Back in the 18th century, the historical figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, the man, the leader, knew that if you want to rule the world, you should do it with style. Today, more than two hundred years later his name is still carried on, not just in the history books, but also by a great band lead by a great man, Tobias Jundt known as Bonaparte.
“Do you want to party with the Bonaparte?”
Bonaparte is a solo band, formed by Jundt in 2006, since then he has conquered the world of art. His music, together with the performances of his companions, was taken to another level. The performances, ruled by the Kaizer release a human circus that brings you closer to the feelings of Bonaparte.
There is also a big connection between the band and their belief in hedonism. Some of the lines from the song Too Much:
“You know Tolstoy, I know Playboy (…)
You know politics, I know party chicks (…)”
It is easy to discuss the band’s popularity and success. Over the years they have attracted large audiences without watering down its wild mixture of electro punk, synth pop, rock and hip-hop. Three studio albums have been released: Too much (2008), My Horse Likes You (2010) and Sorry We’re Open (2012), and the fourth one, is eagerly expected on 30th of May this year.
In January 2014, Tobias and Tim Sullivan released a song together. “Me So Selfie”. A song which is emphasizing the fact that the world is now ruled by the new technology, the lovely smart phones every one of you holds in their pocket in this moment.
“duck tape, duck face, I’m so deep in, picture me shitfaced, I’m just sleeping / picture me “click” ah, my arm is in the picture ey / picture me again, now my thumb is in the picture frame”
The song is considered by Huffington Post as “The creepy rock anthem for our self-indulgent time”
One of the growing cultures in the past couple of years is of course the self-portraits we take with these gadgets. A selfie is a picture one has taken of oneself, usually with a smartphone or a webcam, and eventually uploaded to a social media website. The captions which accompany the photos suggest some things they are doing – can be a trend, can be a fad, or fashion. For the present times, the selfie phenomenon describes our modern society perfectly.
It is all really easy. You flip the view on your phone camera, hold it at a high angle, big eyes, smile, put on a sad face or whatever you feel like showing to the world and then press the button to capture. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and other blumber sites will post your photo and voila, you are famous. Why is the whole cult of selfies so popular? Maybe because it celebrates the regular people, and you can have as much attention as your favorite pop artist.
I managed to get in touch with Tobias Jundt and have a short talk about his latest song “Me So Selfie”, but also about the band.
Can you tell us about T.Sullivan?
Tim Fite (Tim Sullivan) is one of my favorite artists at the moment. He is a great rapper, songwriter and an artist. A very creative person with an amazing ethic work. He can do folk music or rap about guns and it would sound equally good. I am looking at three of his paintings on the wall in my room as I type this interview…
We wrote and recorded the song in his bedroom studio in Brooklyn in March 2013… almost a year ago… We just got together and had a laugh… it was great. It was great fun.Then I mixed it with Andy Baldwin in Williamsburg during the mixing session of the new Bonaparte album.
When writing songs you can either write about something that you are dealing with at the moment (love, hate, pain, sickness, etc.) or you can describe the times you live in. Be an observer. Put issues on the table. And the phenomena of selfies is a very unique one. It is one of the things that were definitely not a mass phenomenon. We used to take selfies on our journeys with analog cameras in the 90s because it was fun. But with IPhones, it became the way to show everyone where you are at the moment and what you are doing. And it sort of defies the art of photography as being something with two poles: the photographer and the subject/object. It says a lot about our times.
It is funny and entertaining as well as sad and odd. To be honest, we didn’t even really want to make so much of a statement – the song is not pro or contra, it is just putting the issue in the spotlight in form of a song. One day I had this weird vision that people actually need a third arm in order to still function in their daily life, but at the same time be able to document everything and have a constant eye on their smartphone. The vision was very clear: humans need a third arm! Evolution has to take care of this. So I told Tim about it and he went to the store and when I came back from the studio he got all the parts to build selfie-arms. Bang! I like working with Tim because he is a man of action.
There are people who do not appreciate this song, some say it doesn’t reach the level of your other songs. What would you tell them?
Whatever someone creates is part of a development, a journey. Why should I write the songs that have been there before? Maybe the next album is full of pop songs, and then the next one full of experimental sound-sculptures and the next one instrumental goth-techno. And then one with Mexican folk music. If we don’t experiment, we will never find exciting new things.
Now, when describing the world of selfies, we could have probably done it in a more artistic way. But since the topic refers to people of all social classes who have phones or cameras, and in that sense really is a common concern, we didn’t try to be too artsy-fartsy about it, but rather make it a little silly and middle of the road. It should be fun and the way that the video literally shows what we are rapping about, is exactly the way you should not shoot a video. I love that because it is the feeling of selfie culture. Yeah, a good photo takes a good photographer – but who cares in a DIY world everyone can be anything… so yes, selfies are hardly ever good photos, because not everyone is a photographer who can take a good photo. Not everyone is a composer who can form a garage band on a computer. But everyone could become anything they want – yes. It’s a long journey, and the cool thing about the selfies is, that it is the act of masturbation in photography: “I don’t need you! I don’t need an object and I don’t need a photographer! I can do it myself and then post it myself and look at it myself! Fuck off everyone I am it!”. In “l’etat c’est moi” I talked about being born through your own ass. The selfie is a similar kind of thing. And for all the people who do not appreciate the song: no one has written a song about selfies yet, so that totally already is 99 points for us. Haters got to hate!
Bonaparte as a full thing is not just the music, but also the way you perform, the people who perform together with you, costumes, acts etc. Is the inspiration for that all yours, or is there someone you collaborate with?
It is really just the way we want to do this. It could also just be me and a guitar (which I did a lot in Berlin in 2006 and also last year in NYC). But when being on tour I like to travel with other amazing performers like Clea Cutthroat or Mad Kate and also have family and friends with me. So people might do other things than playing an instrument. And that’s life. Songwriting is the core of everything, but there is also: music, dance, literature, cinema, photography, fashion, community, sex, money, culture, adventure, etc…
It is a mixture of how I write lyrics, my musical influences of songs and jazz and electronic music and chansons, and my voice that sounds like a castrated duck, eating marshmallows while sitting on a missile.
I type this email with my hands! On a computer I have built from wood from my own backyard from trees I have planted! (aka: on a computer made by children in china). Of course I don’t. It is really not possible. But it is important to be aware of how our civilization functions, where the things we surround ourselves with, come from and why things are even possible to function the way they do. And it is true: I just prefer things that are made by hands that I personally know or at least the feeling that there were human hands involved. I prefer homemade food, homemade furniture, homemade music, etc. I want to feel the human being in the objects.
Interview by Vlad Ster