SXSW Interview: Reverend and The Makers

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Love, Life and Laundry, with John McClure

“There’s one thing to say that you don’t give a fuck – there’s another thing to not actually give a fuck” says Jon McClure (aka ‘The Reverend’), outspoken frontman extraordinaire of Reverend And The Makers – not one to beat about the bush, when expressing his views on things, especially music – at least, not without setting light to it first – then pissing on the branches.

“Imagine if you were a young band, now. Who are you looking at? Who says what you think? Cos you’re in a young band, you think everything’s shit…the mainstream sucks. I’m about the only motherfucker – only person in England who says it…”.

Live4ever caught up with Jon and Laura McClure (keys and vocals) at the historical Driskill hotel in bustling downtown Austin, Texas. Reverend And The Makers were in town for the mother of all Indie music festivals, SXSW, following on from a date in New York’s ‘Knitting Factory’ with The Enemy the previous week.

Jon: ” …No one knows who we are, in America; there’s no preconceptions. They’ve got to judge us on how good the music is and nothing else. So, if it’s a level playing field, like we can have anyone and I don’t mean that in a competitive way but we’re as good as any band out there…It’s just that, in England, there’s a perception that we’re this political band… You seen our gig, yesterday, full of agents and maybe twenty people in the room know who we are, right – and we turned it upside down, and everyone’s going fucking nuts by the end, right…”.

Formed in 2005, in Sheffield, Reverend And The Makers were part of the scene that was made up of such notable bands as The Artic Monkeys, Bromheads Jacket, The Long Blondes, Milburn and The Harrisons
.
Indeed, at one point, a kind of ‘pre fame’ supergroup existed, called Jodan Tsuki, which included sundry members of The Artic Monkeys and The Makers. “Don’t think you’ll find any recordings of us, cos we destroyed them” McClure laughs “we were absolutely terrible”. In addition, when initial fame and success were being achieved, both bands continued to collaborated, with Alex Turner contributing to the song ‘The Machine‘ on Reverend And The Maker’s first album-and McClure co-writing ‘Old Yellow Bricks‘ for The Monkey’s second album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare‘.

McClure continues “We were all friends, right. But particularly us- like me and my brother- and The Monkeys, and Milburn, were all from the same area. Our mums are all friends….I mean, me and Alex (Turner) used to live together, all that sort of thing – so we kind of all started in a similar place”.

Although The Artic Monkeys have now decamped to The New World, in order to try and repeat the stratospheric level success that has become them in other territories, McClure wants to stay put, and to carry on as he has before: “I’m quite eager to stay in Sheffield” he says “cos I think the days in England when you had to, like, get on your knees for London, especially-they’re over, man…y’know.

With Twitter and Facebook, I might as well engage as much with Austin, Texas, as I do with London or Bombay, or wherever it be

….understand what I mean by that…don’t have to go anywhere anymore, or like, go everywhere….it’s changed a lot”.

Jon reveals that he would love to tour- and ‘grab America by the balls”- but states that inevitable practicalities, such as money, currently prevent him from doing so, because it costs so much to play places where only a handful of fans might turn up for a gig : McClure-” Like, we live nice in England, but if I come to America I’ll skint myself…We’re willing to do the graft, it’s just you need people to give you their love in the first place, to be able to afford it…”.

In 2005 when Alex Turner and his gang were about to make it big, Reverend And The Makers were reportedly offered a six figure sum , by major record labels, to record an ‘album like the Artic monkeys’- but McClure declined, wanting to do his own thing, and in his own way.
Two years later, and having signed to Wall Of Sound records, they released the top ten single ‘Heavy Weight Champion Of The World‘, which garnered a fair amount of radio play and got to number eight, in the charts with their debut album, The State Of Things, achieving a respectable place in the top ten.

‘The Reverend’ , is clearly an old rocker at heart, in the classic tradition. He says “Older heads from the industry dig my band-they get that I’m like they are-that I’m a proper rock’n’roller. ‘I’m not, like one of these fucking guys whose gonna, like, start getting on his knees when James Corden or fucking Nick Grimshaw walks into the room. I don’t give a fuck who you are, mate…”.

