Tell us about Bohnes. How did it come about?
I was in a band called The Cab, and it was kind of coming to an end. Mentally, I knew that I was ready for the next step. I started the band when I was 14. And so when you’re 14, what you want to do, and what everyone else in the band wants to do changes dramatically when you’re 24 years old. Think about how much you grow from when you’re 14 and 24. Exponential. It’s crazy.
Like two completely different people.
Exactly. There were guys in the band that didn’t like being in a band, that wanted to get “real” jobs and guys who gained confidence to do their own solo thing. It was one of those things where The Cab was almost like college. I learned so much, and I met so many amazing people, and we had the greatest fans in the entire world. Probably a highlight of being in The Cab was just meeting all of the fans and hearing their stories. I hit this point in my life where The Cab was going to, at least temporarily, be finished. And I had no idea what to do. I was completely like “Well, shit.” Do I go get a real job? Do I start another band? Go solo? And it was really important to me to not have the new project called “Alexander DeLeon” because I didn’t want anyone to think I felt like my name was bigger than the band. It had nothing to do with “Oh, you guys, my brand is bigger than the band and I am big enough to where I’m going to do my own thing.”
You didn’t want to pull a Justin.
Well… hey. Justin can do no wrong. But totally, that’s not what it was. I was going in a different direction and try something new. To be honest, the two years between the band and Bohnes were pretty brutal. Fun, but I really had to figure myself out. I was drinking every night, partying, and enjoying not being in a van or tour bus. That’s where I was from 17 years old for about 7 years, touring 11 months out of the year. I had lost girlfriends because I just wasn’t home, fell out of touch with a lot of my family.
So, I went to Paris and started traveling the world to kind of figure out what I wanted to do and figure myself out. When I was in the Catacombs underground, where there are millions of bones, I’m gonna call myself Bohnes.
How’d you get started in music? Before The Cab days, take me back to the beginning.
My mom could not hit a note if she tried. You could give her a million dollars and she wouldn’t be able to sing in tune. But my dad was a professional singer. And his mom, my grandmother was a singer who was pretty famous in Mexico, she sang mariachi. It was kind of in my blood. When I was a little boy, I wanted to either be Batman or a professional basketball player…
I mean, duh.
Yeah, I mean Batman/Bruce Wayne and on a basketball team. All my friends got tall and I stayed short, so I was like well… I have to adjust my goals.
So… Batman it is.
Exactly (laughs). When I was in high school, I was actually the opposite of what I am now. I studied really hard, all my friends would party on the weekends and I would not because I played sports and got really good grades, I wouldn’t drink. Late high school, everyone would go to the desert, do bonfires and drink beer. I’d have basketball games or exams and when I was bored I just bought a guitar and would write songs at night.
I would have dinner, do my homework and then from about 11pm to 6am I’d write songs. Then at 6am, I’d hop into the shower, go to school and everyone else would be groggy and still waking up but I’d be fresh and awake. Then when school was over, at basketball practice, I’d crash and go nocturnal. So I always enjoyed writing at night because there’s no distractions, no texts, my mom’s not yelling at me.
For those who haven’t heard “Six Feet Under” yet, how would you describe it? I blasted everything you have on Spotify and I’m loving “Witchcraft” and “Six Feet Under” so far.
“Witchcraft” is a Frank Sinatra cover, which I love it because my dad used to sing it to me as a kid. I think I have four songs up on Spotify and three of them are demos I had put up about a year and a half ago. I put one tweet out, no videos, no press, I just wanted people to know that I was doing something else, but I wrote those songs really fast. So “Six Feet Under” is probably the first song that I actually consider Bohnes. This is what it’s going to sound like, this is what it is.
People that listen to the whole album, like my friends and some fans, who I’ve shown the entirety of the new album, everyone says that it sounds like if Justin Timberlake started a heavy rock band like Rage Against the Machine. There’s a lot of heavy guitar riffs, there’s definitely darker elements on the album, but the vocals are super pop. So instead of hearing synth lines, there’s heavy guitar. My background is listening to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, NSYNC, so the harmonies on “Six Feet Under,” if I could show you the vocals without any music, the chorus sounds like a five-part harmony.
You worked with some talented people on the track. How was it working with Matt Johnson (Matt & Kim) & Bryan Sammis (The Neighbourhood, Olivver The Kid)?
