THE BON MOTS
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The best kept secret in music

Press


"BIG TAKEOVER, Jack Rabid"

The New Zealand sound of Flying Nun and circa 1986 British whisper-kiss style is not just alive and well in North America in the Hidden Cameras.

The Bon Mots are a new band of Chicago pop veterans (Big Angry Fish, Feedbag, Cats & Jammers, Cells, Woolworthy, many others) that have that shimmer-sparkle pop down, with nods to The Chills, Bats, Able Tasmans, Clean, Bodines, Loft, Field Mice, and more - at least on the odd songs appearing here, written and sung by the rather talented Mike Coy, who splits the guitar and bass duties with Eric Chial.

The also-accomplished Chial writes and sings the even songs, and
his are more like The Church and Help!-era Beatles meet Squeeze and Elvis Costello - a rather gilded melodic singer/songwriter style. Both diverging styles compliment each other perfectly, as the post-Velvets/Wedding Present repetitive strums of Coy keep segwaying into the more Britpop (of the 1960s and 70s variety, not the 1990s!) longings of Chial. (Cool reference to ? & the Mysterians’ 1966 #1 smash "96 Tears" to end "Get Heavy," too!)

The group sounds freshfaced (they look more urbane in the photo, not some kids in stripey shirts), but there’s a real intelligence in arrangement and composition that runs through this LP, ably assisted by detailed sonic work by producer Neal Ostrovsky (of the Webb Brothers - Jimmy Webb’s kids, on Warner UK).

This is the sort of ringing pop with great rhythm section work that stands out.

- Jack Rabid


"AMPLIFIER, Lee Zimmerman"

AMPLIFIER, July 2004
It's all too easy to reference the standard bearers of years past when forced to come up with comparisons for the latest rookie combo daring to wear its influences on their collective sleeves. And indeed Chicago's The Bon Mots are trumpeted as springing from the usual array of reliable sources, among them, the Kinks, the Zombies, the Hollies, the Jam and other like-minded pop icons. However, while the promise of effusive melodies and surefire hooks may be the initial lure, a further listen defies any attempt to easily categorize them as mere revisionists. Theirs is a skewered delivery, an atmospheric, heavily textured ambiance that makes their approach sound slightly somewhat aloof and less embraceable than those they're said to emulate. In that sense, they more accurately resemble bands like the Church and REM, groups that also draw on '60s references but often filter them through a hazy, psychedelic sheen. The droll vocals contributed by co-founders Eric Chial and Mike Coy contribute to this perception; on songs such "Nocturna," "Get Heavy," "Errant Geese" and "Touched By A Robot" there's an understated irony that frequently underscores their bittersweet melodies. Those in need of more immediacy should note that The Bon Mots do possess a more emphatic side as well, as asserted in such rockers as "Glistening," Under Wraps," Vultures" and "Time Was." The combination makes Le Main Drag a confident and compelling debut. Forget the title - it's anything but.
Review by Lee Zimmerman
- AMPLIFIER


"CHICAGO READER, Monica Kendrick"

Bon Mots
11/20, Schubas
Nothing too promising in this local outfit's pedigree (unless names like Big Angry Fish, Emil Muzz, and Feedbag excite you a lot more than they do me), but some mysterious alchemy is apparently at work. Le Main Drag (Mellifluid), the debut from the Bon Mots, is pretty dazzling. It's a lush, mature, and audacious mix of heady guitar fizz and old-fashioned pop songwriting--a pinch of Zombies and Kinks here, a dash of Smiths and the Clean there, a splash of something slightly Soft Boys for spice. Though the lyrics, at their best in tales of goddesses both fleshy ("Glistening") and ethereal ("Nocturna"), occasionally drift into the vague or the quippy, a band that can casually drop lines like "I saw the skyline taking shelter in the clouds / And look less arrogant than proud / And all this poetry of finally moving on / Is much less poignant once you're gone" is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
- CHICAGO READER


"F5 WITCHITA ALT PRESS, Jedd Beaudoin"

Le Main Drag — The Bon Mots
Mellifluid, 2003
Originally published November 6, 2003 by Jedd Beaudoin