He sometimes performs on stage with his friend, Mick Jones, from The Clash – and, in the past, legendary Mancunian punk poet, John Cooper Clarke – as well as counting several members of the rock’n’roll illuminati as mates, including Noel and Liam Gallagher.

” I’ve got a brilliant Liam story…” McClure chuckles ” We supported Oasis at Wembley, right. By the end of Oasis, they’ve got separate dressing rooms, and Noel had this party-and Liam came to Noel’s party…

Liam got me against a wall – not aggressively – and he’s talking to me…and he’s intense, right – and he went “What’s your favourite type of peas?”

So I said garden-and he said “Don’t you like mushy?” … “No, I like garden” …”You’re alright, you, mate”… Y’see, that’s his test. If I’d gone “Yeah, yeah maybe I do like mushy” – I’m a wanker. Understand me – cos that means I’m swayed…and that’s the test. I like that”.

” Noel’s great,man” McClure says ” I had posters of them lads on my bedroom wall, and for Noel to tell me he likes my music, it’s like the best thing ever”.

However, Jon is eager not to exploit his connections, in order to gain recognition.
McClure: ” Flea’s a mate. We supported Flea ( bass player with The Red Hot Chilli Peppers) at Knebworth… So, if we came over here and support them dudes, maybe there is a short cut…But it’s not like I’m in a place where I can just ring em up and go: “Ere mate, can I support you-do you mind?”. Feel like a bit of a dick, don’t you …Just waiting for a bit of good fortune to come my way – then I’ll have it!”.

And who can argue with that! After all, this man may incur his detractors, but at least he has his principles, and is pretty forth right in expressing them – particularly regarding his outspoken loathing of the current state of the music industry which , incidentally, he thinks is largely a pile of shite, currently helmed by a crew of middle class rich kids, who are into crap music – and pollute everyone else with their rubbish opinions.

“In the 90s, the Captain’s out to lunch, and the passengers have taken over; it’s like you’ve got a bunch of working class kids who have managed to take the music industry-and everything got fucking good, cos geezers who actually got it were in charge; like girls and boys who understood what shit’s about…And then, basically – boom! – it exploded – we had Britpop. Then we got, like,

a load of posh kids who thought ‘ I want a piece of that’ ….load of posh kids who like shit music, in charge; same on the radio – same at the record labels, right; you’ve got a load of idiots running it….’

In the same breath, he knows how much ‘the industry’ has a dislike of him-and his band ; “The radio aren’t gonna play my shit, and the music industry in England are like ‘how the fuck are we still here’. They hate us, like they hated Oasis. When Oasis first came out, The NME, and radio hated ’em…an they’re still here….”.

An analyst, looking solely at the chart entry data, from Reverend And The Makers releases, over the years, could argue that, since those halcyon seeming salad days of initial success, and the first album, that their career has been a little on the slide- and subsequent releases have failed to chart as high – with second album ‘French Kissing In Chaos’ going in at a lukewarm nineteen, in 2010.

“If you listen to the second album” The Rev says “It’s like the most miserable album”.
Indeed, it seems that life after the release of ‘ French Kissing In Chaos’ was a bit turbulent for a time-and the band entered a bit of a hiatus:

“After our second album, I went all political-and took too many drugs, and we were on our ass at one bit”.

Such a shift, in chart entries, would see most mainstream ‘pop’ acts loosing their record deals-and thrown into the gutter before you could say “I could’ve been a someone” – but McClure seems unconcerned by it, and takes it all in his swagger : “It’s like we’ve got Richard Hawley, from Sheffield. He started out in the band The Long Pigs, years ago, right. He’s on his eight album, right. He’s doing really really well. He got nominated for the Mercury Music prize…. Got a Brit award this year….I remember going to see Richard and, like, six people watched him – and he said to me “Ignore every one…ignore the radio…ignore the press….just make the music that you know’s good- and keep doing it”.

