Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Weekend with a Band: Drugs, Sex and Rock and Roll

Last weekend I got to experience the life of local punk rock band "The Jammy Dodgers". Lead singer Josh had invited me to stay at the band's flat after we had met and had a couple of drinks one Saturday evening at a small festival in London. As the band's name suggests, they are brilliantly crazy and full to the brim with energy, my weekend with "The Jammy Dodgers" can only be described as completely bonkers. I got to interview the members, watch rehearsals and see what it's like to play at a gig.

Lead Singer Josh of the Jammy Dodgers in the flat
I turned up to "The Jammy Dodgers" HQ, or should I say a run down flat in the center of town, not quite sure what to expect. The band introduced themselves and I was soon welcomed into their busy lives, sat on a threadbare sofa in the front room as cups of tea were made. "Got any jammy dodgers to go with this?" I asked as we all had our cuppas. The band members were hilariously funny and crazy as I have always imagined rock bands to be, I was definitely not disappointed in any way. Drummer Scott and bassist Emma were helping themselves to a line of coke on the glass coffee table as Josh the singer put one of the band's tracks on for me to hear. Being a guitarist and music fanatic myself, I could appreciate their music and rather enjoyed it, the hard hitting lyrics backed up by the heavy instrumental which was catchy and sometimes rather experimental was promising and I could see that this band, who are only young, seemed to have talent beyond any of the rubbish being played on Radio 1.

Cigarettes and alcohol kept us going through the night
"The Jammy Dodgers" consists of 4 members: Singer Josh, guitarist Cassie, drummer Scott and bassist Emma. These 4 young band members seemed to relish the rock and roll life style, almost as if they were trying to replicate Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger or any other rock stars who have their fair share of drugs and riots. Jagger himself said "you start playing rock and roll to have sex and do drugs" but I don't think the members of The Jammy Dodgers are in it just to have sex and do drugs, they are in it for the love and passion of music, something they made clear during the interview I had the pleasure of doing with them. 

Singer Josh: "Yeah we're not in it for the sex and drugs, that's just an extra part of it, it's just something that goes with it you know? We started this band for the music, we all love music and creating music and that's what we want to do".

"Do you want to become major stars in the world of music?"

Guitarist Cassie: "Yeah why not. It would be great to be famous. How F***** great would that be? As big as the f****** Beatles or Led Zep and all that sh**. Marvelous stuff that, yeah I'd like to be on the front cover of NME, even though NME are c***s". She liked to swear an awful lot, but her reply did make me laugh.

"So what do you think of current mainstream music?"

Drummer Scott: "Load of s****"
Singer Josh: "Yeah, it's just a load of self absorbed c***s trying to get famous and rich, getting expensive music videos where they get naked and s***. It all sounds the same to me, every time I turn on Radio 1 I hope I'll hear a good original song but nah it's just all the same stuff, playing it safe, same old beats and same style of singing and the lyrics don't have any meaning. It's just really pointless, stupid stuff".

I agreed with everything Josh said, I thought he was right and I think even the groupies who had now entered the room and started smoking knew he was right too. At this point I realized that everything happening around me seemed outdated, the rock and roll life style looked ridiculous in the modern age, almost like it should stay in the 70s but there was something also very refreshing about it. It was nice to see some artists speaking their mind, not giving a toss, living in a state of careless rebelliousness when most artists these days care too much about how other people perceive them.

"So what it is about the punk rock genre you like?"

Bassist Emma: "It's different. Nothing like this is being done at the present moment, well I'm sure it is but we're not hearing much of it. We all just really like the punk rock sound, I've always been a fan of rock, especially British rock bands. Never really liked pop or heavy rock. Punk rock suits us well, we self produce our recordings, we're the rebellious youth who aren't influenced by all the mainstream s****. Punk rock tends to have stripped down instrumental, I could just tell you we like punk rock because it's easy to play but actually we try and make the instrumental a bit more complex, a bit less simple, but sometimes simple is good isn't it? No need to over do stuff and make it all fancy, just make good music".

Drinks all round. (Bassist Emma on right with friends) at the after gig party. 

"How did you all meet and form the band?"

Scott: "Now this is a long story"
Josh: "Yeah, This is a long one! Brace yourself. So we were at Glastonbury actually. All with our own separate parties. And I'd just seen Muse play that night on the Pyramid stage. It was bloody brilliant but I was so drunk, I started to walk back to my tent but got lost and ended up falling over in the mud, Cassie came over and helped me up as she was slightly more sober than me, I was completely out of it, and she asked me where my tent was didn't you Cass?"
Cassie: [laughing] Yeah and you replied 'In Narnia, Narnia, with the cows'"
Josh: [laughs] "yeah, so Cass takes me back to her tent and Scott is there too, and he gets me a sleeping bag and everything, and Cass has her guitar with her, she plays a few tunes and I suddenly start singing along, and Scott pretends he's drumming and then Emma appears and she's pissed too"
Emma: "Yeah and I'm like bloody hell, this is some nice s*** their playing and I sit with them, I couldn't find my tent either, it was dark and my tent was in the far field, so I sit with them and once Josh was sobered up we sort of connected didn't we?"
Scott: "Yeah we just bonded, got on really well, had a laugh and Josh sounded good even when he was pissed, next morning we woke up and decided to start a band, because we'd seen all these bands at the festival and we were like yeah, we want to be like them, we want to be on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. So we planned to meet the following week and from there we got the band together".

It's possibly one of the best band formation stories I've heard so far. This band had connected straight away through a love of music at possibly the best festival in Britain. They had the right sort of idea from the start, I just hoped they would continue the raw energy they had when they first formed, most bands seem to fight and squabble but they all seemed genuinely happy to be in each other's company, there had been no arguments yet. And although Josh, the lead singer was at the front of the band, he encouraged the other members to contribute. This was nice to see, as most bands usually have an egocentric singer stealing the limelight.

"What bands/ singers are you influenced by?"

"The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, Pearl Jam, Joy Division, Siouxie and the Banshees, the Damned. We also really like the Britpop bands like Blur and Elastica, yeah they were cool. we like that British sound and the hard edged melodies and yeah, we look up to those bands, but we don't put them on pedestals. We don't want to be like them, we want to be successful like them, with our own style you know?".

And I did know exactly what they meant. After the rather enjoyable and lively interview with the band members, I got to jam with the band and witness them in full rehearsal before a gig at the popular local pub who are always welcoming bands onto their stage. A good turnout was expected, with word of mouth getting out that there was a "fresh, new rock band in town". In rehearsals they seemed to play the songs with energy and ease, the groupies and I loving every second of it as we lay back, had a cig and admired the music. After an interesting ordeal with one of the groupies and a large intake of alcohol we need not get into, the band, it's followers and I headed out to the local pub for the gig.

Guitarist Cassie having a good time partying. It was a long night!

The kit was set up and the band was ready and buzzing to go with only a few pre- gig nerves. I sat at the table with the locals who had come to see the band and have a pint, the band were excellent as predicted and blew the pub goers away. This band looked promising, the lyrics were meaningful, the guitar riffs were excellent, the bass was heavy and the drums were perfectly in rhythm. I realized that this punk rock genre may not be to everyone's taste, the older generation seemed to enjoy it less, but nonetheless, the turnout was great and many of the pub goers enjoyed the different style and raw, hard edged sound of the Jammy Dodgers.

That night we all went back to the flat and stayed up partying, celebrating and drinking an awful lot to celebrate the successful gig. It's a weekend I won't forget. The Jammy Dodgers are a good laugh and I'm sure i'll be seeing them a lot more, whether it be at another after- gig party or on the stage at Glastonbury.

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