If that damned Rufus Wainwright kid would only learn to play good guitar and enunciate a little and if Guided By Voices head honcho Bob Pollard would only stop for five minutes and write a few more songs that came across more as songs rather than elliptical acid-drenched Zen parables (and record them properly), the world might be a better place and, chances are, both Ruf and Bob might knock out a tune or two that landed a few short blocks over from Chicago's The Bon Mots.
The hip little quartet possesses much of the same wry mania that GBV helped originate, and they marry it with the kind of insights that are no doubt lurking beneath all of Rufus's marble-mouthed mumblings. Tracks such as "Touched by a Robot," "Ghetto Falsetto" and the almost Elvis Costello-ish "Five Coats" hint at this, while others ("Vultures," "Errant Geese") recall the likes of The Smiths and Interpol, while "Idiot Kiss" crosses Pink Floyd with a little bit of Cream.
Maybe more important that all that is that The Bon Mots don't fall over themselves trying to be clever. Rather, they're a funny lot, capable of writing "Get Heavy," a Tragically Hip-influenced critique of oh-so-hipsters on the club scene, where the protagonist finds himself "Committing random acts of smugness/Using words I can't pronounce/Check out the full set of italics/Hanging from my mouth."
Le Main Drag is as funny as it is serious, as innovative as it is familiar and as biting as it is embracing.
- F5


"DAGGER, Tim Hinely"

