The Bonk with Elaine Howley

The Bonk is an experimental music project led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Philip Christie. 

Taking elliptical rhythms and repetitive ritualistic wordplay as a framework, the group uses improvisation to explore the fringes of traditional forms. Their debut The Bonk Seems To Be A Verb, has attracted a loyal following since its release in 2017 with shorter digital-only releases following in the intervening years while the band’s live show has become increasingly in demand. Their second LP Greater Than Or Equal To The Bonk is due for release in May 2023 and will see the band collaborating again with boutique imprint thirty-three45. 

Bandleader and songwriter Phil Christie has long been involved in music in Ireland. As a principal songwriter in the collaborative group O Emperor (2008 -2018), he recorded and toured internationally with the band, sharing the stage with the likes of Beck and MGMT along the way. The group were awarded the Choice Music Prize Irish Album of The Year in 2018 for their final longplayer Jason. 

Since then, while developing material with The Bonk, Phil has maintained fruitful collaborations in studio and on stage with several acts including Mick Flannery, Junior Brother, Cal Folger Day (whose verbatim pop-operetta Moondog and Irene he produced) and Dan Walsh’s improvisational project Fixity. His first solo recording ‘Affricative Speech Sounds’ was released in October 2022 on 7 “ vinyl as part of MOOT TAPES Signs of Life series. 

Fronted by O Emperor’s Phil Christie, The Bonk giddily infuse 1960s garage with jazz and experimental pop; the end result playing, in its rogue ingenuity, like a reincarnated Captain Beefheart Totally Dublin 

The Bonk are one of Ireland’s most interesting experimental outfits today The Thin Air

Elaine Howley Bio 

Originally hailing from Tipperary Ireland, Elaine Howley is a vocalist, musician and producer who merges an expansive tapestry of experimental, analogue processes with a love of classic songwriting and emotive melody, to create a sound world that is distinctly her own. 

Immersed in both the experimental music scenes in her adopted home of Cork, and the DIY ethos of Ireland’s alternative rock community, Elaine’s music grew out of years of varied, extensive collaborative practise, performance and experimentation. She has toured regularly across Europe and the UK as the singer in the acclaimed psychedelic rock group, The Altered Hours, sharing stages with the likes of Fontaines DC, Wooden Shjips, Clinic and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Closer to home, she has played in ambient trio Crevice and folk group Morning Veils. It was through playing with these groups and performing with the improvisatory collectives The Dark Arts Orchestra and HEX and collaborating with composer Irene Buckley and musician Roslyn Steer that Elaine began to explore vocal layering and manipulation, sampling, stretching and slowing things down to uncanny, enigmatic layers of sound. 

This improvisatory impulse led to Elaine’s solo debut The Distance between Heart and Mouth, which was released to widespread acclaim in 2022 on Touch Sensitive Records. With Pitchfork praising the album as “a spectral slow burn that refuses to trip over itself to get anywhere in particular. By absorbing the wisdom of the process, Howley permits her craft to resound deeper than ever”. For her first solo album Elaine used tape to process voice, drum machines and synthesizers, creating rich, analogue textures which work in tandem with her songwriting to weave an intimate sonic tapestry that feels warm and esoteric all at once. The album was born out of a ritualistic practice of going to her self-built studio in her house first thing in the morning, creating a daily audio-diary as soon as she woke. It’s unsurprising then that the resulting album emanates an intimate welcoming quality; blending deep synths, whisper-soft melodies, echoes, loops, beats and murmurs, recalling the likes of Trish Keenan, Tirzah and Leslie Weiner, while Elaine’s unmistakable voice cracks through the analogue gauze like a crystalline glint of daylight. 

The album is now in its second pressing & has received praise elsewhere, from Pitchfork, The Sunday Times, The Examiner and by Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC6 Music. The Distance Between Heart and Mouth was named The Thin Air Magazine’s album of The Year 2022.

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