The importance of having an online presence in this day and age is a tricky one. Over exposure can be just the thing to turn people off bands, but if a band hasn’t at least got some songs online it can be a frustrating double edged sword.
Southern two-piece JOHN were completely shrouded in mystery from the off, but their debut into the world didn’t need the backing of a gajillion Twitter followers that they had to pay for, or 100 Instagram pictures. The ferocious ‘Johnny’s Got A Sleeve’ and accompanying oddball photo was enough to get me on board. In this case, the fact that it was a struggle to find JOHN on Google was, quite frankly, kind of a fucking good thing.
They’ve just released ‘Validation’ – a brand new three track EP that follows on from last year’s self-titled debut. The cock-hardening ‘Bigger Man’ opens it up, flying by at a hundred miles an hour as drummer John screams his throat hoarse and guitarist Johnny riffs like mad. There’s hardly any breathing room in the EP’s abrasive duration. It’s a huge nod that these pair aren’t fucking about and never intended too.
Simon Pegg was notably high on their debut self-titled EP, rightly making a mention of his appreciation for it on Twitter. It’s this nugget of info that starts this interview off, with drummer John happy to answer a laundry list of questions that were pitched to him by yours truly.
BCFB: You’ve just put out a new EP; your second. When you were writing these new songs, did you just have the adoration of Simon Pegg in mind?
What a question to start eh? Unfortunately he didn’t play much of a part of the process, although to clarify to the rest of the unknowing readers for context… it was good to hear (through a tweet) that he was a fan of the first EP; we’ve both grown up enjoying a fair few things he’s made, so it was nice to reciprocate.
Seriously though, ‘Validation’ just came out – pretty excited for people to hear it?
Yup, we’re very excited to get it out of our inboxes and into the world. It often takes a fair bit of time from recording to get these things out and about, especially when we’re involved in the whole process from music, to artwork, to pressing. So we’ve lived with these songs for quite a while now and it becomes a little bit like listening to a past self, a self with a silly haircut or the self that almost bought a Spineshank CD once. In this way, it’s really great to finally hand it off to people; a neutral reaction helps remind you that you quite enjoyed that chunk of time and that former you was right not to buy that CD after all. It’s also great to use this as momentum to get working on the new bunch of songs that we’re toying with.
How was the writing and production process this time around?
It would be really great to say that we flew to a secluded island off the mainland to gain influence of the natural surroundings and harness it by sampling the wind’s howl… But in truth, it’s an EP born from the situations and happenings of the last couple of years. We both spend our time incessantly flickering between disciplines and jobs, so we felt like we wanted to write this into the songs and the EP, hence why the inside of the sleeve includes our rough stage plan that we sent to festivals this summer, or the way we asked two bands who we met in that period of time to remix a track. We hope that it’s honest to the situation that we operate in – as I’ve said many times before, we’re both a bit fed up of the false sensationalism you’re encouraged to keep up when making ‘rock’ music. If you apply the same logic to our name, maybe you can start to realise why it’s an important choice for us (along with the fact that both of us are called John).
What sort of stuff was driving you in the writing process?
Writing-wise it was quite simply us locking heads in a warm room again; a relief away from the other worldly commitments we upkeep. We just tried to push on from what we thought were the successes of the first EP, to keep momentum whilst developing new and varying approaches for songs. It’s often quite difficult to pin point exactly why or when a song clicks into sync, but when it does it’s a really bloody good feeling – one that you want to repeat over and over again.
So you’re in a band called John and you’ve just put out an EP called ‘Validation’…Are there people out there struggling with the set up? How did ‘Validation’ come about?
As I believe I mentioned previously, there’s a logic behind the name that reminds us to simply write for our own pleasure, forget a marketing plan because if you don’t please yourself you might as well just throw in a pile of sweaty towels. ‘Validation’ is a phrase that kept popping up in conversations with other people: at what point do you feel validated in a job, a skill or a task – the bar shifts higher and higher, new boxes are drawn when the last are ticked. That’s the beauty of making music or more broadly living, you have to keep pushing and questioning; and to come full circle, that’s often my response to individuals who appear disappointed with the cryptic appearance of the name ‘JOHN’ in the context of a band… To be honest, it’s not even that hard to find through a search engine if you use simple detective thought (which is a good thing in this world of monotony). Would you prefer we put an umlaut on the ‘O’?
People seem to be waking up to you guys though – are you pretty stoked with the responses you’re getting from the new EP and in general?
We’re genuinely very happy to have met so many interesting people this year through being invited to play as JOHN. There’s already been some very kind comments about the new one so far, so in turn we hope it can propel us to some new places in the new year.
How chuffed were you to have Pulled Apart By Horses and Shitwife provide some remixes?
PABH and Shitwife are all super people who we were lucky enough to play with and meet this year, so it seemed fitting to ask them to chop up some of the stuff as a testament to this period of time. We both grew up in the era of terrible CD singles filled with interchangeable remixes so we thought we should definitely try to replicate this ourselves – albeit with the help of some very talented people. The CD itself is designed to look like a fake burned CD-R with printed hand written text, which I feel comes from the same era – very similar to a disc that you’d find scratched down the seats of your brother’s Peugeot 106.
I’ve still not seen you live and I yet again missed you when you were in my neck of the woods…But how was your Carefully Planned Fest experience up North?
It’s reassuring to know that you’re interested in us solely on our recordings! I think we’re just such big fans of live music/playing live that we take pride in every opportunity we get up the front. ACPF was a pretty special one for us (not to rub it in as it’s your backyard) but it’s one of the best crowds we had in our short history – even despite it being our first jaunt up North with JOHN. We simply couldn’t have asked for more than a room full of rowdy people and that’s what we got. There seemed to be an additional peppering of old friends who turned up out of nowhere, so we ended up satisfyingly hazy on a blow-up mattress in the morning. On the whole, it was well worth the ten hours of driving – especially with some fine service station visits on the way back South.
It’s getting to that time of year where people are thinking ahead and being asked this type of questions…So what have you got in the pipeline for 2016?
Johnny’s going to get married and I might start trying to iron my clothes more, and in between that, we’re going to make lots of art, furniture and of course music. This will probably all collide to result in many shows and a release of some sort, perhaps strapped to the side of one of John’s finely restored Danish tables.
Check out the EP in full by clicking the picture below, and be sure to ask Santa for a physical copy this Christmas – or purchase it here.