We caught up with The JB Conspiracy ahead of their show at Manchester Roadhouse (check out our review of the night here) to chat about the calm before the storm, gigs on the moon and marmite.
How did the band form?
Johnny (trumpet): In the playground! It’s only me and Lank that are the surviving members from that band, but a lot of the songs are still the same. That was twelve, thirteen years ago?
Lank (vocals/guitar): Quite a long time ago.
Johnny: It was when we were in school and we were 15. We’re 28 now, so…yeah, thirteen years ago. It’d be thirteen years-what month is it, November?
Lank: How do you remember all this?!
Johnny: Because I remember we started in year ten, we’d already picked our GCSEs and I hadn’t done music…and I decided I wanted to because we’d just started a band!
Spitzy (alto sax): “I’ve started a band, miss! Please let me do it!”
Johnny: So that means we’re about thirteen years and a month, because we formed in October.
Lank: Although since then we’ve changed names and changed most of the band!
Johnny: But you and me are still in it!
Spitzy: To be honest, the band only really took shape after Joe joined, I feel.
Joe (tenor sax): Thanks very much, Spitzy!
Johnny: Well certainly the organisation of the band went through the roof.
Spitzy: We’re digressing horribly now!
Johnny: How did the band form? In the playground, changed a bit…
Lank: We chose our instruments, we were listening to a lot of American ska-punk bands and wanted to do what they were doing, so we chose some instruments and just tried to learn them!
Johnny: We were shit for ages. We didn’t even have a drummer for six months!
Spitzy: Didn’t you start on drums, Lank?
Lank: Nah, that was a former band. Goldfish, representin’! Check ’em out!
My (bass): Do they have a MySpace?
Lank: Funnily, enough, Bob (the band’s drummer) had a band called Goldfish as well!
Johnny: There’s also a good band called Goldfish.
Lank: Not them. We were the shit ones, so don’t bother listening to us.
You’re about to release your new album The Storm. Could you tell us about the writing and recording process of it?
Lank: Yeah, it took a long time. We recorded it in quite a lot of different studios…we recorded it in Watford and we recorded it in The Paddocks in Melton Mowbray. We also did some stuff in London and a bit in Guildford, so it was all over the place!
(At this point, Bob joins the interview)
Lank: In terms of writing, we were writing for quite a long time already. What would happen was that we’d write songs that sounded ‘new’ and perhaps a bit different, then we’d realise that the earlier stuff we’d written for the record didn’t fit with the newer stuff, so we started a process of replacing older songs with newer songs.
Johnny: Rather than just releasing one album and then another one!
Lank: It all just completely evolved, so we ended up with something a little bit different
I loved the fact you released an EP called The Calm prior to this – whose great idea was it for the two titles?
(Johnny instantly raises his hand)
Bob: We thought we were really clever until someone, as soon as we released the EP, went “is the album called The Storm?”
Johnny: We knew it was clever but we didn’t really have any other names for it!
Spitzy: I don’t think the calm normally comes that long before the storm! Normally it’s like “tomorrow there’ll be a storm, because it’s calm now”.
Johnny: I think it’s fairly well-known that timings aren’t our strong point though!
Which song is your favourite on it?
Joe: Taking Flight.
Lank: Yeah, I like Taking Flight.
Joe: I didn’t actually record it or have anything to do with it, so as an impartial judge, Taking Flight is the best one on the album.
You’ve played on some really awesome lineups when I’ve seen you in the past – who’s been the best band you’ve played with?
Lank: I’d say the best band we’re toured with…the most professional and best-sounding band were Capdown. It was the first ever tour we did and night after night they were fucking amazing! They were so professional and Jake was a brilliant frontman.
What would you say your best show has been?
Johnny: Dour for me, for sure.
Bob: The Paris show on the last night of the Reel Big Fish tour. That was great.
Johnny: But Dour was like 2000 people, loads of them knew the words and there were a shitload of our t-shirts out there!
Lank: Dour is a festival in Belgium.
My: I loved Boomtown.
Bob: Yeah, Boomtown on the main stage. That was probably one of the best shows of our lives followed by the worst show of our lives, literally six hours apart from each other.
Johnny: What was that?
Bob: The acoustic show which we will never mention again!
Johnny: I don’t think that was just the worst show of our lives, it was probably the worst show in most of the people watching’s lives!
Bob: They were all on drugs, they had no idea what was going on!
Lank: Boomtown over the years has consistently been really really good. And some of the shows on the Reel Big Fish tour really stood out.
So what would you say the weirdest show has been, then?
Johnny: Probably that Boomtown one!
Bob: No, no! The weirdest show I’ve ever played was when we did that Circus Of Horrors one!!
Spitzy: It was a themed night that they’d put on, it was like a student thing. It was like an undead Halloween theme, but we didn’t actually know about that until we were on the road! We were two hours away from the gig and then someone said “that’s got a funny name, hasn’t it? Has anyone checked what it was about?” so we looked at the flier and it was like a themed night. That was really weird because we just weren’t ready for it. We didn’t dress up and then-
Johnny: We did dress up!
Spitzy: Yeah, we did in the end because they had all that makeup stuff there.
Johnny: And we looked shit!
Bob: Oh! There was this one show where we didn’t even play! We were playing at this festival and we just spent the whole day waiting to play and then the organiser had took too many drugs or something and just didn’t figure out why we were waiting!
Johnny: It was for charity though, so we probably shouldn’t slag them off too much.
Lank: Kettering, on Halloween. It was with Random Hand, we all turned up and everyone had sick costumes! We didn’t know what to do, so we got some tin foil and wrapped it round our faces!
Bob: It’s so hard to do anything with tin foil wrapped round you!
