Wednesday 10 October 2012

Reverend And The Makers - Interview

Reverend and the Makers have had a successful year in 2012. They came back after a three year hiatus with the album @Reverend_Makers, which reached number 16 in the album charts, and, after a set of smaller shows earlier in the year and festival appearances, are about to embark on a major UK tour. We spoke to the Reverend himself, Jon McClure about this year, the tour and plans for the future.

Not resting on their laurels, work has already started on album four, with sessions already taking place.

Jon explain We're just trying to crack on and get a good run on the next album. We weren't sure what was going to happen with this album after the last one, but it's gone top twenty, the tour has sold really well and the festivals were mint.

It's about confidence, isn't it? You feel good, and you feel confident about it, then you write good music.

He recognizes the difficulties in promoting the band without the support of major radio and press and is happy to rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth and feels that it is paying dividends at present.

This is the battle for everyone these days, isn't it, how you get your music out there, but I think we're doing alright. It's building up again. The album we've just released is still spreading, people like it and are passing it on to others which is wicked.

It's just a good vibe at the moment. Like I said, we weren't sure what the reaction would be when we released this record. It's been amazing, it's picked up and kept gathering pace.

I'm looking forward to going on tour as well, because I could do with a laugh, going out and having it.

After some particularly well-received festival appearances which brought more new fans into the Reverend fold, the setlist for the upcoming tour is going to be aimed at giving people an adrenalin-fuelled night out. 

We're going to play a lot of stuff off the current album, with only a couple of songs off the second album, because that's a bit moody, political and psychedelic, which isn't really where we are at the minute. We're going to play a lot of up-tempo bangers, so lots of first album, lots of third album and a couple of rare little treats and a couple of slow ones.

We're going to play Sex With The Ex off the first album, which people have been screaming out for. It's going to be a party, because in the festival season we just hammered it and people went mad for it. We're just going to give you a good time basically, because when you feel like the crowd are enjoying it, then you enjoy it too.

We're not going to play any of the new material off the fourth album because that would be rushing it a bit. Back in the day we probably would do, caught up in the excitement of it, but we're a lot more calm and collected now.

Reverend and the Makers have developed a hardcore following called The Rev Army. Jon understands why people are drawn to him and his band. 

I think it's a lyrical thing, people attach meaning to the songs, and I write about my life and people listen and it applies to their life.

You're not going to get that with all that pop toss that's around at the minute. Being in a band now is like being in an indie band in the eighties, when there was all that stuff like Phil Collins and T'Pau in the charts, because it feels like people will realize that it's all rubbish.

It feels like I'm the guy outside the greenhouse throwing stones at it, rather than being inside it. You know there's certain people in that pop bubble, riding that pop wave, and no one really likes what they do, but are told they should like it.

Ultimately that's why we're still around after eight years and still selling out venues, over a thousand tickets in every town, because it means something to people, it's a bit more.

When Jon talks so passionately about his band and the people that follow him, it's evident that it's more than just about the music for him, it's his heart and soul and body that's he putting into the music. He interacts daily and openly with fans and critics alike on twitter (@Reverend_Makers).

It's like when I go outside with a guitar afterwards. It's only just dawning on people what the fuck I'm about. I think a lot of people have labeled me as part of a laddy band, because of crap journalism basically. This album has thrown them a bit really, because it's a bit more modern. We're getting much more trendy magazines like Artrock talking to us now. It's changed people's perspective of us.

I think there's an element of what I do on twitter that people buy into, it's real. And honestly, what it is, is that I'm not trying to impress anyone. Radio 1 won't play me because they fucking hate me, so I've thought I'll just do what I want.

You see a lot of artists on twitter and they're trying to arselick Radio 1 Djs. So I think to myself that I don't need to do that because they're not going to play me anyway so I can just be honest and normal and not portray this media dream image of rubbishness.

I like people on twitter, like Frankie Boyle and Joey Barton, people who kick off, people who are starting to stand out to folk. We live in such a safe dream world, where everything's so dull, so anyone with an element of a personality with something to say about the world, people gravitate towards that and I find that quite refreshing.

It might be easy to dismiss him as a mouthy rabble-raiser, but a few minutes talking to him makes you realise he's actually clued-in to what's going on in the music business at the moment and where he and his band fit into the chaos. 

Things have changed so much in the last five years in the record industry, it's unrecognisible and some people can't get their head around it. Certain bands that were massive five years ago just don't exist anymore.

I've got my head around it a bit and managed to adapt the way I do my shit to the way it's gone. Our band's almost grown as a result.

Last year, I didn't know how people would react to us, so we just put a few little dates on sale, because we weren't sure if anyone would be arsed, and it's just going up and up and up and people are getting into it. Kids are getting into it for the first time.

There's kids that love guitar music, and songs, and bands that are eighteen and maybe have never even heard our first album, they didn't hear Arctic Monkeys' first album, who haven't heard a good record before who are getting into it.

That's growing and it feels like we're going to win. It feels like kids are looking for something that's not that thing, that horrible safe thing.

Throughout the interview, Jon's unshakeable belief in his music and his band comes through. He knows that avenues like Radio 1 are probably closed off to him, but is aware that the internet and other alternative channels are how to get them out there. 

Yeah, and Radio 1 know it. They're fighting this battle to corral kids into this thing that they're not really into and they're shedding listeners left right and centre. Someone said to me recently that it will change, it'll just take ages. Kids are gradually going wait a minute, this is bollocks. They'll come and see us and we're playing instruments and then they'll go and see some dickhead shouting nonsense over a DJ and kids are not thick, they'll see that and they'll get it. I feel great about it, there's a good time coming again for music soon.

