BrokenFieldRunner‘s Tony Bucci has always woven pop sensibilities into his songwriting. It’s present on 2017 EP Heavy Hanging Fruit, intertwined with the midwestern emo melodies and heart-breaking narrative, and propels the wavering indie rock on 2019’s Lay My Head Down. Bucci applies that same pop sensibility to a different sound on BROKEN, the first in a series of three EPs showcasing his broad musical style. Working closely with Jo-Jo Rose (who has played bass in BrokenFieldRunner performs solo as Nxnes), Bucci combines electronic beats with politically-minded lyrics and shimmering guitars to create a darker pop aura on the stuttering “MOUTHS” and the kicky “511s/501s”—and even a swooning KD Lang cover (called “CNSTNT CRVNG” on the EP). The result feels industrial, shadowy, and undeniably haunting.
We get to sit with him to talk about the single, video and what else is next in stores!
Hi Tony, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m hanging in there. California is almost completely in lock-down right now so I’m holed up in my apartment in L.A. with my wife, a dozen bottles of wine, and my cats. I hope everyone over at VENTS is safe and sound.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Mouths”?
In the Spring of 2016 I went to an LCD Soundsystem inspired event called “Dance Yrself Clean” at a venue called the Satellite when my now wife and I were still trying to figure out whether or not we were going to move to Los Angeles. I perhaps enjoyed myself a bit too much and got separated from my friends in a city I was only visiting at that point. I don’t remember much of how I got back to where we were staying, but I vividly remember Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” coming on at the peak of my inebriation. The feeling of panic, loneliness, and isolation I felt stumbling around the bar looking for my friends to that soundtrack left an imprint. Years later when Nxnes and I were in the thick of working on this EP and I was at the home studio of Emily Howard and Tommy Meehan (The Manx/Uncle Grandpa/Sweatband Records) in North Hollywood working on this song, I wanted to channel the energy of that song and the feelings of that night.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I typically write in fits and starts. I can go months or even years without writing anything I think is worth listening to only to bang out a complete idea in just a few hours. Sometimes it is a specific event or topic that gets my juices flowing, but in this case it happened as a stream of consciousness. I’m a huge fan of Self Defense Family’s Island Sessions and was turning over the lyrics to “Self-Immolation Family” off of their Scotland 7-inch, specifically: “tune with no balls / tune with no teeth / tune with no bite / tune with no reach.” I found myself with my own “words with soft gums don’t have teeth / words spoken in tongues don’t mean much of anything” and worked in both directions from there. When discussing this song with Emily Goldstein who did the music video, I found myself realizing that the song is about opulence. It’s about purposefully ignoring boundaries, societally or personally, and just taking and taking. Consumption is encouraged on all sides in American society and it truly seems that any real attempt at curbing consumption is met with jeers or outright hostility. I’m a huge lyrics person and I can understand that the average person is not, but it is interesting that this song will be coming out during these horrifying and truly unprecedented times.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
I saw a video for one of the singles from Anthony Savino’s (Half Hearted Hero/Dream Job) new record “Good Job” that had all of this dope archival footage of folks working in factories and standing in breadlines that worked perfectly for his song. I found out that his partner Emily did the video using only footage she found from digging through a ton of fair use digital archives. My only direction to her was to somehow show a dichotomy between different styles of dancing synced up Tik-Tok style to modern music and the overall messaging of consumer culture that has been pedaled in the United States for generations. She went off and absolutely crushed it in my opinion.
The single comes off your new album BROKEN – what’s the story behind the title?
I had something like 15 finished songs and a ton of demos left over after our last LP LAY MY HEAD DOWN was finished. I thought many of them were worth recording but was unsure of how to organize the material as the styles of music from song to song were so variable and each track may have come from anywhere across a span of like 5 years. Ultimately we decided that we would organize the songs into three separate EPs: the first being “Broken.”
How was the recording and writing process?
Nxnes is my longest running collaborator and writing partner. He’s played on every Broken Field Runner release, is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and is an incredible producer and composer in his own right. Since our first LP when I brought the bare bones of songs to the studio and he wrote accompaniment on the spot, he’s pitched the idea of true collaboration: to write together, have him bring songs to the table, or reverse our previous relationship and add my accompaniment to his song ideas. We were initially going to call it “NxRunners” until Knxwledge and Anderson.Pak dropped the NxWorries record a few years ago. We’ve always lived in separate places (Nxnes is currently based in Upstate NY but was living in New Bedford, MA when I lived in the Northeast) so our collaborations have almost always been remotely, through voice memos, dropbox, and text messages. Songs like “eTERNAL moNOLOGUE” were supposedly found on an external hard drive in Nxnes’ mom’s basement and originally intended for beat tapes. Others like “Mouths” were written by me and then made into what they are by Nxnes deft hands.
What role does the Midwest play in your music?
It’s interesting, I wasn’t sure how to answer this question or where it came from when I first saw it because none of the members of Broken Field Runner are from or currently live in the Midwest. That said, this EP would not have been possible without the influence of Detroit music, especially J. Dilla’s production style. Nxnes has long been a proponent of the Dilla style of drum tracking where hits are not always quantized. There were times on this EP where Nxnes wanted the percussion to sound like fingers on sample pads rather than samples laid on a grid, if that makes sense. There is a direct line from this style of production to J. Dilla and the “dance” music that came out of Detroit as early as the late 1970s. Other than that, I’ve already jokingly referred to this EP as my “Digital Ash” so I guess there is some Midwest influence there.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I could talk your ear off about what influenced every single line. On this record alone, lyrical influence is drawn from everything from Radiohead to Ramshackle Glory to K.D. Lang and beyond. One of the songs is a response to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland a few years back and another was written accidentally when I was trying to learn a track from one of Matt Skiba’s solo records. Interview me again on just the lyrical content on our records and I’d be happy to deep dive.
Any plans to hit the road?
We had several weeks’ worth of Westcoast/Southwest shows lined up for early April that were cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak worldwide. There was also some talk of doing some shows in Guadalajara, Mexico that don’t seem possible right now either. We will do all we can to rebook the places we were planning to hit, but with no definitive end in sight and the safety of band and showgoer in mind, there are no plans at present to play out anytime soon. Those who are interested should keep an eye on our social media for updates regardless.
What else is happening next in Broken Field Runner’s world?
I would keep an ear to the ground for the other two EPs that will be released when social distancing allows me access to more studio time. The plan is for all of releases to be out by the end of 2020, but we will see if the universe has other plans.