Lank: It was fucking stupid. And I forgot to poke a hole for my mouth, so I went to sing and…!
(whole band laughs)
If you could play a show anywhere, where would it be?
My: The moon!
Spitzy: Hey, the moon would be good because we’d be the first band to play there!
Bob: But we’d die instantly.
Johnny: Muse are trying to do that. They want to be the first band to perform in space.
Bob: They’d sound shit though.
Johnny: Exactly! No atmosphere…no sound!
Joe: Bad acoustics, yeah?
Bob: Gotcha, Matt Bellamy! Anyway…actually, I’d like to play Madagascar just because I want to check that shit out! It’s like this whole evolutionary chain, a completely seperate thing.
My: A gig I’ve always wanted to do is Reading. I’ve always wanted to play there.
Spitzy: Yeah, we’ve always missed out on Reading and Leeds.
Lank: So yeah, Reading and Leeds…if you’re listening, hook a brother up!
Joe: How high are we allowed to aim? I’d love to go back to Shepherd’s Bush and headline.
Johnny: Well we started off at the moon, so pretty high!
If you could choose a band to cover one of your songs, who would you choose?
Johnny: What we’d need is the same lineup, but a load of well-rehearsed musicians!
Bob: It has to be someone complementary of us. Kraftwerk.
Lank: Yeah, very suitable!
Johnny: What about-
Johnny: Shut up!
Bob: I think I’d quite like someone different, how about Rufus Wainwright?
Johnny: What’s that guy that does the old-school things…?
Lank: Richard Cheese?
Johnny: That’s the one! But you’ve got to reach a certain level of fame before he’ll cover one of your things.
Lank: That’s when you know you’ve made it, when Richard Cheese covers one of your songs.
Johnny: What about the remaining members of The Jackson Five?
A band I like recently released their own hot sauce. If The JB Conspiracy could put their name to a product, what would it be?
My: What about that stuff we had in Belgium?
Bob: Oh yeah, that black pepper sauce, the ‘squeezy’ stuff! That stuff is awesome. My dibs are on that.
My: Or a signature brew. We could do a nice tasty JB Conspiracy beer.
Johnny: I would have said that straight away, beer.
Spitzy: What about rum?
Johnny: JB rum, that’d be cool.
Bob: How about if Sainsburys just changed their name to The JB Conspiracy and we could have a free-for-all on all that? No, sorry, Waitrose.
Spitzy: Yeah, keep it real!
Bob: But yeah, alcohol, quite clearly!
Bob: Rum would be sweet. Or ginger ale, perhaps.
If it was announced that there was going to be a movie released about The JB Conspiracy, which actors would you want to play yourself?
Spitzy: Samuel L Jackson.
Bob: I was gonna say Morgan Freeman!
Lank: I was thinking Edward Norton.
Bob: Or Whoopi Goldberg! What about Danny Dyer for My?
My: I think I’m more Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bob: He’s old now though, isn’t he?
Joe: What about Steve Buscemi for Spitzy?
Spitzy: For me? You can go fuck yourself!
Joe: What? He’s a really good actor! He’d be wicked doing you, what are you talking about?
Lank: Who’s the guy who plays the Green Goblin? Him for Joe!
Bob: James Franco.
Joe: Apparently, everyone recognises different people in me.
Bob: And Danny McBride for Sam McGregor. (the band’s trombonist)
And my last question, which is probably the most important – what’s your opinion on marmite?
(The band suddenly launches into a loud and energetic discussion)
Lank: Love it!
Bob: I hate it. I honestly hate it.
Johnny: I like it, but not too much of it. I just like to spread it on, you don’t want to completely cover it.
Lank: No, no, you’re got to pour it on! You have to squeeze the shit out of it, going up and down, up and down!
Bob: No, I absolutely despise it.
Spitzy: Okay, I don’t like marmite, but have you had marmite with cheese? That’s different, but I can’t have marmite on its own.
Lank: Yeah. It’s great!
My: That’s a good sandwich!
Bob: The only difference is that you’ve added something that’s nice to something that’s not! You’ve wasted nice cheese! But I quite like vegemite. Why is that?! It’s a little bit…it tastes less like cats.
Lank: So what’s the vote, anyway? Who likes it?
(The band does a vote. Lank, Johnny and My are found to love it, whilst Joe, Bob and Spitzy are found to hate it.)
Lank: It’s exactly half and half!
Johnny: But we’re missing some guys here.
Joe: Does this mean that JB goes against the whole love it/hate it thing then?
Lank: I think that proves it though, half of us love it and half of us hate it! Should we phone up Sam and Ben, to ask?
Bob: But we already know. Ben loves it, Sam hates it! So yeah, we’re half and half.
Lank: Don’t put it in your eye though. Just eat it. Because that shit would probably burn.
Johnny: Wait, you haven’t got experience of it?
Spitzy: Who even came up with marmite though? Maybe someone was just making something and scraped the remains out the bottom of a dirty pan, and went “you know what, I’m so poor and I don’t have any taste buds that I’m going to put this on toast. Then another guy went “I’m homeless, so let’s give this a go. Then the next thing you know, marmite is in every single supermarket in the fucking world.
Lank: Marmite isn’t cheap though.
Bob: Basically, some dude was licking the back of a cat and vommed onto some toast. Then some dude that was his flatmate ate it, went “thanks mate, that was fucking awesome, what is that?” And that’s why it’s so expensive, because you’ve got to pay someone to do that.
Lank: Some poor bastard in a factory sat doing that all day!
Johnny: Did you say licking the back of a cat? Hang on a minute…how would you know that?
Bob: Hmm…it was me!
The Storm is out now and you can pick it up from the Banquet Records site.