“Just Who is Bonded Jacky?”. That was our first question in this interview for the Queer Pop artist, and learn a lot we did. For instance, we know now that she feels a strong pull toward bringing a sense of depth and understanding of the queer community to the media. We also learned that just like many of us, Jacky often puts on a serious facade before warming up to people and sharing the cheerful and whimsical energy that is otherwise apparent in her music if one listens to it right.
As far as her music goes, She is as sensitive as the best and bravest of them. One of the most outstanding qualities that I noticed in her newest track “Airplane Mode” was a playful and pure radiance that I can only identify as an altruistic and subconscious pursuit of tenderness and empathy. I think there’s no better analogy to her sound than that of a cotton candy prism sweetening your world with pastel colors aplenty.
Bonded Jacky is like the euphoric sugar rush of someone who -while shy- is ultimately never beaten by the harshness of the world around them nor the fears and anxieties that may come from within. Jacky stays true to this unfaltering sweetness, to this true sonic tenderness, and that’s something admirable and worth upholding.
Just who is Bonded Jacky?
My real name is Maddie Ballard. My music alias, Bonded Jacky, is a queer, LA-Based musician and songwriter; a gangly girl with an unmistakable schoolboy energy. My goal is to free others and myself through my music and provide an authentic voice for the queer community.
How do you relate to that “Airplane Mode”? Is it a put-on you don’t want to rely on or do you feel like it’s just part of who you are as a person?
It’s definitely a put-on I don’t want to rely on. When I first start dating someone, I find myself holding back the kooky parts of myself that may change their mind about me. I put on a quiet and mysterious front, when in reality, I’m an absolute goof. I am not capable of playing hard-to-get and that sometimes feels like a disadvantage. “Airplane Mode” lives in the conflicting headspace of wishing I came across more subtly and mysteriously. It’s an ode to all of the fellow goofs out there who try to act cooler than they are.
I was fascinated by the sweetness of your vocals, but there was also something very special about the melody! Tell us a few technical details regarding the musical composition of this track!
Thanks for saying that! I made this record at Drop of Sun in Asheville. This studio is one of my favorite places in the whole world. My producer, Alex Farrar, is a mastermind and sweetheart. The opening hook of “Airplane Mode” is the base of the whole song for me. The vocal melody has this cyclical, dizzy feel that mirrors how lovesick I get when first falling for someone. For the chorus, I drew inspiration from “Pretty Girl” by Clairo. I love how bouncy and rhythmic that chorus is. I’ve never said the word “bouncy” more than I did that day in the studio. I just kept saying “bouncy, I want the chorus to feel bouncy, yeah that’s great, but even bouncier!” One of my other favorite musical elements of “Airplane Mode” is the guitar at the beginning. There are 2 opposing electric guitar picking patterns stacked on top of each other, which helps create that wombly, dissonant, disillusioned sound. I had a flavor of it in my demo, but we wanted some more. There was this crazy-looking electric guitar with an aluminum neck that I kept eyeing in the studio. I think it was an Orion guitar by Aluminati. Alex started playing it as sort of a joke, but once we heard the tone, we were like, “and we found the sound of the song”. Those moments are so exciting.
Are you firm on your stance of “Cool People Don’t exist”? What does that phrase mean to you?
Okay, first I need to clarify how I’m defining “cool”. I mean someone who puts little thought or effort into coming across as very hot and chill. In that case, yes, I’m very firm on my stance of “Cool People Don’t Exist”. This phrase came about this summer, on tour with my girlfriend. We met up with a friend in London (also queer) and I said to her, “Your girlfriend is so cool. I’m kind of scared of her” and she started cracking up and said, “She is not cool at all. No one is”. I loved that and totally agreed. As we continue dating someone, we start to see all of their little weird quirks and their “cool” veil is slowly lifted, which is a beautiful thing! I think authenticity is cool as hell, but a different kind of cool: someone who unabashedly shows their full selves at all times with little self consciousness. In that case, then I do think those cool people exist.
You said that you hold back a bit of your goofier side when you meet someone new. have you tried the other way around? being outright goofy and then showing your more serious side later?
Definitely. My girlfriend is a very talented and goofy stand-up comedian, so I didn’t feel the need to act too cool for very long. She was her full goofy self from day 1, which encouraged me to do the same. On our first date, while drinking piña coladas in Venice (obvious first date), she told the waitress she was my stepmom and we were meeting for the first time. It was so weird and funny and fully committed. It’s such a relief to feel so free in a relationship. In middle school, I was my outright goofy self right away and I think it scared a lot of boys away (lol). I felt like the girls who were getting a lot of attention were the blond, hot, mysterious ones, so that’s when I started stifling my silly. But looking back, those boys may have gotten very gay vibes from me and didn’t want to waste either of our time.
Where did you find the name “Bonded Jacky” and why did you identify so strongly with it?
When I first moved to LA, I immediately got into boat life in Marina del Rey. I bought a powerboat and was writing a ton of music in it. I was on the lookout for an alias for a while, but didn’t want to force it, then one day, I came across some nautical terms and one was bonded jacky. It means sweet cake or tobacco, which is perfectly absurd. We are all one big walking contradiction with a story to tell. I also loved the spelling of jacky; it sounded like a cute little schoolboy. Where -if at all- does your queer identity and your music intersect the most?
Where -if at all- does your queer identity and your music intersect the most?
I love that question. I identify with a ton of different traits, queer being just one of them. With that being said, I do put an emphasis on my queerness with my music because I wish there were more authentic queer stories out there. I feel like the mainstream media portrays such a 2D version of the queer world. It’s often seen as 2 types: gay males who love Drag Race or lesbians who stay at home with their cats. Rock on to people who identify with either of those definitions, but to me, queerness really is so much more nuanced than that. I want to tell those stories. Another way my queerness and music intersect has been through my search for bandmates. I made a vow to not perform with all straight white guys, so I’m currently on the hunt for some diverse queer players.
The year is almost done. Do you have more things to do before 2023? do you have your new year’s resolutions ready regarding your music
With what’s left of 2022, I would love to finish “How Music Works” by David Byrne. It’s so fabulous, I’m just a very slow reader. I also want to make a batch of hot sauce for Christmas gifts. I made one last month but it was so so spicy, it would be rude to gift it. As far as music goals for 2023, oh man, they are endless. I’m super excited to be going on the road, doing a couple of opening dates! I’ll be in Oakland at the White Horse Inn February 4th and in Boise at The Lounge at the End of the Universe February 17th. And more dates to come! Another huge goal for the year (or couple years) is to open for an indie artist I admire, like Courtney Barnett, Japanese Breakfast, or Soccer Mommy.