Cody Bondra & The Contraband is a five-piece country-rock group out of New Hartford, CT. With diverse setlists and a engaging stage show, the band has played theaters, state fairs, and festivals in Connecticut and beyond. Currently promoting their debut E.P. Nothin' Wrong, the band - Cody Bondra, Peter Baba, Jackie Bashaw, Jeff Kenniston, and Ray Markwas - took the time to answer their Essential 8 and share their thoughts on touring, songwriting, and more.
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination?
So far it's been personal experiences but we're starting to look into more story telling. The first EP is a collection of songs before we all started writing together. I'm really excited to do an album and use everyone's different approach - The band
With any particular song, was there an “a-ha” moment when you knew the song was completed and perfect?
"Can't Break Love" was the first song we recorded and it's probably our biggest song. It came together pretty quick one night. When songs flow those are usually the best ones and the one's that commercially work the best. That was the moment I realized I could at least write a song. It's a pretty accurate representation of where I'm at. I'm a big fan of overcoming the odds and I do believe in Love. Whether it's a significant other, family love or just pride and belief in yourself. If you have that kind of support system in your life it can make you want to chase any dream. We're going to record a new version for our full length album that will be a bit shorter and we're going to try to work it into some tv shows and movies.
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
I guess I'd say to focus on feeling the music and the rest will come naturally. There's a million books that will teach you various techniques and with enough practice, most anyone can master them - But how to feel the music can only come from within. Listen to music, don't just hear it. What is the artist trying to say? What can you tell about their personality from the song? What do you want to say? Not just with the words but the way they are sung. Not just with notes, but how you play them. What do you want to reveal about yourself through your music? You can learn to play faster than all the rest, have the most incredible tone and sound effects, sing notes that will break glass - But if people can't feel the music, it's all a loss.
Good music to me is storytelling. The song has a theme with all the characteristics of a compelling novel compressed into a few minutes. Music, is able to convey thoughts and feelings that transcend words. My advice? Tell your story and people will want to listen - Ray (Bass)
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician?
The best advice I ever received about my music came from my piano teacher, Dina. We worked together for 14 years and she always told me that even if your technique was perfect and you hit every note flawlessly, it didn’t matter if you didn’t feel what you were playing. She really emphasized that the emotions matter when it comes to your performance, and that lesson has stuck with me and made a huge difference in my sound. - Jackie (Keys)
What do you love most about being on the road?
Just getting out of my comfort zone and meeting people. It's always a thrill to travel somewhere, especially a new city for the first time and see new fans at shows that can relate to our songs. We've been tremendously lucky with the support we've received leading up to our EP release and the summer shows look like they're going to be fun. We've been adding a lot. - Cody
What’s the most frustrating thing about being on the road?
The rushing. On paper touring looks like a glamorous and fun thing. It is extremely fun but it's also hard work. You get to travel around but it seems sometimes every second of the day is accounted for between traveling and preparation. I always try to catch up with friends that moved to cities we play. But it seems harder and harder to make it work. But don't get me wrong. It's a dream and honor to be able to travel and play music with your friends. - Cody
What’s your favorite/”go-to” food on the road?
There's so many. But last year doing some shows down south I got turned onto Church's Chicken. Every city has some hidden gems to. Philadelphia has this great wing place right on the campus of Drexler where we've played. I don't know the name of it but I could walk there in my sleep. - Cody
What has been your biggest success so far?
It's definitely being able to have my kids along full time for this musical journey! They get so into it, the music, the dancing, the instruments and the vocals, they try it all!! It's great being able to get them up on stage to experience everything! Watching them grow with my music experiences really inspires my to be a great father and a great musician! It's in our blood from birth, to the birds we hear chirping, to the beat of a mother's heart, music is life, being able to share all of this with my children is by far my biggest success!! - Peter (Drums)