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Friday, August 10, 2012

Catching up with John June Year

Photo taken by Cierra Fitzgerald

John June Year are a Midwest band that play no frills indie rock and roll.  Since forming in the Summer of 2011 the band has taken giant leaps, mostly due to their strength as songwriters.  The band's songs are tight and immediately memorable, familiar but with a fresh tilt that begs for repeated listens. They are already garnering comparisons to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes, the Velvet Underground and even the Beatles.  With comparisons like these it is easy to see how bright their future as a band is.

The band has released their debut EP, "Translations", and it is available for streaming here.

John June Year has a show this Wednesday October 24th  at the HuB Live Music Club in Cedar Falls, IA supporting the Envy Corps.  The band plays again at the HuB November 8th with Topher Dunlap.

I had a chance to catch up with the bands primary songwriters, Greg Heysinger (vocals, rythm guitar) and Colin Sullivan (lead guitar, keys).

What is it like being an indie rock and roll band in the Midwest?

Greg:  It's fun and interesting... but at the same time it can be pretty miserable.  It's hard to grab people's attention when their priority isn't original music.  At the same time, I think we impress a lot of people.  We are just trying to move forward, start playing more in Chicago and bigger cities in the Midwest where there is more of a draw for original music.

Colin:  We don't have much to compare it to, it is sort of the only thing we know so we don't want to complain really.  But from what we heard it isn't the best place to start up an original band.  We love to see people turn their heads when they don't expect what we have to offer.  It seems like a majority of the people at the venues we've played seem to want to hear their jukebox favorites performed by a live band. Which is fine, everybody has their own thing that they like. We are just desperately searching for areas to play where people come out to find fresh new original music. It is fun to surprise people with original stuff as well.

You guys are all college students, how do you balance being a university student and playing in a band?

Colin:   I didn't really make an attempt to balance it to be honest. Instead of going to the library or putting in extra hours to study, I was constantly trying to come up with new riffs and ways to improve our music. I was basically studying like a med student, but for music.  I think the other guys are like that too.

Greg:  It is difficult at times but we all come back in the Summer and that really helps.  That is when a majority of our songwriting gets finished.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect my school work.  When it gets to a point when we are looked at to get signed or go on tour, I think school could wait. 

The sound of your band is often compared to the likes of the Strokes, the Arctic Monkeys, the Walkmen the Velvet Underground, and other guitar based British bands, and you also cite many of these as influences. Do you embrace these influences and comparisons?

Greg:  Yeah, I mean, these are great bands... so we embrace it, but we never want to be a band that just sounds like someone else.  I think people are always looking for something new, and that is what we are going for.

Colin:  In high school, I would literally only listen to Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, or the Strokes. It was almost a nervous habit.  We don't really hide the fact that those bands are our influences, it's obvious. 

How do you differentiate yourself from these comparisons?

Greg:  I guess with my voice.  It is low and even a little twangy.  I just try to sing what feels right.  I don't tinker with my voice to make it sound like someone else.

Colin:  Our influences are like a bunch of ingredients to mix around and form new music.  We differentiate ourselves from these comparisons because we don't just focus on one influence

You’ve come a long way since becoming serious as a band in the Summer of 2011. Was there a moment that clicked for you when you knew you might be on to something special?

Colin:  I think that after the first few times we attempted to write songs, we thought we had something good going. Our first songs were horseshit, but we really loved what we were doing, and we it was too much fun not to continue with it.

Greg:  The first time I knew we had a chance was after we recorded a demo of our first song.  We still didn't know who was going to sing at that point.  After giving it a few tries, I was impressed, and I think others were impressed as well.  Just getting that first demo to tape really helped with our confidence and it actually came out pretty well. 

You have just released your first EP digitally “Translations”.  What kind of a response have you been getting? 

Colin:  So far, so good. We really are happy with the way new venues are responding to our stuff. And that was the main purpose of recording "Translations". We needed to get our stuff down in a professional manner so we could represent ourselves better.  Our physical copies are in the works of being ordered and we are really excited to send those out to some of our favorite record companies. Such names like Rough Trade, French Kiss, Sub Pop, Domino...etc..

Greg:  Some people have said they don't think it is us (laughs).  People have been impressed both with the quality of the recording and the quality of the songwriting.  I haven't heard anything negative, but I don't know if anyone would tell me it was terrible to my face (laughs).

Do you have plans for a physical release of "Translations"?

Greg:  We just ordered a bunch.  Right now it is streaming for free, and soon you'll be able to get your hands on a physical copy.

You are a young band but you’ve already been through quite a bit. Former bass player Dan Fogg passed away while at university in Minnesota. How did this affect JJY and your commitment to moving forward with your music?

Colin:  Dan was very hard for us. He loved playing with us...  On our drum kit we wrote: "with dan".  We like to think that he is still helping us write new tunes. His passing adds another level of motivation for us. Truly a sad situation.

Greg:  That was tough losing Dan.  I've never really experienced anything like that before.  I think he would be really proud of us, the direction we are heading in.  I just really think he would be proud. 

What are your future plans for JJY?

Colin:   Our future plans are to basically get ourselves in front of crowds that will create more and more buzz about us. We want to play to people that will be interested in original music, and possibly spread the word to more people about us.

Greg:  Rock and roll.

Stream "Translations" here, check their facebook page out here, and follow them on twitter @JohnJuneYear

Written by Kyle Talbot

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