Last summer your humble scribe met up with Mr Flynn and two of his band mates. This time, I caught up with him in a rather nice East End drinking establishment. We met ahead of a performance at the Hox-to Dot festival to talk about his debut album ‘A Larum’ and what life has been like over the past year.
KV: Your album has been pretty well received in the press, are you pleased to be finally getting it out there?
Johnny: Yeah, it feels only right, we’ve lived with it for the last few months and now it gets to be heard by a lot more people. It’s satisfying, at least I feel like I’ve lived with it long enough to not worry about people hearing it. It’s been a nice flow of recording and listening to different mixes and now it’s ready.
KV: I gather you recorded in a Barn outside of Seattle: what made you decide to go there?
Johnny: Basically we wanted to work with the producer and the studio came as a bit of a bonus. It was amazingly lucky really because we met this guy Ryan [Hadlock, has also produced Gossip and Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ pop pickers!-KV] and he’d just happened to have built this studio with his Dad over 20 years, and it’s in the woods outside Seattle. It was really cool for us because we felt kind of isolated in what were creating, cut off from our lives and the sources from which were drawing for the stories. It kind of allows you to go more deeply into who you are and where you come from when you’re away from it.
KV: I’m kind of picturing something out of Fargo. Were there bears growling and wolves howling outside?
Note to readers: your humble scribe has quite a vivid imagination. However, this does unearth some interesting Trivia….
Johnny: The studio is actually called Bear Creek, it’s a creek where there used to be bears. It’s where they shot Twin Peaks, so it’s quite bleak, autumnal landscapes. I actually got taken out trout fishing to the waterfall [from the title sequence and where much of the series was set] . It was really weird for us, I think it was Matt who hadn’t been to America before and I had only ever been to New York, so culturally it was a completely different thing.
KV: Yeah, bit of a departure from urban London I guess.
KV: We’re in a bit of digital age at the moment; albums don’t sell as well as they used to. Does this worry you at all?
Johnny: Not really, I think it’s good for bands to be aware of other things they do like playing live.
So on a live note..I wonder whether travel inspires his songs: it seems he has cautionary approach.
Johnny: You get some bands with really bad second albums because they’ve toured the first one to death. There is only so much you can say about the view from the hotel room!
True enough, the words ‘we wrote this on the tour bus’ do occasionally strike fear into our hearts!
KV: You’ve had a lot of exposure since signing with Vertigo. What have been the strangest experiences so far?
Johnny: In terms of being on a major label you mean?
KV: Yeah that and in general
Johnny: Well there are things you have to consider when putting your music out on a bigger scale. There are wider implications and all of a sudden you have to know if, for instance you’d be happy for your music to feature on an advert and things like that…but in terms of experiences, when you’re playing in a city you’ve never played before and you see people singing along it’s a bit like ‘have you just broken into my room?’ it took me a long time to get used to it.
Johnny’s wordplay is a big part of what we at Kid Vinyl like about his music; so it’s only right to delve into his lyrical world!
KV: Your song titles are quite poetic, but among them I noticed Wayne Rooney. What’s the story there?
Either he’s had to relay this story too many times, or he wasn’t expecting to have to, but Johnny gives a surprised chuckle and satisfies KV’s curiosity (plain nosey-parker behaviour!)
Johny: Well, I had this picture of him at the time I had the idea for the song, but there was an important European match and there was a lot of pressure on him to perform well. It’s not really about him, but I related to that in terms of it being a man’s struggle to do well at what he does. Also, as a football fan it would be cool if someone ever did play it to him!
KV: Are there any tags you’re uncomfortable with? I know people talk a lot about ‘nu folk’ when they write about you and I think that can be misleading.
Johnny: Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about ‘anti folk’ or ‘nu folk’ but I make music that I want to hear. I suppose it’s just an easy way of finding us on a listing or if someone brings their friend to see us play for the first time they might describe it as folk. It’s just an easy way of describing the music, but I don’t think of it like that.
KV: And finally [As I say this, a comedy ‘hooting’ noise emanates from the kitchen next to us-sounds like my cue to wrap things up!] what are your hopes for the future?
Johnny: Well, world peace and love…
KV: Ok, the immediate future!
Johnny: A bit of time off, you know see my friends-obviously I tour with a lot of my friends [On the road they a re a close -knit unit. The Sussex Wit are long term friends and Johnny’s nephew is a roadie-KV] but I miss spending time at home with my friends and my girlfriend. It would be good to do some more Shakespeare with the theatre company I was working with before too.
Given Johnny’s achievements so far and his grounded demeanour, something tells me he’ll get to all these things again before long.
Johnny Flynn’s debut album ‘A Larum’ is out now on Vertigo records.