Bryan was in a band called The Neighbourhood and I was a big fan, so he left, probably for the same reason. I don’t think there was any crazy animosity and did Olivver The Kid and La Bouquet. So I did “Six Feet Under” with him and the next single with Matt. Matt’s interesting because he’s in an indie rock band but also loves hip hop. So I wanted to challenge myself and work with people– Like for The Cab, I worked with Bruno Mars and pop writers who did Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez songs, so for this project, because it’s more rock n’ roll, I want to work with people who were in rock bands. Because my vocals are so pop, I need people to just dirty them up a bit and bring them back down because it’s just so poppy.
Tell about the music video. What inspired it?
The music video for “Six Feet Under” was shot in Nara, Japan, which before Tokyo, was the capital of Japan. I think the theme park was built in the late 60s or 70s and the owners and builders originally wanted to create a DisneyLand and Disney said no, but Walt said he’d help. When you’re in this park, there’s Main Street, there’s a mountain that looks like the Matterhorn in Disneyland LA, there’s a castle and everything’s in a circle around the castle… It’s pretty dead on. I remember going online and going down the rabbit hole, which is the Internet, and found “the coolest abandoned places.” And #1 on all these lists was this abandoned theme park.
I flew all the way there, I didn’t have access. It was illegal to get into. And because I didn’t want people to catch me, I stayed 2-3 miles away and brought only two videographers, one was a girl who could be a videographer and an actress, and my friend Justin Clough, who was the main director. We stayed in a hotel and at like 3am, we put all the camera gear, got flash lights and had to walk 3 miles down a highway. If you call a cab, Japan’s such a respectful country that the cab drivers will call the authorities and be like “Just so you know, I just dropped these kids off at an abandoned theme park and they’re probably up to no good.”
Dude, we walked 3 miles and the scary thing was that it was still dark when we got to the park, we had to wait for the sun to come out to film. We hid in a haunted house until the sun came up then we ran around and filmed. There were also security guards, so whenever we saw one, we had to break into a building and hide. We broke into the haunted house, an arcade, hid in bushes by a rollercoaster. We couldn’t talk either. Imagine filming a video without being able to talk and only whispering or using hand motions. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It was insane. That probably would’ve cost half a million dollars to do.
What do the skull masks represent?
Ironically enough, we filmed the video before we had the song. I watched the video on repeat and kind of got lyrical and musical ideas together from the video. It was almost like scoring a short film with a pop song. It was challenge. It pushed me to think in a different way. It was a completely different thought process.
The masks represent that Bohnes isn’t just me, it’s a thought process and a universe that I built. Anyone could be Bohnes, and underneath man, woman, gay, straight, doesn’t matter where you’re from, your sexual orientation or the color of your skin, underneath it all, you’re bones. The masks represented that we’re the same and anyone could wear that mask and we’re all people: we all live, die, fall in love, lose, fail. That’s who we are at our core, and again not to be morbid, when you die, everything disappears and your bones are left to tell your stories.
What can fans expect from your upcoming album? Does it follow any recurring theme or concept?
It’ll be out early next year. Yes, it’s as close to a concept album without it being a concept album. One of the reasons the project is called Bohnes is because it was at a point in my life, where it really hit me. Life and death really hit me. Death is actually this incredibly beautiful thing because it forces you to live. If we all lived forever, there would be unlimited amount of time and we wouldn’t catapult ourselves into adventures because we could do it later. Life is short, so it makes us want to travel the world, fall in love, and do these things. I guess the entirety of the album is based around time and life and death.
My favorite song on the album is a song called “Coffins” and it’s a love song and the main lyric in the chorus us “If you walk out the door, know that I will too, I hope they build coffins for two.” It’s kinda realizing that one day, you will die but being okay with it knowing you have someone you’re walking life with that’ll go with you.
Any plans to tour soon?
I think I need to get music out so there’s more content and for people to understand what the Bohnes world is. But, definitely I would love to tour. If enough people like the music, I’ll be touring endlessly again.
To what extent, if any, does your personal style and look reflect your music or your new persona as Bohnes?
I think rock n’ roll my entire life has affected how I dressed. I found this picture a few days ago I had like spiked hair that was pink tips, I think I’d buy those studded bracelets from Hot Topic. Growing up, I went through every phase of rock n’ roll. I went from listening to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles to listening to AFI, The Refused, Rancid, Alkaline Trio that went into Blink 182, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco. The first rock band I ever heard was Queen.
