Nina Ferraro, the songwriter who records as Bonzie, had been working since 2018 on her third album, “Reincarnation.” It can be the continuation of a completely impartial profession that has constantly yielded richly melodic and mysterious songs. Then Covid-19 hit, and, like everybody else, she needed to change her plans. She moved from Los Angeles to Chicago, the place she had lived earlier than; she discovered the best way to be her personal recording engineer; she immersed herself in learning Japanese. The centerpiece of her album-in-progress grew to become a music she wrote throughout quarantine: “Alone,” an understated, haunted, not fairly acoustic ballad that she launched in 2020.
As she continued writing and recording, the songs for the album — launched on March 16 — converged right into a narrative arc from separation to reconnection, pondering mortality and tenacity. “Either you want to die or you don’t want to die/Both are so lethal/Me, I’m stuck in the middle of the glorious combat,” she sings, gently and matter-of-factly, in “Lethal.” It’s a music she wrote earlier than the pandemic.
“That’s just the nature of this unstable rock that we’re on,” Bonzie mentioned on a Skype video name from her house in Chicago. “We feel some of these things very strongly right now, but they have always been there. It’s impossible not to be affected by the world situation, but a lot of things are constant for me.”
Bonzie, 25, was carrying a hoodie with a design by one among her favorite songwriters, Daniel Johnston. It confirmed the “Silver Sufferer” (a skull-faced parody of the Marvel superhero Silver Surfer) singing the opening line of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” An electrical bass and an electrical guitar leaned towards the partitions; her Yorkie, Kiraki (“Sunday” in Armenian), hung out in her lap.
Behind her was a big image body holding a small yellow rectangle: a sketch on a Post-it notice made by the prolific Chicago producer Steve Albini, one among Bonzie’s early supporters. It confirmed a bell curve of creativity — a burst of inspiration and work adopted by rapidly diminishing returns.
“I just thought it was funny,” she mentioned. “There are two people in you at all times. One is this endless spirit soul, that’s just creative and will go forever. And then the other one is trying to gently guide that person, to remind you that you’re physical material. The curve represents time spent creatively, and then the X represents where you stop.”
On the brand new album, Bonzie’s music merges the singer-songwriter staples of guitar, piano and finely turned melodies with synthesizers and programmed beats. For many of the album, Bonzie labored with a co-producer, DJ Camper, who has in depth credit in hip-hop and R&B. One music, the trap-tinged “Up to U,” was co-produced by Yeti Beats, higher identified for working with Doja Cat. The album’s title music, “Reincarnation,” envisions a post-pandemic renaissance: “We will change, I swear we’re gonna change,” its refrain insists.
Bonzie was 12 when she started singing her personal songs weekly at a coffeehouse in her hometown, Racine, Wis. She didn’t wish to use her personal title, and finally selected Bonzie as an summary phrase that additionally regarded good graphically in capital letters. Using a stage title “just felt better to be able to say everything I wanted to say,” she mentioned, “and not be worried when I was singing about all of these dark, deep secrets that I wouldn’t tell anybody.”
She moved along with her household to Chicago, the place, as a excessive schooler, she carried out at well-known golf equipment like Schubas Tavern and Beat Kitchen. She self-released a debut EP as Nina Ferraro when she was 15, adopted by her full-length debut album as Bonzie, “Rift Into the Secret of Things” — a phrase from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” — in 2013. She had already begun to mingle folky coffeehouse fundamentals with digital experimentation, and he or she discovered followers among the many metropolis’s indie musicians.
“I was impressed by her drive and her seriousness at a very early age,” Albini mentioned by telephone from his Chicago studio, Electrical Audio. “She was more serious about her decisions and about her aesthetic than a lot of people her age. It was clear that she had listened and thought very deeply about what she was doing. And the thing that made her stand out immediately was just a singular drive — not to get famous, not just to become known, but to express herself in a way that meant something to her.”
Bonzie’s music grew extra elaborate on her second album, “Zone on Nine,” launched in 2017. It roved from easy acoustic strumming to the fragile sonic apparitions and complicated backup vocals of freak-folk to the crunch of hard-rock guitars; her lyrics could possibly be startlingly direct or poetic and elusive. Now, with “Reincarnation,” she has stripped again her music. “I wanted it to be more personal,” she mentioned.
Her curiosity in Japanese tradition — which started with high-school publicity to Pokémon and anime — led her to the aesthetic of wabi-sabi, the concept “artifacts that come from your medium, that you didn’t intend, are what you highlight and you keep,” she mentioned. “You preserve these natural imperfections that are actually beautiful details. It’s accepting the nature of your imperfect humanness. When producing this record, I thought about that a lot. Like, that’s not perfect with my voice, and that’s not like the most shiny, brilliant, beautiful take, but loving that imperfection that we all have.”
She was additionally searching for what she had heard in gospel music. “Some of the best voices in the world are gospel singers,” she mentioned. “And I like the way that it feels like there’s nothing that’s unneeded in gospel production.”
She got here throughout the productions of DJ Camper — who has labored with Brandy, Drake, Jay-Z, Tamar Braxton and H.E.R. — whereas residing in Los Angeles. By coincidence, she discovered his Twitter account on his birthday, which was additionally her older brother’s birthday. She contacted him. “We kind of felt like we’d known each other for a really long time,” she mentioned. “He’s a musician’s musician. We related on that level where we would be producing and we didn’t even talk at all. We would find something and we’d just, like, look at each other for a second. And then that would mean like, yeah.”
“Reincarnation” begins with “Caves,” which has psychedelia-tinged electrical guitars and lyrics that could possibly be about obsessive love or habit. “I’ve been waiting my whole life/To feel this good for just one night,” Bonzie sings.
She mentioned, “You have to start off in a place of letting go of stuff, and then you can explore other things.”
In “Slated,” she sings a few lonely oblivion, intoning, “I hope that you will find me,” as digital tones ripple round her; in “Eternity,” she fingerpicks quietly and repeats, “I wish that you could stay, but these things fade,” as harp, orchestral strings and electronics materialize and vanish round her lustrous voice. But she ends the album with a hymnlike affirmation: “Come to Me.” Floating on synthesizers and organ chords, she sings, “Hold you up/No fear/We are free.”
She mentioned, “I feel like so much has changed so fast, and we’re still adapting to the pandemic. We’re still in a shock period. Once we get out of it, I think it’s inevitably going to birth a new type of life. I think that there could be a lot of positive things that come on the other side of this era of humanity.”
Like Bonzie’s different songs, “Come to Me” isn’t merely topical, conceptual or autobiographical. “A lot of things go into the pot,” she mentioned. “And then there’s some alchemy, and then the song comes out.”