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20 Questions With Bonzai

The reggae-rockers on drunken drummers, duct tape wallets, Deadpool & more.

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Photo by Jase Harshman.

Every party has to start somewhere. And for the men of Tennessee reggae-rock outfit Bonzai, it starts with One Margarita, their latest single and video — which just happened to premiere exclusively right HERE recently. A sweet party anthem destined to leave you inebriated, One Margarita is a slow-burn earworm of crests and curves that combine with one purpose: To toast, cajole and replenish your soul. That’s the mission that BonzaiChris ‘Keela’ Case (MC, vocals), Landy ‘Taco’ Moore (vocals, guitar), Madison Bryson (drums) and Taylor Whitney (bass, keys) — have been pursuing since coming together in 2019. Today, vocalists Keela and Taco put down the tequila to take a run at my pointless questions. Looks like the party’s over:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
Keela: Chris ‘Keela’ Case from Jackson, TN. Aquarius.
Taco: Landy ‘Taco’ Moore from Jackson, TN. Pisces

What is your musical origin story?
Keela: Man, obviously loved music all of my life, then when I hit pre-teens I realized I had a knack for free styling. Started my career as a wannabe gangster rapper, but my love for wanting to be surrounded by better energy steered me to keep my raps real, but veer away from the negative sides of things when I could. That shift pretty much happened after I heard Sublime and that feeling of just the vibrational tonality of it all changed my musical taste almost instantly. The same time Taco was doing his acoustic funny thing and becoming crazy popular with all the high school and college kids in the area, and us already being best friends, our yin-and-yang vibe just gelled nicely at impromptu sessions at parties and whatnots. We really didn’t think about this as needing to put a band together, but the demand for a band fell upon our shoulders, so we did just that and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your latest project?
Keela: Working hard on the new Bonzai album. Been a process as we literally lost a whole album in 2020 (a studio server fried, such a long bummer of a story) and had to literally start from scratch in 2021. But we’re finally about finished with the 2.0 version of this album. Looking at an early 2023 release date.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
Keela: Our take on combining sounds and never limiting ourselves to stay in a box so to speak. Our style vocally and the delivery is a stand out as well for most people. We’re also not scared to go from serious subject matter one minute, to over the top silly the next and all in between.

What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
Keela: There’s lots in the modern reggae-rock genre that I could see us collaborating with, too many rap artists to name as well (one of those might even be on the new album). Other than that, I think it would be sick to compose a song with Mozart or Beethoven on today’s style beat and sound.

How will my life improve by listening to your music?
Keela: Well, if you call having your whole world come to a screeching halt to realize everything up to this point was meaningless and now it’s time to live the best version of yourself that you’ve always wanted with the confidence yet carefreeness of a clydesdale in a turtle race improvement … then, yeah that. Also, fun fact: Listeners to our music have reported having a higher chance of getting lucky on a regular and consistence basis. Again if that improves anything.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
Keela: First song I wrote would have been a rap song in my early teens, but the actual first song I recorded with Taco was when we were 17, on a song he had written and recorded entitled My Girlfriend. I knew right then the merging of styles set the tone for what you hear now.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
Keela: Best — Man, they’re all the best. I have a long list for this one that would take up most of this interview.
Worst — Several years ago, in front of a thousand people, our then-drummer decided to drink a fifth and a half of whiskey before the show. The first two songs went well, but then he started playing a completely different song than us and we had to stop mid-performance. One song later, he fell off his stool, taking the snare with him. It was a total trainwreck. He’s still our boy and we have so much love for him, but yeah, he royally fucked up that night.
Strangest — One year, we actually played under a massive tent at Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos. We ducked and dodged bottles the whole set.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
Keela: Thanks to my dad, the Little River Band is a guilty pleasure that I’ll always turn up the few times a year I randomly hear one of their songs. Insane harmonies. Literally was just jamming to some Lady earlier today.

What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
Keela: My baking skills are on point. I can also design a mad-nice piece of jewelry.
Taco: I can make duct tape wallets better than anyone on this Earth. I’m also pretty lethal with chopsticks.

What do you collect?
Keela: Comic Books. My collection is borderline insane and I would put it up against probably any other musician in my field.

If money was no object, where would you live?
Keela: Either on the beach or in the mountains of east TN, aka God’s country.

Which historical event do you wish you had witnessed?
Keela: Damn, so many. Off top of my head, seeing Jimi Hendrix play the Star Spangled Banner live at the original Woodstock. That or watching the first moon landing in real time. I bet that was wild and hard for people back then to even fathom space travel.

What are your pet peeves?
Keela: People who answer a question with a question.
Taco: Smacking and online complainers

Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Keela: True story: A couple months ago after a show, I had someone come up to the merch booth and say “You’re the guy who plays Deadpool, bro!” I, in no way, am comparing myself to him, but yeah, Ryan Reynolds is my dude. He has that same ho-hum, nothing’s-too-serious attitude that I roll with.
Taco: Brad Pitt and Donnie Yen at the same damn time. Face-melt them together.

What’s your motto?
Keela: “There’s only one way to find out.”
Taco: “Anything can happen.”

What’s always in your refrigerator?
Keela: Almond milk, sauces, leftovers, water and beer.
Taco: Thai food and cold coffee.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Taco: I wouldn’t be so handsome, because nobody is genuine and everybody just tries to laugh at my unfunny jokes and pay for my meals. You know, the burden of handsomeness.

What’s the silliest thing you believed as a child?
Taco: I believed being captured by Bigfoot was preposterous. Silly little Taco.

What was your favourite class in school and why?
Taco: Music appreciation. I took it three times between high school and college and every time changed my life and made me want to be who I am now. Also karate in college too was my shit. In four semesters, it’s the only As I got from these two subjects.

What world record would you like to break?
Taco: I’d like to tour more countries in one year than any band ever, including all of Asia and most of Africa … twice.

Watch Bonzai’s videos above, sample more of their music below, and join the party on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.