Finally, I am treating you fine music lovers to a band out of the Mid-West, not bred out of the usual LA, NYC, Vancouver, or Austin scenes. They are a mixture of bluesy, rock, etcetera, a musical melting pot of amazingness. This band is born out of Muncie, Indiana, and they go by the name The Bonesetters.
I found this band via my Facebook feed. This time it was not the name that caught my attention, it was the album artwork. Their debut album ‘Savages’ features a string of rad mutli-colored skull masks that spell out the title (homemade, as you will read in the interview!) of the album. I am borderline obsessed with skulls, and after being sucked in by the killer cover I continued on to listen to ‘Savages’. The first song I pressed play for was the album’s title track, ‘Savages’. It starts off slowly, with sweet harmonies which go on long enough to build some curiosity as to what is coming and then the harmony is joined by some killer guitar riffs and the rhythm section. This is where I started bouncing my head and jamming along with the song. I continued my journey into the album, listening to ‘Bruises’, ‘Mushroom Clouds Aloft’ , ‘You are Shaun Gannon’, ‘Morning Glory’ etc. (I rarely listen to albums in order). Each song is entirely on its own level. The lyrics encompass a vast range of topics, from the complex, like Jesus and souls, to the simple, like bruises or prescription pills. Imagery is really key for me when it comes to a song, and these guys do it so well.
The Bonesetters is made up of Dan Snodgrass, Lead Vocals/Guitar, Ryan Rader, Bass, Sam Schaffer, Lead Guitar/Piano/Trumpet/Vocals, and Cody Davis, Drums. This band masters the balance of more somber, slower melodies combined with the faster, raging melodies within each song, and this continues over the whole album. The vocals, I wish I had a great way to describe them. The Bonesetters do backup vocals like few bands I have heard before, and what I love about the vocals is that you can clearly hear each vocalists’ voice, they are minutely staggered enough to back up the main vocals, but stand alone as well. It has a bit of a haunting effect. It makes the emotions that drive the lyrics stand out even more and comes through your speakers to grab at the heart of you.
Dan was kind enough to take a little time to answer some questions for BBB, so graciously working with some time/type changes, and you can read on to find out about the name, the album artwork, what their tour plans are and why he is such a champ at building wheelbarrows!
When and why did you start playing?
I started playing music when I was 16. Mom and Dad got me a guitar as a Christmas gift from the music store mom worked at for a while. I didn’t play shows until I was 18 with material I wrote.
Before that I “played trombone” in earlier grade school days. I went to a small religious-oriented school, and we’d get together with other small religious-oriented schools to perform recitals twice a year. This meant that I just learned the positions, and whenever we had a recital I’d act like I was playing with the other brass section members. I was really terrible at working up the breath to play the damn thing. If my mother hadn’t had my aunt’s old trombone, then I would have been forced to play clarinet. I’m slightly grateful for that haha.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
When I was a kid my dad would sit us down for record nights during dinner. We listened to both kinds of music, country and western. Grew up with Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, etc. They had that outlaw spirit back in the day that I think has bled a bit into the DIY music scenes.
I still listen to Roger Miller and Willie Nelson from time to time. It’s different mostly from what I listen to now, but not really. I’m still really drawn to strong, quirky songwriters, but definitely more into upbeat jams than tear-in-your-beer tunes. Though, “Dang Me” is, like, my anthem.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
Brian Wilson, Keith Richards, George Harrison, Kevin Barnes, Justin Vernon, Andrew Bird, Annie Clark, pretty much every musician we’ve been able to host or play with or meet and so many more, on and on forever. Seriously, so much talent criss-crossing the United States and elsewhere. We are so blessed by the fates to be in a day and age where music just pops up everywhere. It’s truly an amazing time.
How did you all meet and why the name ‘Bonesetters’?
I started a project named Saint Vlasco a couple years back and needed a backing band for a week’s worth of shows so I named that backing band the Bonesetters. Once that was over I went on to join Bears of Blue River in Muncie, Indiana. While there, I continued writing tunes under the Bonesetters moniker and it stuck. I met Sam Shafer after a show from the earliest formation of Bonesetters. He saw us play at Village Green Records, and really wanted to work with us so he’s been around since 2009 (?). Ryan Rader I had met through our old saw player, Jeremy Bauer, and at the time he was writing poetry at Ball State. He joined in on bass shortly after we met. We’ve had several drummers come and go, but Cody Davis was invited mid-last year to join us through Ryan. We are finally kind of solidified at the moment, but we still have some growing room to fill. There are some exciting possibilities on the horizon with a couple of new members possibly being added.
Did you guys make the masks hanging on the wall for your album artwork?
YES! That was a lot of fun to design and get down. We were working on cover art for the album and I’d had the idea for the masks for quite a while. I built a prototype maybe a couple months before we shot the photo for the record. I remember building those with Ryan and Rebecca Patrick while Sam’s other band at the time, Wooden Boxes, were practicing. We went up and tried a few locations for the installation of it and finally picked the bathroom of our apartment. Manda Rains and Travis Harvey did excellent work on the photos and design for SAVAGES.
Those masks hung there for a lonng, long time. You would be taking a shit and stare at those masks on the wall. Always a good thing to wake up to in the morning. Haha!
Do you get nervous before a show?
Sometimes. I know I mostly get nervous after the show, and am always grateful for a venue that has a green room from the stage I can escape into for a few minutes after. I tend to put a lot of weight into whatever show we play, so it can take a toll. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still something I’m working through.
