Haley Bonar (born 1983, Brandon, Manitoba) is an American singer-songwriter who was raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. She has lived in Duluth and St. Paul, Minnesota. She currently lives in St. Paul. In 2009, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she s...
Haley Bonar (born 1983, Brandon, Manitoba) is an American singer-songwriter who was raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. She has lived in Duluth and St. Paul, Minnesota. She currently lives in St. Paul. In 2009, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she spent a year writing songs for her album Golder, which was released April 19, 2011. She plays acoustic guitar, baritone electric guitar, electric guitar and rhodes or wurlitzer organ, either solo or with her Twin Cities-based band, including Jeremy Ylvisaker, Robert Skoro and Jacob Hanson.
Life and work:
In 2003 Bonar's album . . . The Size of Planets (Chairkicker's Union) received favorable reviews in the Twin Cities press. The album spawned the single "Am I Allowed," which was played on college radio stations. Bonar was 20 years old when the album was released, and did a number of tours with Duluth band Low upon its release. She also toured with the likes of Mason Jennings, Richard Buckner, Rivulets and Mary Lou Lord, who was also, for a time, Bonar's manager.
In 2006 she released the album Lure the Fox, originally on Mary Ellen Recordings, whose owner, Mary Lewis, decided to help Bonar pay to record the album at Pachyderm Studio after reading a Star Tribune article about her in 2005. Dave King of Happy Apple and The Bad Plus plays drums, Chris Morrissey plays bass, and the album features Low's Alan Sparhawk on the track "Give it Up." Also on that track is David Frankenfeld, Bonar's former drummer, who played on The Size of Planets. One year after Lure the Fox was recorded, Bonar signed with local label Afternoon Records, who then released the album nationally in October 2006.
Lure the Fox earned Bonar two Minnesota Music Awards, one for Best American Roots recording, and another for Best American Roots artist. The album also topped many Twin Cities year-end favorite lists, including those of the Star Tribune, City Pages, The Onion, and Pulse magazine. Bonar was also featured on the cover of Metro magazine.
Big Star, released in June 2008 on Afternoon Records, gained Bonar a broader audience with songs like "Big Star," "Green Eyed Boy," and "Arms of Harm," which was featured on the credits for an episode of Showtime's The United States of Tara.
Bonar is featured on the 2007 Andrew Bird record Armchair Apocrypha and has frequently shared the stage with Bird over the past five years. She sang on the feature song "Quiet Breathing" from the independent film Sweet Land, directed by fellow Minnesotan Ali Selim. In recent years, she has also collaborated with Actual Wolf and Gary Louris.
In 2009, Bonar's move from St. Paul to Portland, Oregon was noted by City Pages. She returned to the St. Paul in July 2010 and again became very active in the Twin Cities music scene. Upon completion of her album Golder, released in 2011, she also started a side project band called Gramma's Boyfriend, a "no-wave, new wave, punkish kind of thing that sounds like the Twin Peaks High School prom band." Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird, Alpha Consumer, Guitar Party), Jacob Hanson (Halloween, Alaska, Guitar Party, Minneapolis Dub Ensemble), Haley Bonar, Luke Anderson (Rogue Valley, Alpha Centauri), and Mike Lewis (Happy Apple, Fat Kid Wednesdays, Andrew Bird, Gayngs) are all members of Gramma's Boyfriend, though the band's website states that "sometimes they all play together, sometimes its whoever shows up." They have released two albums on Graveface Records, 2013's Human Eye and 2015's Perm.
After two and a half years of writing and recording, Bonar release the album Last War in May 2014. The album earned widespread critical acclaim, with Stephen Thompson of NPR calling Bonar "a bright, subtle storyteller, who displays a mastery of pop-rock craftsmanship that keeps these songs as relentlessly catchy on the surface as they are alluringly complex underneath." SPIN lauded the track "No Sensitive Man" as "dynamic, demanding," while Consequence of Sound stated that "Bonar creates a whimsical masterclass of indie-pop songwriting." The album earned spots on best-of-2014 lists from Rough Trade, NPR's All Songs Considered, Village Voice and Wondering Sound, the latter of which said of the album, "It's a bold, confident statement, and it's an early pick for one of the year's best."