My dad raised me on listening to Freddie Mercury. I think that’s also been a big inspiration to the project because if you listen to a Queen album, you can have “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” which sounds like an Elvis song, and “Another One Bites The Dust” which is a funk song, “Tie Your Mother Down” which is rock n’ roll and then “Bohemian Rhapsody” which is an opera. I loved that they could have so many genres on one album, but when Freddie sang, you knew it was one album. And Justin Timberlake does the same thing, “Drink Your Way” a country song, “Senorita” a Spanish-flavor song, “Rock Your Body” which is a Michael Jackson-Prince sounding song. I love that their voices tie everything together. I always try to keep that in mind. Don’t let the music put you in a corner.
I have a song that sounds like an acoustic James Taylor song, but on the same album that’s like incredibly heavy like Rage Against the Machine and somehow they’re tied together with my voice and the lyrics.
We saw you went to Burning Man on Instagram! How was it? That’s definitely on our check list of many festivals to go to.
Burning Man was Mars. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever been to. It really makes you believe in people again. In this world, you watch the news and it’s crazy. It’s tragedy after tragedy. Going to Burning Man, where my phones just didn’t work so I put them away, you’re in the middle of nowhere. You just meet people, and you’re not talking about pop culture, or anything but what you’re feeling and what inspires and motivates you and there’s just something super magical about meeting people who aren’t on their phones.
Sometimes I just need to throw my phone across the room and just be like “Ok, that’s enough.”
Especially these days with the news, I would go on Twitter if it was just my friends, but seeing what’s going on in the world.
I feel like between the weather and the politics, I feel like everything that’s going wrong is just telling us that we fucked up.
Totally. There were, what, four major hurricanes in a month? On top of all the shit that humans are doing? I’m from Las Vegas so it’s been a rough week for me with what happened there. You almost become desensitized to a lot of it. Vegas was a wake up call for me because it was my hometown. Sandy Hook hit me real hard, because those are kids. I lost my mind when that happened. I couldn’t comprehend. I think Sandy Hook woke everyone up, and you thought there would be change and they didn’t. But Vegas was my hometown and my city, and I have friends who got shot, and my mom had tickets to the concert and I called her and she wasn’t answering her phone. Your mind goes places. Luckily she didn’t go to the concert.
All you can do in these circumstances is, you can’t let them win. You can’t stop going to music festivals, you can’t give up on people, because as soon as that happens, they’ve won. If anything, I’m going to go to more music festivals and love even more and put out even more music. I put out a song today called “702” which is an acoustic song that speaks directly about the Vegas events. I was crying so hard the night before because I thought my mom was there, that my voice on the demos was really scratchy. I put that song out and, if you’re reading this, it’ll be on Spotify and iTunes and everything that I make will go to the victims of the families and you can also donate here.
If you had the ultimate celebrity power, what would be on your tour rider?
I would put a basketball court in my house… which I’m working on doing, it’s a pipe dream. If I had Jay-Z money, I would buy a house in about 20 major cities and they wouldn’t be extravagant, it wouldn’t be over the top. Super modest houses, 2-3 bedrooms in all my favorite cities. Rome, Tokyo, New York, Nashville, Kawaii, cottage in Iceland. Just places I could stay and to encourage my friends and family to travel more and be like “don’t pay for hotels, just stay at my place and go see the world.” For everyone that I love, I just go say, “get the hell out and go see the world.” Buy little houses and apartments, no mansions just little spots.
Where has been your favorite travel destination so far? Why?
From my last year in The Cab to now, I think I traveled to about 65 countries. Can I give you 5?
- Iceland: You can drive around the entire country in 5-7 days and you can see beaches, glaciers, waterfalls, icebergs, volcanoes, auroras, anything you can think of, Iceland has it.
- Rome, Italy
- Tokyo, Japan
- Nashville, TN
- Kawaii, Hawaii: For some reason it doesn’t get as much respect as Maui or Honolulu, it’s gorgeous. It’s like Bora Bora Jr. and only 6 hours away from LA, it’s incredible. It’s extremely cheaper than Bora Bora and not a 26 hour flight (laughs).
What was your last Google search?
Can I look? (laughs) “Misdemeanor trespassing consequences Alabama” because I’m filming an acoustic performance in abandoned buildings in Alabama and I’m thinking there was a 50/50 chance I’ll go to jail or get slapped with a misdemeanor and just in case it happens, I wanted to prepare myself and know my rights.