>JONNY LIVES! + AMBERSHADES
Classic, timeless, rock bands are NOT only a thing of the past, but also of the future. For instance take Jonny Lives! A fab three to listen out for that have a who’s who of musical connections (i.e.Stevie Wonder, The Wu-Tang Clan, Sean Lennon, Jesus Jones and legendary hip-hop producer Rod Hui (Public Enemy, Mary J Blige, Run DMC, LL Cool J etc). Though it's an undeniably impressive background, in the foreground at all times, is their potentially equally legendary band.
Jonny Lives! started to prick up British ears last summer, even earning a rave review that reported “Strokes’ flatmates in ‘being bloody great’ shock... Jonny Lives! are so pant-droppingly brilliant that this reviewer has just been ordered to
sex them down so you don’t eat the magazine from sheer lust and excitement.” Thrill, not hype, elicited that reaction to a group prepared to work hard for their just rewards.
In autumn they beat around 10,000 other bands to headline at In The City, the annual music biz gathering.
In November their first UK release “Tabloid Nation” (on Superior Quality Recordings) was a sensation. A guitar fuelled, ‘five A-sides’ blast of great pop... it picked up ace reviews, XFM airplay and was acclaimed a single of the year.
>Great Artists Have
They are just as at home in Britain, wowing new audiences, delighting themselves with pints of snakebite (!), partying, and garnering a growing community of devotees.
2004 will be busy - the get heard widely. “Get Steady” (from “Tabloid Nation”) is on the tracks of the new EA Games release - MVP Baseball 2004. A multi million sellier that also features The Darkness, Von Bondies, Jet, etc. Jonny Lives! are also confirmed for this years South By South music extravaganza in Texas, making them a hot 2004 tip for sure. Their next EP is released in Spring and they’ll be taking their magic around the world.
In impatient anticipation of the EPs release and accompanying UK dates in April/May, McNaughty tracked down singer, Jonny, at the Waterloo sunset of a week’s recording with Jack n Danny (Ambershades) at the controls.
>When Jonny met Davey
So here we are in Alaska studios. Relaxing for a while after a week’s intense activity, are Jonny Dubowsky and Davey La, engaging and handome young men, who front highly praised and
exciting bands joined at the hip anti scene creating itself around them.
Jonny Lives! and Ambershades are part of the new art riot not sitting around waiting to be discovered as a “next big thing” by the establishment. They already ARE the next big things if their music, shows and culture can win new converts. That’s self marketing.
Underground pop is very much alive and kicking, active in cyberspace, lively in small venues,drenched in big talent and D.I.Y. activity. Bands are partnering up (see also Special Needs/The Rocks), starting clubs (Saint Rose, White Rose Movement, Special Needs), helping each other (too many to start mentioning) and going that extra mile to get people to see and hear them. They are also all connected to each other in some way or other. National exposure can catch up with the fun soon, as much of it is now on the rise. There are many great quality bands that music fans can discover for themselves while they are still in small venues.
Jonny Lives! and Ambershades have become a giant funk-tional family, recording and touring together as a transatlantic, jonny shades / amber lives, rock n roll marriage. Both bands are already no strangers to “single of the week” type acclaim and superlative filled live reviews - the word is out. There is truly not a dull moment when they are around - on stage or otherwise. There is a great sense of humour at all times.
It’s the last day in the studio. Charming, playful gentlemen Jonny and Davey have brought a bottle of wine for Bev, the nice lady who works here. Jonny Lives! have recorded an instant slice of meaty guitars, rock hard beats and large as you like tunes right here in London’s South East X. The result is already an essential release of this year, and it’s not even out until April/ May!
Just part of what they’ve managed to pack into their latest visit, how has it been?
"A wild crazy trip”, says Jonny, from the comfort of a big leather sofa. He continues “We landed and with no time at all went to the Spitz and loaded in for what turned out to be an insane first night. We had a great energy 'cos we were all jet lagged, tired and drunk. We played to a full room of people which was just really nice cos the crowd just didn't know us. They really warmed to us and by the end of it they were feeling it.
"Then (next evening) we went to the all girls college (Newnham) in Cambridge. We had such a blast, going in the van with Andy from Ten Benson. It turned out he know our bass player via Thin Lizard Dawn. They’d stayed in the same hotel in LA. There’s loads of connections going on here. We played to an outrageous crowd of about 75 well educated and well behaved young ladies. I managed to crack my head open with my guitar. i put my hand to the side of my face in the middle of a song ... and was like, wow, i am covered in blood. I proceeded to spread my arms in sort of a Jesus Christ pose and i said to the audience “Now look, I’ve bled for you people!” and they adored it”.
"Then on to London Arts Cafe, a really interesting show because it was a room full of locals who were the kind of crowd that would have thrown something at you if they didn't like you. They walked out for the second band and we thought we were gonna play to no-one. But, they all came back in when we went on and were dancing and loved it, absolutely loved it. I also ran into some friends from Electric Eel Shock that I’d met in Austin (Texas) they were very cool.”
had a day off, the Sunday Club (it’s an Ambershades thing) of which
details are not ever allowed to be recounted...”
