Redefining Bombastic: A Conversation with Bonnie McKee
Bonnie McKee did not name the title track of her EP, Bombastic, by chance. She's a smart woman whose experience in the music industry have taught her how to get exactly what she wants. The tongue-in-cheek song paired with an underscored, campy music video has redefined bombastic to mean a force to be reckoned with. We got to chat with Bonnie about her EP, personal growth, and Pinterest...
Is the rock n' roll sound that you're bringing in Bombastic a sneak peek of the direction that you're taking with your music now?
I feel like my music has always had a little bit more teeth - whether it's lyrically or sonically. Bombastic is definitely the hardest sounding song I've done. I was at a party and I was watching people listen to music and observing what they react to. I learned that music from Beastie Boys and Heart were getting people the most excited. I wanted to inject some teenage rebellion and rock n' roll in the the sound of Bombastic.
How did the 80's fitness theme for the music come about?
When I wrote the song, people told me that it pumped them up, making them want to work out. Originally, I felt like it was kind of "cheerleadery". In my head it was being played at high school football games, so I knew I wanted an athletic video. The song has an 80's hair metal feel to it - naturally I went towards an aerobics theme. But I had to do it with a twist, so I thought I'd shoot some lasers out of my tits.
When in doubt - shoot lasers out of my tits. I'll keep that in my back pocket.
Exactly. You never know when you'll need it.
You've found a way to put "fuck" into pop songs. When artists put that word in a song, it can sound offensive, but with you - it works.
It's a celebratory word!
In another song on your EP, Wasted Youth, the lyrics seem to flirt with wanting to stay young and appreciating the party lifestyle and #yolo mentality. What that your intention?
Definitely. I wanted to convey the freedom that comes along with youth. I feel like when we get older, our lives are planned out and scheduled. I like the idea of free falling in your youth with your whole future ahead of you.
In a previous interview, you've mentioned that you identify with the David Bowie quote, "albums are never finished, they're just abandoned". When you hear songs on the radio that you've written for other artists, do you wish you could go back and tweak them?
All the time. The more that I hear them, the more that I realize the songs are what they're supposed to be. There's always times when I wish I had done something different or I wished I could have spent a little more time on a certain part. I'm definitely going through that right now with some of the video process. I keep saying "It's not finished! Let's shoot more!" and my directors jokingly tell me to go fuck myself. It's just that I have a vision and want to get it right.
Which video are you working on?
Wasted Youth - I'm super excited about it. We shot it awhile ago, but I think I want to go back and shoot some more because it's a nonsensical curation of different beautiful suburban images with a twist. I just feel like we could always have more.
It seems like you're always adding a twist to something.
I think it's important because everything's already been done.
Something that is inspiring about you is how vulnerable you are. You openly discuss your past issues with substance abuse, being a teenage runaway, and how hard the music industry is.
Thank you! When I was really struggling, it would have been nice to know that there was somebody else out there that went through the same thing and came out on top. Sia is a big inspiration to me in that way. She's older than I am. I always felt like I was so old and my time had passed. Sia a great example of someone who didn't give up and her talent prevailed.
How has your vulnerability helped you grow as an artist, and even as a person?
There are times in my career where I play it off that everything is great and I'm killing it - and I have, I appreciate my success - but I'm not where I want to be yet. I haven't achieved everything I want to achieve. I've found that the times in my life when I've tried to talk big and fake it until I make it, I just feel like I'm full of shit and disingenuous. It's worse for me psychologically to be something that I'm not. It's easier to just speak the truth, talk about struggle, and how hard it really it. People respond better to that.
It sounds like authenticity is one of your core values.
Definitely. I have people tell me not to overshare, sell myself short, and that I need to protect my brand. Well, my brand is me and I think being an underdog has been a big part of my story. I might as well embrace it.
It's clear that music is a big part of who you are - what's a hobby of yours that has nothing to do with music?
I love crafting! I make costumes, I love to sew and "MacGuyver" things. I have a whole room that is dedicated to costumes and crafting. I'm a craft nerd and I'm not ashamed.
Are you a Pinterest nerd, too?
I am. I love Pinterest and Tumblr. I'm visually stimulated and the more I get into those websites, the more I find them really inspiring to me and my music. I like the ability to curate my dream home and build my own little world. I find a lot of stories and song titles in there, too.
You've mentioned before that song titles are everywhere.
They are - if you're looking for them. I keep a book of song titles with me and I spin a story around a song title.
Check out Bonnie's video for Bombastic: