James McDonald 11/04/2010
A group in a state of transition; once a solo craft penned by lead vocalist Hugo Manuel in bedrooms and backrooms when possible, now very much becoming a more habitual 'band'. Earlier material directs Jonquil away from conventions and trends, instead they have found comfort in their own ways. This year, however, is very much a renaissance - the songs which have been road tested to date conjure a carnival of celebratory whirr, rousing and uplifting, all the while remaining unostentatiously affirming. Best cut to the transcription, as I'm running short of superlatives.
Hello. Have you played in Bournemouth before?
Sam: I have, but Jonquil haven't. We came here for a pint didn't we?
Yup, but the venue that you played at has since closed down - I'm not saying the two are connected…
Hugo: They definitely are!
This [60 Million Postcards] is a nice venue though…
Hugo: Yeah! We played Start The Bus in Bristol and it's pretty much the same - run by the same people I think?
What's the idea behind these dates then? You're only doing three, is it a means of road-testing new material?
Hugo: We're recording and writing at the moment so we're just doing a few things here and there to keep the live set going and just making our presence felt. So it was just Bristol last night, Bournemouth and then the big one next week in London.
I guess if you're constantly locked in a studio it's nice to get out a bit?
Sam: It's just fun to play shows y'know? That's the main reason we're doing it!
So it's just new material tonight then?
Sam: Yeah, whole new set. Some of it's not that new to us though. I think we started writing a year a go, [to Hugo] was it a year ago?
Hugo: Just over a year. It's been a LOT of writing, and songs have come and gone. We've honed it down so now we're showing the best that we've got.
How's the writing process going?
Hugo: We're doing it more like a band now because we used to record sometimes not all together, we'd do it in batches with some of us there, some of us not…
Sam: In a bedroom…
Hugo: Yeah, and we could never play as a full band. But now we are writing it live which is a completely different thing for us and it's really really exciting.
Sam: We feel like it shows that we've been writing massively together, it reflects in the music a lot.
[To Sam] I guess you'll be focusing on Jonquil more now with the whole Youthmovies demise?
Sam: Yeah, I've felt like that for the last year since we started writing but the announcement has just been the last nail in the coffin really. I don't even need to think about it.
I'd known about it for a while but reading it on the internet just made everything seem very real.
Hugo: I found it very emotional reading some of the comments left on the blog etc, people saying it was the end of an era etc.
They meant a lot to a lot of people, it's that kind of music…
Hugo: Definitely. For us, when some of the band were first going to gigs in Oxford they were the first band we really got into and the first band we actually became friends with which was quite an important thing for Jonquil as they were already up on this pedestal and we were just these kids in a band, so it was good to talk to them about being in a real band and touring - things we never really given much thought with the level we were at.
Sam: It's strange though being in both bands because it doesn't really feel like it's closing anything for me personally, although obviously it is, but we're all good friends as bands so it's just like a small segment has closed. Also Andrews putting out a record soon and his solo stuff's great, Graham's planning to, Al's in a new band so it's just kind of broadening the clique as a band.
Hugo: Twice as many bands, it's a good thing!
Sam: There haven't been many new bands that we've been able to make friends with so I think now there'll be some fresh meat which is always good because I hate everyone and everything(!).
Okay, well we're not here to talk about Youthmovies! In the same vein however, with Try Harder Records also imploding you're now under an unsigned banner…
Hugo: First time in a while…
…are you in a place where you're starting to think about who to run the new record through?
Hugo: No, it's kind of the opposite in fact. We're just demoing stuff and seeing what happens and taking it easy really.
Sam: We're certainly not looking to create the finished article like he [Hugo] did with 'Sunny Casinos' - before the live shows had even been booked or played that album had been set up to be released. Also with Lions it was a case of recording an album to be released again but at the moment we're just going to keep writing and demo-ing until we feel we've done enough of that!
How many demos have you got down so far? Do you actually have enough for an album?
Hugo: No no!
Sam: Well, we've got enough songs for an album, but some will get cut. We've demoed about 5 songs I'd say.
Hugo: We're keeping our options open! You know, it might not be an album first…
Sam: Probably a DVD first, or a video game.
Sam: Yeah, I'd love to get into that!
Hugo: Or radio plays. I've always seen Radio plays as a good way for rock bands to get going…
Sam: Rock bands?
Hugo: ROCK troupe.
As we've just started a year, are there any bands you feel merit a 'tip' or some extra exposure?
Hugo: Straight off I'd say Munch Munch. They're awesome; they've just recorded an album I think, or they've been recording a lot of stuff but they are a typical awesome band who are being overlooked. I feel there aren't too many bands who are kind of kinship with our sound but they're a good bunch.
Sam: Much bunch!
Sam: Also Great Eskimo Hoax are another one we alway like to say, they're great. Wap Wap Wow…
Hugo: Oh yeah, Wap Wap Wow are a band that I've been recording and producing some stuff for. Rose is from oxford although she lives in London now…
Sam: She played Cello on 'Good Nature'…
Hugo: But that's in the works, you'll hear it soon…
Is this a home studio you have then?
Hugo: Yeah, it's in the house where Sam and a few of the other Jonquils live and it's in the basement, this kind of derelict nothingness. The ceiling's falling in and there's a shower which we've turned into a vocal booth - this is the first band we've recorded there before we start doing our own things.
Nice to hear you're utilising the space…
Hugo: Ha, yeah. We've been there for a year and, you know, it's a slow process building a studio!
Sam: It's a LOT of money, that's the main thing - studio equipment costs fucking loads…
Hugo: You never know, we might make loads of money that we can put back into the studio.
Sam: Ah I doubt it…
Are you still studying?
Hugo: We're not, Ben is but, well two of us finished a couple of years ago. We're all in Oxford full time now though. For years we were spread out, I was in Bristol…
Sam: Yeah, holidays were the only time we could really get together.
Hugo: We were a holiday band yes! But now we're all in Oxford. Actually, since that has happened it's felt like a new band because it's such a different dynamic with us being able to do stuff all the time instead of doing it in short bursts.
But that's good that you're making the most of the freedom - if you were previously just getting together in the holidays then it becomes very structured and possibly a little contriving?
Hugo: Yeah definitely.
Sam: We're much more focused and we're stringently practicing twice or three times a week and then between practices we'll write or we'll set a month aside to get demos together.
Hugo: It is very much a new way of being in a band for us.
So what are you aiming to achieve here? Do you have any personal goals with Jonquil or are you looking to ride it out and see where it goes?
Hugo: Just to do it as much as we can…
Sam: More fun, not have to work jobs!
Hugo: No… just to kind of not have to worry about living our lives and just be in a band, write and record, make albums…
Seems like a great form of escapism…
Hugo: Yeah definitely, just getting away from being an adult and stuff. After you've been at university everyone you know is getting jobs in the city and doing law conversions or whatever and they say 'what are you doing now?' - 'well, i'm in a band, full stop.'
While we're here, is there anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
Sam: erm, my shirt?
Jonquil have just been confirmed as main support for Foals' UK tour in May, culminating at Brixton Academy on the 12th. They also supported Youthmovies at their last ever live show which was held downstairs at the Cellar in Oxford on March 27th.