Sam Austins Interviews His Alter Ego, Samuel Salem Bonhart

Exploring new EP 'Boy Toy'...

Sam Austins fully immerses himself in his art. Each note speaks to the next, held together by a singular sense of purpose.

Detroit-raised and LA-based, he moves from raucous indie guitar aspects through to super-smooth R&B, defying genre norms in the process. Out now, new EP ‘Boy Toy’ is excellent, a multi-faceted work that keeps you guessing as each song bleeds into the next.

Lyrically, it’s as raw as they come – to achieve this, Sam Austins created a character, an alter ego called Samuel Salem Bonhart. A means to pick apart his experiences, the move allowed him to “express the raw emotions of what I’ve experienced through a new set of eyes.”

Continuing, he adds: “Samuel Salem Bonhart is the presence of that heartbroken rockstar who embodies the highs and lows of love and loss.”

Out now, ‘Boy Toy’ is superb – and in this Q&A, Samuel Austins cross-examines his own alter ego, finally allowing Samuel Salem Bonhart to speak…

‘Pretend Friend’

Sam Austins: This song was a sick one to write. When Billy (Lemos) came over to my apartment for the first time, he started playing through beats he made on Fruity Loops, which I have to give credit to Billy for doing because it is not an easy feat to get me inspired by music that I wasn’t a part of the production for. But for him, it’s easy because everything he makes is so insanely special and intricate; there are no sounds like anything he plays me. Pretend Friend was one of the four songs we wrote that day, and I love it so much because it reminds me of Radiohead mixed with The Postal Service and a sprinkle of Aphex Twin. I told him I needed this one on my project and he could have ‘Secrecies’ on his EP (‘Control Freak\). I think he got a fair trade. Billy, if you read this, I love you.

Salem Bee: To me, ‘Pretend Friend’ is about the intense longing for the person I wrote it for, and the lengths I’m willing to go for their love. In my deepest, sincerest of hearts, I just want to let this person know that I do see them for their truest selves, and I want them to reciprocate that for me, even through the flaws. I don’t want to hide the chinks in the armour, I’m not a perfect soul, and I, Salem Bee, will never pretend to be. This is the beginning of a sweet love letter to the woman that has stolen my eye.

‘Keep You Company’

Sam Austins: ‘Keep You Company’ is Beck vibes as fuck. Just amazing, trashy trailer park 90s rock music in all the best ways. Somehow, the song manages to have some sexiness to it with all that dirt on it. I was a huge fan of producer Zach Fogarty’s sound and the things he worked on prior to us kicking shit, so when we did this one, I was hyped. Everything feels so uniquely suited to this song, and unlike anything I’ve heard in decades… like, since Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP.

Salem Bee: I hate when I find beautiful souls that have graced the Earth, blessed us with their mere presence, just to end up dating the most punk asses of society. This one is dedicated to anyone who has a partner that isn’t gracing them with the highest acts of love possible. This song screams you can do better.

‘Oatmeal Pancakes’

Sam Austins: My favourite song is always changing, but I’d say right now, this is the one I play the most. I made this with my best friend Kaleb on the most random of nights at my apartment. I don’t think I could give any explanation of how this song could be created, especially on the production side. The melodies I came up with were very out of pocket. Kaleb was initially telling me, “no,” and I told him, “yes.” Also, a special shoutout to Dave Greenbaum for glossing up our raw production and enhancing our magic in a way that we just did not know how. And then finally, once we figured out the first half, we worked on so many different iterations of the outro for over two months to figure out the best way to end the song. We didn’t do the chorus three times, and songwriting dweebs always try to hammer that shit at us, but the feeling was paramount to me, so we cooked on it for months, shooting darts at the wall, wracking my brain. I just knew it all had to be very sexy and feel like it wrapped you into a world of desolate loneliness. When Kaleb cracked the code on the guitar progression, everything fell so deeply into place. I knew the vibes were there immediately, I knew I had to get Sam KS on those drums ASAP, and man, I just cannot get over how perfect this song is. I suggest everyone reading this, get off your phone, and go listen to it right now. When you finish, then you can come back.

Salem Bee: I need you to picture this— I’m sleeping in the coziest condo on the coastal front, about 50 minutes outside LA. I just got finished writing some of the best music of my life and now I’m out of the way, on a retreat, peacefully resting with a gorgeous, lovely woman I met on this life journey of ours. I was completely enthralled by her. I’d spend countless mornings and nights with this person, showering her with my attention, gifts, acts of kindness, and so many more things. She’d make me breakfast to get my day started, kissed me softly, and sent me on my way like no other woman could. What could go wrong? The answer is so many things. The one thing that we simple beings universally depend on is security. Whether it’s in our craft, our jobs, our house, and in this case, our relationships. I’m a fast person to tie down. I think I have good intentions, but I’m always moving too quickly, from one thing to the next, I couldn’t fathom committing to anyone then. And I think that hurt her, a lot.

‘Sweet Tooth’

Sam Austins: This was one of the first songs I wrote with the legend, John Hill. What a beautifully zany, yet somber record. If ‘Boy Toy’ had a theme song, I think this one would be it. To me, it’s the climax of the EP that sums up so much of the heartbreak of this project. It’s similar in that way to Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya,’ not just in a sonic manner, but in context too. You have this rich, dark substance lyrically, under such a glossy, bright veil. With ‘Hey Ya,’ it was about people staying together because of traditional values. In ‘Sweet Tooth,’ the song was written from the perspective of someone who has found comfort in being used and toyed with, even going as far as to experience and live with the hurt that comes with loving someone who, ultimately, is hell.

Salem Bee: Like another legend like myself once said, “Love is the drug that I’m looking for”. It can be a full-on addiction, transferring your energy into someone else’s consumption. We fed each other’s craving until it was a bittersweet taste. I’d like to say that this song was almost like an out-of-body experience in the way that I wrote it. I feel like I jumped into her mind, and just channeled from the source on this one. The perspective became ‘How do I let this person know he’s hurting me? He has to realose that he can’t live like this, I have to tell him he’s being a piece of shit, like you cannot do this to people.’ And, that became the basis of this song naturally. What’s crazy is I didn’t realise what inspired me until months after I wrote it, listening to the EP before sending it off to mix.


Sam Austins: ‘Matador’ reminds me so much of big stadium, global rock music. Like, ‘Seven Nation Army’ meets MGMT’s ‘Kids’ at a FIFA World Cup game. It’s still got a hint of the psychedelic, indie electronic sound, but the song is just so damn huge, & alive that to me, it feels like it was made to be played in arenas. Or even, it could be part of the new ‘Skate’ video game tracklist. If you’re reading this, EA Montreal, I love you.

Salem Bee: The lyrics, “she’s a matador, won’t stand it anymore,” is my truth. The woman I knew is gone. She’ll never come back, and she’ll never be the same. The truth is she was fed up with everything that we created. I had to face the reality of that. But, if she was ever so forgiving as to change her mind on us, I want the world to know, I’ve changed. I’m a reformed person now, truly, and I’ve devoted my life to being a better Salem Bee than the one you’ve seen in the days before. I don’t want to be the Boy Toy forever. I can love and be loved, I swear. Thank you for your time, CLASH. I’ve got a makeup record I’m dying to write.

Photo Credit: Devon Williams 

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