Interview: Bombargo – A Band of Brothers

By Davis Schierlmann and Flynn Snyder

Up-and-coming vintage pop band Bombargo is known for their infectious energy on stage. Made up of seven musicians, the band is embarking on a tour later this year and kicked things off at the 2020 Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. DJs Hot Sauce and Old Bay sat down with lead singer Nathan Thoen, guitarist Spencer “Spenny” Chilliak, and Nathan’s brother/guitarist Anthony Thoen to talk about how the group formed, why family is important to them, and the inspiring message they hope to share with all of their fans. 

Hailing from Canada, the band was excited to kick off their tour in Sunshine Grove at the festival. Music festivals are central to the band’s identity. Without them, the band might not even exist. Without knowing each other, and deciding to go on a whim, Nathan and Spenny drove 16 hours together to attend the Sasquatch Music Festival. From there, the guys were inspired to set out on their own musical journey.

“We watched all this amazing music…(it) was really impactful in the sense that…after it was done, everyone felt better, inspired and just amazing, and that’s what we try to do with our band,” said Spenny. 

Since that pivotal moment, music festivals have been an essential part of the group’s creative inspiration, both as performers and viewers. 

“Music festivals really just allow everyone to just be and they allow people to come and have fun together. As an artist, it’s the best thing to feel,” said Nathan. “It’s a simmer pot, it’s a Smörgåsbord of good times. There’s lots of fans, great people. Festivals too as both an attendee and an artist, we love it from both sides.”

The band has since grown from just Nathan and Spenny to now include seven members. One important aspect to the group’s bond is family. There are now two sets of brothers in the band which helps add to their infectious energy on stage. Guitarist Anthony, brother to lead singer Nathan, says he loves working with his brother. 

“We spend so much time on the road together, and we’re working on this project around the clock. We actually have two sets of brothers in the band: Two biological sets, and then seven honorary brothers,” said Anthony. 

Key to the band’s success has not only been the support the members give one another, but also the support they feel from their families. 

“There’s no doubt about it, we love these guys. We’d all take a bullet for each other. We just have each other’s backs to the fullest,” said Spenny. “Starting music at 23, some parents might just be like ‘What are you doing? You’re going to go try and play in a rock band?’  But no, we have such amazing families, all of us, and it’s really cool. All the parents come to the hometown shows and they’re all friends. We just have a 70-person family now.”

To prove even further how much family means to the band, the guys even came up with their name in Swedish to mean a band of brothers. 

“Family is everything. At the end of the day, we’re all going to die, and I’d like to spend time with the ones I love most,” said Nathan.

Not only has the band used its family ties to propel their early success, but they’ve also had the help of one very famous business tycoon: Founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. The business mogul compared Bombargo’s energy to that of the Rolling Stones. The group met Branson after collaborating with his son Sam. Branson paid the guys an unexpected visit at a jam session. 

“We’re just kind of hanging and we wrote all these songs that we’ve never played for anyone and we’re just playing them for Richard Branson all the sudden. And at one point he’s just like ‘Dudes, I haven’t seen this kind of energy since the Rolling Stones.’ And we were just like ‘WOW, you signed the Stones’,” said Nathan. 

It would appear that the group’s energy has not gone unnoticed by their fans, as their experience in Nelson, British Columbia indicates. 

 “Nate was hanging off the rafters at that show, my shirt got ripped straight in half, from shoulder down, like straight gone. Me and Sandy got ripped straight off the stage. It was a barnburner, the green room got rushed,” Spenny recalled.

The band has not let their newfound success go to their heads though. Their humble roots are what keeps them focused on their music. 

“It’s not about the money or the shows, it’s about the mindset…,” said Anthony. 

“Every day I feel like I have made it in some sort of way. Would I like to have a big tour bus rig? 100%, but I feel like I’m surrounded by the people I love, I’m playing music with my best friends,” said Spenny.

“This industry breeds the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, then I’ll make it, then I’ll make it. But if you wake up every day with gratitude in your heart that you get to make music, then we made it,” said Nathan.

Bombargo’s music aims to inspire and empower people. The band hopes people see them as an example to follow their dreams and shoot for success. 

“We all have these magical gifts inside us and whether that’s to start a hummus company or start a band or write a book or whatever it is everyone has a unique gift and I think it’s about reminding everyone that they are worth going after,” said Nathan. “We just want people to feel good and feel happy and inspired.”

The verdict? Bombargo is a band that you should keep an eye on going forward. Be it listening to their songs and albums We are Bombargo, Oxygen, or to a live performance in the future, Bombargo is a band that aims to inspire and connect people. If you’d like to listen to the full interview, click on the audio link below. 

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