Scottish-English pop punk band came to Boston last Saturday for a free show in Herter Park; I had the chance to sit with with the band for a chat before the show.
Tell me a bit about your story so far as a band.
Josh: We started out four years ago. I knew Jonny from school and Jonny knew Jack from music college, and we found James online.
Jonny: When our previous drummer left, I went on this mad phase of stalking Facebook to find drummers, going through everyone’s friend lists, and I found James. We asked him to meet us at the studio in Coventry, since it was about halfway between us and him, to meet and do a rehearsal, and he did, and it worked out. He made the cut.
Josh: The first year and second year of the band were all about touring the UK. The third year we branched out to America, and now we’re back out here to do some more work and keep promoting ourselves.
Jonny: We did a Germany tour a month ago and just finished a UK tour. Now we’re here till mid-December, and then we’ll do a UK tour in January again, so we’re super busy.
Now this isn’t your first time in Boston. You were here for First Night last year.
Josh: This is our third time here in Boston. The first time we were here was on a tour called Boys of Summer, and the second time we played Boston’s First Night on NBC, which was really cool.
You’ve been compared to bands like 5 Seconds of Summer and The Vamps before. How do you feel about comparisons like that?
Josh: I think those comparisons made more sense like two years ago. I don’t really see that much now. I think our sound’s changed since the first couple of years.
Jonny: And a lot of bands like 5SOS and The Vamps, their sound is completely changing with the new stuff. I think their stuff from way back in the day is closer to what we’re doing now. I take it as a compliment. They’re successful bands. We just want to pool a bunch of influences and we don’t want to get pigeonholed into one genre. Now that we’re early on in our career, we just want to do as much as we can now, so that down the line, there’s none of the “oh, that’s not your sound” kind of thing.
Josh: Once people see us live, they will notice that most of the songs we play are different from one another, so they have to see us live to get the picture.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
James: We haven’t done much writing with me, because we haven’t gotten that chance yet. At the moment, for me it’s about learning what’s already there. But personally, the sort of influences that I take are all kinds of stuff. I’ve always said that I love everything from rock to classic to indie to pop to soul to R&B to hip hop. I love all kinds of stuff like that, so it’s all over the place, to be honest.
Jonny: I like like 80s, anything that’s on Top of the Pops, Nirvana—any bands that put on shows with energy and have people crowdsurfing. That’s a show to me, not people standing with their phones recording the whole thing. Enjoy the show, be in the moment while it’s there.
Josh: I like anything that catchy, pretty much. I’m pretty easy like that. I’d like Ed Sheeran, You Me At Six, early Fall Out Boy, blink-182. Punk is probably my go-to.
Jack: I listen to a lot of heavy metal and hardcore. I also like rap as well. Anything with lots of energy that gets people jumping.
Jonny: We get compared a lot to early 2000s pop punk and not so much the newer stuff. We take it as a compliment though, because we’re not trying to sound like that. That’s just the sound that we get.
Jack: Sum 41 and blink are the comparisons we get a lot more now than 5SOS.
You just released a new song, “Dear John,” yesterday. Do you want to talk about that?
Jonny: No. [laughs] We actually have been sitting on this song for a year and a half now, at least. We don’t want to give all our music away, but filter it out a bit. But when we dropped this song, we got a mad response from this. I think it took us a day on our last music video to get a thousand views, and this video’s already at 4.6 thousand views, so the progression of this band is happening and we can see it. Our fans love it and we love it.
Josh: I think we also sat on this song for ages because lyrically it’s not the most appropriate song. And we also had to change the title.
Jonny: We don’t really like to swear on stage, that’s not our thing.
Jack: I feel like we had to build up to this one.
Jonny: And that’s the thing. This song hints at that, so we had to find quirky ways to drop subliminal messages.
Josh: It can mean whatever you want.
Jonny: Kissed your girlfriend, punched your girlfriend…
The first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure if my sound cut out! It’s a fun song though.
Jonny: We’re really proud of it. Our friend Darren back in Scotland filmed the video. he’s done tons of tours with us, and my mum was saying we needed a video, and I was like “Let’s give Darren a chance to do this,” and he totally pulled it out of the bag. We love the video.
It’s got a lot of energy, and we keep saying that word energy. That seems to be key for you.
Jonny: We just want people to have fun. When I see so many bands playing these arenas and people look bored in the crowd, and I’m like, this sucks! Put on bands that are actually gonna get the crowd going and jumping. That’s what a show should be, not just standing still like a lot of indie bands.
What’s been the most memorable city or show you’ve done so far?
Josh: Jonny, you start.
Jonny: I was gonna say get to me last, because this is hard. Fort Lauderdale was probably the most memorable for me, because the acts on the tour all came off like, “the crowd sucks, it’s boring, blah blah blah, don’t even get your hopes up,” and we went on there and we got everyone going. I stopped the show because this girl wasn’t jumping, and I was like, “Why are you not jumping?” I literally called her out. She was so embarrassed, and I said, if you don’t jump, I’m gonna stop the show again. She was jumping the whole entire song. That was the first show that I think we properly went over the top. Smashing guitars, throwing the drum kit around, and it was just like…I don’t really know what happened.
