- Thu, 2008-05-29 12:20
Johnny Flynn has just released his debut album A Larum. A collection of beautifully crafted folk songs which pay a clear homage to the roots of traditional folk, with a barrage of instruments, harmonies and story-telling lyrics. Expertly, this album still has modern rubbings across its shoulders, which allows it to stand out from the crowd.
Already receiving rave reviews across the musical spectrum, Johnny Flynn is proving quite a success. He has put his Shakespearian acting career on hold (having performed in Twelfth Night at the Old Vic) and is currently concentrating on his music. We caught up with him to chat about his summer festival plans, getting in uncharacteristic fights and picking up the mandolin in the recording studio…
"I Like Music because…when you are listening to music you can forget about the past or the future." Johnny Flynn
ILM: Your brand new single, Tickle Me Pink, is out now along with your debut album A Larum. Can you describe the vibe of the single?
Johnny: Well, it’s a song that has had quite a few different lives. We first released it as a double A-side with another song, over a year ago. It was a really different version. The song has meant quite a lot to us as a band. It probably happens with a lot of bands, you all fall behind a song that you feel is your most important song. I certainly feel like it is an important song for me. Especially in terms of its attitude and what it is about. It kind of defines things for me.
For a long time it felt like our calling card. We always played it at the end of our set. That song was always kind to us! It is about always encouraging new affects on your surroundings. I wrote it when I was feeling particularly despondent about things. I tried to just cheer myself up. It has a seemingly quite dark chorus – “pray to the people inside your head, they won’t be there when you’re dead” Which sounds dark but is meant to be hopeful and celebratory. Getting away from all the temporal stuff that we get caught up in.
ILM: Which track from the album did you have the most fun laying down?
Johnny: There were a few stand out moments. The whole thing as an experience was really fun. One of my favoruite moments was when we were doing the song The Wrote and The Writ. We had recorded it before as a demo and I had recorded it on my own as well as with the band. We had been thinking about the song a lot. In the studio we went deeper into it and developed a couple of melody lines on the mandolin. At one point, Adam the bass player just wandered off into the recording room and was just like “Record this!” We didn’t know what he was up to and he started playing the mandolin which is in the instrumental break, you can hear it. We hadn’t heard him play it before and it was just the most perfect thing. We were all looking at each other just going, wow! It added so much to it. It became an integral part of the song. That was pretty cool.
Also we met a spoon player who was a real character who lives in Seattle near where we are playing. We found him and asked him to play on the album. He played on Cold Bread and Hong Kong Cemetry and that was pretty special. He was the Seattle representative on the album!
ILM: You have played a range of gigs, from Buffalo Bar to Bestival, from the End Of The Road festival to the Royal Albert Hall last year. This year you have supported Laura Marling and are soon to finish your own tour. Are there any highlights, amusing memories or just plain bizarre moments you can share?
Johnny: There is one story. We were in Leeds and we played this gig. We went out to this indie club afterwards and we were in a silly mood, just dancing and mucking around. This guy next to us, who I had noticed out of the corner of my eye, looked as if he had this mal intent. Suddenly, out of the blue, he just attacked Matt the drummer. He went to punch him and I saw it all in slow motion. I dived in to try and hold the guy off Matt. Instead of punching Matt he ended up just punching me repeatedly in the head! I was pumped with adrenalin and I was trying to pin him down. It was all a bit weird, but there was no reason for it. He just went off into the crowd and I had a black eye and was bleeding from my eyebrow. The promoter from the club took me round trying to find him and I was just like, “I don’t know if I’ll even recognise him.” Meanwhile another guy found him outside having a cigarette. So we approached him and just asked him why he hit me and he basically just didn’t know himself. Then he broke down and started crying. Then he gave us ten pounds. Then we went out and got completely lashed. We’d been in a fight and were really excited by that…haha…So yeah….It was very peculiar!
ILM: You’re on the same label in the US as Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams and Van Morrison to name a few. You’re the first UK artist to sign to this prestigious label, nice work! How did that come about?
Johnny: Not sure really. I think they came to see us at South by South West, we were playing there in March. I think they had heard our album. I don’t know. They just thought…you know…it was nice. Basically they have all the people that I have grown up listening to signed on there. It is amazing!
ILM: What are your plans for the summer?
Johnny: I think we are playing quite a few festivals, the Big Chill, Latitude and Glastonbury. One in Cornwall called Beach Break. Sounds good. Summer of festivals!