Interview: JJ72

The Atomicduster caught up with JJ72, when we sent Dom Gourlay to meet the group on this, the first date of their UK tour in October this year. He finds out whether the transition to being fully fledged pop stars has changed their perspective on life, music and performing live.

JJ72 are Mark Greaney (vocals/guitar), Hillary Woods (bass) and Fergal Matthews (drums). Hailing from Dublin, they have only been together as a band for two years, and played their first UK show less than 12 months ago, but already they are fast gaining a reputation for being one of the brightest young talents to grace our stages in years. Currently setting out on a tour which will take them throughout the UK and most of Europe, JJ72 look set for one of the year's biggest alternative/rock hits when debut single 'October Swimmer' is re-released on the 23rd of this month.

DOM GOURLAY: You've come a long way since the last time we met (the 'Snow' tour in Sheffield in February, I think), how does it feel to be recognised as 'bona fide' pop stars? (crescendo of laughter from all three!!)

MARK GREANEY: I don't think we're pop stars.

FERGAL MATTHEWS: Some people do. I don't think anything's really changed now that we're supposed to be famous or anything.

DG: So you don't get mobbed walking down the streets of Dublin by your old school friends or anything, then?

MARK: No, they just don't speak to us! They think we're evil or something. The thing about people back here is that a lot of them are bitter about the fact that we've had such a good year.

HILLARY WOODS: There is an element of people who seem to hold a grudge against us, certainly within the music industry anyway. There's certain bands who've been going for years and years, without really getting anywhere, and they see us┌as some kind of threat, I think.

FERGAL: Yeah, but we've been lucky so far. I can't understand why some people think our success is down to some kind of conspiracy.

DG: August in particular was a triumphant month for the band, with the (well documented) sold out gig at Camden Dingwalls, two epic performances at the Carling Weekend Festivals, 'Oxygen' peaking at No. 23 in the charts, the release of your debut album, and last but not least, your first appearance on Top Of The Pops. How did it feel being on the show?

MARK: It's step one, I suppose. People keep saying to us that we've come a long way in such a short space of time, especially after TOTP, but nearly every act who was on there with us were just one hit wonders, y'know, one off dance acts. We felt like the freaks on the show, 'cos the attitude seems to be if you're a guitar band who play live with distortion pedals you've got to be a bunch of freaks!

FERGAL: And we did actually play live, as well.

MARK: It's good though. We've watched it since and thought, "OK, that's Top Of The Pops out of the way," and we thought we played really shit so next time we'll be aiming to play a lot better!

DG: Would you ever mime?

MARK: Yeah, definitely. The more people who see us the better. I mean, we did a Radio One road show in Ipswich and 50,000 kids were literally going mental while we mimed through 'Oxygen'.

DG: You seem to getting a lot of attention from the press, most of which has been favourable. Does it worry you that they may turn against the band at some point?

FERGAL: They will, in time.

MARK: I think that's true. They do seem to have a problem with what we do, you know, they ask questions like "Mark, did you have an unhappy childhood?" because they don't get the songs or anything, but the thing is we don't get it ourselves! We're a pretty confused band, really. When the NME did that piece during the video shoot for 'Oxygen',that was just crap, really. I got people coming up to me at gigs and they were going, "Mark, can we see your scars?" I just thought "What's going on?" That was really strange for us. It's stupid. I mean, all they ever do is ask about the songs, when basically it comes down to pure emotion. That's what we're trying to get through in our songs. Every week of the year, the NME have a new band on the cover saying this band is the best in the world, so you've then got 52 best new bands in the world every year!

DG: Yeah, I saw the recent issue of Melody Maker where you were pictured on the front holding the supposed 'cool' student literature. Whose idea was that?

HILLARY: That was their (Melody Maker's) idea. They asked us to do that stuff with the books.

MARK: It makes us feel a bit stupid. We're selling our souls and they make you look like an idiot. The Melody Maker is just one of those magazines where the interviews aren't necessarily about the music, or anything, really. You get the impression that when a band starts to get popular they have to find an excuse for putting you in the paper so they can sell more copies, you know, advertise on the front cover 'This Week's Edition features JJ72 doing┌..nothing!'

DG: You've got a new single coming out on October 23rd, 'October Swimmer', which was actually your debut release almost a year ago to the day. Whose idea was it to re-release that song?

MARK: It was ours. There was no pressure from the label, no one saying "You're gonna release this and you'll be touring for six months to promote it," or whatever. When we originally released it, there were only 500 or so copies and people have been asking us for months if it's coming out again, and it is also my favourite song on the album. I think to do that song justice we've got to re-release it, you know, get ourselves on Top Of The Pops on a Friday night singing 'October Swimmer'.

DG: Any new material on the horizon?

MARK: We've got a few little bits and pieces here and there. There's the odd bunch of words here and a few interesting pieces of music there which we've got to link together.

DG: You always seem to be on the road. What do you dislike most about touring?

HILLAR : I suppose the fact that you never get time to relax. I mean we're touring the UK throughout October, and then we go off into Europe for the rest of the year, so you never know when you're going to get a weekend off or whatever.

FERGAL: When you're constantly touring you never get to see your family or your friends, so I suppose when you go home at the end you have to make the most of that time.

DG: Finally, what would you say has been the most memorable or defining moment of the year for JJ72 so far?

MARK: (pausing) ┌.I think it was our last London gig, just before we released the album. We looked around and saw how packed the venue was, and we suddenly realised that we had reached a certain level, and I suppose it was up to us to fuck it up from there on in! I also think the festival at Reading was special, because we were playing early in the afternoon on this small stage in this tent that was supposed to hold 5000 people, but in actual fact there were about 9000 people squashed in there. I think that made us realise how many people want to hear us play, and the fact that they all seemed to enjoy it meant we enjoyed it all the more as well.

Catch up with the group at;

© Copyright 2000/7 Atomicduster - all rights reserved