Which seems perfectly apt, for The Rev clearly has an unshakable belief and love for what he does-and sees it more as a vocation-a lifestyle choice, like the priesthood, more than anything else. In his eyes, it’s simple: build it (create something interesting, emotional-that has a bit of heart and soul) and -eventually-they will come!
“A lot of kids in bands think ‘ I wanna be in this band for five years…’ ” he says, referring to musicians who plan to be in a band-then further their career, and revenue, by going solo “but i wanna be in my band forever. I fucking love my band. I met Ronnie Wood a few years back….I looked at him and thought- sixty odd, mate – and you’re still having it….that’s how I wanna be”.

McClure knows that Reverend And The Makers aren’t going to be taking on the likes of Justin Beiber, Nicki Menaj, Calvin Harris, et al, over night: “We do well in England, but we’re never going to be number one or anything. It’s not possible, in a band like ours, to be number one in England, anymore, because the mainstream is so fucking rubbish…By the time we’re forty, I feel like we might get to number one…It’s a shame it takes so long, y’know what I’m saying….If you’re an alternative band, like, it takes ages, now….you can’t short circuit it…Well, you can, but you have to make shit music. For example, you’ve got Calvin Harris, right, who’s gonna think “Alright, I’ll make a beat on me laptop-I’ll get me A+R man to get Rhianna to sing on it and-boom-I’m number one”. You’re faced with a choice as a musician, in England- don’t know about America-but you’re faced with a choice, right; make shit music and go to number one-or make really good music-and go to number one in, like, fifteen years, if you’re lucky…”.

By the same token, The Rev is sure that the music biz is approaching a sea change-one that is going to be an interesting positive for the banal state that he sites mainstream music being in, at the moment.
“I don’t know about America, but when I went into a cafe off Lexington, the other day, in New York and listened to the radio I’m thinking ‘Fucking hell-they have to listen to the same shit we do…” he laughs, “I like to think that there’ll be an inevitable reaction against that, y’know; like Punk was a reaction against,like,Abba, and , like, Acid House was a rejection of Phil Collins… And, like, Britpop were a rejection of Whigfield, or whatever it fucking were, d’yer know what I fuckin mean…We played Tea In The Park last year…Nicki Minaj is, like, miming – so everyone walks off and, the next thing, our tent is rammed- and everyone’s having it- in our tent….and I think ‘that’s good’..because its starting to turn-you can just feel it….Everyone’s really fucking bored of it …”.

The advent of social networking, in the last five to ten years, has not only changed the shape of popular culture, as a whole, but continues to have an effect on the music biz, and how music is consumed, throughout the world-meaning that we now have music at our fingertips. From the biggest stadium acts-to stuff that people are making in their own bedrooms, can be attained without leaving the house-and bands are increasingly less reliant on traditional methods, such as getting a record (and distribution) deal, or being played on commercial radio, and TV, in order to gain exposure.

The Rev has been eager to use social networking as a means to promote his band, particularly in lite of the traditional forms being unavailable, at the present time. With pride, he announces that the band’s third album ‘@Reverend_Makers‘ (incidentally their Twitter handle) was released in June 2012- and reached number sixteen,in the charts, without any radio play, or traditional exposure, beyond playing gigs.

McClure confides in us that, although he has had his ups and downs, that things are peachy, in his world, right now. He has replaced certain facets of his partying ways with more anorak like hobbies, namely ‘notaphily‘, which, to those not in the know, is collecting banknotes- and has a particular penchant for accumulating notes, from other countries, that have tyrannical dictators on them.

With regards to music, The Rev is equally as happy, concluding:

“It’s a bit of a myth that bands write their best record on their first album.

A lot of bands do, right. Like The Monkey’s first album-it’s so fucking good that they would struggle to ever better it-brilliant, right. But I feel that I’m writing the best music of my life, now, when I’m thirty one years old…The last album is our best album by a mile, and the new album I’m writing is fucking unbelievable, so I feel, like, it’s a bit of a myth, perpetuated by the music industry, innit, that you’re supposed to be this fully formed thing. But I’m in such a good place;I feel great-I’m having a good time”

“I’m writing the best music of me life. I’m happy, I’m traveling the world; I’m good-d’yer know what I mean…?”.

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Sam Slattery



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