Interview: Johnny Foreigner

Steve Gerrard PhotographyCharlie Mock speaks to indie-pop heroes Johnny Foreigner following the release of ‘You Can Do Better’ and ahead of their show for Jealous Lovers Club at Clwb Ifor Bach on March 28th.

‘You Can Do Better’ was released just over a week ago now. How does it feel to finally get it out there? 
It feels excellent. Like, now we can back up the last few months of boasting about it, and not worry about playing songs no-one knows.

Was producing a follow up to the success that was ‘Johnny Foreigner vs Everything’ a worry for you? You’ve mentioned that there was the concern of making a ‘reissued biography with an extra chapter tagged on;’ in your eyes, how have you progressed?
That was very much a lyrical problem I was having; the music always comes naturally and that seems more important and less boring than trying to consciously “advance” our sound. So, in that sense there is no progress and if people think we’re a messy band with badly enunciated vocals and too much dynamics, this isn’t gonna change that. But yeah, in terms of words, I sort of invented ‘alternate universe me’, that could make decisions I wouldn’t/haven’t, and that made it way easier to write. Pulling truth from fiction, instead of just repeating the same stories.

You’ve spoken about taking a lot longer recording this record than your previous ones. What that a conscious decision, or just something that kind of happened?
More mixing than recording; we didn’t really account for having two guitars to balance. So that just kind of happened, I guess, but also it seemed more important this time round to get everything as perfect-sounding as we could.

Tell us about the map you created to go with ‘You Can Do Better,’ what’s the story behind it?
The map is of a generic/imaginary/fictional city. The first record we made was so acutely autobiographical that we made a Google Map of it; on a personal level I was pretty comfortable with being so open with my life since most of the events in the songs occurred years ago. Now I’ve kinda caught up with myself and I’m not so easy about displaying my current life. We had the vague idea to do a map in the middle of the year, and when I started writing the lyrics it made a lot more sense; like we were mapping out the alternate universe from the songs.

Is having a piece of art, like the map and the ‘Vs Everything’ book, to accompany your records something you do to compliment the music or as a completely separate artistic move?
Definitely a complementary thing. I think it’s as much a reaction against 21st century internet/mp3 culture; there’s something perverse in our minds that’s like, ‘no-one cares about physical product like they used to, so lets make some insane huge physical product’.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you guys?
Who knows… plans is boring. We’re looking lustfully at South Africa, that would be a nice place to go this year…


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