AS the title of the latest E.P. suggests…
JohnlikeJohn have their suspicions regarding vegans! Their Vegans Are Evil Too looks at hypocrisy and meditates on the cruelty of the world – adding laughter and a dose of depreciation. I speak to their leader, John (oddly), as he explains how the band came together; the themes and ideas that are expressed in Vegans Are Evil Too; whether comparisons to Tom Waits and Joanna Newsom are welcomed – and how his/the band’s music differs from what is already out there.
I ask whether there are any gigs coming and why there is theatricality and drama in the live shows; some great new musicians we should check out and get behind – and why John’s Christmas is going to be a rather rustic and ‘unusual’ occasion.
Hi, John. How are you? How has your week been?
Not too bad…umm; what's happened?!
I finally wrote a new song after the longest creative drought so far. I got a good idea for a music vid for it too - though it does mean saying goodbye to my hair.
At least it can be made into a scarf or a paintbrush (or something).
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is John.
Vegans Are Evil Too is the new E.P. What sources of inspiration go into it?
So...Vegans Are Evil Too, for me, is like a saying that isn't a saying - but it should be. A sort of statement to say, ‘don't take yourself too seriously: we’re all equally ridiculous’.
A generation of try-hards, though - I do include myself in that.
Are you guys big, hungry meat-eaters? Do you think vegans have a sneaky dark side?!
Well; from the age of...well; until the age of seventeen, I was a strict vegetarian, born and bred. It was only until my friend tricked me into eating a chicken fajita (told me it was Quorn) that I started eating meat.
It was like Eve biting into the Fruit of Knowledge; though it didn't enlighten me: it just made me hungry. I still hold a lot of the same morals towards meat, but I'm a hypocrite. Haha.
It's not just vegans who have a dark side: it's everyone.
It seems like Tom Waits and Joanna Newsom are influences. What is it about their music that draws you?
Joanna Newsom has that voice that makes you sad you’re not five anymore. I really like the contrast between her sweet somewhat naive voice and the darkness in her music. It's pretty much the same way I tackle hard issues - except I use comedy to soften the blow.
Tom Waits inspires the more theatrical side of my music; especially when we perform live. He's a proper song-and-dance man.
Your music has a quirky but accessible sound. Do you think too many modern bands are safe and predictable?
There's no doubt that music, these days, has become pretty vanilla (for the most part).
After decades of intricate musical and cultural evolution - from beatniks, boppers; Blues and beyond - we've ended up with Simon Cowell in charge. Oh, balls. So, yeah, artists definitely play it safe - but probably because, if they stray from the status quo, they won't make any money. But I get it. Kind of. We are continually being fed music and film that is so limp and unchallenging.
It's bland and tastes a bit like chewed gum.
As a result; people are genuinely becoming illiterate to the arts. This isn't to say there's not good work being done - there's plenty - but it lives in the shadows of the all-powerful combine.
Do you have favourite tracks from the E.P.? Is there that one moment that stands out?
Probably my favourite lyric in the whole E.P.: "Chicks just dig emotions" (from A Slice of Culture). It is something I used to say to my ex to get her angry.
Maybe it just works with exs…
Can you tell me how JohnlikeJohn came together? Is there a story behind the name, too?
Back in St. Ives, there was a guy named John. John couldn't go five seconds without saying “Like. What's your name? Umm, well; like, it's, uh John; like, um; John...like”.
Plus; it's a nice note on my own narcissism.
It seems like you have varied tastes. Who are the artists you grew up on?
Both my parents are mad on music. I don't think I know anyone with a more extensive vinyl collection than my dad. From post-War Jazz to Post-Punk; Surf-Rock and Samba. I honestly couldn't pinpoint a particular style that's directly influenced my music. It would be easy to say that British/American Folk is my main source of inspiration, and to be fair, artists like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny have shaped a lot of my style - but the same could be said for the The-B52’s and Frank Zappa.
Folk music is (just) the music of the people: it’s an art form that needs to be contemporary and full of new voices and opinions – otherwise, rather than being the voice of the people, it just becomes warm larger and Pete Seeger…and that's a tragedy.
If you had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
Quadrophenia by The Who
It is such a powerful and beautiful album/film; so much so that I started wearing Ben Sherman and drawing the Mod sign in felt-tip pen on my bike helmet...
“We are the Mods; we are the Mods”.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I don't think I'm in the position to give anyone advice…well, not useful advice at least.
Just don't write shit*y songs about your ex-girlfriend who dumped you. But, if you do; write about how you pissed yourself you were so sad or how you put on all her clothes she left - and you kissed yourself in the mirror pretending to be her. At least it's real and makes you feel something.
The more embarrassing and frank you are about your own feelings; the more people will respond – because everyone's embarrassed.
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where can we see you play?
We play at The Islington (in Islington) quite a lot: it's a really good vibe and they have red-velvet curtains. So, it's a winner in John’s book. We've got a secret gig in the works. It's a biggie, so I can't say much.
Keep your ears pointed to my socials for more updates…
Your live shows have been noted for their sense of theatre and the peculiar. Is the stage somewhere you feel your music can speak without limits?!
At every gig, I imagine I'm the creepy compère from Cabaret - and that the rest of my band are sexy Parisian femme fatales. The reality is I usually look like a homeless cowboy at gigs - and the rest of my band are as much femme fatales as I am a teapot. My ‘origins’ are from working in theatres; which has shaped how I go about performing and preparing for a show. Usually, I decide on a character for the show. My favourite at the moment is Truman Capote (the excessively camp artist).
But, for the most part, I just get up on the stage and leave most of who I am in the wings - and (just) go crazy in front of the crowd and hope they like it.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I shall be returning to Cornwall to spend Xmas in my mum’s caravan; looking forward to bathing in an oil drum full of rainwater.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
B-52’s - Strobe Light