On the eve of their latest outing to Preston’s 53 Degrees, with a new album out too, MALCOLM WYATT spoke to Jon McClure, lead singer of indie-dance specialists Reverend and the Makers
Remember Adele’s first multi-million selling LPs, 19 and 21?
Well, Jon McClure has just recorded 32, confirming his age while proudly announcing Reverend and the Makers’ intention to stay afloat amid major music business sea changes.
As this likeable Sheffield-based singer-songwriter puts it: “When Adele gets to 32 she’s got nowhere to go, has she! She’ll have to either go with 31 or 33.
“It’s also my Dad’s lucky number on the Lottery. He has it every bloody week … but it never comes in.”
Jon started out as part of the Steel City movement that cast Arctic Monkeys into the national limelight.
And although taking a very different path from Monkeys main-man Alex Turner since, the Makers are doing very well for themselves, and wouldn’t change a thing about their own journey.
Initial success with The State of Things in 2007 and singles like Heavyweight Champion of the World led to headline-grabbing guest slots with Oasis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds.
Impressive sales continued for A French Kiss in the Chaos (2009) and @reverend_makers (2012), and, despite a few ups and downs, the band’s fan-base remains as strong as Jon’s continued resolve to make great music.
Preston’s 53 Degrees is set to rock out to the Makers this Friday. And if the single The Only One is anything to go by, the band has another winner on their hands, as Jon confirms.
“Oh yes, it’s smashing. We’re not hiding us light under a bushel! It’s pretty slamming, if I’m honest. It’s all good, man.
“We seem to have had a renaissance of late. It’s been very pleasant to experience, having not been played on the radio or mentioned by the mainstream media for such a long time.
“It gives you a freedom to do music you actually like, rather than trying to make cheesy stuff to fit in with what’s supposed to be in fashion.”
It’s the band’s fourth album, and Jon suggests this is his response to the London-based music industry for previously shunning the Makers.
“Yeah, because we’re still around and doing really well. We’re like a cross between classic Sheffield electro like Cabaret Voltaire, Heaven 17 and The Human League, with the witty lyricism thing Jarvis (Cocker, Pulp) and Alex (Turner, Arctic Monkeys) do so well.
“But people hear us and label us a Manchester-sounding band, which is a bit lazy for my liking. There’s a big world out there once you get outside the M25.
“The other thing is that Laura (McClure, Jon’s wife and fellow bandmate) plays four instruments and is from London, but we still get labelled a lad band, which is a bit weird.
“So it’s just good to confound what they think.
“I don’t think three people in a marketing meeting in London should decide to end someone’s career.
“And the social media thing has been a big part of stopping that.”
So have the Makers and the Monkeys got much in common these days?
“We’ve taken very divergent paths. They’re influenced by American rock music and things like Queens of the Stone Age, which has never really held any sway with me. It’s not something I dig. I’m more inclined towards British music.
“One of the fellas from The Specials tweeted and said, ‘I want to come and watch you in Coventry’, and last year I was going round singing Clash songs with Mick Jones. I’m a lot more in deference to them sort of bands.
“When it comes to rocking out, the Brits do it a lot better. I guess that’s not really in fashion, but I think it’s timelessly brilliant music.”
Your album’s called 32, but you’re in a business where teenagers like Jake Bugg, John Lennon McCullagh and The Strypes are breathing down your neck.
“Ever think you might be getting too old for this game? Jon laughs.
“No, I think I’m alright. I’m a big collaborator with Richard Hawley (another leading light from his home city). He’s 48 but going from strength to strength, getting more popular with every album.
“That’s the whole point of calling the album 32. As long as you’re not trying to be a 21-year-old, it’s ok.
“There’s a band coming on our tour, Liberty Ship. They’re 18 and say they grew up listening to our music – so I’m settling into being a veteran quite comfortably.
“People in the generation of musicians above have always shown a lot of love for us. We supported Ian Brown, The Verve, Noel Gallagher and Oasis, and people like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers bigged us up.
“In the same spirit, it’s important for me to duplicate that to a younger generation. There is a lot of rubbish music around, man.
“You’ve got to represent the good music.
“I can live my entire life without hearing another David Guetta.”
The new album is being backed by a Pledge Music pre-sale campaign, with the band’s label Cooking Vinyl’s backing, and that fan-based initiative is right up Jon’s street.
“It suits me down to the ground.
“A lot of bands of my generation have died out because they can’t adapt to the new realities in the industry.
“It’s a new dawn, people aren’t buying records or concert tickets, and you’ve got to keep interesting as well as produce good music.”
Part of that approach was seen in their recent ‘house gig’ tour, staying at the homes of fans and spreading the word about the new songs, including a Preston visit.
“That was fantastic. It’s been amazing. People under-estimate word of mouth.
“If I play a gig in Preston and everyone goes and tells their mates, that’s more powerful than a recommendation from Nick Grimshaw, who’s just played a One Direction mix.
“It’s been very eventful. We’ve had smashed windows, riot vans, all sorts.
“In Stoke I played in a flat to a geezer and his girlfriend, and asked flippantly, ‘Are you married?’ He said no, so I said ‘well, I’ll have to play your wedding if you do’, totally joking.
“Next thing, he gets down on one knee and proposes. And she accepted!”
The band have also been known to play for fans for free in venue car parks.
“Yes, including the car park at 53 Degrees, and I’m sure we will again in the not too distant future.”
And what can we expect from you in Preston this weekend?
“You can expect to go away very sweaty, you can expect a sing-along in the car park after, and to thoroughly enjoy yourself and hopefully have your faith in live music restored.”
You seem very grounded in a lot of respects. Is that a Northern quality? Did Sheffield make you what you are?
“Definitely. I still live there and I’m very much informed by what happens there. That’s why we can still make good music, because we’ve not allowed ourselves to be distracted by rubbish.
“Sheffield’s such a creative place and I’m able to travel the world while still returning home. I can take on new influences but still keep a grounded perspective on it.
“The other thing is I hang around with my brother, who runs a pub, and my cousin, who’s a binman, and play them my music. And their opinion is very valid.
“A lot of others want to please the trend-setters, but by virtue of the fact it is a trend, it will pass. I like to do my own thing, and like to think it’s working.”
You said at one point you’d quit, and didn’t gig for the next two years. What changed?
“I stopped trying to please Radio One and the NME, when it quickly dawned on me I could have a career and they would be an irrelevance to that.
“The moment I stopped worrying about what they thought, I started doing well again. There’s a freedom that lies in not trying to appease people.”
Finally (with Laura not too far away), is it wrong to marry a band member?
“It’s certainly not wrong to marry a band member. I would advise it.
“It’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful thing actually.
“Actually, this band’s like a family, because my best friend’s the guitarist, Ed (Cosens). It’s like Bob and the Wailers really!”
For more details about the new album and tour, go to http://www.reverendmakers.com/. And for ticket details from Preston’s 53 Degrees, try http://www.53degrees.net/
Sheffield’s swaggering indie rockers Reverend & The Makers, play 53 Degrees night, Friday 28 February 2014