DAGGER, ISSUE #34, Spring 2004
I have never seen Chicago's THE BON MOTS live so basically all I have to go on is their one CD called LE MAIN DRAG (Mellifluid Records) that DAGGER contributor John Gray turned me onto, but man, what a cd it is! They take the best parts of late 80's New Zealand jangle (think Straightjacket Fits) and blend it into their own near-perfect stew. Read on readers . . . (Tim Hinely)
Dagger: Hey guys, congrats on Le Main Drag, which was recently named one of the top 5 best new recordings in Chicago in 2003, by WXRT Radio Chicago. That's a pretty sweet thing. Very nice indeed.
Eric Chial: Thanks, it's really cool, y'know? We have a website, and we've had some really good responses to it so far, and it's really a matter of people on the scene, hearing something that they dig, and bookers trying to get us into copacetic bills, which is cool cause it doesn't always work out that way . . . Our goal of course, is to get front of other people's audiences and turn them onto us. Which I hope we do.
D: You and Mike Coy are the main songwriting duo of The Bon Mots. How did you guys decide on Mike doing all the odd songs on the CD, and Eric yours, the even ones?
EC: Well, I had been seeing Mike play for many years in his band Big Angry Fish, and I thought, God, I've known this guy for a while, and he's a huge talent, and I wanna be in a band with this guy, so I came to him, I said here's what I wanna do, this certain kind of mid sixties vibe, Zombies kinda feel, and will you play bass? And he was down for it. But of course, once we got going on it, Mike came to the table with a great bunch of songs of his own, and it just sort of worked out organically that he did the odds, and I did the evens.
D: And who is your drummer? Because on the CD it's Kevin Hoetger, and then seeing you guys live, it's Jason Styx (also of The Wes Hollywood Show). So what happened to Kevin?
Mike Coy: Well, he up and split to Austin, Texas once the record was done. And so we've been performing live with Jason Styx, and his style sort of fits the vibe that I think we were initially striving for. I mean Kevin's a great drummer, and also my best friend, but we kinda shifted the style of the band to fit around that, so it'll be interesting to see what happens in the studio next time around with Jason.
D: And your keyboardist Chris Frantisak? How did you guys hook up with him?
MC: I've know Chris for a long time, and he's always been one of those cats that's been like associated with 3 bands at a time, and whenever we'd play Lounge Ax with Big Angry Fish, he'd always be there with some band that he was in at the time, and he was good friends with the Woolworthy guys, and he'd sit in with them, and after seeing him over and over we just started hanging out and playing music together.
EC: Chris is a multi-instrumentalist, he also plays bass - very well - and you know, it's funny, 5 years ago, nobody had keyboards in their band, but times change and how a lot of bands have keyboards, and he's just a terrific, very tasteful player, and so he's been very busy. Mike and Kevin brought him in and we're really lucky to have. Now he's touring around with Urge Overkill.
MC: He was actually recommended to Nash Kato, he needed a keyboardist, and somebody from a band put him in contact with him.
EC: Nash and Eddie decided to get it going again, and Chris was the logical choice to play keys, and although there's not a whole lot of keys with Urge, we're hoping he will come back into our loving embrace. He just played a bund of shows out West with them, but we haven't heard whether or not he's getting his own medallion . . .
D: What are "Bon Mots" anyway?
EC: Kevin actually came up with the name for the band; it means "the witty remark," or the trenchant observation."
MC: You may hear it in conversation, as somebody says: "Oh I was in rare form last night, tossing off bon mots left and right." We played one show under the name "Tuesdays are Green," and thankfully we ended up going with The Bon Mots instead.
D: You guys do some really cool covers. What are some of those?
EC: "Little Red Book" by Burt Bacharach, "You Can't Do That," by The Beatles, "King Midas in Reverse," by The Hollies, just to name a few.
D: You guys have interesting day jobs, I must say. Mike you're a high school chemistry teacher, Eric you're a lawyer. Eric, talk about "Touched By a Robot" just for a second.
EC: Oh yeah, I wrote that tune on the train . . . and in the middle of writing that one, 9/11 happened . . . and it's a little bit about that too, y'know . . . you're going to the job, making he money to buy the things you need . . and one day, there's a hole in it, you know? So, that's my song about the fun being over.
MC: If I could take this on a tangent just real briefly, it's weird now that you bring that up. The writing of all these songs all took place right around the same time so there's all these bizarre little influences that kinda creep their way into these songs, that we didn't intend, like 9/11, you can probably hear a little; maybe almost subconscious references to it in a couple songs. There's some of mine where I just kinda bash lyrics out because they rhyme and fit the meter and all that, but then looking back at them, I was obviously effected by what was going on at the time.
D: Absolutely
MC: And, uh, the other influence that maybe wasn't so obvious at the time, but now is . . . is the fact that we were both listening to a boatload of Andy Williams. And I think you can hear that in the vocals.
D: (Laughs heartily). Hey, I still have a lot of Andy Williams vinyl left over from my parents' record collection.
EC: That's great. That guy's got a silky voice. We did a lot of Andy Williams singing before we cut our vocal tracks (laughing).
D: Seen any good movies lately, guys?
MC: I just got that Looney Tunes box set over Christmas, and that's pretty good. And the Kids Are All Right I watched the other night-always great.
EC: I just recently saw that Bob Dylan documentary from 1965 called "Don't Look Back," and the whole time he's like bumming out on Donovan, like "Who's Donovan? Who's Donovan? Who's this Donovan guy?" It was great.
D: You've got 4 years between you guys. Mike, you and Eric obviously come from two very different places in Michigan. You, Mike-a small town in Mid-Michigan (Midland); and Eric-a college town (East Lansing). Who were your main influences growing up and what kinds of things were you guys listening to.
MC: When Eric was cruising around listening to Elvis Costello, I still had a moustache and a mullet, and was paying $12.50 for a ticket to go to the Saginaw Civic Center to see Ted Nugent. And I have no remorse or regret over that; I'm very, very proud of all those memories.
D: It was you, Eric, who turned me onto the Pernice Brothers. Who turned you guys onto them?
EC: It was our drummer Kevin who turned me onto them. And Mike, he just has a voracious appetite for music, as do I, and we're all over the map, y'know. We hip each other to stuff as in comes in you know?
D: I could see you guys doing a min-tour with the Pernice Brothers. How does that sound?
EC: We'd love to play with them. They're great.
MC: We're lucky enough to have a great college radio station here that actually has good reception, WLUW out of Loyola University, and I can count on a new band that I'm gonna love at least once or twice a month from those guys. They're pretty solid and pretty reliable.
D: I could see you guys doing a min-tour with the Pernice Brothers. How does that sound?
EC: We'd love to play with them. They're great.
MC: We're lucky enough to have a great college radio station here that actually has good reception, WLUW out of Loyola University, and I can count on a new band that I'm gonna love at least once or twice a month from those guys. They're pretty solid and pretty reliable.
D: What's on the turntable these days for you guys?
MC: I've been listening to a really old KYUSS record and really enjoying that . . . and . . .
D: Did you just say KYUSS?
MC: I did say KYUSS (laughing), and that's right along with Jacques Dutronc. I went through a big French pop phase not too long ago, with Francoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, just some kick-ass powerful pop music from sixties France.
D: How about Serge Gainsborough?
EC: Yeah, I dig that. I'm a big Bossa Nova, Brazilian enthusiast. But really lately I've been digging the first two Tom Petty records, the self-titled and "You're Gonna Get It." Tasty stuff.
D: Thanks fellas; been a pleasure.
Interview by John Gray
- DAGGER


