Introducing the high-octane English punk-rock of JOHN.
The duo comprised of John Newton (Drums, Vocals) and John Healey (Guitar, Backing Vocals) released their first album God Speed In The National Limit in 2017, followed by Out Here In The Fringes in 2019, and most recently Nocturnal Manouvers in 2021. Over the course of five years, the energetic two-piece originally from Crystal Palace (London), have gained a growing reputation as one of the UK's most exciting bands in the punk-rock space.
This was highlighted when they were invited to host a KEXP live session in 2019, an invitation reserved for only a certain calibre of musicians within the rock genre. Since then they have toured with IDLES and continued to grow a dedicated following of listeners who understand their importance within the UK's scene. Once inner-city dwellers, the duo became disillusioned with the rat-race mentality of London, first moving to the outskirts of London and now out of the city entirely as they re-evaluated their living spaces.
There’s obviously been a lot of reorientation of the last couple of years, not to mention physically moving myself to the South Coast of the UK (My fellow John - Johnny Healey - is, however, still up the train line on the edge of London). It’s been interesting to filter through the thoughts connected to a new routine and location, especially after around a decade in a capital city. Cities changed rapidly as spaces during the pandemic and despite the obviously horrific repercussions, it did lead us to question some particularly redundant traditions usually upheld by the constant acceleration we’ve been living through.
However make no doubt, their new music is still fuelled with the signature rage and potent hard-hitting energy that we love, and they haven't forgotten their roots, the first track off their new album entitled 'Return To The Capital'...
Read on below for our interview with JOHN...
How did you both meet & where did the name JOHN come from?
We met whilst studying at the same University in the East End of London. We’re shared the same halls in first year so became acquainted as two like-minded individuals who had the same view of music and creativity. Having completed our studies, we decided to finally get in a room post-work to see what our heads could come up with - thankfully we never really looked back. The name was a small manifesto to remind us to strip away the sensationalism often attached to musical activities. It is - of course - both our names too.
Has your environment sculpted your sound in any way?
Of course, everything we make is influenced by external moments of our everyday. These occurrences are sifted through and presented anew through our bodies. It’s the beautiful thing about art and music: how an impetus sparks an idea and becomes translated into a new language. Live music even more so perhaps - with these invisible imprints played out through muscle memory in front of an audience.
If possible how would you describe some of the essential themes of JOHN?
I feel that JOHN songs tend to grow out of mundane moments and observations, and in this way, they can have the ability to touch upon some of the more universal elements/themes of our present. I never aim to write a song about a hardened or grand theme - the lucidity and chance involved in writing a song is simply too important and enjoyable. Approaching the writing in such a sterile rigid manner wouldn’t satisfy us.
Where do you find that your inspiration stems from the most?
We’ve always been quick to point out that visual references are just as important to us as music. This could be a film, book, a play or an exchange of conversation in the kitchen of a South London Cafe in 2018. Each day brings new ideas, you just have to filter which ones are any good.
How do you feel like you've evolved since your first album in 2017?
We’ve always wanted the project to feel as though it grows steadily but with a careful focus on what we think is worthy of attention. There’s enough stuff in the world not to try to make something densely meaningful. Naturally, I know that we’ve have definitely become better musicians and writers through years of practice, and we are able to more ambitious with our bodies than when we first started. We have always tried to push our approach with each album and it has been nice to see people mention this in their responses to the new album.
Do you view music as a response to the times?
Once again, I’m not too interested in the grand statements presented through music, but of course, there are reflections that splinter off and end up imbued in a creative response. I made two albums through 2020 under the name Total Wkts as a response to the limitations of the times. I was feeling disenfranchised within a sense of musical professionalism so forced myself to make the project with the tools I had immediately to hand. The result was liberating, it was great to accentuate the less desirable details that this ad hoc approach sometimes generated.
Do you have any personal views on spirituality/psychedelia and how it interacts with the creative process?
Having worked in the arts for the fifteen years, I’ve always come to understand that the ideas are always out there in the world and often reveal themselves. You just have to be constantly on the look out and ready to catch them when they do. I was really fortunate to realise that I wanted to follow a creative pathway as a youngster, and after 20 years of constant practice, ideas simply flow through more frequently. I spent a lot of my early twenties thinking that an idea would fail before even trying it, thankfully I’ve learnt how best to act swiftly and efficiently, and I just dedicate a lot of time to honour the lightning bolt of an idea when it manifests. We follow the exact same principle with JOHN, a small modest phone recording taken in rehearsal becomes an extremely important act. It can, in the most uncanny way, lead you to quite miraculous things.
If you can, check them out on their UK & Portugal tour starting in April...
& be sure to follow JOHN on the following platforms:
- PSYCHIC GARDEN