It’s a full stop. Some knowing, impish, smiles pass between the pair of them and the subject steers itself to other aspects of the fortnight. There is a closeness between Jonny and Davey that verges on the closest hetrosexuality can get to homosexuality. Individually they are already alluring, together they are pop star dynamite. Good natured banter flies back and forth continually...
Jonny : “We started recorded what turned out to be the most incredible EP. Ever. With Jack and Danny (Davey La and Ben Castle of Ambershades) behind the mixing desk. It it was just a great five days in the studio.”
“We had a show at the
Betsey Trottwood on tuesday night which is just a great little hole in
the wall. Our NYU intern friends (New York University abroad students
- fans and friends at London shows) turned up and loads of Ambershades
fans. We rocked the electric set with no drums and Jon Weber (drums) on
guitar. It was wired, he’s a ham. Ambershades came up to sing “Something
About It” with us, which was amazing - and, er, they actually stole
the show... But we talked about it later! We’re not gonna do that
again, right dude?”
"'Diamonds And Roses',
'B Side Baby', 'Something About It', 'Miraculous Sky' and 'Cliché'.
Five songs storming in at just under 12 minutes and 30 seconds... quite
"Last night we played Club Fandango at the Archway Tavern. A very interesting show. The club night was moved from Dublin Castle (Camden) which is one of our favourite spots to play. The sound at this Archway Tavern was just god awful, but ... a sound guy was there from (from another band) and he jumped up and wound up staying for our set, did our sound. He tweaked it and made it so much better. The crowd was amazing. Again, we had the situation of many people who had never seen us before mixed in with these NYU abroad students who knew every song and were singing along. ...and they’d only got the cd three days ago but knew all the words! We had an outrageous night!”
Phew, they certainly packed their visit!
"And now... we’re off to the Tate Modern, Davey La and I, to see the sunlight exhibit. Then to Sleepy Jackson tonight and tomorrow night is the NME Awards which will be, i’m sure completely forgettable based on the level of intoxication!
Then it’s back to New York City where I will rest up for three days straight, get some sleep and a massage perhaps. Davey La and the Ambershades come over on tuesday for what will turn out to be another week of non stop. I swear to god we need a band physician to change our blood”.
“We’ve got a great idea for this documentary which we are gonna do. Jonny Lives! and Ambershades swapping lives for a few days. Swapping shows, swapping jobs....”
They then swap interviews.
When Davey met Jonny
Davey : “I’m really looking forward to next week, because the first time we went to New York it was just Ben (guitarist) and I.
I was doing some music for
a short film, so I was going anyway. We were doing some acoustic shows.
Then Paul (keyboards) said he wanted to come too. We met Jonny by accident,
which is the day i’ll regret for the rest of my entire life....
New York. He interviewed Mikki (Jonny Lives! bassist). He showed this
documentary that they’d made to Paul, so we thought we’d go
to see Mikki’s band and turned up at Arlene’s Grocery (legendary
cool as cool venue) and desperately tried to blag our way in. The girl
behind the bar was like Hitler in drag she wasn’t having any of
it at all, can normally get my way into anywhere. Anyway, we DID get in
and saw this band - they absolutely blew us away. The three of us really
wished that the other two of Ambershades could have been there. It was
Mikki’s first show. Different drummer. It was just incredible. The
first thing I did when i got home, I borrowed somebody else’s money
and brought myself a new guitar. I thought if he can do it so badly, then
After, Mikki came out and just looked at me and said “Do you like to party?” and that was that. So we jumped in a cab and went out - got hammered. Mark Beaumont (NME writer) was flying in on the Saturday night to present the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with their NME award for best newcomers.
We didn't have a show on Saturday, we’d done ours on the Friday night. Because Jonny had an acoustic show at CBGBs gallery. He said “OK if you can get Mark Beaumont down, you can have some of my slot”. So we got up on stage and sang a few songs, so did Jonny.
Mark turned round to Ben and said “I thought I’d discovered the “Best Band In The World”, I’ve just discovered the next “Best Band In The World” - and that was just Jonny on his own.
That was great, basically we just had to get something together...
(a humorous giggle from Jonny, Davey corrects himself, sort of...)
I mean on a purely professional level! The other part just fell in.
We just kept on at it, we kept calling each other, e-mailing trying to get stuff happening then they came over last July and made the first ep ('Tabloid Nation') which we took a different approach to. I don't remember making any of the first ep at all. This time round we worked harder, didn't we?”...
Jonny : “...and we’ve
known each other longer, we’re much clearer with our levels of communication...”
Jonny : “It’s really
amazing what we’ve done in such a short amount of time"
Fast forward two weeks and it’s the end of February. Jonny Lives! have only just had a few days off to recover from what has been an amazing month. Ambershades rocked NYC the previous week and made loads of new fans - Jonny Dubowsky’s birthday show had been a riot. March starts with a few days break and then 2004 steps up a gear with all the the activity and ideas flying around.