What we’re really looking forward to in 2021 are new records from some of the best bands around right now. Here, Laura Stewart talks to John Newton from the noise rock duo, JOHN whose new album you need to listen out for in 2021.
Being an independent musician was hard even before COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. With venues being shut down, tours cancelled, and releases postponed, the ongoing pandemic has shaken up the music industry as a whole, and independent artists are among those whose livelihoods are most threatened by the global crisis. Despite all this, 2020 has been a prosperous year for new music and artists have been finding increasingly inventive ways of getting themselves seen and heard. For once, I think we can all be grateful for social media for keeping us entertained through the dark times. There is hope for the new year, though it may take some time to return to normal, we do have new music to look forward to.
Photo by Lindsay Melbourne, 2019
Taking the mundane spirit of their name as a manifesto, Crystal Palace based 2-piece JOHN, both aptly named John, display an almost mechanical solidity rare for only two bodies. Alongside their tight, rhythmic synchronisation, introspective lyrics suggest that literature and spoken word are just as important influences as the Punk, Noise and Rock genres they comfortably fit into.
LS: 2020 is almost over (yay!). What have you missed most this past year, and what are you looking forward to?
JN: think it’s a pretty obvious answer, but playing live music has been a big part of both of our lives for the last decade, so not being able to do this has been a real shame. We had a lot of exciting plans that were either canned or rescheduled, so I’d have to say I look forward to a time when we can get out in front of people again. We do have a couple of special socially distanced shows in London In March 2021, so hopefully that’s a good start.
LS: You have a new album on the way, can you tell us when it will likely be released? Can you tell us what will it be called and what to expect from your new music?
JN: It’s a bit early to say exact dates and details, but we’re working hard to complete the final tweaks—with mastering happening after the holidays. Similarly, we’ll have to leave you in limbo on the title front too, we have it confirmed, but it’s currently sworn to secrecy within the JOHN camp. In terms of expectations, it certainly feels like a progression, and having enjoyed the cinematic quality and space that both ourselves and listeners noted on 2019’s Out Here On The Fringes, I think we semi-consciously turned the dial even further on this one. We’re always trying to make albums that feel like a jigsaw puzzle with songs interlocking, and I think this one is really successful in that regard. Overall, we’re both very happy with it.
LS: What is your songwriting process?
JN: It’s pretty simple really, it’s a clash of our two heads/bodies in a warm room. We tend to record any snippets of ideas as soon as they appear in the air. Then we just develop from there: half-sung/moaned patterns develop into more elaborate lines, and similarly, Johnny does a lot of work choosing certain tones to best match the song as they grow.
LS: Who are you inspired by musically?
JN: There really is so much stuff that goes into the melting pot having been around on this earth for a while, but I think its always good to note that influences aren’t always just musical. Cinema, visual art and literature also help us a lot when we’re bringing references together to build an album.
LS: Where would be your ideal gig and who would you be on the bill with?
JN: Anywhere right now, but I think we’d just be very happy to get back out on tour to see our friends across the UK and Europe. We were in discussions about travelling to the US before 2020 occurred, so it would also be great to be able to get over there as we know a lot of people have asked too. Again, it’s really difficult to name names as there’s so much music we admire, but we’ve always enjoyed spending time/playing with our pals METZ when they’ve been over in the UK.
LS: If we were to take a look in your (Christmas) fridge right now, what would we find?
JN: Having changed plans a couple of days ago (because of the ongoing pandemic), I’m now going to be borrowing a Christmas fridge, but I’ve acquired materials for a vegan roast dinner and some Brooklyn Special Effects Non-Alco Lager, so I’m sorted. Johnny is a great cook and has recently got a Gas powered pizza oven so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s got some Christmas pizzas lined up.
LS: In addition to the album release, what are your plans for 2021 when we are all allowed out to play again?
JN: As mentioned, we’re starting with two special distanced shows at Studio 9294, in Hackney Wick, East London, on March 19th 2021. This will be the first time that the new material will get aired in public, so we’re really looking forward to it. It’ll be nice to have a response after so much time behind-closed-doors. We’re also already announced on a fair few festivals—including the wonderful End Of The Road—so hopefully, we can make up for this year’s missing summer depending on how the year begins to play out. Either way, we’ve got plenty to chew on, it’s all very exciting.
To hear more new music from JOHN check out their Facebook page. Please support your favourite independent artists by buying merch and music directly from them, and donate to your local venues that are at risk of closing down due to the pandemic.