My heroes are people like The Clash. Have you ever thought what would happen if people like Joe Strummer and Lennon came back and looked at the pop charts, what they'd make of Jessie J and all those fuckers.

In the eighties, the alternative was so strong, the NME was selling thousands of copies and we still had Melody Maker and Sounds and John Peel was there. The NME now sells about three copies so there's got to be an alternative culture that emerges. Things can't be this shit for this long. It's not been this shit for this long ever before.

We've got to rally around people with a different vibe. That's why I love John Robb, because he stands out as a journalist, stands out a mile. It takes a while to spread. I spoke to Richard Hawley a while back and he said don't factor any radio fuckers into anything you do, don't factor press, do what you do and keep doing it. He's 48 and he's on his seventh album and having it. He's been brilliant with us. He told us to just keep going and the same with Noel (Gallagher).

And I have done and it's working, I can feel it working.

Jon now goes out onto the street outside the venue with an acoustic guitar and plays for fans that have hung around after the shows. 

It was something I started doing once and then carried it on and it's inspired people. Ed Sheeran does it sometimes, and he came supporting me years ago when no one had heard of him. It's just my little thing, it's me saying to my fans look, this is me coming to stand with you in the street. A lot of those bands that came out the same time of us can't do stuff now. We make a connection and I think it means stuff in people's hearts. If you go and stand in the rain on a cold night when you could be backstage, people remember you for it.

And I like doing it, it's a laugh.

In a world where people have less and less disposable income, it's a very intimate way of connecting with his fans, but it can also act as an inspiration to them to pick up their own guitar or recognize that there is a viable alternative to the mainstream.œ

Amen, it's coming. If you do good things, and this sounds a bit simple and naive, if you do good things with good intentions for long enough and if it's good quality, not peddling shit, after a while people get it and it starts to dawn on them that you're a bit different.

This time a lot of kids will come. Imagine if you're eighteen and you come and see us, and you've got into guitar music, and you see us do that. You won't have seen us do that before and you won't see others do it again.

Professor Green's not going to come out and do that, is he? The fact you're standing next to someone in the middle of the street. Musicians are like footballers were in the sixties, and footballers are like musicians were. I like diffusing that whole rock myth thing. I'm stood on the street having a fag with you, talking shit, the same as you are.

I'm not into that celebrity thing. Just look at people like Jessie J and people look at her like a demi-god. I wouldn't want to be worshipped like that, I think it's a fucking nonsense, so what better way to get past it.

I think The Libertines were the best band for doing that when they used to go and play in people's flats. It says look we're doing this and we're doing it here and we don't give a fuck. It lives long in people's hearts.

It's soul, and what you shouldn't forget is that it's a right laugh, going out and load of pissed nutters talking bollocks to you, it's a laugh. It is though, the first gig in Glasgow when we came back, I was getting ragged in the street and I thought it was brilliant, proper funny.

I've been nicked a couple of times, once because someone got their foot run over by a car in the street.

Jon has been very vocal in the past about his social and political views and has been involved with the Justice Tonight campaign supporting the families affected by the events of 1989 in his native Sheffield and the Africa Express project. 

I think maybe I went over the top in the second album, but you can still do stuff with soul and meaning. Obviously with Hillsborough, I grew up near the ground and I knew Mick Jones and he rang me up when I was in the kitchen washing pots and asked me if I wanted to sing a Clash song with him at the Leadmill. I'm a massive Clash fan and obviously I agree with the cause so I did it, and the next thing I was singing it supporting The Stone Roses at Heaton Park.

As for Africa Express, I think that's brilliant and I've done lots of stuff with them and I've been to Africa a couple of times. It's not a charitable thing, it's about doing mad tunes and getting different artists collaborating. Everything that's extra-curricular and has a bit of a vibe about it in music is worth pursuing, because it can't all be T4 on the Beach, which isn't what I got into music for.

Work on album four has already been started and Jon is keen to build on the success of @Reverend_Makers. 

It's going to be a bit of a follow on as I feel I hit a bit of a sweet spot with this album. Our music always reminds people of those bands from the past that we love, but this album has a modern element to it, modern bass sounds and we're going to try and continue forward while we have our head up and we're doing well.

Outside of the band, Jon has also had a side project Reverend Sound System, with a much more dance-oriented sound, and he freely admits that this had an impact on the making of the third album and the future of the band. 

Definitely. The guy I did Sound System with, Jimmy, he was in the studio last night with us. He proper altered the sound of Reverend And The Makers, probably forever, as the record does have a lot of that bass culture in it. It said to people that we're not like Happy Mondays Mark II, we're around now and we're doing something fresh.

I think Bassline caught so many people unawares, and that's not a bad thing, but it takes time and it might take more than one record to change everyone's perceptions. And I see that as a challenge if someone's not convinced, I'll just keep going because I feel I've still got brilliant records left inside me.

Whenever I feel like that I'm just going to crack on, I've got another mixtape that's brilliant with lots of mad guests on it. People will realize eventually man. Look at Nick Cave, he was this struggling indie musician for twenty years and suddenly everyone and their nan is a Nick Cave fan and I think hang on, you used to think Nick Cave was shit.

Jon concludes our interview with a honest appraisal of how he feels about what he does.

As long as I can eat, I feel fortunate I can do this and I feel blessed. We have a saying in Sheffield that I could be down the pit and that's literal.

Reverend and the Makers third album @Reverend_Makers is out now. Their website is and Jon can be followed on twitter and Facebook.

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