Recently Fame’s Phil Allely quite rightly raved about the new release by UK glam-pop quintet Jonny Cola and the A Grades.
Phil loved the bands work so much he requested a meeting with the band to learn more about them.
Below are highlights from Phil’s fun chat with band members Jonny and Mauro.
Phil: First up, I guess we may as well ask you where the band’s name came from?
JONNY: Jonny Cola was a moniker I first used in 2006 when a song I’d recorded at home as a teenager ended up on an underground pop compilation.
The A-Grades… Well, I’ve tried to explain that in various ways before, but I think I just liked the sound of the words really.So how did you all meet and what was the original concept for the band?
MAURO: Me and Cola used to go and see each other’s old bands and hang out. Eventually both those bands ran their course and Cola decided he wanted me to be his guitar hero
We once shared a bill with Jez’s old band, got chatting and stayed in touch. We also shared a bill with Simon’s old band a couple times, when we needed a new bass player he was the one who came to mind.
And Marco had played on bills with Jez before, so when we needed a new drummer, Jez suggested him. Rest is history etc.
JONNY: I think my sole original concept was that I wanted to do something with moments of euphoria. Apart from that, things just evolved naturally as we played together. The rush is still important though.We have just reviewed your new release ‘Straight To Video’/'Marlborough Road’. By the way we loved it, but how would you sell it to potential new listeners?
JONNY: I’d tell them that it doesn’t sound like anything else that’s out there at the moment. But in a good way.
MAURO: Yup, it’s almost certainly the only place you’ll hear an opening couplet like “He’s Allerton-esque / and you’re out of your comfort zone”.
I’d tell them that they’re both all time classics and that their lives will be improved massively by hearing them.
JONNY: That’s a MUCH better answer than mine. What he said.Whose idea was to make the videos a part of the press promos?
JONNY: Mine, I think. After putting the effort into making two videos which we were really pleased with, it would have seemed a massive waste to not send them out as promos.
Plus it looks massively cocky, and that’s always a good thing, right?You have also opted for a vinyl version of the release. Was there a reason for going old school?
MAURO: Personally, I can’t bear to have a release that you can’t actually look at. Sometimes you don’t want to have to do EVERYTHING in life on your computer. And vinyl vs CDs? No contest.
JONNY: We didn’t press Halo, the EP we released last year, on vinyl and I really regret that now. If anyone fancies funding a gorgeous 10” reissue, do get in touch…
After the health scare for Jonny in 2012, the band must have thought their time was over. Are you all re-energised and excited to be back making music again?
JONNY: I think I only spent about an hour when I was first diagnosed thinking that it was all over. I tend to adjust to change pretty quickly when I know the facts! (I’m not sure what the others thought, mind – it must have looked pretty bleak.)
But re-energised, absolutely – it’s amazing how much better you feel when your internal organs actually work – and excited to be back? HELL, YEAH!
MAURO: Can I get a “HELL, YEAH?”What plans do you have to promote the release. Have you any tours/live appearances lined up?
SIMON: First up, we’ll be making our comeback at mine and Mauro’s clubnight ‘Some Weird Sin’ at the Buffalo Bar on 22nd March.
There’s a lot of promotion going into that! And we’ve got some more London gigs lined up in the next few months. We like arranging our own gigs so we get to pick the bill and make it a party.
We’d like to get out of London soon though, so any promoters reading this are welcome to send offers this way!
JONNY: Particularly Glaswegians. I’m a fan of Glaswegians.
What about further releases? Have you any other new material primed to be unleashed on us?
JONNY: You mean like an album? That kinda thing?
SIMON: We’ve got a good chunk of album recorded already. Expect something to surface later in the year!
How do you as a band go about creating a new piece of material. Have you any systems in place, as to who does what creatively?
MAURO: The first album standard way of working was that Cola generally wrote lyrics and chords, demoed a song roughly, or sometimes quite smoothly, then we’d play it in rehearsal and add our own ideas, and so on.
On a fair few songs recently, I’ve come up with the basics and Cola has gone off and written lyrics and then we’ve brought them to the band, which took a bit of getting used to at first (with us all being used to the old “demo” way of working) but it’s good to shake things up!
JONNY: It’s also great fun to write to guitar riffs. As I’m the world’s worst guitarist, that’s not something I’ve been able to do before.
May we ask your opinion on the live music scene at present? Are there any bands you think are the ones to watch in 2013?
JONNY: The live music scene, in London at least, seems at the moment like very few diamonds and a fuck of a lot of rough – and I don’t mean the bands. Or the punters. Ones to watch?
As I only seem to be listening to Californian garage glam and old Pet Shop Boys albums at the moment, I think the others will be better placed to answer that!
MAURO: Hmm. Putting on a monthly club night and booking live bands, I’d say there are several I’ve been excited to put on (Giuda, Cyanide Pills, Atomic Suplex, Ricky C Quartet), but I’m wary of the “ones to watch” tag.
Finally, what about music downloads? Do you feel the digital age has taken something away from having CDs/vinyl etc or is there still a place for them in the music business?
SIMON: It’s just a matter of choice. Some will choose to download our stuff, others will buy the vinyl. But the vinyl is shiny and orange and allows Jonny to plug the “seven inch” on stage. It’s like ‘Carry On A-Grades’.
JONNY: Mind you, our last vinyl release was a ten inch, so some people are bound to feel a little disappointed this time. However, that one did come out when the weather was considerably warmer.
ANYWAY, what was the question? Vinyl/CDs vs downloads? When the internet runs out of batteries, you’ll all be wishing you hadn’t sneered at the physical format.
‘Straight to Video/Marlborough Road’ is released on April 3rd. You can Buy it as a download and the aforementioned limited edition 7” vinyl.
By Phil Allely