Any rituals before a show?
Copious amounts of beer, copious amounts. I try to drink water before and during, but sometimes a beer or two definitely take the edge off.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
Generally, we switch up the show depending on the venue. The set list usually includes a majority of tunes from the record. We are peppering in some new tunes here and there, though. The songs generally take on a “we are going to die on stage tonight” kind of break neck speed that’s pretty tight. We’ve been playing these tunes forever now so we know them like soulmates. We move around a lot, haha! I jitter from time to time while singing. Sam always busts his ass to the groove. Ryan’s got rock star poses he takes on bass. Cody dances behind the set. It’s fun fom our standpoint, but then again I rarely get to see our show from a standpoint that wasn’t on stage.
How does your creative process typically work?
Usually when I’m writing I kind of close off from humanity, haha! I find little things that I obsess over and just keep chiseling at them til a song leaks out of the stone. Lately, it’s been tarot cards, lichtenberg figures, the surf riot of 1986, and meth addicts. They have a weird connectivity in my mind that doesn’t happen to a normal person, I think, but they are so clearly connected in my head. One line leads to another. I’m also into sly inside jokes while writing, so I try to have one or two in there for my friends.
Before most of us moved to Indy we’d get together once a week and write and practice. Now we practice when we can. I’ve been recording new demos for a record we might be going into studio for in June. Recording those and sending them off to the members to practice to seems to be the way we’ve been writing lately. It’s a little frustrating at times, but it’ll work out. Sam’s got a few amazing songs we’re throwing into the pot for the next record. So much to be excited for!
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
Recording the record was a huge step. We were on a small Muncie-based label at the time, and were lucky to get it down when we did. They took on too many acts for such a fledgling label, and they ended up folding in the spring of last year. Getting SAVAGES out was a struggle, but we finally got it there with the help of our Kickstarters! 🙂
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Getting the record pressed and paid for. It was a long journey, but we are sooooo grateful to all who donated time and money to help put it out. If that’s the worst of our challenges so far, I’d say we are pretty lucky. I’ve heard so many horror stories about bands and their label or bands and trying to put out their album. Ours doesn’t even scratch the most tame of the dramas that we’ve heard.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
Writing, writing, writing! Currently working on plans to record the next record and do some touring. The rest of the guys haven’t toured before, so we are planning a five day Midwest tour in July to give them their sea legs. We have some submissions into some festivals and we have fingers crossed for those.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
I believe that we blend sounds really well and create dynamic moments for people. I’d like to think that these songs hit someone between the eyes and the heartstrings every once and a while. We definitely have a collaborative spirit I haven’t seen in a lot of bands. All of us come from different musical backgrounds, so the tunes reflect our unique views of where things fit. I think our slogan would be “E Pluribis Unum” in that sense.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
All records would be on vinyl and everyone could only buy music from their local record shop. You could stream it online, put it on your iPod, but you’d have to go to a store and talk to a human being in order to purchase music. Huge fans of the local record shops! 🙂
You guys are from Indiana, what’s the music scene like there?
SOOOOO MUCH TALENT! We have Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, Hotfox., Everything, Now!, Pravada, Sleeping Bag, Calumet Reel, Laura K. Balke, The Kemps, Vacation Club, She Does Is Magic, Husband & Wife, Learner Dancer, Oreo Jones, Marmoset, Christian Taylor & Homeschool, Chandelier Ballroom, Fever Blanket, The Broderick, Rodeo Ruby Love, Cowboy Angels, C.J. Boyd, Crys, Girls of the New South, and on and on and on and on. So much that I can’t remember all of them off the top of my head right now. Really fertile ground here in the Hoosier state. Lightning will strike here, soon! 🙂
One song you never get tired of.
Either “Chain Gang” by Sam Cook or “Let Her Dance” By Bobby Fuller Four. Can’t decide which I like more, but they both put me in a great mood!
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
I haven’t seen many national act shows in my years. I saw Bright Eyes last summer and that was pretty rad. Probably though, These United States with Gentleman Caller at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis a few years back. I was one of three people there, and they had just put out “Crimes”. So cool and I got to meet the drummer from TUS. Seemed really cool!
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
I’m a huge nerd. I read comics of all kinds (Read Asterios Polyp!!!), I watch Star Wars way too much, and have impromptu pizza parties with friends. I’m a librarian assistant by day, so I’m deeply involved when it comes to words.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Best prank you have ever pulled?
Pranks aren’t my forte. Sam is having me dictate, “I once convinced the Better Business Bureau that the Badass Bands Blog was continuing to send me pomegranate extract and billing me. Upon trying to contact them I never received a reply. After I talked to the BBB I was never billed again.” Not sure exactly what that means. He’s laughing like it’s a jolly good prank. He says it’s a true story not involving Badass Bands Blog, but changed to fit the interview. Hahaha!
My guitar, my amp, and my bed. Everything else can be torched. I live simply.
What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?
I was raised on a farm, so I worked there haha! I’ve worked in a library system for a total of seven years. In between library stints, I worked at a rad Mom and Pop hardware store. I got really good at building wheel burrows.
If you only have 5 minutes on Earth to play one song that would have an impact on society forever, what would it be?
“Search and Destroy” by the Stooges. ‘Nuff said!
FIND THE BONESETTERS HERE: