Bomethius is the solo project of Dallas-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Jonathon Hodges. Bomethius is such a versatile artist whose mixed with various different skills like piano, guitar, and vocals. With Bomethius, he draws from his classical training for a mischievous brand of baroque pop that echoes the sounds of Andrew Bird, Elliott Smith, and Randy Newman. Developing the character of the songwriter’s complicated alter ego, Bomethius doubles as a vehicle for channeling the frank, existential audits of a disenchanted young man plagued by alienation and shame. Bomethius first release “Intimatitudes” showcased the songwriter’s wit and impressive command of his instruments to chronicle the internal turmoil of an earnest youth’s coming of age.
Another spry meditation on selfhood and doubt, his sophomore record As Roses (2018) achieved a tighter, more refined sound through superior songcraft, vocals, and piano and guitar work. Bomethius constantly elevates himself with every record and continues to advance the sound of his music, taking his listener into multiple new dimensions that we can fall more and more in love with Bomethius with. But let’s talk about his 2019 releases! Exploring a range of styles from blues and jazz to minimalism and chamber rock, Sweet Nothings (2019) followed. His strongest and most mature effort to date, Sweet Nothings is Bomethius’ stirring anthem to his own manic strain of indifference — at turns exalted and heartbreaking — tempered by restless obsessions with home, memory, and time. That isn’t the only single from Bomethius that he has completely excelled in this year. Bomethius released the single “Tornados in Dallas” days after twisters tore through his Texas hometown. A sincere folk ballad with a simple, repetitive structure recalling the early recordings of Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, the song celebrates the mystery and power of disasters, which destroy lives even as they bind people together.
Bomethius is an obvious master of his craft when it comes to instrumentation. He takes pride in being a skillful instrumentalist who curates a different story through each of his records. We promise you, you have yet to meet an artist like him before!
Listen to Bomethius here.
Welcome back to BuzzMusic Bomethius, we're happy to have you! What would you say is your favorite highlight of 2019?
Thank you for having me, it’s wonderful to be back! Probably the highlight of 2019 was all of the interest people took in my music. I tend to just assume that people won’t really get what I’m trying to do, I suppose I’m trying to keep my expectations as low as possible. Keeps me from being disappointed when I am rejected, but it also makes it that much more exciting when someone reaches out about or reacts to my work, or wants to interview me or write about an album/single, etc. It was really shocking and exciting to see articles and podcast episodes about my work this year. I really hope that the trend continues.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating your single “Tornados in Dallas”? I’m not sure any of it was challenging. I wrote and recorded “Tornados in Dallas” two days after the tornados came through so it was really just about capturing the emotions and the thoughts behind living through something that scary. I tend to write best when it’s all in the moment. I want the immediacy and urgency of my work to come through in my writing... “this needs to be written right now because I’m feeling it completely,” kind of thing. I live right off of one of the streets that were hit hardest by the storm, and it seems downright miraculous that the apartment complex I live in was ok — a few blocks of surrounding streets were just completely closed for almost two weeks; felled trees, destroyed houses and debris everywhere. I teach music almost full time, and many of my students live near me. One family, I teach for lost their whole house, others had to cancel lessons for a week or two. Many of us were without power for anywhere from a few days to a whole week... Our food went bad, air conditioning was shot, traffic was a disaster, it was just uncomfortable. The only good thing about it all was the fact that no one died, that was all you’d hear people say. During the storm, right after we lost power, I got my guitar out and wrote a piece in the dark while listening to the wind howl outside. It’ll probably appear on a future album, but it didn’t have words and words wouldn’t really suit it. I wanted to write a song (with words) about what I was feeling and what it seemed like we were probably all feeling, as a city — especially as we tried to recover and move forward. I mean, for a few hours it seemed like the world was ending in Dallas, but then we all got up alive the next day, and we had to carry on. A lot of the carrying on meant getting to know your neighbors and making sure people were ok. So it seemed to me that there were at least two good things to come of it all: we’re all still alive, and we know each other a little bit better. The storm seemed like a reminder to not take things for granted, so I tried to write something uplifting.
How would you describe the arrangement you sought after with your album, Sweet Nothings?
Sweet Nothings was the culmination of all of my work throughout college, and it was also written during the first year of my life as a real adult. I was on my own financially, I bought a car, I was paying rent, bills, I was fighting the administration at my school, I was entering the second year of a serious romantic relationship… I was really living life.
