“A folk-pop trio from Seattle, performs funny original songs whose exquisite musical detail and subtle needling wit attain a level of craft not often seen in pop” - NY Times
Imagine what might happen if Tim Burton hijacked the Andrew’s Sisters en route to a Stephen Sondheim festival with The Beatles and Tom Lehrer in the sidecar; you’d get Seattle super-harmonizers Uncle Bonsai. With just three voices and an acoustic guitar, Uncle Bonsai presents an often dizzying vocal array of intricate harmony. Their songs, dark and hilarious at times, just as often delight with moments of great insight and beauty. The trio aligns itself with the under-achiever, the dejected, the outsider, the black sheep. Densely-packed lyrics fly by in a whirr at times, and take a skewed stance on topics such as first-world problems, the creation of the universe, the afterlife, and, of course, holidays with the family. Uncle Bonsai’s acoustic folk-pop songs are almost one-act plays or short stories, resisting strict pop, folk, or singer-songwriter categories. Their songs focus on the passing of time, the passing of genes, and the passing of pets - the truth of everything seemingly buried somewhere under the family tree.
Now in its 35th year, Uncle Bonsai continues to perform and record new material. The group has eight recordings and, in mid-2013, released its first ever "bedtime book for grownups," The Monster in the Closet/Go To Sleep. This fully illustrated, reversible, hard cover book for parents, features two popular Uncle Bonsai songs, with artwork by members Arni Adler and Patrice O'Neill, and includes a recording of the songs. The group is currently recording a new cd, tentatively titled: "The Family Feast: The Study of the Human Condition, First World Problems, and the Lasting Physiological and Psychological Effects of Eating Our Young," due for release in November, 2016.
"Singers Ratshin, O'Neill and Adler are pitch-perfect in their delivery of often complex harmonic arrangements. And if there were an Ella Fitzgerald Award for Exquisite Elocution in Song, they would surely get it. The trio officially bills itself as a "folk" outfit, but has none of the naiveté that label might suggest. These are nicely edgy, sour-sweet songs, written for grown-ups." - The Seattle Times
Uncle Bonsai is currently recording a new cd, tentatively titled: "The Family Feast: The Study of the Human Condition, First World Problems, and the Lasting Physiological and Psychological Effects of Eating Our Young," due for release in November, 2016. But there are other exciting things happening too . . . take a look!
The new recording, tentatively titled: The Family Feast: The Study of the Human Condition, First World Problems, and the Lasting Physiological and Psychological Effects of Eating Our Young," will feature many of the songs the group has been performing for the past year or so. Included will be: Problems, Brand New World, Modern Medicine (Old Man Arms), In The End, The Family Feast, Bat, and many others. The group is trying to have the recording ready for release in November, 2016 but … you know how these things go! Stay tuned for updates.
Jazz Alley: September 8th . . . 35 years later
35 years ago this week, Uncle Bonsai performed for the first time ever. With just 4 or 5 songs, the group entertained the line waiting to get into Bumbershoot; when they finished the songs, the people had moved on and a "new" audience was there. The group made enough money for entrance into the festival and, one year later, they performed INSIDE tree times, including in the Opera House with Firesign Theater. At this one-night-only show at Seattle's Jazz Alley, the group will be performing (for the last time?) songs from some of the early years; you'll hear something from each of the nine recordings.
The Monster in the Closet/Go To Sleep Two tauntingly twisted tales for tormented parents!
Uncle Bonsai can’t seem to get it right. Everything goes askew in whatever they try. Their so-called “children’s” songs ended badly, especially for the family pets, but even their “grown- up” songs of childhood memories are rife with disappointment. Long obsessed with what gets swept beneath the rug of every family, the trio’s recent work turns its scrutiny on parenting. Once children themselves, they mocked the best (some say “futile”) efforts of their beleaguered parents. Not until after becoming parents themselves did they realize the great wisdom and fortitude of their parents, after all. Shoulda said something. Now they turn their “mature” attention to the sheer devilry of their own children.
Uncle Bonsai’s latest recording project is a book of two illustrated songs about extreme efforts certain skewed adults (might) take to get their own children to bed: Confess to them about the reality of monsters. Bribe them. Threaten their toys. Accept the futility and hit the gin. There are no swear words and no one’s getting hurt, but straight-faced lies and escalating tempers of angels will lead even good parents to feel superior to the depths sought out by the narrators of these songs.
That’s why we love Bonsai. They’re so much worse off than we are.
The group returns to this wonderful, intimate, venue for a 35th Anniversary Show! Tickets will go on sale in August ... don't miss out!
Live Uncle Bonsai Audio Samples
Problems live @ Kirkland Performance Center
I Would Come Back from The Grim Parade (Live)
Men and Women live @ Kirkland Performance Center
Uncle Bonsai performs "Problems," from their upcoming release "The Family Feast," at the Kirkland Performance Center, in Kirkland, Washington, on November 22, 2014.
Uncle Bonsai performs the song "Modern Medicine (Old Man Arms)" at the Kirkland Performance Center, November 22, 2014. (Lyrics included.)Interesting note: this was the world premiere performance of this song, which will be included on the upcoming release, "The Family Feast."
Live performance of "Where's The Milk," from the Seattle group Uncle Bonsai. Sing along with Uncle Bonsai . . . this video includes the lyrics!
Uncle Bonsai performs "The Monster in the Closet" at the 2013 Wintergrass Festival.
When Uncle Bonsai, the famous trio from Seattle, visited Madison on April 1, 2012, they played to a very appreciative High Noon Saloon audience their new (and as-yet unrecorded) hit, "New Jobs for America." They wrote it with the struggles in mind of so many teachers and teachers' unions who have been vilified by right wing politicians seemingly bent on, well, blaming most everything on the teachers
Uncle Bonsai performs the original song "20th Century Man" at The Triple Door - Seattle, May 21, 2011
Uncle Bonsai has released 8 full-length cds, 1 cd single, 1 "Bedtime Book for Grownups," which is a flip-over book that also contains a cd, and can be found on a number of compilations, including the "Just One Angel" recordings. Uncle Bonsai's label, Yellow Tail Records, has released over 30 folk, classical, holiday, compilation, and childrens recordings and all are available in stores throughout North America, as well as all the online sites. You can visit our store at The Yellow Tail Records Store.