Jack: To this day we wish it was recorded.
Jonny: We wish it had been recorded. But it’s tough, cause we’ve also done Whiskey a Go Go in LA.
Josh: Mine is actually probably here, at First Night. That was just really cool. it was so cold, and we decided to all wear shorts and our suit jackets onstage. It was kind of just to make a statement that we’re Scottish and we don’t care, we just want to come on and make everyone go, are these guys crazy?
Jonny: Worst mistake ever. It was Baltic.
Josh: We were told there would be heaters backstage, we’d be fine—one tiny little heater! There was like 20 people backstage all huddled around it. But the crowd was crazy, we got to be on NBC.
Jonny: All we were thinking was “finish the solo, get to the hospital.”
Jack: Yeah, I was saying to Jonny, “I think we’re gonna have to go to the hospital after this,” because it was so painfully cold.
Jonny: They said there would be heaters and tents and we got there thinking it would be a backstage warm room, but it was one heater with a tent and the door was open. There were ten people around it. That heater was serving no one else!
Jack: Most memorable show was probably our first big headliner in Glasgow, at the O2. That was an amazing show. There’s so much good footage of that. It was our first major show.
Jonny: We did a thousand tickets in our hometown, and it was amazing because the only bands that come out of our hometown are metal or indie, so when we put this together as a pop punk act for us to actually have a fanbase to show support and to be doing better than other acts that came out of our hometown, that was a real moment for us as a band. Like, we’ve done this, We’ve achieved this. But then the venue burned down. Rest in peace the O2.
What’s your goal going into 2020?
Josh: We’re in the states till December and we’re coming back next year, and we’re trying to get into colleges. As far as goals are concerned, I’d probably say trying to get signed to a major record label would be really cool.
Jonny: And then getting dropped by the label. That sounds really fun.
Josh: And jumping on some bigger tours as well, cross-country tours with a proper support band, and growing the band even more.
Jonny: We just wanna tour.
James: Go big.
What’s your dream collaboration?
Jonny: Josh’s answer is Brendon Urie. Jack, yours is probably gonna be System Of A Down.
Jack: Yeah, Daron from System Of A Down.
James: Oh, so many people.
Jonny: Nicki Minaj?
James: I’d say U2. Because it’d be suiting because a lot of the original punk was really political, and U2 have always been quite a political band, so I think that’d be interesting.
Jonny: This is a real difficult one because there’s not really many people nowadays that I really want to write with. But probably Finneas O’Connell, Billie [Eilish]’s brother. I think the music that he’s made is actually really different from the stuff that’s in the charts. Maybe Ryan Tedder, because he’s worked with a lot of pop artists. Or Brian Wilson forty years ago. The Beach Boys are my favorite band. I’m into all the music where everyone’s either dead or on the way out. What about you?
I’d love to get to write with Pete Wentz. I think his lyrics are incredible.
Jonny: You know Pete Wentz had a label back in 2006 and signed Panic! At The Disco.
Jonny: Yup. And now Panic! is massive. I love that early Fall Out Boy— “Dead On Arrival,” “Grand Theft Autumn,” those kinds of songs back then were so good. But I think it’s bands like that where you don’t appreciate them at the time, but now you listen back and you’re like, “This was so good, why isn’t it on radio?” We were talking about this the other day. All the bands like the Kooks and The Wombats and The Hoosiers, I would give anyway go back and have them on radio. I think bands are starting to come back, slowly but surely. You may know the artist Yungblud. His performances are incredible.
I got to see him on Warped Tour last year. His performances are great.
Jonny: He’s great. There’s a band called Waterparks that are doing really well in America at the moment, and Twenty One Pilots too. It’s bands like that that I’m glad are on radio and hopefully it just keeps going and bands come back and take over again. Bands will have their day again. It might take a couple of years, but they’ll come back.
What’s a lyric or song you wish you had written?
Jonny: Oh my god! I said this the other day! What was it? Come back to me last. I’m gonna think about this.
Josh: Don’t wanna be an American Idiot…
James: Is this a song I wish I wrote because I really like the lyric or because of the monetary outcome?
I meant because you like the lyric.
James: Something I always hear that I love is “the abomination of Obama’s nation” [from “Power” by Kanye West]. I think that’s really good.
Jonny: Falling in Reverse’s first album came out in 2011, I think, called The Drug in Me Is You, and they have a song on it called “Pick Up The Phone“, and there are so many different kinds of styles in it. They’ve got a rap verse, and catchy choruses. That whole album is kind of what I want us to sound like. There are just so many different elements and that’s the goal, in a sense.
Josh: I’m gonna say “American Idiot” [by Green Day]. “Don’t wanna be an American idiot.”
Jack: Do you know what just popped into my head? “Toxicity” by System Of A Down. They have a lyric that goes, “Eating seeds as a pastime activity.” I think that’s so funny. It’s just a weird part of the song. And even in the music video, they’re eating seeds.
Anything else you want to add?
Jonny: Stream “Dear John.” Thanks to the fans for checking it out. Eat grapes, not raisins.