I met quite a few important people the summer before I wrote Sweet Nothings because I was playing in an orchestra in Upstate, New York. Andrew Binder (a great jazz artist/composer) introduced me to quite a few artists that influenced the sound of Sweet Nothings, notably Andy Shauf — The Bearer of Bad News is a fantastic record. Patrick Lenz (an incredible composer) showed me some cool theory tricks that I was able to implement in a few songs, and even notated all of “Empty Promises,” the opening track on my first record, Intimatitudes. I’ve never written down a single note of my music (mostly because I’m lazy and I don’t have any patience for composition software), even my a cappella tracks are all improvised by ear, so it was bizarre and interesting to look at my music on a page. He helped me think more critically about my approach to harmony, intonation, and the structures/forms of my songs. I also met Ricky Roshell (an incredible musician), who ended up giving the (bass) clarinet performances on the record itself. Due to some shenanigans in my final semester of college, I was able to take lessons with Kevin Hanlon, the chair of the composition department at SMU. We ended up having some of the greatest conversations of my collegiate career. I took almost all of my songs to him for feedback, and then I’d bring the recordings to him. We would talk about whatever we were thinking about that week, strengths and weaknesses in our writing, the historical contexts for genres, personal anecdotes, mixing... It was just plain fun. Kevin doesn’t have any of the ego issues that most of academia is plagued with. In school, you’re either a janitor, a student, a section leader, a professor, a conductor, or an administrator. No one is ever just a human being. With Kevin, in those lessons, we were allowed to be human beings. I think I’ll treasure them for the rest of my life.
All of these people were really instrumental in shaping Sweet Nothings, but ultimately I just wanted to scale back my recorded sound. As Roses, its predecessor was kinda instrumentally big. It pushed the limits of what I could really get away with given the fact that I’ve basically made all three of my albums on a budget of about $0. It also fared the worst of any of my albums. It was rejected by everyone except for one blog… A Diverse Sound has always been really supportive of my work — big thank you to Lucas Munachen! I mean, I couldn’t even get a promotional copy written for that album... I knew I needed to change my approach, and I really wanted to focus on my songwriting. I had spent a lot of my first two records trying to be as clever as possible, and it didn’t really seem to be paying off. It started to feel cheap, and unnecessary, so I decided I’d try to write songs that needed as little as possible. I knew I wanted to follow the flow of the other two albums: start the record with an a cappella, end with an instrumental or ironic twist, not have any two songs sound the same… Oh, I wanted to introduce my violin playing in a serious way. I hadn’t really had anything to say with the violin previously, so it felt like it was time.
Which song from Sweet Nothings was your personal favorite and why? “My Clementine” is probably the song I’m most proud of. The poetry, the chord progression, the counterpoint in the guitar solo… I find it satisfying to listen to and to play. It feels like a valid and legitimate addition to the world’s already long list of sad breakup songs, which seems like something of an accomplishment.
Did you experiment with any new elements in Sweet Nothings? Mind explaining?
I think I experimented a lot with many of the elements of Sweet Nothings, but of course, that’s all relative to my previous discography. I would classify it as growth rather than “new elements.” On Sweet Nothings the lyrics were extremely personal, the progressions were generally simple, (“The Lumin,” has like 4 chords or something), the instrumentation was more varied and more carefully chosen, the recording was mostly done with a condenser mic as opposed to a USB mic, (haha, thank you Travis Carroll!) and the drums were real (thank you, Nic Wells!). I think recording and working with other people was the new element in this album. Earlier in college, I really didn’t have time for other people... I was writing what I could when I could, and I tend to be extremely introverted. So including other people in the process of this album made for the biggest change.
What’s next for you in 2020, Bomethius? I have two albums slated for release in 2020: inadiquit and Seasons of Limbo. The first is a collaborative album with my uncle, Dave Hodges. He wrote the majority of the lyrics and I wrote the majority of the music. It’s completely different from anything I’ve done previous, but I think it’s my strongest work to date. I’m equal parts excited and nervous about it. I kinda felt like I had written myself into a corner after Sweet Nothings was finished, so I jumped at the opportunity to do something completely different — I hope we pull it off, haha! I also plan to follow up with another solo record (Seasons of Limbo) that picks up where Sweet Nothings left off. “Tornados in Dallas,” will be on this record, to give you an idea. It’ll hopefully be my most intimate record. I wonder how many times I’ll say that about subsequent releases before I die...