Today another of our tips for 2014 joins us for a chat. We’d previously described London based four piece Desperate Journalist as sounding a little like an epic version of the Au Pairs brought up to date. And whilst their songs aren’t strictly political, there is a tangible sense of righteous anger burning away at the core of their glorious incendiary post-punk noise.
The band who consist of Jo Bevan on vocals, Simon Drowner bass, Rob Hardy guitar and Caz Hellbent on drums certainly have the passion and intensity of band’s like Savages but minus the slightly ‘arch’ manifesto. There’s also a nod to the phrasing and word play of the Smiths melded to the dark dramatic undertones of Siouxsie and The Banshees or The Cure. Their songs to date have been a thrilling exercise in explosive, emotionally engaging guitar driven indie pop, indeed, if you fancy an alternative to being spoon fed a seemingly endless torrent of insipid broadsheet endorsed pop mediocrities then Desperate Journalist could not have arrived at a more opportune time.
Following on from their acclaimed debut EP ‘Christina’, and single ‘Organ’ the band continue their winning streak of releasing flawless beautifully burnished tunes in the shape of new single ‘Happening’ out on May 5th via Giant Haystacks Records.
We had a chat with lead singer Jo Bevan about the bands short history to date.
VP: Hi Jo so what’s the story behind the bands formation how did you get together and become Desperate Journalist. I’m sure I recognise at least a few of you from previous bands
JO: We have all been in different bands – Caz has been in a band as a singer and guitarist but hadn’t drummed before joining Desperate Journalist. Simon and I used to be in a band together as were Rob and Simon back in Birmingham. We basically got together because we all hang around the same places and hate the same things. And conveniently, each play the requisite instruments of a traditional rock band.
VP: So the name? Initially I thought – is it inspired by the Leveson enquiry, the gutter press or perhaps the lack of imagination in what passes for journalism these days? But no, it comes from a Peel session Cure track – I imagine it has the potential to irk a few fragile egos
JO: For those who aren’t nerds, the name comes from when the Cure did a version of Grinding Halt on the Peel show with all the lyrics changed to snippets of Paul Morley’s unfavourable review of their first album, re-titling the song ‘Desperate Journalist in Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation.’ We all like the Cure, but mainly we chose the name because it conveys a kind of self-aware, semi-serious bitterness, which appealed. If people recognise the reference it’s fine – it’s only really upset one young blogger so far who should probably do a bit more reading.
VP: There’s a real fire passion and intensity to your sound, which is perhaps lacking on the current musical landscape, give or take a few bands. Are you surprised that there is such a lack of anger breaking through musically, given the state of the country?
JO: I think there definitely is a lot of anger being expressed in music. It’s not necessarily always represented in the same musical areas but it’s always there. There are tons of unknown bands, dance music artists, MCs etc talking about the state of the nation in their own way. The thing is none of our songs are political as such, they’re usually about people or dreams or death or something, but I’m oversensitive so I get worked up about everything. If I tried to write a political lyric, it would be horrifically clumsy, awful, and sixth form.
VP: So far, everything I’ve heard from you has been nothing short of stunning, not even the suggestion of a casual B-side tossed into the mix. I’m pretty sure this is because you’re naturally gifted songwriters, but do you have a robust system of quality control in place. How do you decide which songs make the cut?
JO: That’s a lovely thing to hear, thank you. I think we do have quite a rigorous system of quality control in place. Rob usually presents the band with a few sketches of songs and guitar parts from which we choose the ones we like best. Those outlines of songs have usually already been through a ruthless cull of whatever Rob might be working on. After the song is fleshed out a bit I’ll write a melody and the words usually follow that. We spend quite a lot of time and effort trying to get each song arrangement as good as we think it can be. We always try and cut as much fat as we possibly can so every part has a purpose and place in the song and should move it along to the next bit.
VP: I’ve just been watching the video for ‘Mistakes’, which kinda looked like two Joannes fighting initially. What was the idea behind the video?
JO: The song is about when you break up with someone and attach such massive emotional importance to it as some Big Event, but at the same time, you reckon the other party probably doesn’t really care and just sees the whole affair as a bit of a transitory mistake. The video was supposed to look a bit like me wrestling with myself basically to stop being such an emo dickhead, which is an image quite lacking in subtlety, but hopefully it looks good. Obviously I lose. To myself. Which is like winning?
VP: What’s on the horizon in the coming months for the band, more gigs, festivals, journeys to the frozen north, an album?
JO: We’re releasing our next single ‘Happening’ and will be having a single launch at the Black Heart, Camden on May 8th. Then playing London Calling festival in Amsterdam on May 10th, which is exciting. Then Brighton on May 17th. In October, we’re playing Whitby Gothic Weekender, by which time the album should be finished.
VP: It seems that in a relatively short space of time you’ve built up quite a head of steam generating a genuine buzz, based on substance not artful PR. As a band, it must be on one hand gratifying, but does expectation mean added pressure?
JO: I think since writing and playing songs is a natural and enjoyable thing for us to do it can’t feel like there’s too much pressure on us. We all have faith in each other to put the effort in and be as inspired as usual, so it’s fine. Reaching more people and building up expectation is stimulating and encouraging rather than overwhelming.
VP: It’s Record Store Day on April 19th, have each of you got an eye on making a purchase or two or perhaps hoping for dream reissue?
JO: A little list of what we’re interested in:
Cure/Dinosaur Jr. – “Just Like Heaven” (7-inch, white vinyl)
ESG – Dance to the Best of ESG (3LP)
The Fall – 13 Killers (2LP) Joy Division – An Ideal for Living (12-inch) LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden (5LP box set) Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea” (7-inch) Conor Oberst – “Hundreds of Ways” / “Fast Friends” (7-inch)
Bruce Springsteen – American Beauty (12-inch EP)
The The – Giant (12-inch, 2000 copies) Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (deluxe LP)
Xiu Xiu – Unclouded Sky (LP, 1000 copies on cloud coloured vinyl)
Various Artists – Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT): The Re-Organization of Pop (10×7-inch box, 1000 copies)
VP: Twelve months from now what would you like to have achieved as band?
JO: We’d like to have an album out, have played in places we haven’t played and got through to more people.
VP: Five words to sum up your band ethos…
JO: Emotional intelligence and dramatic melodics.
Upcoming live dates
08 May – LONDON – The Black Heart (single launch show)
10 May – AMSTERDAM – Paradiso (London Calling)