"SPIN, Matt Saldana"

SPIN

Grade: A-
The Bon Mots - Le Main Drag
By Matt Saldaña

The Bon Mots
Le Main Drag
Mellifluid
The liner notes to the Bon Mots debut album, Le Main Drag (Mellifluid), are no more than a few lines long. But the first entry might be the only thing you ll need to know about the Chicago-based band: Odd songs by Mike Coy / Even songs by Eric Chial. Arrangements by the Bon Mots. What could easily be a marketing ploy of the same magnitude as OutKast s split-double LP, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, is instead couched in the smallest of type. But the could-be gimmick of alternating singer-songwriters works to great effect, whether or not you know it s going on.
Kicking it all off is the breezy Glistening, a song whose free-range guitar strums are set to gleeful lyrics: Well there s a start to getting deep inside your heart to stay/ Or turn away if that s not what you re going through today. Coy s bright, persistent vocals are a perfect match for Chial s dark, loungy voice. In the first of many great transitions, Chial s Nocturana takes the jittery pop of Coy s Glistening and segues into a jazzy soundscape.
Halfway through the album, Chial borrows Coy s tossed-to-the-wind singing on Five Coats while on "Vultures," Coy cloaks himself in Chial s darkly contemplative style. In chug-along time, the latter sounds like an OK Computer track with the pop sensibility of The Bends. Meanwhile, Chial nods to the 90s with a Tiny Music-era Scott Weiland snarl over off-beat jazz chord snaps on Get Heavy.

Through all the singer-swapping mood swings, the Bon Mots rhythm section--Kevin Hoetger (drums), Chris Frantisak (keyboards), and Coy/Chial (sharing not only vocal duties, but bass and guitar ones as well)--supplies a jangly, jazzy backdrop. Think Spoon with a shot of simmered down Hot Hot Heat and a nod to the Yardbirds to boot.
If Le Main Drag is any indication, the Bon Mots are one of the most promising new bands out there. Before long, they might have a chart-topping double LP on their hands. Regardless, they already have a debut of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik proportions in the bank.
Grade: A-

- SPIN


"ALL MUSIC GUIDE, John Luerssen"


All Music Guide
The Bon Mots just may be Chicago's best-kept secret. Coming together from lesser-known groups like Big Angry Fish, Emil Muzz, and Feedbag, this quartet takes elements of 1960s Anglo-pop like the Kinks, and New Zealand's Flying Nun stable, and fleshes them out with innovative keyboard fills and muscular drums. The band's winning Neal Ostrovsky-produced debut, Le Main Drag is propelled by dueling frontmen Mike Coy and Eric Chial, who split their time between guitar and bass duties. Coy's infectious "Glistening" opens the set with a well-plotted, upbeat pop song that chronicling a fascination with cigarette-clutching supermodels. Giving way to Chial's Marshall Crenshaw-like pipes on "Nocturna'"; a lush, dreamy ode that explores the Mots' depth. And for each head bopping, hummable number like "Time Was" and "Under Wraps" that these Windy City cats bring forth, there's a hazy, jazzy "Get Heavy," or a dark, rumbling "Vultures" to cement just how dexterous these guys really are. Coy and Chial bring their game on Le Main Drag, resulting in a dozen keepers. Need further proof? Proceed to "Ghetto Falsetto," an irresistibly quirky update of the Only Ones' classic "Another Girl, Another Planet."
John D. Luerssen


- ALL MUSIC GUIDE


Discography

“Le Main Drag" CD (Mellifluid),
distributed by Parasol.

