Bonnie Trash – The WL Interview


Purveyors of: Cannibalistic goth-noir fuckpop.
File next to: PJ Harvey, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Feist
Playing: WL 744, Saturday, Nov. 25 @ Bike Pirates. Get tickets here!

Bonnie Trash are Guelph-based twin sisters Sarafina Troy and Emmalia Vash Bortolon-Vettor. Their latest EP Ezzelini’s Dead was inspired by an Italian folk tale about a medieval tyrant who was said to have indulged in cannibalism. Using sounds recorded on location in their ancestral home in Italy, mixed with interviews in Veneto dialect and art-punk, Bonnie Trash have produced a chilling analogy between the literal consumption of human flesh and the modern consumption of each other through mass media. Wavelength’s Danielle Burton caught up with Sara to talk about the album, the Guelph scene and “Fuckpop.”

You and your sister Emma have been writing and recording songs together since you were kids, but you also played together in Toronto psych-rock band The Folk for a few years. Do you prefer working as a duo or as part of a larger group?

It really depends on the type of performance you are trying to achieve. For The Folk, we wanted big, psychedelic excursions that changed with each songwriter’s sound. With Bonnie Trash, it’s just us as the writers and composers. We are able to focus our storytelling into a more intimate and conceptual performance.

I read somewhere that your current EP Ezzelini’s Dead is a project you’ve wanted to do for a long time. How did you first come up with the idea?

The story has always been with us, but the idea definitely came to mind when we had the chance to visit our family in San Zenone degli Ezzelini. Our Nonna has paintings of the Red Church and the Tower of Ezzelino on her walls in her home. Those were the visuals she would use to help describe her stories. When we were able to finally see how close these landmarks were to each other, to the town, and to our family’s houses, the folk tale became reality.

We have always had a fascination with cannibalism and consumption. We share “amputations of ourselves”* for each other to consume and gain a greater understanding of each other. We tell stories through print, videos, texts, social media, television, streaming, and word-of-mouth. Mass media is mass consumption. We feast daily, hourly, every second, scrolling through our feeds, snacking and constantly wanting more. Just as Ezzelino da Romano III consumed peasants to show power, we too have the ability to consume each other for power. After all is digested, we transform.

*This phrasing is from Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s War and Peace in the Global Village: “Every new technological innovation is a literal amputation of ourselves in order that it may be amplified and manipulated for social power and action.” (p. 73)

We know that the EP was inspired by folklore passed down through the Italian community in Guelph. Do you have any other favourite tales that might inspire your next project?

It’s not an Italian tale, but a play we have been fascinated with since high school. It’s called Out at Sea by Slawomir Mrozek. It delves into cannibalism from a satirical and subversive standpoint: three men named Fat, Medium, and Thin, stranded on a raft and debating who would be best to eat.

You’ve been involved in the music scene in both Toronto and Guelph. Tell us a bit about what’s going on in Guelph these days and how does it compare to Toronto?

Guelph definitely has a much smaller music scene and arts community, so we’re able to have a more concentrated support network. We have a handful of promoters and venues and spaces to display arts. All of us try to ensure shows are not running at the same time, on the same day. Guelph hosts a lot of arts events based off of its size. Kazoo!, Place for Bands, The Making Box, Girls Rock Camp Guelph, Guelph Pride, Guelph Film Fest, and Guelph Little Theatre are just a few initiatives continuously keeping Guelph vibrant. It’s a wacky and supportive community of people who want to make things happen and help others make things happen.

Toronto is massive in comparison and has a lot more resources, particularly record labels. Smaller labels like Pleasance, Buzz, Hand-Drawn Dracula, and Daps have shaped a new sound in Toronto. For both cities, and for a lot of cities in Canada, the issue of having the right spaces is a need we all share. The way we conceptualize spaces for performance is changing and will continue to change to fit how we want to see a performance and how we want to perform to an audience.

What exactly is Fuckpop?

We began Fuckpop in 2013. Fuckpop is a distorted version of digestible music. In other words, it’s pop music that isn’t in the Top 40. It’s pop but it’s fucking pop. It’s a big F-You to the pop spectacle. It is also our production company. We organize live music, performance and theatrical art. As well, we use Fuckpop as a place to publish our artistic endeavours.

– interview by Danielle Burton