An interview with
Johnny Foreigner
By Glitterbitch

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

Reading 2008 was a mixed bag of commercially driven bureaucracy and drunken lunacy and, although there was one of the best big name line ups for years taking the festival back to its rock roots, if there was hope then this year it truly lay in the proles, the working classes of the music fraternity. One such band fighting for exposure was Johnny Foreigner whose debut album Waited Up Til It Was Light has worked its way heavily into my affections over recent months. Yet they are the kind of band who should sum up all the reasons I have felt so out of place and cynical about Reading; young, carefree and singing songs about parties. At a point in life when it is easy to get nostalgic, long desperately after the youth of others and feel out of place in a world and music scene increasingly less poignant, I cannot help but love Johnny Foreigner. The energy they produce on record and on stage is infectious and, whilst for those of us old enough there is a pang of grief for what has been lost, there is a greater sense of happiness in the sonic opportunities of hope that they offer. It was of great satisfaction to me, therefore, that no only was their performance at Reading one of the highlights of the festival but, moreover, when I caught up with Alexei, Kelly and Junior to have a quick chat with them their words were just as infectious as their music.

I am instantly greeted by three beaming faces ready to celebrate a triumphant day in which they were all quite clearly 'feeling the love'. The band played the Festival Republic tent and quickly had a chorus of fans singing back their own words to them which Alexei tell me is "the most flattering thing ever, if that starts to get old then we should probably call it quits. The only weird thing is when you're walking around and someone shouts your name and you realise you don't know their name and you might have met them before and if you don't recognise them they'll be really pissed off cause it's really rude but that's what I have trouble handling. Everything else is like we shouldn't be allowed to do this and get paid." The entire band show an amazing amount of humility which I hope remains and Kelly explains the feelings and hopes that any aspiring musician would have, "It's still a novelty. It's amazing. I remember when I was younger watching bands play Reading and Leeds and having audiences sing lyrics back to them and to be in that position is like 'oh my God...'"

The task for them, however, was made slightly more difficult and interesting by the metal band that performed before them and had built up a leather clad sweat in the tent long before they took to the stage. As daunting as that may have been Alexei admits "I was watching them from the side of the stage and the crowd were all (starts to headbang) and I was like 'awww we're not gonna get that, and then we did…'". Whilst they managed to rustle the kind of frenetic excitement I had hoped for it seems that the reaction they get from the crowd is not always a direct correlation of the music they play and the energetic show they put on. Alexei - "Last month we were in Wrexham and we fucking played our hearts out and the whole crowd just stood there like mannequins, but it was really weird because after the gig we got loads of people myspaceing saying 'I was at that gig, I'm really sorry we didn't move about all night, that's really rubbish of us', but then you go from that where you get some gigs where it's sold out and you get people spilling onto the stage and we get in trouble, cause I don't have the energy to do an encore."

It's not just audiences that Johnny Foreigner have had to satisfy, critics who built them up upon hearing their early home made demos were ready with their claws out to knock them down just as quickly with the release of Waited Up Til It Was Light, especially as the polished production was not quite to the liking of some die hard lo-fi fans. Alexei tells me that it is just 'a traditional British indie thing' and in fact they were prepared for a lot more stick than they received. Kelly - "I think a lot of people were quite nice about it, they saw it as a step up but they could still tell that the guitars are really fuzzy and we'd retained some little aspect of ourselves". Alexei - "The reason the album sounds different is our choice, we wanted to clean everything up, we wanted it to be a bit more of a pop record straight away. I don't understand why you'd still be lo-fi if you could afford to be otherwise, to me that just destroys the point of being lo-fi, that's saying that is the sound whereas with the best lo-fi albums, it's only when you've listened to them half a dozen times you start to notice there's shit out of tune and it's badly recorded because the songs are so good and it sounds like they are having so much fun."

Johnny Foreigner are anything but a formulaic band and so to try and push them into a corner or label their music just won't work. Whilst their songs may feature all the aspects of classic pop, there is so much going on underneath that make them so much more worthwhile, as such there is an honesty and real quality to a band that are definitely doing things on their terms. Alexei - "We've done it the right way round, we started off recording ourselves, then we got quite a pro guy to do it and then we got an even more pro guy to do it so we still kind of know what's going on. I think a lot of bands get into the trap where they sign a deal, the money gets thrown into them so they go in to a studio, do the album and come out and they don't really know, they've just done their bit and gone out again. You live or die by your own mistakes, I guess that's what will happen to us but it's working out so far."

The band are already planning their follow up album and recording will begin in the US in January or February for a summer release, which they will hopefully tie in with a North American tour. They will be working in the same studio and with the same producer as last time but the record company have now loosened the reigns somewhat and this time will pay the money to allow the band to mix in the studio. Alexei - "the only hassle about the last album was that all the mixing was done by email so they'd send us a mix and be like 'you know that little bit where it sounds a bit weird can you turn it up a bit'? and your spending a day going back and forth having this one conversation that if you were there you could do in 30 seconds. I think our label have seen the value of that now so hopefully we'll stay out there for a bit longer and we get a holiday. The guy that produced it is lovely, he's like Willy Wonka and his musical treats."

When I start to talk about the hype that is surrounding the band Alexei is quick to jump on those jumping on their bandwagon - "it's like every critic has been 'yeah I've been into this band for ages' and we're like 'no you fucking haven't', but it's traditional that that (a mini album) comes out and then you put the album out and everyone's like 'they're not all that' and somehow we managed to ride over it a bit, so it just puts more pressure on us for the next album I suppose. We've been feeling that pressure for the last year." They are right to feel that pressure to a certain extent as it does feel like they are on the cusp on something special, as Junior states "everyone keeps saying it's just about to go mental for you guys."

I really hope it does and I really hope the energy, positivity and humility remain in tact as well because whilst we may be missing anyone to take the mantle from Public Enemy and the Manics we are also in desperate need of honest bands that capture real emotion and feeling rather than buy it and bottle it. Johnny Foreigner are definitely for real. Let them into your world and it won't be long until you are friends.


Text by Glitter Bitch, pix by Holly Erskine - see them in their fully glory here

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?