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Solitary Man 

He’s done the rock thing, but now A.A. Bondy is trying to make music that makes him happy

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A.A. Bondy is a little iffy on this new record. “I don’t know exactly how I feel about that record,” Bondy says over the phone about his second album, When the Devil’s Loose. “I kind of like what we do live with all of [the songs] now better than the way they were recorded. But I think a lot of people feel that way about their stuff. It’s backwards.”

Bondy, a solo artist from Birmingham, Alabama, who made his name in the ‘90s fronting the now-defunct band Verbena, is quick to say he doesn’t think the music he’s making as a solo artist is rewriting any definitions of music. He admits that this is new to him, that he’s got work to do before he’ll feel original.

“I still think that both of [my] records take a lot of cues from things that already exist,” Bondy says. “I think my voice might be probably the only thing about it that might be distinct.”

“There’s no departure from understood form on either of those records — that’s the thing that kind of bothers me about them,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to undo years of what your hands know and your ear likes. I think some people can find that place right out of the gate. Then others have to go through a lot of trimming.”

Bondy’s solo sound — on When the Devil’s Loose and on his debut, American Hearts — represents a major stylistic reinvention compared to the music that first put Bondy in the public eye.

As front man and founder of Verbena, a gritty rock band often compared to Nirvana, Bondy’s focus was completely different. That band put out three records, (including their 1999 release, Into the Pink, produced by Dave Grohl). They were backed by Capitol Records. But their big breakthrough never came.

Today, Bondy looks back on Verbena as if it came from another life.

“The majority of what I did then I don’t understand now really, or why I was satisfied by it or who I was really at that time,” Bondy says, noting that he had to do considerable work developing new ways of writing and playing guitar before he felt ready to record as a solo artist.

And being a priority band on a major label soured him on the big-business side of music. “There was so much pressure on making it when we were in that band,” Bondy says. “I don’t know, I would never even consider hardly even talking to anybody [these days] who works for a major label, let alone being on one, because they kill bands. They’re not about art.”

But as a solo artist, Bondy has worked hard to rediscover the joy he originally felt making music.

“I like it this way,” he says.

A.A. Bondy plays with Karli Fairbanks at the Blvd on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8. All-ages. Call 455-7826.

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