We caught up with JPNSGRLS at the Brudenell
Interview and live review with JPNSGRLS
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
21 Nov 2016
Canadian garage pop quartet JPNSGRLS stopped off at the Brudenell as part of their North American and European 'Divorce The World' Tour, and Leeds Music Scene were able to catch up with frontman and founder Charlie Kerr ahead of the show.
Steven Knowles, LMS: Firstly, welcome to Leeds
Charlie Kerr: Cheers man
SK: We'll be trying to avoid questions you must be asked all the time - 'why did you start a band?' and so on - but may well cover some Canadian clichés....
CK: (laughs) OK, cool - I'm ready
SK: Right. Vancouver, your home town, regularly features in 'best places in the world to live' lists. If I was writing for Lonely Planet, what would you tell me are the best things about Vancouver?
CK: Well... it's cool that we have both the ocean and the mountains. Beach and snow at the same time, y'know? It's a bit like the California of Canada. And you can pretty much walk around smoking a joint...
SK: So, a relaxed atmosphere then?!
CK: Ha! Yeah. I'm doing a good job for Vancouver tourism, eh?
SK: OK, sticking with Vancouver - tell us some bands from the local scene that Leeds Music Scene readers should check out.
CK: They should definitely check out Youngblood. It's a girl named Alexis Young - I think she sounds like Lana Del Ray meets Pat Benatar, which is way cool, but she's also described as "what they thought the music of the future would sound like...in the 60s"
SK: That's a pretty enticing description!
CK: Yeah, she knows what she's doing! I would also recommend The Gay Nineties, who are a rock band with a twist of glam and an excellent vocalist, and Little India. They're probably a bit like Foals...or the 1975.
SK: Excellent. And what about Leeds bands? Have you discovered any of ours that you love? You are allowed to say Fizzy Blood.... (who have been supporting JPNSGRLS across Europe and of course, are playing a home town show with them here tonight)
CK: I DO love Fizzy Blood! I really do! I also love another of your bands we've played with - Allusondrugs.
SK: Excellent choices - we love them both too (and plenty of others!). What about your personal 'albums of the year'?
CK: I think 'Skeleton Tree' by Nick Cave is outstanding. I've also loved Bowie's 'Lazarus' and 'Blonde' by Frank Ocean.
SK: Neil Young or Joni Mitchell?
CK: (pause) Leonard Cohen.
SK: Nice sidestep! Anyway, there are other very important matters to cover. In the 1990s, the WWE included a wrestler called The Mountie - but he was a baddie. Surely the noble Canadian mounted police would be a prime contender to be a representative of good?
CK: Actually, I don't mind that. I think it is pretty cool he was a heel. Although I don't remember him - I got into WWE way after that.
SK: Well, you are much younger than me! He had a storyline where he was the nemesis of the Big Boss Man. Do you have an all-time favourite wrestler?
CK: I would have to say Stone Cold Steve Austin, but that's so obvious it's like saying The Beatles are your favourite band. Stone Cold is The Beatles of wrestling. Ha! You could have that as the title of your article....
SK: Consider it done! If you were a wrestler, what would your persona be?
CK: (laughs) I guess I'd be the sad skinny wrestler who sulks in the corner, being punched in the face whilst writing a diary...
SK: Good answer! Now, my youngest daughter thinks Canada has the best flag - do you agree?
CK: Well we do have a pretty cool flag. But I prefer Jamaica's. Good colours!
SK: Back to your music - the first album is called 'Circulation', and the second 'Divorce'. Are you doing a Pet Shop Boys-style 'one word album title' thing?
CK: No, but I do think about words and their meanings all the time. I have also noticed that we have started along an alphabetical route - so the next album will probably begin with 'E'. That will keep the OCD community happy, which is always something we try to do...
SK: ...and do you still believe in the power of the album as a format?
CK: Totally. I think it's the difference in terms of making something that will last and live with people for a long time. The goal is to do albums with no bad songs - like the first Catfish album, or 'In Rainbows' by Radiohead. Then they'll mean something to people. We've had people coming to our shows on this tour saying stuff like 'your music saved me'. That's what really makes it worthwhile doing what we do.
SK: Finally - Donald Trump in one word?
CK: (long pause) Nightmare.
SK: It has been an absolute pleasure. Best of luck with the show tonight.
A couple of hours later, Fizzy Blood are ripping it up in the Games Room. I wasn't reviewing supports tonight, but their performance demands mention. They have the tunes and songwriting ability as well as the raw power to regularly explode in visceral blasts of emotion and, quite apart from that, a cast of characters sadly lacking in lots of bands currently plodding the festival circuit. They are a fantastic live spectacle - if you haven't seen them, do. Put your hand in your pocket and pay a few quid for the privilege. You won't regret it. Buy a CD and t-shirt, too.
Speaking of live spectacles, we move on to JPNSGRLS.
Bassist Chris McClelland has of late grown long hair and a beard, which - allied to his height and general bear-like stature - means we have a prowling bassbeast at one side of the stage, which is enough to take *some* attention from Charlie Kerr's performance. But not too much.
Hurtling into second-album opener 'Oh My God' and rattling on from there, Kerr is a captivating display of rock frontmannery - rolling around the floor, in the crowd, out of the crowd, delivering scorched vocals on his knees with his back to the audience. A hip-swivelling, arm-gesticulating, 'has-he-been-electrocuted?' leg vibrating blur of showmanship.
JPNSGRLS appear to be semi-officially categorised as 'garage pop', which isn't far off really. There's a guttural DIY ethic and rock raucousness alongside some bouncier, more imaginative and, dare I say it, groove laden aspects to their sound, and live it's a very energising and interactive experience. Ska-like bouncing in parts of 'Smalls', the call and response chorus of 'Southern Comforting' (I don't regret it / if you don't regret it), the shared whoooo's of 'Tiger'. The crowd in here isn't huge, but each and every one seems to be very gladly riding the JPNSGRLS train and are more than happy to "get so close you can smell us".
We hurtle through old favourites ('Mushrooms') and new ('A Comprehensive List of Things I Love'), we have knee sliding bassists and a tops-off encore, and the sad demise of tour mascot Lamal only adds to the sense that this is something of a finale to this 14-date European jaunt, even with a couple of shows to go.
On to Glasgow and Birmingham guys, with the love of Leeds to carry you.