Please go to WWW.THEBONMOTS.COM to hear any tune from “Le Main Drag” (Mellifluid Records).

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Please go to WWW.THEBONMOTS.COM to hear any tune from “Le Main Drag” (Mellifluid Records).

"le Main Drag" reflects an admittedly quixotic desire to hear the kind of music The Bon Mots wish was still being made by someone—or for that matter—anyone. But since it wasn’t, or in any event they couldn’t find it, as they say in other regions—“Voila.”

The initial idea was to create a sound along the lines of The Zombies, The Byrds, and second-generation purveyors of cool (we think it’s cool, anyway) mid-sixties-informed creepy jangle such as early r.e.m., My Drug Hell, The Smiths, Brian
Jonestown Massacre, The Rain Parade and so forth. Drawing on indie-pop sensibility, and employing vintage instrumentation—
’67 Gretsch Tennessean and 12-string Rickenbacker guitars through a blackface Fender Pro Reverb, ’68 Hofner bass,‘64 Farfisa and Wurlitzer organs, and vintage Rogers drums, a “strange alchemy” results (as Monica Kendrick of The Chicago Reader approvingly observed). Reviews of “le Main Drag” frequently reference the “New Zealand sound” of Flying Nun Records, early Elvis Costello, and 60’s and 80s’ British Mod influences such as The Kinks, The Hollies and The Jam.

The Bon Mots were formed in 2000 by Michigan-bred Chicago veterans Mike Coy (of Big Angry Fish) and Eric Chial (of Mitch)—whose groups recorded for Chicago collective Beluga Records in the ‘90s. They recruited Mike’s long-time drummer Kevin Hoetger to drum and sing happening backing vocals. Kevin brought in multi-instrumentalist and mentalist Chris Frantisak to play keys. Chris also plays in Chicago’s mighty Light FM—and while we’re wantonly dropping name after name, ad nauseum, it should probably be noted that lately, Chris has been playing keys with Nash Kato and Urge Overkill.

After recording “le Main Drag” with maestro Neal Ostrovsky, who has remarkably good ears despite being an excellent drummer (for The Webb Brothers (on Warner UK), Hushdrops, NESS, and Electric Airlines, featuring Ed Roesser of Urge Overkill)—at his B-Side Audio sound machine in Chicago, Kevin moved down to Austin, Texas. Undaunted, the band called upon Jason Styx (of far too many bands to mention), whose groovy, jazz-inflected style nicely complements the “indie-pop takes on vintage-aesthetic” stylistic agenda of the band. It may (or may not) be worth noting that Jason and Eric had also played together on and off for many years—having met at a time in their lives which could be fairly described as Edenic—when they were living in Athens, Georgia. Jason also drums for Chicago popsters The Wes Hollywood Show, and while entirely irrelevant for these purposes, was in his day a top-notch alpinist, who once assaulted K-2—though he was ultimately acquitted.

In addition to the bands shamelessly named above, The Bon Mots have recorded, performed or played on bills with members of: The Pixies,
The Church, The Sea and Cake, The Minders, Heavenly States, Papas Fritas, Ike Reilly, Psychedelic Furs,
The Waco Brothers, The Odds, Gem, The Coctails, Blink 182, Fastball, John Mayer’s band, John Keane (pedal steel, r.e.m.),
David Barbe (Sugar, Son Volt), The Pulsars, Caviar, Drivin' and Cryin', Vigilantes of Love and Tenacious D—
and that’s only just a very few of ‘em.

Recently, “le Main Drag” has received glowing reviews and interviews in:
Jack Rabid’s Big Takeover, The Chicago Reader, Splendid ‘Zine,
Dagger, F5-Wichita, South of Mainstream, and Done Waiting, among others,
and is the Independisc Record of the Year for 2003.

Richard Milne of WXRT RADIO CHICAGO sayeth:
“Le Main Drag” is among the top three records by a Chicago band this year.

That said, truly there is no accounting for taste, so by all means feel free to have a listen for yourself.