New beginnings are difficult. Especially after a decade-long release break as in the case of the Berlin collective Bodi Bill. Eight years of back and forth without a release have passed since the original band members Fabian Fenk, Anton Feist and Alex Stolze decided to make music together again. Over the course of this period, the three pursued their own projects, such as the band The/Das, and were unable to find the time for making music together as a trio.
“Every few years something changed. Sometimes one felt like it, then the other, and suddenly other things were more important in life again. In 2017, Anton had the idea to make music together again as Bodi Bill. But it took another two years until the rest of us were ready to say: OK, let’s do it,” Fabian Fenk tells me in our Zoom interview. The result is three songs together, which were recorded and released without pressure in 2019. However, further releases were quickly put on hold.
“We gave ourselves two months to think about what to do next. Then we came to the conclusion to stop again for the time being. But the exchange was still there because we share a circle of friends who make music together all the time.”
The Only Constant Is Change
In 2020 things changed again. The pandemic unraveled routines and lives and Fabian became a father for the first time. This did not make the attempt to get back into the studio together any easier. You couldn’t just meet in a rehearsal room and record like before. So, the new Bodi Bill album I Love You I Do has a different origin story than the band’s previous records.
“During the pandemic everybody had their core of people. The new record I Love You I Do was made in a time when Tom, who was new in the system, was my closest partner and music friend. He was one of the few people I still met, even during the hard lockdown. Those experiences weld people together. We worked on songs together and thought we would like to do that live too.”
Under these circumstances, and the fact that in the meantime Alex and Anton decided to skip the next Bodi Bill tour, the band’s approach to making music changed. What used to be three friends jamming together in the rehearsal room, evolved to a more collective thought. Thus, on the new album I Love You I Do, there are songs that Alex and Anton co-wrote but also songs that they were not involved in at all – a possibility that was not considered 10 years ago. The band turned into a collective. This new approach led to Fabian to take on the role of the core member of the new Bodi Bill. He holds the project together and is the driving force behind the new release they just started touring in Germany.
From a Band to a Collective
“10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Bodi Bill to take a drummer on tour. But the purist approach of 2007 has given way to a community approach. I have to wear the hat, but it’s an open project. With the original core, Alex and Anton, it looks like we’ll see how the tour goes without them and then we’ll talk again and see if they don’t want to join us live again. If people want to see the original line-up now, that might be a bit frustrating. But since it’s still Bodi Bill – at least in the musical sense.”
Originally, the plan was even to let off steam as a “big band” and go on tour, Fabian tells me during the interview. For the first time in Bodi Bill‘s long career, a drum kit was used. This new addition to the instrumental palette had major influence on the sound of I Love You I Do.
“In the past, we recorded a crackle somewhere in the meadow and sampled it. Now there are the drums, which follow a different logic than electronic beats. I had been thinking about what the creative limit of Bodi Bill are. That’s how we came up with Big Gong Sounds, almost half a rock song. But we also dropped some tracks because they went too far beyond the Bodi Bill sound. They were too indie or too electronic, for example.”
A Record Like A Mixtape
The 13 songs on I Love You I Do are not a homogeneous album but rather an arrangement of different tracks that work on their own, like a playlist or mixtape. This is partly due to the fact that Fabian had been working on the record for over 2 years. “There are songs that have their own sound and language, then the more stressful ones with drums, but also smoother ones with electronic beats, which were created just before the pandemic. Then there are the songs that were made when the baby was crying and I was sitting in the kitchen with headphones on my ears.”
“The lyrics always start with thoughts. They used to come from standing in front of a bar with friends, talking or drinking a beer at a power box. This time it was different. The last song on the album was written during the time when the baby was always screaming. You deal with a certain level of stress and then generalize that in a song and suggest that it could be other people who have that happen to them. I would never say: “woah that’s totally the baby song now”, it’s just inspired by that.”
A Tendency Towards Irony
A trademark of Bodi Bill has always been a certain tendency towards irony and self-irony. Their own portrayal and that of their albums was usually done with a wink – as is the case with the new record I Love You I Do. For example, the cover of the album features corals decorated with wiggly eyes. The cover was inspired by corals that Fabian once saw on a holiday in Bali and that have been buzzing around in his head ever since.
“All the corals there were white. That was many years ago and even then, the coral die-off was super real. The way we treat our environment is so frustrating. Instead of pointing fingers to raise attention to the issue, I wanted to use childish humor. The earth in the middle of the shell is the pearl that is being eaten. But that wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to add something wacky. So I added the googly eyes to the corals, which are a reference to the Saturday Night Live sketch with Christopher Walker, where he sticks googly eyes on all the plants. The cover is funny and cheerful, but also thought-provoking.”
Keeping It Light
The music videos, which were shot for the current singles of the new album, follow the same spirit – serious topics are targeted but in playful ways. Fabian and Tom themselves star in the videos wearing strange disguises that make you wonder what is going on.
“Tom and I sat down together and thought up a lot of crazy nonsense. The idea for Be Sure came to us when there was heavy snow in Berlin for a few days in winter. We developed dystopian sci-fi ideas: it’s about storing your brain and loading data into another body. The video is a bit trashy, because we are no film makers and it’s just supposed to be fun. So, we dressed up as if we were homeless and fought with each other in order to be reborn. We were so inspired by the shoot that we wanted to keep doing it that way. In our series of three videos in disguise, I think the first one was successful and the other two a bit too squeaky. In the latest video, we wanted to show ourselves the way we really are: in other words, show how dorky we really are instead of trying to look cool.”
Vulnerability Instead of Perfection
Bodi Bill value the authentic appearance of the nice guy next door. Even when the band name was chosen, it was clear that they didn’t want to be an uber-cool band – Bodi Bill stands for clumsy fellow. “I’m annoyed by excessive perfection in the performance of many artists. This unattainable representation of pop stars who supposedly do everything themselves but everyone knows that 20 people are behind it. I think vulnerability is something beautiful, and that was also the ulterior motive behind the self-made videos. I just hope it’s entertaining, you can relax and it puts a smile on your face.”
I Love You I Do by Bodi Bill is out via Sinnbus.