusive because our devices push us that way?
A: That's very possible. We're more connected than we've ever been but that's at the expense of actual human contact. Like how we're talking over this chat right now. It's awesome that we can instantly communicate with each other from hundreds of miles away, without even speaking, barely having to move. But there's still that small thing missing.
Aimless Skylarking: I'm not giving my devices up, but when I traveled to the UK, it was refreshing to not have it.
WOOF: I bet. I'm working on another song kind right now kind of about that. I've been really into the tiny house movement and the idea of getting rid of as much of life's "fillers" as possible and living on bare essentials and a few favorite toys like TV and my music stuff of course.
Q: How did your association with Tree Machine Records come about?
A: Zack Anselm, the mastermind of Tree Machine, heard my song "I Got Away" somewhere, and emailed me, telling me about what the song meant to him that day, which was cool. He invited me to put some songs out with them. I checked out the bands on the label, which a lot seemed to have this cool early indie/ lo-fi pop vibe going on, which is what I was going for, so it was a good fit. There's a lot of other good stuff on the label outside of that genre though. Zack's been insanely helpful with me, and just a good dude.
Q: Are you doing an EP or LP? Any info about the release? New material?
A: We're releasing a self titled EP on February 10th, from 9 selected songs that have been floating around the internet. We want to get it out there to a bigger audience on iTunes and Spotify and all those digital stores, hoping to get people a little more familiar with WOOF. So now I'm working on a full length LP to be finished later this year, hopefully around spring. It's going to be a challenge to keep these songs to myself and not blow it by putting them on Soundcloud.
Aimless Skylarking: Great news! You can always tease with 20 second clips.
WOOF: 20 second clips don't piss you off? They make me furious and feeling so unfulfilled.
Aimless Skylarking: Sure they piss me off, however, you could write a song about it.
Q: Have you had a pinch yourself moment yet? Your name and music is being heard by some far off blogs, with favorable things to say.
A: At first when I noticed people were into the music, I was kind of an asshole about it. But not intentionally. I just thought, maybe they just have really low standards for music and that's why they like my music. But after talking to a lot of them, they're usually a lot smarter than me, and cool nice people. I was pretty psyched when BIRP featured one of my songs in their monthly playlist because they've been informing my music taste for a while now. But I'm always excited when anyone shows any interest in it at all. And usually a bit like I have to apologize for the things I don't like about my music, which is a buzzkill and ridiculous and annoying for people.
Q: I remember when I featured 'My Device', you were excited about being on Hype Machine. And I've not noticed any assholish responses.
A: Yes, Hype Machine too! I've been using Hype Machine since High School, so that was neat. I keep the asshole thoughts to myself, I rarely feel it's anyone's fault but my own. I think everyone kind of has an asshole guy in their head that could fuck things up at any moment if they're not kept in check.
Q: Is WOOF the asshole guy in your head?
A: (Laughs) No, WOOF is where that guy gets forgotten about. Or maybe that's because you're right and the asshole is in full control, uh oh. Looks like I've got some things to figure out. (Laughs)
Q: One last question, have you thought about a live show?
A: Thought about it. I've seen really cool shows on YouTube with one person covering a lot of sounds with loop pedals and sometimes drum machines. Like Tune-Yards (sorry I didn't do the crazy capitalizations) and she really pulls it off well. I'll either have to learn how to do that, which is possible and very time consuming, or find people to play with, which is also possible and very time consuming. But I'm not putting any pressure on myself of worrying about doing any of this the way it's expected to be done. I'm totally comfortable recording albums for now, figuring out the craft, and seeing where it goes from there. Playing live would be a whole new type of thrill.
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